On January 25, the two-year anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution, thousands of Egyptian gathered at Tahrir Square in Cairo. Since such mass protests can be hotbeds for men to sexually harass and assault women, the collective group Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault sent members (identified by bright vests) out to patrol to prevent incidents and to help people being attacked.
It was a good thing they were there. Not including run-of-the-mill harassment, there were at least 19 cases of mob sexual violence and at least six women needed medical attention afterward. The Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault group was able to assist many of the women.
During the 10 days since the protest, they have been collecting stories from survivors and volunteers. This story from a survivor brought me to tears, here is an excerpt:
“…My pants were being pulled down again. Shortly after I saw a man, wearing one of the Operation Anti Sexual Harassment t-shirts and I started shouting louder. Luckily he saw me and made his way towards me. He grabbed me and held me and told me he would help me. He pulled me toward where I had spotted the two women and further. I fell again, the guy helped me up and I stepped into buckets of water and fell again. I got up and was surrounded by women and men of the Anti Harassment group. They asked me to sit down and wait with them….
All of this happened two days (25th of January, 2013) ago. Yesterday I was examined by a gynecologist. Luckily, I do not have any internal injuries. Just bruises and today the muscles in my entire body are hurting. When trying to recall what happened on Friday, I noticed that there must have been things happening, people saying things, etc. that I do not remember. I have barely any audio-memory, just the feeling of hands everywhere. I also don t recall any face around me.
The story of another survivor, who was a female volunteer, angers me so much:
“…My friend and I were squashed between the people and the foul cart (she was carrying the bag on her back and I was holding tightly on to the straps of the bag). She held onto me by my shoulders tightly and said calmly and reassuringly (unfortunately, this experience had happened to her before and her understanding of the situation was far calmer and better than mine) “We are being attacked right now and the most important thing is that we stay together, no matter what happens.” Nothing else mattered to her other than reassuring me, and she kept saying “We’re going to get out of this, we’re going to get out of this, don’t be scared, we’re together.” She kept repeating “We’re together, don’t separate us,” again and again. I held onto her tightly and felt all the hands groping every part of my body. After that I didn’t feel anything other than that they were pushing me. In the midst of the terrible numbers and the horrible shoving, we moved away from the foul cart (that had been protecting our backs). Suddenly we were in the middle of the street, and the five pairs of hands became many more. They were grabbing me everywhere on my body and trying to put their fingers in my behind over my pants and in the fly of my pants with the utmost violence and savagery….”
They had to use hairspray and hide in a store to get away. She says, “The attempt to terrorize us will not succeed, our anger and determination have doubled. I am truly sorry for all the girls who have experienced anything like this, I promise we will not be silent.”
Another brave volunteer shared his story on this blog a few days ago.
If you can stomach it, this video captures a mob attacking a woman. Near the end you see the Operation volunteers beating off the men. Sickening.
Everyone should have the right to protest and participate in political action without fearing for their safety, for their life. The actions of the mobs of men is inexcusable and abhorrent. I applaud the Operation team for persevering, for going into known danger and for helping so many women.
They are organizing an event this Sunday to train and prepare for future protests and events so they can do even more to protect women and stop sexual violence in the streets of Cairo. I hope even more people join them. They need all the help they can get, the problem is so vast. Tahrir Bodyguards are organizing several self-defense classes. Contact them for information.Share on Facebook