Attacks on women demonstrators in Tahrir Square increase

Violent mob attacks against women protestors in Egypt are becoming increasingly common Photo: Amr Nabil, AP

CAIRO, March 2, 2013 – Violent mob attacks against women protestors in Egypt are becoming increasingly common , especially those that take place in Tahrir Square.

Tahrir is a major epicentre for demonstrations, and is the birthplace of the January 25, 2011 revolution that unseated former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

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Eye witnesses reported that during a demonstration in Tahrir on February 6, at least 19 women were seriously injured and at least six of them were in critical condition after a mob attack.

Human rights organizations in Egypt believe that the sexual harassment in Tahrir square is different from any other case in the country, because the assaults are intendent to keep women away from Tahrir.  However, most of the sexually harassed women are determined to demonstrate.

Some Egyptian sociologists estimate that at least 83% of Egyptian women are harassed.  They say that Egypt must implement strong laws to halt such an alarming phenomenon. Amnesty international demanded that President Mohammed Morsi take immediate action to ensure that authorities investigate and punish all incidents of assault on women promptly.  Amnesty added that ‘until the pervasive climate of impunity for such acts ends, women will continue to face violent attacks while their attackers brazenly go unpunished.’

Activists and human rights groups monitored the pattern of attacks over the last two years.  According to those accounts, women involved in demonstrations often found themselves trapped inside what is called the ‘circle of hell’- a circle of about 200 or 300 men.  The men then ripped off their clothes, sometimes cutting off the clothes with knives, and rape them.  Eye witnesses reported that men in the circle of hell surround women and strip them, while a second circle pretends to help the women.  A third circle attempts to distract others in the square from seeing what is happening. 

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Many Egyptians wonder who is behind the attacks.  Many believe it is a political tool, used to crack down on demonstrators and sway women from participating in protests.  They opine that the attacks take place in Tahrir square as a counter-revolution, since Tahrir is the birthplace of the Egyptian revolution.  

Anyone who demonstrates in Tahrir square should understand the dangers.  Protestors could get shot, tear gassed or sexually harassed.

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Anwaar Abdalla

Anwaar Abadallah Khalik Ibrahim has her Ph.D. from Ain Shams University (1999, first degree honour) and currently lectures on Civilization and Cultural Affairs for Helwan University.  Dr. Abdalla Kahlik Ibrahim also works as an official coordinator for the cultural exchange program between Helwan Uni and TSU in the USA entitled “Cultural Immersion 2011-2014.”

Additionally, Ms. Abdallah is a member of the Egyptian and Arab women’s writer’s union and the Cairo Women Association.  She is also the translator of several books published by the Ministry of Culture including Shadows on the Grass, Impossible Peace and The Secret Rapture. Dr. Ibrahim is also an accomplished author and essayist in both Arabic and English publications. 


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