Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mob attacks Egyptian women who were demonstrating against sexual harassment

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

The attack follows smaller scale assaults on women this week in Tahrir. 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.
(Photo Mai Shaheen/Al Ahram Online)
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 to 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 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. Eventually, the women were able to reach refuge in a nearby building with the mob still outside until they finally got out to safety.

Juan Cole (blog Informed Comment) commented:
Egypt, like many Mediterranean societies, emphasizes female chastity as a source of the honor for males in the family. Thus, most brothers are seriously shamed by a sister who sleeps around. This shame/honor dynamic underpins a nervousness about women playing a role in public, since being public rather than private, it is feared by many conservatives, increases opportunities for sexual activity. Women were about a fifth of the protesters in Tahrir Square during the 18-day revolution in 2011, but their presence was controversial. The military accused them of sleeping with boys at the square in tents, and gave them virginity tests when it arrested them. (...)
 So who attacked the women on Friday? Of course we don’t know. Some protesters suspect that elements in the military or remnants of the old regime put the thugs up to it, as a way of discouraging young people from coming to the square.(....) some activists suspect that the women were assaulted not because they are women but because they are revolutionaries continuing to threaten the prerogatives of the Mubarak elite.

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