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Friday, June 08, 2012

Sexual assaults on women in Tahrir Square increasing

Today there is a mass demonstration of thousands in Tahrir Square in Cairo against what many Egyptians felt was a light sentence for Hosni Mubarak in his trial.

The women in the protest better watch out.

From AP:
Her screams were not drowned out by the clamor of the crazed mob of nearly 200 men around her.

An endless number of hands reached toward the woman in the red shirt in an assault scene that lasted less than 15 minutes but felt more like an hour.

She was pushed by the sea of men for about a block into a side street from Tahrir Square. Many of the men were trying to break up the frenzy, but it was impossible to tell who was helping and who was assaulting.

Pushed against the wall, the unknown woman's head finally disappeared. Her screams grew fainter, then stopped. Her slender tall frame had clearly given way. She apparently had passed out. The helping hands finally splashed the attackers with bottles of water to chase them away.

The assault late Tuesday was witnessed by an Associated Press reporter who was almost overwhelmed by the crowd herself and had to be pulled to safety by men who ferried her out of the melee in an open Jeep.

Reports of assaults on women in Tahrir, the epicentre of the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak to step down last year, have been on the rise with a new round of mass protests to denounce a mixed verdict against the ousted leader and his sons in a trial last week.

No official numbers exist for attacks on women in the square because police do not go near the area, and women rarely report such incidents.

But activists and protesters have reported a number of particularly violent assaults on women in the past week. Many suspect such assaults are organised by opponents of the protests to weaken the spirit of the protesters and drive people away.

Mahmoud said two of his female friends were cornered Monday and pushed into a small passageway by a group of men in the same area where the woman in the red shirt was assaulted.

One was groped while the other was seriously assaulted, Mahmoud said, refusing to divulge specifics other than to insist she wasn't raped.

Mona Seif, a well-known activist who has been trying to promote awareness about the problem, said Wednesday she was told about three different incidents in the past five days, including two that were violent.

In one incident, the attackers ripped the woman's clothes off and trampled on her companions, she said.

Women, who participated in the 18-day uprising that ended with Mubarak's 11 February 2011 ouster as leading activists, protesters, medics and even fighters to ward off attacks by security agents or affiliated thugs on Tahrir, have found themselves facing the same groping and assaults that have long plagued Egypt's streets during subsequent protests in the square.

Women also have been targeted in recent crackdowns on protesters by military and security troops, a practice commonly used by Mubarak security that grew even more aggressive in the days following his ouster.

In a defining image of the post-Mubarak state violence against women, troops were captured on video stomping with their boots on the bare chest of a woman, with only her blue bra showing, as other troops pulled her by the arms across the ground.

A 2008 report by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights says two-thirds of women in Egypt experienced sexual harassment on a daily basis.
It isn't only political protests that  have men attacking women. They do it on religious holidays, too.

And if you think that women who cover their bodies and hair are less likely to be attacked, think again.

The article does say that some Egyptians are fed up, and organizing patrols to protect women in Tahrir Square.