Amnesty Calls On Egypt To Investigate Attacks Against Women In Tahrir
CAIRO: Amnesty International on Monday called on the Egyptian authorities to investigate the attacks against women last week in Tahrir Square, including the violence meted out against peaceful demonstrators on Friday evening.
Joseph Mayton and Manar Ammar | 11 June 2012
“These women stood up to demand an end to sexual harassment. What they got was intimidation and sexual assault,” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, in a statement.
“In last year’s protests, Tahrir Square was a place where women stood on an equal footing with men to demand their freedom. Now it has become a place where women are singled out for sexual harassment.
“These attacks need to be investigated immediately and those found responsible held to account. An investigation would serve as a deterrent against sexual harassment and will help protect women protesters who are exercising their right to peacefully express their views.”
An anti-sexual harassment demonstration organized by over 20 Egyptian women’s groups in protest against the recent escalation of assaults in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was attacked about an hour and half after it began by unknown troublemakers on Friday evening.
The participants reported being attacked by a mob of “thugs” who attempted to throw rocks and glass at them, but the clash was over quickly as volunteers securing the protest intervened to stop it.
This was not the first time a women’s rights march was attacked in Tahrir Square.
Last March, and on International Women’s Day, a march of tens of women was attacked by a cynical mob of men who did not like women protesting for more rights.
Several female protesters were injured and one woman had to have 8 stitches in her head. Almost all of them were groped and sexually assaulted in the attack.
A 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) found that well over two-thirds of Egyptian women are sexually harassed daily in the country.
Right before the attack, and in the middle of thousands of protesters calling for change, the female protesters stood strong, denouncing the recent viscous attacks on female visitors to Tahrir Square, only a short time before they themselves were the victims of an attack.
On Friday night, and on the Friday of Determination mass protest that saw tens of thousands descend on the square, the attack proved the difficulties women face in Egypt.
The protest saw women and men from various age groups come together calling for an end to sexual violence against women in the square.
Sexual harassment and assaults have increased dramatically during the past week in the iconic square and tens of women have reported being groped and attacked by mobs of men.
Two women reported being attacked by a mob of over one hundred men earlier in the week.
They reported that the men tried to strip them and physically assaulted them before they were saved by others.
The participants held signs that read “It is my right to protest safely,” “Groping your sister is shameful for the square” and “Be a man and protect her instead of harassing her.”
“We are fed up,” protester Mai Abdel Hafez, 24, told Bikyamasr.com.
“We came to deliver a message that it is our right to protest and we will not avoid the square in fear of harassment,” she said right before the attack took place.
“Women must be free to exercise their rights of freedom of expression and assembly in full equality,” said Hadj Sahraoui.
“These forms of sexual harassment, sexual assault and other forms of ill-treatment against women protesters are an attempt to intimidate them and prevent them from participating fully in public life.
“The authorities have so far done nothing to investigate these attacks. The impunity so far enjoyed by those attacking women protesters seems to have encouraged the trend of sexual harassment and assault to continue,” added Hadj Sahraoui.
“The epidemic of sexual harassment in Egypt will only stop if the authorities, and society at large, confront the men who act as if women are commodities. The prevailing climate on impunity must stop by bringing perpetrators to justice.”