Egyptian police blamed for inaction in wave of sexual attacks

May 2, 2013

Attacks on female demonstrators in Cairo’s infamous Tahrir Square in recent months have forced the issue of sexual assault back on the agenda in Egypt, with victims and rights groups accusing the authorities of inaction.

Since the start of the year, many cases of rape and sexual assault have hit the headlines, sparking a global public outcry. They include at least 19 women who were attacked on the second anniversary of the revolution on Jan. 25.

Hania Moheeb, a 42-year-old journalist, was attacked during demonstrations in Tahrir Square in January. The pattern of aggression used by the assailants appears to be a recurrent one.

“They closed in around me very quickly and they started stripping me, putting their hands all over my body, violating every inch of my body,” Moheeb told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “This went on for almost 35 or 40 minutes.”

She said there were so many people all around her that she couldn’t see anything, she couldn’t even see her assailants. Even as she was being loaded onto an ambulance people were still touching her.

At the hospital, she said that medical staff and the police tried to pressure her not to file a report.

“They are doing nothing,” Moheb said about the government’s response to sexual assault cases.

“The absence of law enforcement is a large part of the cause for women’s negative perceptions of safety as well as for their lack of enthusiasm to report assaults,” Nehad Abul Komsan, chairwoman of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) said. She added that, when women do report harassment and assault, police officers sometimes mock them or harass them too.

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(Fixes spelling of name in paragraph 3,4)

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