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.
In all the hullabaloo over May Day, we cannot leave out this story.
Excerpted from the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
A 28-year-old Minneapolis man has been charged with third-degree sexual assault of a woman, who was participating in the Occupy protest movement on Peavey Plaza during Friday’s early hours.
Seth Matthew Mitchell, 28, is accused of assaulting the woman while she was lying on the plaza in a sleeping bag.
She said she was asleep when the man, who was a stranger, woke her up and sexually assaulted her. Police were called and the man was pointed out to them by the woman as he was walking away, according to a court document.
Sgt. Steve McCarty, a police spokesman, said it was not clear whether the suspect was part of the Occupy movement.
The Occupy demonstrations, which have focused on income inequality and home foreclosures, were centered on Hennepin Government Center plaza last fall.
But they shifted to Peavey Plaza this spring. Police prohibited protesters from sleeping on the plaza last month.