An Egyptian general has said the military conducted forced “virginity tests” on female protesters in March, CNN reported, actions that outraged Egyptian activists who called for demonstrations to condemn the incident.
Amnesty International had previously called on the government to investigate accusations that the army tortured and abused women arrested in protests.
Rights groups said at least 18 women were arrested on March 9 when army officers forcibly cleared Tahrir Square in Cairo, centre of the protests that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February. A military council now rules Egypt, Reuters reports.
Some of those detained said the abuse included forced “virginity tests,” beatings, electric shocks and strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers.
Military officials, who have previously denied the army had any part in such abuses, could not be reached for comment.
The U.S. broadcaster CNN cited a senior general, who asked not to be named, confirming it happened and defending the incident.
“The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine,” the general said. “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.”
“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 said.
Activists on online social networking sites scrambled to organise demonstrations to condemn the military’s actions in the wake of the CNN report. Protesters who ousted Mubarak had in part been driven to the street by human rights abuses by police.
“Women were in the front lines in Tahrir. They have always played a role and they deserve for their dignity to be regained,” wrote one group of activists on their Facebook page.