Mass march by Cairo women in protest over soldiers’ abuse

The New York Times reports: Thousands of women massed in Tahrir Square here on Tuesday afternoon and marched to a journalists’ syndicate and back in a demonstration that grew by the minute into an extraordinary expression of anger at the treatment of women by the military police as they protested against continued military rule.

Many held posters of the most sensational image of violence over the last weekend: a group of soldiers pulling the abaya off a prone woman to reveal her blue bra as one raises a boot to kick her. The picture, circulated around the world, has become a rallying point for activists opposed to military rule, though cameras also captured soldiers pulling the clothes off other women.

The march, guarded by a cordon of male protesters, was a surprising turn. In Egypt, as in other countries swept by the revolts of the Arab Spring, women played important roles, raising hopes that broader social and political rights would emerge along with more accountable governments. But with the main popular focus on preparing for elections and protesting the military’s continued hold on power, women here had grown less politically visible.

The women’s protest came on the fifth day of violent clashes between Egyptian soldiers and protesters. The severity of the military’s defense of its hold on power, even as the newly elected Parliament begins to take shape, has restored a degree of unity that had been missing among the civilian political factions, liberal and Islamist, since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

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