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Mob attacks women at Egypt anti-sexual harassment rally

Hundreds of men assaulted women holding a march demanding an end to sexual harassment, with the attackers overwhelming the male guardians and groping and molesting several of the female marchers in Cairo's Tahrir Square

AP, Saturday 9 Jun 2012
End to sexual harassment
File photo: A protest by hundreds of Egyptian women demanding an end to sexual harassment and equal rights (Photo: AP)
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A mob of hundreds of men have assaulted women holding a march demanding an end to sexual harassment, with the attackers overwhelming the male guardians and groping and molesting several of the female marchers in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

From the ferocity of Friday's assault, some of the victims said it appeared to have been an organised attempt to drive women out of demonstrations and trample on the pro-democracy protest movement.

The attack follows smaller scale assaults on women this week in Tahrir, the epicenter of the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak to step down last year. Thousands have been gathering in the square this week in protests over a variety of issues — mainly over worries that presidential elections this month will secure the continued rule by elements of Mubarak's regime backed by the ruling military.

Earlier in the week, an Associated Press reporter witnessed around 200 men assault a woman who eventually fainted before men trying to help could reach her.

Friday's march was called to demand an end to sexual assaults. Around 50 women participated, surrounded by a larger group of male supporters who joined hands to form a protective ring around them. The protesters carried posters saying, "The people want to cut the hand of the sexual harasser," and chanted, "The Egyptian girl says it loudly, harassment is barbaric."

After the marchers entered a crowded corner of the square, a group of men waded into the group of women, heckling them and groping them. The male supporters tried to fend them off, and it turned into a melee involving a mob of hundreds.

The marchers tried to flee while the attackers chased them and male supporters tried to protect them. But the attackers persisted, cornering several women against a metal sidewalk railing, including an Associated Press reporter, shoving their hands down their clothes and trying to grab their bags. The male supporters fought back, swinging belts and fists and throwing water.
Eventually, the women were able to reach refuge in a nearby building with the mob still outside until they finally got out to safety.
"After what I saw and heard today. I am furious at so many things. Why beat a girl and strip her off? Why?" wrote Sally Zohney, one of the organisers of the event on Twitter.

The persistence of the attack raised the belief of many that it was intentional, though who orchestrated it was unclear.
Mariam Abdel-Shahid, a 25 year-old cinema student who took part in the march, said "sexual harassment will only take us backward."
"This is pressure on the woman to return home," she said.

Ahmed Mansour, a 22 year-old male medical student who took part in the march, said there are "people here trying to abuse the large number of women protesters who feel safe and secure. Some people think it is targeted to make women hate coming here."
"I am here to take a position and to object to this obscene act in society," he said.

Assaults on women Tahrir have been a demoralising turn for Egypt's protest movement.

During the 18-day uprising against Mubarak last year, women say they briefly experienced a "new Egypt" taking place in Tahrir, with none of the harassment that is common in Cairo's streets. Women participated in the anti-Mubarak uprising as leading activists, protesters, medics and even fighters to ward off attacks by security agents or affiliated thugs. They have continued the role during the frequent protests over the past 15 months against the military, which took power after Mubarak's fall on 11 February, 2011.

But women have also been targeted, both by mobs and by military and security forces in crackdowns, a practice commonly used by Mubarak security against protesters. Lara Logan, a US correspondent for CBS television, was sexually assaulted by a frenzied mob in Tahrir on the day Mubarak stepped down, when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians came to the square to celebrate.

In a defining image of the post-Mubarak state violence against women, troops dispersing a December protest in Tahrir were captured on video stripping a woman's top off down to her blue bra and stomping with their boots on her chest, as other troops pulled her by the arms across the ground.

That incident prompted an unprecedented march by some 10,000 women through central Cairo in December in a show of outrage, demanding Egypt's ruling military step down.

In contrast, the small size of Friday's march could reflect the vulnerability and insecurity many feel in the square, which was packed with thousands of mostly young men by nightfall Friday. Twenty rights groups signed on to support the stand and hundreds more vowed to take part, according to the Facebook page where organiders publicised the event, but only around 50 women participated.

Sexual harassment of women, including against those who wear the Islamic headscarf or even cover their face, is common in the streets of Cairo. A 2008 report by the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights says two-thirds of women in Egypt experienced sexual harassment on a daily basis. A string of mass assaults on women in 2006 during the Muslim feast following the holy month of Ramadan prompted police to increase the number of patrols to combat it but legislation providing punishment was never passed.

