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Egypt: Personal Account from Jan. 25 Protest

In Stories, street harassment | on 01.28.13 | by | Comments ( 0 )

Editor’s Note: HarassMap, an anti-harassment group in Egypt, posted the following on their Facebook account over the weekend. They, and the author, gave me permission to share it here. Please share it widely and follow their work: Website | Facebook | Twitter.  Also, here is a Guardian article about the attacks on women on Jan. 25.

THIS IS A HARASSMAP STAFF MEMBER’S PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF MOB SEXUAL ATTACKS IN #TAHRIR ON #JAN25 DURING OUR EFFORTS TO COUNTER THEM AS PART OF Op Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault قوة ضد التحرش/الإعتداء الجنسي الجماعي

By Hussein ElShafie

When I joined the second round of OpAntiSH, as a core team member and a Midan team participant, I wasn’t anticipating the nightmare we all went through! I expected our mere presence in the heart of the protests to be an important warning sign for the mobs not to approach the protesters. I walked through the square distributing flyers and I was met with cooperation and gratitude from the side of the people. However, in certain instances I would get completely encircled by groups who would grab my shirt, poke me and snatch flyers from my hands. I didn’t give their attitude much attention and I attributed it to the Adrenalin rush they must be experiencing.

While I walked I saw two girls from our Safety team running towards me asking for help dealing with a report from the Omar Makram side. We all three ran across the square bumping into everyone until we arrived to Omar Makram and we found nothing going on! Later we were informed that while we mobilized our efforts to that area a girl was being mob-attacked by the Mohamed Mahmoud side.

I went back to our headquarters in Talaat Harb and shortly afterwards our rescue team arrived to the building. The girl was among them semi-comatose. A huge crowd appeared to accompany them to the door and then they tried to break in. We half-closed the door and pulled in our volunteers. They were all being squeezed, grabbed and unable to breathe. While I was pulling in one of them I felt as if I was pulling out a tissue from a tight tissue box. We got them all inside, shut the door and locked it. Harassers tried to break the door and they started a small fire. The numbers were insane. The armed mob was infuriated by the sight of the girls indoor and by the fact that they (harassers) could not reach them. I asked one of them from behind the door what is it that they wanted and he answered “What are all those women doing inside?!”. We turned off the lights and sent the girls upstairs trying to minimize our visibility. The nightmare kept going on for 2 hours until their energy faded and we managed to gather some help from outside to disperse the mob. Police was non-existent.

When it was a little safer to get out I went with another volunteer from the Intervention team to survey the square, and by the time we could make out the Mohamed Mahmoud area a tear gas canister was thrown at us. We ran back to the building suffocating, falling off every few seconds and unable to open our eyes. That very canister could have saved us a lot of terror and harassment if it had been thrown at the mobs that had attacked us perseveringly for two hours earlier.

We were specifically targeted by the mobs while the police kept a deaf ear to our situation. However, our brave men and women managed to survive it. We were getting fake reports to waste our efforts and yet we managed to interfere in more than a dozen mob harassment cases. Seeing the relentless efforts of our volunteers was but an affirmation of the nobility of our cause, and an inspiration for every human being who wants to voice out their right to be free, safe and respected.

بلغوا عن حوادث التحرش الجنسي | Report sexual harassment: SMS 6069 | http://harassmap.org/reports/submit

تطوعوا | Volunteer: bit.ly/ZsFKcL

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