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Women In Egypt

During recent demonstrations in Egypt over a referendum on the rules for September's presidential election, many women were attacked and even groped by supporters of President Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party.

The women were among several hundred people protesting the restrictive election rules. Those rules will, for the first time, allow more than one presidential candidate. But those eligible to run are limited to members of officially approved political parties and must win parliamentary approval to have their names placed on the ballot.

Among the women attacked at the protest demonstration was Rabaa Fahmy, an attorney and member of the opposition Kifaya, or Enough, movement. She is also an army veteran and a devout Muslim. According to news reports, Ms. Fahmy and others were attacked by a mob while the Egyptian police stood by.

The government's failure to protect the women caused public outrage in Egypt. Sumaya Ahmed is an accountant. She says she is "very provoked by what happened." But it also encouraged her, she says, because Egyptians "must assert the rights of those people who were beaten and humiliated."

Ali Tayeb is an engineering student at Cairo University. He said, "the assaults on women are a disgrace. . . .to every person in Egypt." Mr. Tayeb says that Egyptians have "to start speaking out for their rights."

President George W. Bush says that the United States is urging the government in Egypt and other Arab countries to open up their political systems:

"While our expectations must be realistic, our ideals must be firm and they must be clear. We expect higher standards from our friends and partners in the Middle East."

President Mubarak has "publicly stated he's for free and fair elections," says President Bush, "and now is the time for him to show the world that his great country can set an example for others."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.