There are no words
to describe the shameful display of uncontrolled thugery caught on TV and
mobile phones. Like you, I watched for days in and days out, with
utter disgust. This savage behavior is being inflicted on our people as
they try to raise their voices in protest against the repressive tactics
of our government. Most disturbing is the violence perpetuated against
women, young and old, many of whom are mothers and even grandmothers.
However, if you think
that this a new trend, peculiar to our new generation, and, la
samah Allah, this is only an aberration in our culture,
In fact, thugery
and the practice of beating and abusing women who demonstrate against the
establishment, is a national pastime that goes way back in Egypt's history.
I have taken the
liberty of posting the story of 16 women's ordeal to acquaint you
with this sad trend which appears to be deeply engrained in our short political
The year was 1932,
and these events ironically took place smack in the middle of what is described
by the misnomer of The era of "Liberalism."
The weirdest thing
is that what happened then is almost a carbon copy of what we are witnessing
today. Even Iraq was prominent in the news at that time
and was often mentioned as a matter of grave concern.
The incident in question
occurred during the elections held under the dictatorial rule of Isma`iyl
Pasha, Egypt's "political tiger", as some used to call him, was
a former associate of Sa`d Zaghluwl who held office with ability
in various governments since I908. Sidqqiy always
followed his own path with ill-concealed contempt for his fellow Egyptians.
A millionaire businessman, Sidqqiy had been one of the original
promoters during the First World War of Egyptian-controlled capitalist
His period was dominated
by a strong repressive government which ruled in conjunction with the monarch
With the help of
British troops he suppressed popular demonstrations and went on to amend
1923 constitution and the electoral law to increase the king's
powers and ensure the defeat of the Wafd in the 1931 elections.
kept many party leaders, particular those of the Wafd, outside the
normal channels of political activity. Such behavior in turn further
alienated many followers of the Wafd from its leadership, and this
inevitably strengthened the more extremist parties, particular the Muslim
The Wafd and
the Brethren were in the opposition, while the Sidqqiy
was bent on at falsifying the elections. Demonstrations took place to protest
the farcical results. The Sidqqiy Government responded
by unleashing its troops to quell the unrest. While women were participating
in the demonstrations, unruly "thugs" (baltagiyah)
were given the green light to do the unthinkable: To physically assault
them. Sixteen courageous women of distinguished families were put
in jail and were subjected to physical harm and verbal abuse aimed at humiliating
them. Sound familiar?
As these women were
put on trial, they were defended by an eloquent and famous lawyer, the
late honorable Makram `Ibayd, who was a leading member of the
The following excerpt
of what happened 74 years ago to these16 brave women was
narrated in Sabriy 'Abuw al-Magd's "Sanawat
ma qabl al-thawrah, (1930-1952). It is posted
below for your edification.
Egyptian statesman. He joined Zaghluwl Pasha and the Wafd
in the struggle for Egyptian independence. With Zaghluwl and
others he was deported by the British to Malta, but released at
Allenby's insistence in April 1919. Subsequently Sidqqiy
broke with Zaghluwl, and, with the British, soon became the Wafd's
most formidable enemy.