46 sexual assaults in Tahrir protests Sunday 30 June: Anti-harassment group

Ahram Online, Monday 1 Jul 2013

Anti-harassment groups report 46 sexual assaults during Egypt's anti-President Morsi protests; request volunteers to protect women on Monday protests

Forty-six sexual assaults are reported by Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH) during the huge protests covered by international media in Tahrir Square that intend to oust Egypt's President Morsi. 

"There [were] men with sticks at the entrance of the metro station across from KFC in Tahrir who are attacking women," reports OpAntiSH, a volunteer group that works to combat sexual violence in protests within the square's perimeter in downtown Cairo.

Hundreds of thousands gathered in Tahrir Square on Sunday in a mass rally against President Mohamed Morsi demanding he step down and call for early presidential elections.

Sexual harassment, mainly in the form of mob assaults, has become an issue that plagues Tahrir Square during political protests. OpAntiSH asks any volunteers to join them on Monday, since protests are expected to continue.

The group, along with Tahrir Bodyguard, another grassroots initiative fighting harassment, urged women to stay away from Tahrir Sunday night.

"The area is not safe and we recommend leaving, if possible," Tahrir Bodyguard tweeted.

Virtual arguments between anti-harassment activists and the Brotherhood's media outlets peaked on Sunday, when Morsi supporters holding a counter-demonstration in Nasr City, a Cairo suburb, criticised the sexual harassment at the the opposition protests. 

The Brotherhood English-language site 'Ikhwanweb,' retweeted reports by activists on harassment.

Noting this, activists and Twitter users said the Brotherhood are retweeting only to tarnish the image of the anti-Morsi rally in Tahrir Square.

OpAntiSH retorted to Ikhwanweb: "Good you are RTing [retweeting] us, this way it is clear to the world that the ruling party knows, thus the regime knows & still does nothing."

Meanwhile, no sexual assault cases were reported at the anti-Morsi rally at the Ittihadiya presidential palace or at the ongoing pro-Morsi demonstration at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City district.

On Friday, a foreign reporter was sexually attacked in Tahrir Square. In a press conference on Sunday, Egypt's presidency spokesperson Ihab Fahmy condemned the incident saying that the state will not deal lightly with such acts.  

More than 99 percent of hundreds of women surveyed in seven of the country's 27 governorates reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment, ranging from minor harassment to rape, says the UN, Egypt's Demographic Centre and the National Planning Institute in a report in April.

In January, the second anniversary of the 2011 uprising, there were a reported 19 women sexually assaulted by groups of men in Tahrir Square. Seven were hurt so badly they needed immediate medical attention.

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