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WNN Breaking

Women and girl protesters behind bars in Alexandria, Egypt

Women who range in age from 22-years-of-age to 15 stand behind bars after their October 2013 arrest by police working with the military in Alexandria, Egypt. The group which calls itself ‘7am’ movement are protesting in support of former President Morsi. Named 7am because their protests usually happen early in the morning around 7 am before the young women and girls attend school in Alexandria.Those who have been sentenced are now facing 11 years and one month in prison. Others who are younger than 18 have been told they will be held under incarceration until they reach the age of 18. Image: Amira Murtada

(WNN) Denver, Colorado, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: Militarism and its push toward military armed violence is one of the leading factors contributing today to violence against women worldwide, says a new campaign for human rights advocates Amnesty International.

Working to coordinate with the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign the human rights organization hopes to inspire people to write directly to leaders inside regions where war and conflict have caused intimidation, fear, sexual violence, kidnapping, incarceration and imprisonment and death for women, especially women who speak out against injustice and corruption in the government.

“It has been seventeen years since the disappearance of Pahari activist, Kalpana Chakma, from the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In 1996, at 23 years old, she was abducted from her home in Lallyagona village, Baghaichari, Rangamati district. Kalpana Chakma has never been found,” says Amnesty in a model letter provided for anyone who wants to jump in and become a letter writing activist. The goal is to send talking points that can go directly to issues that touch on the policies subscribed by the Minister of Interior in Bangladesh.

“In January 2013, the court rejected the latest ‘Final Report’ into the investigation of Kalpana Chakma’s disappearance. Subsequently, the Police Superintendent of Rangmati Hill District was instructed by the Court to further conduct an investigation into Kalpana Chakma’s case and stated that every effort should be given to ‘rescuing the victim Kalpana Chakma’,” continued the model letter.

Physical and psychological dangers for women rights defenders who speak out in public is common worldwide. In Egypt women leaders who spoke out the most have been at the epicenter of the democracy movement. They were also in heightened danger as women activists were injured, arrested, threatened.

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On the streets, women protesters have faced sexual and gender-based violence from the army and security forces – as well as attacks from unidentified groups of men,” said Amnesty in a detailed report in March 2013. ” The authorities have taken no steps to ensure that women are able to participate equally in shaping the new Egypt. On the contrary, they have set up a constitutional committee made up almost entirely of men and have abolished quotas for women in parliamentary elections, leading to women in parliament dropping to two percent. They have also failed to hold the perpetrators of sexual violence to account,” continued Amnesty.

Since that time conditions for women rights defenders in the region have not improved. Instead the rights for freedom of expression have continued to deteriorate in the region under a continuing tight military rule. Recent October arrests by military security authorities of 21 young women and female youth activists in Alexandria, Egypt brought stiff sentencing on the women in November 27 as 14 of the women, aged 18 to 22, were sentenced in the Sidi Gaber Misdemeanor Court in Alexandria to 11 years and one month in prison. Seven of the women arrested where girls under the age of 18.

The arrests came as the women protesters were said to have formed a human chain on the streets in the center of the downtown area of Alexandria chanting pro-Morsi slogans as they held balloons and wore protest T-shirts.

Egypt’s new law on demonstrations has brought worldwide concern that the law is vague and may be interpreted differently according to police and military wishes as human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights First and Paris based FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights, among others, raise concern about the law.

“The fact that the law criminalizes acts by demonstrators which may breach ‘security and public order,’ without clearly defining these terms, leaves the door open to a very restrictive and repressive interpretation,” outlined United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navi Pillay last week following the October arrests of the women in Alexandria. Their arrests came only days before Egypt’s Parliament passed a new law restricting demonstrations.

“There is a real risk that the lives of peaceful protestors will be put at risk because of the violent behavior of a few, or because the law may too easily be interpreted by local security authorities in a way that permits them to use excessive force in inappropriate circumstances,” Pillay continued.

Restrictions on human rights under militarism in what Amnesty International calls actions that have “…a dominant influence over society” are now being questioned by human rights advocates worldwide. Militaristic behaviors promote aggressive acts, a culture of fear and gender-based violence, outlines Amnesty International.

Regions currently most affected by the ‘culture of dominance’ includes Honduras, Egypt, Sudan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico and others.

“These women and girls should have never been arrested,” said Mr. Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa to the press following the arrests of the women and girl protesters in Alexandria, who are now considered by many to be ‘prisoners of conscience’. Their case is expected to be pushed into appellate court in Alexandria.

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