Samira Brahim: the story of an ordinary brave young women | Mohamed Farag, Elizabeth Grech, mira Brahim, Tahrir Square, CNN
Samira Brahim: the story of an ordinary brave young women Print
Mohamed Farag   

//Samira BrahimSamira BrahimSamira Brahim is 25 years old. She has not been an activist in the past because she had never participated in any political action before the 25th of January. She does not come from a family of intellectuals or activists. Only one of her uncles had been in prison as he belonged to an Islamist group. Born in Sohag, one of the poorest cities in Upper Egypt, Samira lived an ordinary life as a marketing director in a private company until the 25th of January that has become a D-day for the Egyptians. Protests started up in Cairo and spread all across the country announcing the beginning of the revolution. The days before the fall of Mubarak have allowed to break down the wall of fear that every Egyptian had built up during the long black decades.

The Egyptians have tasted the joys of transgressing prohibitions. Samira was among those who have breathed the air laden with tear gas while it was raining bullets and stones and the dream of seeing the birth of new Egypt was becoming true. But Samira’s story only began shortly after Hosni Mubarak’s deposition, at the time when attempts for recovery were shaken by the first insurrection. After the fall of Mubarak, the Military Council took the reins of power and a long operation to eradicate the traces of the first uprising began. It was based on the discourse of the media of the previous regime with only a few modifications to harmonise it with the new situation in course. They first sought to end the protests in Tahrir Square. According to the new power, the revolution’s objective was to dismiss the former president and that since he was gone, there was no reason to protest or sit-in in Tahrir Square anymore. Thus, those who participated to sit-ins were seen as trying to hinder the revolution’s course, to sabotage the economy machine or to sow discord between the army who protected the revolution, and the people who, from now on, had to stay home and let the new masters rule the country. This is why Tahrir Square protesters and sit-inners were subject to a new repression as from the end of February 2011. The military police cracked down on people after having transformed the Cairo Museum overlooking Tahrir Square, in their headquarters where they interrogated and tortured detainees accused of having “sowed discord between the army and the people”.

On the 9th of March 2011, a sit-in was lifted in Tahrir Square and seventeen women including Samira, were arrested. At first, they were taken to the museum where they spent the night under the torture of military police officers. The next day, they were transferred to prison.

Since the 1960’s, Egyptian prison literature and some politically committed films tell how political detainees are “welcomed” upon arrival in prison. The prisoner is usually greeted by a guard of soldiers from the van and they then brings him to the prison’s door. The soldiers then hit him in the cruellest manner. Samira and her companions were welcomed in a different way. They were placed in a room with a large window. Soldiers stood in front of the open door. A lady asked Samira to undress completely to undergo a virginity test but the young woman refused. She was given an electro shock and was forced to undress and lie down for an officer to ensure her virginity. The objective was to destroy these young women psychologically and then threaten them with a fake prostitution trial. When the seventeen women were released, Samira’s story started to cause a stir. Samira was the only one to submit a complaint to the military prosecutor who was charged to investigate the violations that she had been subjected to.

The Military Council quickly issued an official denial and then began to withdraw its position. On the 30th May, a General who preferred to remain anonymous declared to the CNN that the army had indeed obliged young women to undergo virginity tests: “We did not want them to claim they had been raped or sexually assaulted. We therefore sought to prove that they were not virgins…The young women arrested resemble neither my daughters nor yours. There are young women who stayed with men in tents where we found Molotov and drugs”.

Thus, the army reneged on its position but also carefully tarnished the image of its victims. Nonetheless, Samira’s case did not stop there. Many revolutionaries and human rights organisations started to support her. Moreover, Samira began receiving phone calls from hidden phone numbers. In Egypt, this is quite unusual as only calls from the police, the General Intelligence or the former State Security have hidden numbers. These calls either threatened her or proposed an agreement with the Military Council and a compensation of two million Egyptian pounds (approximately 330 USD) in return for her silence. Samira held on, she did not keep silent and she kept her word. She decided not to withdraw the complaint. In December, she finally obtained a judgment prohibiting virginity tests. The Military Council issued a statement with amends.

This is how Samira won her struggle. She has managed to right a wrong, move on and force the army to acknowledge its mistake and apologize. Wouldn’t the revolution look like Samira? It was formed discretely and endured long years of repression and suppression. Then, all of a sudden, it was born to astonish the world with its simplicity, triviality but also by its victory.

What is surprising is that Samira is an ordinary young woman who managed to break all stereotypes of the oppressed woman who is silent, suffering injustice without firing a shot. Samira, the young woman wearing the hijab has protested, participated to sit-ins, was arrested, raped and she claimed justice and won her cause.

She recently participated to the commemoration of the Virginity Tests Day in Tahrir Square and she claims the fall of the military regime. She fights for a new Egypt where dignity for both women and men is respected.

The objective is not to transform Samira into an icon that is impossible to replicate but rather into a collective behaviour that would be impossible to suppress, a behaviour that will build a society that is not reined by fear and suffocated by stereotypes.


Mohamed Farag

Translated from French by Elizabeth Grech