Egyptian General Defends 'Virginity Checks' on Protesters

After denying allegations, he offers admission without apology

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After previous denials by military officials, a senior Egyptian general has admitted to CNN that "virginity tests" were conducted on female demonstrators arrested in Tahrir Square.

During a March 9, nearly a month after Hosni Mubarak resigned, the Egyptian military targeted the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, arresting nearly 149 people. An Amnesty International report published weeks later claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges, and forced to submit to virginity checks.

Maj. Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of torture or "virginity tests." Now, a senior Egyptian general who asked not to be identified admits that "virginity checks" were performed, and his defense of the practice reveals a disturbingly bleak attitude towards women. "The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," the general said. "These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs)."

He then offered the bizarre rationale that the virginity checks were done so that the women would not later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities. "We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," the general said. "None of them were (virgins)." He did not further explain this confounding logic.

Salwa Hosseini, a 20-year-old hairdresser and one of the women named in the Amnesty report, described how she and 16 other female prisoners were taken to a military detention center in Heikstep.  They were threatened that “those not found to be virgins” would be charged with prostitution. “The army officers tried to further humiliate the women by allowing men to watch and photograph what was happening, with the implicit threat that the women could be at further risk of harm if the photographs were made public,” Amnesty reported.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.