- (Photo: Reuters)
Enraged by images of Egyptian soldiers stripping and dragging female demonstrators during a new set of clashes in Tahrir Square that began last week, thousands of women took to the streets in protest Tuesday.
Women of all ages and social backgrounds demonstrated in solidarity, according to news reports, many carrying enlarged photos of an image widely shared online that shows a woman who is partially disrobed and being dragged by military men in riot gear.
Late Tuesday, the ruling military council issued an apology saying it regrets any "transgressions" against women during the clashes between protesters.
At least 14 people have been reported dead and 850 have been injured in the last five days, according to Egyptian state television.
Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Egypt's police and soldiers were intentionally targeting women. She described the recent events as “shocking.”
"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 during a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
At Tuesday's protest by women in Cairo, some shouted: "Our honor is a red line," reported the BBC.
Protester Nawara Negm told the BBC that the security forces were deliberately trying to humiliate women. She said the military leaders must leave because they are “traitors.”
"They know that people who don't care about their own lives [nevertheless] care about their mother, wife and sister. So they wanted to humiliate the whole Egyptian people by humiliating women because they know it's very sensitive," she told the news agency.
The protest by the women could be a signal of renewed solidarity among Egyptians, according to some news analysts. Activists and politicians have stepped up their demands for presidential elections to take place by the end of next month to remove Egypt’s military council from power.
Tuesday’s protest appeared to be the largest march by women since demonstrations began in Cairo 11 months ago. A shield around the women protesters was formed by a group of men, that apparently included some newly elected members of parliament.
Tahrir Square has been the focal point of many demonstrations, including the 2011 Egyptian Revolution against former president Hosni Mubarak, which eventually led to his resignation. The military council assumed presidential powers after Mubarak left as head of state in February.
Last spring, Egyptian police using tear gas clashed with rioting youth in the square. The youth were demanding that the trials of senior officials overthrown as the result of the revolution be set on a fast track.
Similar protests returned to Tahrir Square in November, when demonstrators accused the generals of delaying the transfer of power to a civilian government.