Fifty women marched in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Monday protesting against sexual assaults on women made during protests were attacked by a mob of men.
The AP reports that the women and the group of men that was protecting them were attacked by a mob of hundreds of men who assaulted the women, the attackers overwhelming the male guardians, then groping and molesting several of the female marchers.
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.
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.
Many thought this to be an organized effort to discourage women from being involved in the demonstrations. Women held a critical role in the pro democracy efforts but have had to face assault from both government and anti government forces.
The AP reports that:
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 Center 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.