Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi visited a hospitalized woman sexually assaulted by a mob at a celebration of his inauguration on Wednesday, apologizing publicly to her for the crime and to “every Egyptian woman.”
Sisi, who visited the woman with a bouquet of red flowers in hand, approached her bedside and apologized personally to her before television cameras. “I have come to tell you and every Egyptian woman that I am sorry. I am apologizing to every Egyptian woman,” he said. He called on every soldier, police officer and “chivalrous man” to demand an end to sexual abuse, and vowed to use the judiciary to handle sexual criminals properly. “I tell the judiciary that our honor is being violated on the streets and that is not right. It is unacceptable, even if it is one case,” he said.
The New York Times notes that the gesture, while unprecedented in humility from the head of state of Egypt, echoes sentiments that Sisi has made public before regarding the proper role of women in Egyptian society. Sisi mentioned women in particular during his inauguration speech on Sunday, promising to “do everything I can” to promote gender equality in government.
The sexual abuse survivor, who has not been identified publicly and whose face is masked in the video of Sisi’s visit, became the subject of public outrage after multiple reports of such violence surfaced in Egyptian media. One video taken on a cell phone surfaced of a particularly graphic mob attack, in which a woman is seen having her clothes torn from her and being bruised in Tahrir Square. At least seven men have been arrested for sexual assault in Tahrir Square during inauguration festivities.
The Agence France-Press reports that at least nine such cases were reported last week during inauguration festivities. The woman Sisi chose to visit on Wednesday was surrounded, along with her teenage daughter, and assaulted by three men after being stripped of their clothes, and later was burned by a bowl of hot water, sustaining significant injuries.
Sisi, who led the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi, won election with 97% of the vote. Morsi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, boycotted the election, and Sisi has previously said that the group would not exist during his tenure, asserting, “it is not me that finished (the Brotherhood). You, the Egyptians, are the ones who finished it.” Sisi formerly served as Minister of Defense and Supreme Commander of Egyptian Armed Forces.