WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday denounced Egypt’s treatment of women as “shocking” and a “disgrace” to the state after troops were shown ripping off a female protester’s clothes.
In unusually strong remarks, Clinton accused Egyptian authorities of failing the country’s women since the revolution that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak, both by excluding them from power and humiliating them in the streets.
“This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform and is not worthy of a great people,” Clinton said in a speech at Georgetown University.
In images widely seen over YouTube, helmeted troops were shown beating a veiled woman after having ripped her clothes off to reveal her bra and stomach.
Other pictures circulating on social media networks that have enraged protesters include one of a military policeman looming over a sobbing elderly woman with his truncheon.
“Recent events in Egypt have been particularly shocking. Women are being beaten and humiliated in the same streets where they risked their lives for the revolution only a few short months ago,” Clinton said.
She denounced a “deeply troubling patter” of military authorities and the major political parties alike keeping Egyptian women out of the decision-making process.
“At the same time, they have been specifically targeted both by security forces and extremists,” the top US diplomat added.
“Women protesters have been rounded up and subjected to horrific abuse. Journalists have been sexually assaulted and now women are being attacked, stripped and beaten in the streets.”
Responding later to a question by a student, Clinton said that Egyptians and not Americans should be the first ones disturbed by the treatment of women.
Beating women on the street “is not cultural, it’s criminal and it needs to be addressed and treated as such,” she said to applause.
Clinton, who narrowly lost her bid to be the first female US president, has frequently been outspoken about women’s rights during her tenure as the country’s top diplomat.
She addressed events in Egypt as part of a broader speech in which she argued that peacemaking efforts around the world would benefit from greater involvement by women.