"There are so many rocks, it looks like rain"

Report and video footage of the Egyptian army's violence against protesters in Cairo.

The fighting between protesters, the Egyptian army (SCAF) and now the Central Security Forces on Egypt's Tahrir Square has entered its fourth day with very bloody scenes taking place on the midan over night. This morning, both UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have separately made statements condemning the Egyptian authorities for their "excessive use of force", and calling for security forces to respect human rights.

The fierce battles mark an escalation in violence by the military regime against the people despite this morning's televised press conference, where the SCAF claimed there was no evidence of use of force against the protesters, and Saturday's statement from the SCAF-appointed Prime Minister, Kamel Ganzouri, who said they would not violently respond to demonstrations.

Facing increasing pressure from the protesters who are pushing for the removal of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces from power and a swift transition to a civilian government, the army have continued to resort to forcibly quelling protests. Against the background of elections, which the protesters feel will only produce a puppet parliament, the SCAF, who have publicly painted themselves as a peace-keeping force, appear even more determined.

At approximately 4am this morning, the Central Security Forces together with the army stormed the square using long-range tear gas canisters, shotguns and, as video footage proves, automatic weapons.

 

(Video courtesy of Mosireen)

"They attacked us with an incredible amount of force", says Sherif, 27, who was on Tahrir as they attacked. "We saw shotguns, possibly live ammunition. Regardless of the level of violence used, people stood their ground and are still staying put."

Two protesters were killed in the clearing of the square this morning. Mohammad Mohie Hussein, 30, who was detained with 200 others during the last four days of fighting on Qasr Al Aini Street, died from his injuries whilst in custody last night. Over 13 protesters have been killed in total since the fighting began and hundreds have been injured.

Four soldiers were captured on the square by protesters overnight. Protesters formed human cordons around the officers protecting them from angry crowds as they rushed them off Tahrir in cars and buses. One badly beaten soldier was treated by protesters in a field hospital.

The army built a third wall on Sheikh Rihan street last night, which is parallel to the street in front of the cabinet where the protesters' original sit-in had been. Yesterday afternoon they built a concrete wall blocking off Qasr Al Aini street which leads to Tahrir.

Clashes were sparked by the cabinet sit-in on early Friday morning after the army had arrested, beaten and electrocuted a young activist, Aboudi Ibrahim.

After clearing the sit-in, soldiers were seen hurling slabs of concrete paving, molotov cocktails, rocks and even a filing cabinet from the surrounding buildings onto the protesters causing severe head injuries. A field hospital by the Omar Makram mosque reported 11 head injuries in 15 minutes. At one point, two soldiers urinated on the crowds; others later performed obscene dances.

"I was on the frontline by the wall yesterday," says one young protester, who was unable to reveal his identity as he is on an army Wanted list and so currently in hiding. "It is so dark, as they switch the streets light off none of us could see the rocks. I was hit in the forehead and blood soaked my keffiyeh. I had to have nine stitches at the field hospital."

"There are so many rocks, it looks like rain. We set up a spotlight at one point so we could get out of the way of them," adds Omar, 24, also a protester who received gunshot wounds during the 120+ hour clashes three weeks ago.

Since Friday, there have been cases of extreme army brutality, particularly during the clearing of the streets and squares, with frequent instances of large groups of officers and plain-clothed police setting upon one protester at a time. I witnessed members of the military beating up paramedics by the field hospitals, older protesters who couldn't run as fastm, and bystanders. They burnt all the tents left on Tahrir square.

On Saturday afternoon the army charged protesters across Qasr Al Nile Bridge towards the neighbouring residential area of Zamalek and began pulling people out of cars.

Video and photographs of members of the armed forces stripping and beating a veiled female protester (see photo above) sparked national and international outrage. In the square, male protesters stopped cars to show them a newspaper with the image printed on it.

The attacks on women have rallied much needed public support for the protesters, as it is particularly shocking behaviour for the relatively conservative and predominantly Islamic Egyptian society.

"The army are treating men and women the same, they are not paying attention to the fact that we're are often physically weaker than an officer," explains Riham, 25, a doctor, who narrowly missed a beating herself. "It's not about men and women, whoever they face they beat up," adds female presidential candidate Bothaina Kamel, who is frequently on the square. "The problem is the army give orders to the soldiers to watch Pharaohs, a fulool [old regime] channel. They are brainwashed."

Mona Seif, sister of detained blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah, described being arrested: "They attacked the kiosk where I was hiding... they were kicking me with their boots and hitting me with their sticks. The default is for them to hit even if there isn't a clear order." She described them ripping off a woman's niqab and beating a woman until her head bled. Her sister, Sanaa, who was also detained and badly beaten, heard people being tortured.

It is clear the military do not want these actions to be publicised. Yesterday they began entering flats overlooking Tahrir and confiscating cameras and throwing media equipment off balconies.

The army first attacked the protesters four days ago, as election votes were still being counted. Tonight the results from the 2nd round of Egypt's supposedly free and open elections are due to be announced. The fighting shows no sign of stopping.

"The army are playing with us," says 21-year-old Mahmoud, a filmmaker, who was also injured in the clashes. "The SCAF want the military regime to continue. But the protesters will not stop until we take those first steps into a civilian ruled country."