After Friday's attack, many were already calling for another, much larger stand in the square against such assaults.

Another participant in Friday's march, Ahmed Hawary, said a close female friend of his was attacked by a mob of men in Tahrir Square in January. She was rushed off in an ambulance, which was the only way to get her out, he said. After suffering from a nervous breakdown, she left Cairo altogether to work elsewhere in Egypt.

"Women activists are at the core of the revolution," Hawary said. "They are the courage of this movement. If you break them, you break the spirit of the revolution."

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8



Mr
13-06-2012 04:19pm
9-
5+
True masculine shame and pride
Revolting. And to think that in ancient times Egypt was one of the best places for women to live. They had female pharaohs along with male ones, and a refined civilisation. They had honoured priestesses and prophetesses. And after the ancient Egyptian wisdom was forgotten, Egypt again shone with the lights of Hellenistic and Jewish philosophy, and later again it was a flourishing Christian cultural centre, hosting some of the most famous church fathers and the beloved saint, the Egyptian Mary... Now, the Egyptians have apparently sunk culturally to an unusually low level of spiritual and moral degradation. How sad and surprising that so noble a culture could turn so bad. The way men treat women - and vice versa - immedieately reveals the moral and spiritual level of a culture. I feel so sorry for the poor Egyptians. Even for the swinish men who have become so depraved that they can act so heartlessly. How did they turn so bad? Do they not, like normal people, wish to be l
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7



trish
13-06-2012 03:01pm
14-
7+
guns
I'm American. I carry a gun. Many Americans carry guns. NO man harasses me. Legalize gun ownership and carry permits for women only. Sexual harassment will end instantly. There's a reason a Colt .45 was "the equalizer."
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6



Woody Pfister
11-06-2012 05:42am
0-
3+
Disgusting
Respect for women, whether or not it is a traditional, patriarchial society, is a characteristic of civilization.
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5



Woody Pfister
11-06-2012 04:45am
1-
5+
Disgusting
Respect for women, whether or not it is a traditional, patriarchial society, is a characteristic of civilization.
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4



Tim Cooper
10-06-2012 10:58pm
16-
12+
This must stop!
To all if us a around the world who wish Egypt well following the revolution this us very depressing and brings great shame in the country as a whole. Egyptian men really need to ask themselves why they act in this cowardly and barbaric way and start to learn civilised behaviour.
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3



lovelalola
10-06-2012 05:54pm
18-
11+
Mow them down
in the square with guns. That's the only way men ever learn, when they have to pay an ultimate price for their crimes.
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Rusty Nails
11-06-2012 10:38am
0-
17+
Violence Begets Violence
"That's the only way men ever learn"... Thank goodness I don't live in the same country as you. Do you really think that escalating violence will solve the problem? I'm sad to see that 4/4 people agreed that this is the solution. How about lobbying/legislation to protect women? Naah, guns will solve it.
2



Dr David Turner
10-06-2012 12:11pm
14-
13+
If proof were needed
It is an interesting thing to see the fear that some men in certain parts of the world have about women. Had there been no evidently sexual assaults by a mob of men, it might have been possible for some commentators to allege that the woman were exaggerating about the problem. Now we can all see two things. The women have a case and are gaining in strength and authority and the men are weak, child-like and doomed to lose the argument.
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1



saudison
10-06-2012 11:23am
18-
18+
absolutely outrageous and very very sad
Next time women, when you go out in force, carry just a small can of spray paint: bright pink or a nice girlie colour :-) Anyone who attacks you. Spray them; spray their hair; their skin. Then they will wear the colour in shame, because everyone will be able to see who are the rapists, molesters, women assaulters; the men with nothing more in their brains than disgusting thoughts which go against every moral of society and civilisation. Shame on you!
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Alan
12-06-2012 02:18am
6-
16+
RE: absolutely outrageous and very very sad...
The only problem with that recommendation is if they correctly follow their Western society counterparts, they will spray paint men who just happen to be in the vicinity and did not even approach them, let alone attack or assault them, as FALSE accusations, especially such false accusations relating to rape and Domestic Violence levelled at their despised enemy: MEN, are something the feminist movement are experts in!
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