The Obama administration pressed its concerns Wednesday with Egyptian officials over the ongoing violence and abuse of female demonstrators in Egypt.
The State Department said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had spoken by phone a day earlier to Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri to register deep U.S. unease about the situation, particularly well-documented attacks on women participating in anti-military protests by security forces. The conversation came after Clinton earlier this week bluntly called the treatment of the women a "disgrace" that dishonored this year's revolution that ended decades of repressive rule.
"It was a very productive call, all focused in the right direction," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said of the exchange between Clinton and Ganzouri. "She, obviously, said that she had been greatly concerned, and particularly alarmed about the horrible images. And he was very clear that the Egyptian authorities want to see their security forces operate within the rule of law."
As the elections continue, Clinton told Ganzouri that the U.S. wanted to see a "genuine inclusive democratic process" that respects the rights of all Egyptians, including women and minorities.
The attacks on the women came in fierce clashes beginning last week as troops broke up protests by activists demanding the immediate end to the rule of the military, which took power after the Feb. 11 fall of Hosni Mubarak. The clashes saw military police chasing young men and women through Tahrir Square and nearby streets, beating them with clubs and sticks. The crackdown has killed 14 protesters, mostly from gunshots.
In a speech Monday, Clinton decried the abuse, saying: "This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform, and is not worthy of a great people," she said.
Her comments were denounced as interference by some Egyptian officials, but Nuland rejected the characterization.
"People around the world will hear the United States speak out in defense of our values and in defense of our interests," Nuland said. "The secretary of state is not shy on those subjects. We are going to speak out for the human rights of people around the world. We do not consider that interference."
On Tuesday, some 10,000 women marched in central Cairo, demanding the military step down and expressing their anger over the abuse of female protesters by troops during the crackdown.
The military issued a statement expressing its regret but did not apologize for the brutality, which included pulling women by their hair, beating them with truncheons and stomping on them as they lay on the ground. The image of one woman _ stripped half naked by the troops, kicked and stomped on _ has particularly enraged women and drawn a sharp rebuke from the United States and the United Nations.
Nuland said the U.S. was "gratified to see (the Egyptian military) recognize that these issues need to be addressed."