Bel Trew is based in Cairo. Follow her on Twitter @beltrew

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MP Michelle Thomson's full speech on rape at 14: "I am a survivor"

The MP was attacked as a teenager. 

On Thursday, the independent MP for Edinburgh West Michelle Thomson used a debate marking the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to describe her own experience of rape. Thomson, 51, said she wanted to break the taboo among her generation about speaking about the subject.

MPs listening were visibly moved by the speech, and afterwards Thomson tweeted she was "overwhelmed" by the response. 

Here is her speech in full:

I am going to relay an event that happened to me many years ago. I want to give a very personal perspective to help people, both in this place and outside, understand one element of sexual violence against women.

When I was 14, I was raped. As is common, it was by somebody who was known to me. He had offered to walk me home from a youth event. In those days, everybody walked everywhere - it was quite common. It was early evening. It was not dark. I was wearing— I am imagining and guessing—jeans and a sweatshirt. I knew my way around where I lived - I was very comfortable - and we went a slightly differently way, but I did not think anything of it. He told me that he wanted to show me something in a wooded area. At that point, I must admit that I was alarmed. I did have a warning bell, but I overrode that warning bell because I knew him and, therefore, there was a level of trust in place. To be honest, looking back at that point, I do not think I knew what rape was. It was not something that was talked about. My mother never talked to me about it, and I did not hear other girls or women talking about it.

It was mercifully quick and I remember first of all feeling surprise, then fear, then horror as I realised that I quite simply could not escape, because obviously he was stronger than me. There was no sense, even initially, of any sexual desire from him, which, looking back again, I suppose I find odd. My senses were absolutely numbed, and thinking about it now, 37 years later, I cannot remember hearing anything when I replay it in my mind. As a former professional musician who is very auditory, I find that quite telling. I now understand that your subconscious brain—not your conscious brain—decides on your behalf how you should respond: whether you take flight, whether you fight or whether you freeze. And I froze, I must be honest.

Afterwards I walked home alone. I was crying, I was cold and I was shivering. I now realise, of course, that that was the shock response. I did not tell my mother. I did not tell my father. I did not tell my friends. And I did not tell the police. I bottled it all up inside me. I hoped briefly—and appallingly—that I might be pregnant so that that would force a situation to help me control it. Of course, without support, the capacity and resources that I had within me to process it were very limited.

I was very ashamed. I was ashamed that I had “allowed this to happen to me”. I had a whole range of internal conversations: “I should have known. Why did I go that way? Why did I walk home with him? Why didn’t I understand the danger? I deserved it because I was too this, too that.” I felt that I was spoiled and impure, and I really felt revulsion towards myself.

Of course, I detached from the child that I had been up until then. Although in reality, at the age of 14, that was probably the start of my sexual awakening, at that time, remembering back, sex was “something that men did to women”, and perhaps this incident reinforced that early belief.​
I briefly sought favour elsewhere and I now understand that even a brief period of hypersexuality is about trying to make sense of an incident and reframing the most intimate of acts. My oldest friends, with whom I am still friends, must have sensed a change in me, but because I never told them they did not know of the cause. I allowed myself to drift away from them for quite a few years. Indeed, I found myself taking time off school and staying at home on my own, listening to music and reading and so on.

I did have a boyfriend in the later years of school and he was very supportive when I told him about it, but I could not make sense of my response - and it is my response that gives weight to the event. I carried that guilt, anger, fear, sadness and bitterness for years.

When I got married 12 years later, I felt that I had a duty tell my husband. I wanted him to understand why there was this swaddled kernel of extreme emotion at the very heart of me, which I knew he could sense. But for many years I simply could not say the words without crying—I could not say the words. It was only in my mid-40s that I took some steps to go and get help.

It had a huge effect on me and it fundamentally - and fatally - undermined my self-esteem, my confidence and my sense of self-worth. Despite this, I am blessed in my life: I have been happily married for 25 years. But if this was the effect of one small, albeit significant, event in my life stage, how must it be for those women who are carrying it on a day-by-day basis?

I thought carefully about whether I should speak about this today, and it was people’s intake of breath and the comment, “What? You’re going to talk about this?”, that motivated me to do it, because there is still a taboo about sharing this kind of information. Certainly for people of my generation, it is truly shocking to talk in public about this sort of thing.

As has been said, rape does not just affect the woman; it affects the family as well. Before my mother died early of cancer, I really wanted to tell her, but I could not bring myself to do it. I have a daughter and if something happened to her and she could not share it with me, I would be appalled. It was possibly cowardly, but it was an act of love that meant that I protected my mother.

As an adult, of course I now know that rape is not about sex at all - it is all about power and control, and it is a crime of violence. I still pick up on when the myths of rape are perpetuated form a male perspective: “Surely you could have fought him off. Did you scream loudly enough?” And the suggestion by some men that a woman is giving subtle hints or is making it up is outrageous. Those assumptions put the woman at the heart of cause, when she should be at the heart of effect. A rape happens when a man makes a decision to hurt someone he feels he can control. Rapes happen because of the rapist, not because of the victim.

We women in our society have to stand up for each other. We have to be courageous. We have to call things out and say where things are wrong. We have to support and nurture our sisters as we do with our sons. Like many women of my age, I have on occasion encountered other aggressive actions towards me, both in business and in politics. But one thing that I realise now is that I am not scared and he was. I am not scared. I am not a victim. I am a survivor.

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.