Egypt women’s group blames government for sexual attacks in Tahrir
An Egyptian women’s rights group has decided to begin procedures to press legal charges against the authorities whom they believe are behind the sexual assaults on female demonstrators.
The Baheya Ya Masr movement added in a statement on Saturday that Egyptian women refuse to give up on their resistance against discrimination and will continue to fight for equality.
“Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment” had reported that weapons were being used against female demonstrators and those who intervened to help them.
Baheya Ya Masr insisted that the purpose of sexual violence in demonstrations is to break the will of Egyptian women and force them to stop joining the fight for freedoms and rights, describing the perpetrators as trained and organized groups that target women.
“(Hosni) Mubarak’s regime used sexual violence against protesters in May 2005 and today the current regime is using the same weapon more skillfully by hiring organized and trained groups to carry on this wicked task,” the women’s rights group said.
A report by another women’s group had documented dozens of sexual harassment cases that took place on the anniversary of the 2011 revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Online activists have over the past 10 days reported that women are being attacked by a mob of men in the square and sexually assaulted. It was the latest in what has become all-too-common for women in Egypt during mass demonstrations in the country.
At least two women have been stripped naked in the main square and brutally assaulted, including one with a knife that forced the woman to have emergency surgery to remove her womb in order to save her life. The incidents have put the spotlight on women’s issues and the status of women in the country.
“Why must this still happen? Is this the Egypt we want?” one tweet directed to Bikyanews.com said.
Other incidents are also beginning to come to light as the violence across the country appears to be deepening as protesters and police face off. Tear gas barrages have reached the center of Tahrir and chaos is ensuing across downtown Cairo, activists are reporting.
“We are attacked and the police either stand by or do nothing and laugh as men say disgusting things at women, grab our chests or behinds, so I am definitely not convinced yet,” said 22-year-old Cairo University student Diana Zaky.
She told Bikyanews.com that when she asked police to intervene after three young boys were harassing her in Giza near the university, “they just told me to go home and didn’t move to help.”
The ministry also said that surveillance cameras would be put up across the country and additional security patrols appointed to “guarantee the immediate capture of sexual offenders,” said Egypt’s National Council for Women.
Female specialist officers and social researchers will be appointed in different police departments to provide an appropriate atmosphere during investigations with women in sensitive cases, it added.
Chairwoman of the National Council for Women, Mervat al-Talawy, reportedly met with the Interior Minister and asked for harsher efforts to protect women from sexual harassment.
The question for many Egyptian women is whether an effort like this will produce results, after numerous campaigns in recent years have fallen on deaf ears.
One incident that sparked a fervor of worries occurred near the Pizza Hut on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, with dozens of men allegedly brutally assaulting a woman on the street. According to a doctor, the woman was the victim of “mass rape.”
While the incident was reported on Twitter, a group of male protesters reportedly intervened and were able to remove the woman from the assault. Those who first revealed the incident refused to speak to the media, including Bikyanews.com on the incident, but it again highlighted the fear women have of taking to Tahrir during mass protests.
Other women on the micro-blogging site and on Facebook reported being groped and harassed while they were in Tahrir, including a number of female journalists.
As crowds continue to maintain positions in Tahrir in opposition to President Mohamed Morsi’s decrees that put him above the rule of law, women’s safety is again a growing concern.
Unfortunately, this is a never-ending problem facing Egyptian women when large demonstrations are called for in central Cairo.
In June, an anti-sexual harassment demonstration organized by over 20 Egyptian women’s groups in protest against the recent escalation of assaults in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was attacked about an hour and half after it began by unknown troublemakers.
The participants reported being attacked by a mob of “thugs” who attempted to throw rocks and glass at them, but the clash was over quickly as volunteers securing the protest intervened to stop it.
This was not the first time a women’s rights march was attacked in Tahrir Square.
Last March, and on International Women’s Day, a march of tens of women was attacked by a cynical mob of men who did not like women protesting for more rights.
Several female protesters were injured and one woman had to have 8 stitches in her head. Almost all of them were groped and sexually assaulted in the attack.
A 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) found that well over two-thirds of Egyptian women are sexually harassed daily in the country.
The participants held signs that read “It is my right to protest safely,” “Groping your sister is shameful for the square” and “Be a man and protect her instead of harassing her.”
“We are fed up,” protester Mai Abdel Hafez, 24, told Bikyanews.com.
“We came to deliver a message that it is our right to protest and we will not avoid the square in fear of harassment,” she said right before the attack took place.