Women protest Sexual Violence in Tahrir Square

Women protest Sexual Violence in Tahrir Square

As the world reels from the Delhi Rape trials, fresh violence against women is hitting the newsstands, but this time in Cairo, Egypt.

While protests against President Morsi’s constitution, the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and police brutality continue throughout Egypt, it is only recently that the extent of the protest violence has come to light.

Protests on 25 January marking the anniversary uprisings against the Mubarak regime resulted in reports of a staggering 22 cases of sexual assault and rape. 

Described as one of the worst cases of multiple sexual assaults ever witnessed, Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH) released details of the most harrowing case to date.

“All of the cases were really, really bad. But the worse case that we dealt with involved a bladed weapon being used on the private parts of an assaulted woman.”

It is believed at least another nine sexual assaults were carried out that day without reprisal.

Victims have reported drawn out cases of sexual assault where they were surrounded by men and carried to various locations by the crowd during which time their clothes were ripped off and their genitals violated by a numerous individuals. Testimonials regularly describe the presence of onlookers refusing to help despite persistent pleas for mercy.

New testimonials of further brutality through sexual assault and rape continue to shock the Egyptian community and the world, as a global crisis of sexual violence emerges for all to see.

In Egypt, however, locals believe the increased frequency and brutality of sexual violence in Tahrir Square is directly related to the riots. Victims have come forward to draw attention to the possibility that the government, and more specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, who have been accused of using fear tactics to suppress uprisings in the past, could be orchestrating the violence as a means of breaking the support for the protest.

“There’s the theory that if you want to break a society you start with women because if you do this men will become afraid,” said sexual assault victim Shorouk al Attar, “I think it’s organised. It’s not by chance, like most people think.”

Whether the terrible rise in sexual violence is associated with the government or a result of an endemic social crisis, representatives from Tahrir Bodyguard are sure of one thing:

“We cannot accept it anymore,” said a representative from Tahrir Bodyguard, who believes attacks are a concentration of much wider spread and deeper cultural problem, “We need to tackle this problem, not only in Tahrir Square, not only in Cairo, but in Egypt as a whole.”

The calls for complete social overhaul are alarmingly familiar to the reforms supported by protest groups across India. A 2008 report by the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights revealed that 83% of Egyptian women had experienced sexual harassment of some form, a problem which continues to grow through an institutional failure to prosecute those responsible.

“There is no accountability for these people,” said the Tahrir Bodyguard representative, “They know that they can get away with it again and again.”