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The woman who couldn't be here

At the third annual Women in the World forum, Egyptian "virginity test" challenger Samira Ibrahim speaks from afar.
Samira Ibrahim portraitEnlarge
Samira Ibrahim in a hotel room in Cairo, Egypt on October 17, 2011. (Elizabeth D. Herman/GlobalPost)

NEW YORK — Model and designer Lauren Bush Lauren took the stage at the Lincoln Center in New York City Thursday evening as an image of the Samira Ibrahim flashed behind her.

Samira is the Egyptian women who dared to challenge her country's military after she was subjected to a "virginity test" after being arrested at a protest in March 2011. She has likened it to rape.

Quoting the words of Samira, Lauren said, "All my energy and my thought is now focused on violations that could happen against women. We need to break that fear."

She continued: "If there was a young woman in front of me, I would teach her courage and freedom but not without limits, with moderation. I would show her how to be strong and free and fear nothing."

As thousands of attendees of the third annual Women in the World conference, hosted by Newsweek / The Daily Beast, absorbed Samira's words, the woman herself was more than 5000 miles away.

"Samira could not be here tonight because she's filed a lawsuit against the Egyptian military," Lauren said.

Indeed, Samira is due in court again on Sunday, having now fought for a full year against the military regime that continues to rule Egypt. She won her first case in Dec. 2011; the court ordered the military to stop the highly invasive practice of "virginity tests."

But on Sunday she expects a verdict in her case against the army doctor who she said performed the test. 

"I do not trust the military judiciary and I believe that the court verdict will be in the soldier's favor," Samira said last month. GlobalPost 'Covering a Revolution' fellows first broke Samira's story to a global audience in Oct. 2011 and we have continued to follow the story.

Several of the speakers Thursday night paid tribute to the revolutionary events set in motion by the Arab Spring, including Newsweek / The Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown. 

Brown said that although the women of the Arab Spring may studied Western societies for inspiration as they began to demand their human rights, women like Samira should now guide rights advocates here in the West.

"They looked to us," Brown said. "But we should look to them, starting tonight."

GlobalPost web producer for Special Reports Alex Pearlman will be liveblogging and tweeting the summit, and you can follow along (@lexikon1) with the hashtag #wiw12. To see the weekend's agenda, head to The Daily Beast.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/rights/women-in-the-world-women-who-couldnt-be-here