CAIRO: A video of a woman who was sexually assaulted and left naked after a mob harassment in Tahrir Square Sunday went viral and outraged advocate groups who blamed the Ministry of Interior’s deficient security plans during Sunday’s celebrations.
In the video, the assaulted woman was stripped naked and bloodied after harassers ripped her clothes and injured her during the celebrations of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s inauguration in Tahrir Square. The video went viral on social media sites.
The video was repeatedly removed from Youtube since it contained explicit scenes of the harassed woman’s naked body. A number of policemen appeared to try to cover her body and rescue her out of the square.
A festive atmosphere started early Sunday as citizens gathered to express their happiness with their new elected president. Tahrir Square was immediately evacuated following the mob harassment and the escalated incident.
This is not the first case of mob sexual harassment in Tahrir Square, Egypt’s revolution icon. There were numerous incidents of mob harassments and gang rapes to female protesters and journalists since the outbreak of the January 25 Revolution in 2011.
“There were at least five cases of group harassment incidents spotted in Tahrir Square [Sunday], of which four of the victims needed medical support and one needed psychological therapy,” I Saw Harassment Campaign said in a Monday statement.
There were dozens of other cases of harassment assaults in different Egyptian governorates Sunday, campaign coordinator Fathy Fareed told The Cairo Post. “What happened in Tahrir Square is the responsibility of the Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.”
Although excessive security plans were announced to secure the squares and streets on the day Sisi was sworn in as Egypt’s president, the campaign blamed the Interior Ministry. “[The ministry] did not consider any measures or security plans to prevent such assaults,” the Fareed said and requested investigations with security leaders in charge of securing Tahrir Square.
The campaign’s statement said that some media outlets underestimated the incident, referring to female broadcaster Maha Bahnsy’s comment on Tahrir TV Channel. When the subject of sexual harassment in Tahrir was mentioned, Bahnsy responded that the “[people] are happy, they are joking.”
A U.N. study in 2013 found that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women experienced sexual harassment. Many citizens, male and female, tend to blame the sexually harassed victims for being in crowded and public gatherings in the first place.
In March, a female student at Cairo University was sexually attacked by dozens of her colleagues. She was criticized by university dean Gaber Nassar for her outfit, which he referred to as “improper.”
Group harassments and criminalizing mechanisms
Egypt criminalized sexual harassment for the first time when then-interim President Adly Mansour approved the June 5 amendments to toughen punishments on the penal code regarding indecent assaults.
“Any person who sexually harasses a man or a woman in any form will be jailed for at least six months and fined 3,000 EGP to 5,000 EGP ($420 to $700), or may receive one of the two penalties,” according to the amendments.
Although the amendments were in general seen as a positive step, some feminist and human rights groups questioned the undefined mechanisms to prove the crime and its levels. “The law did not include any reference to group sexual harassment,” Fareed added.
Group harassment is not new to Egypt since November 2012 to June 30, 2013, there were plenty of group harassment incidents, the majority of which were in Tahrir Square, Fareed said.
“We are witnessing a social disaster. There were more than 20 incidents during the second anniversary of January 25 Revolution in 2013, while at least 60 harassment incidents took place on June 30 during the popular uprising,” Fareed added.
“The group sexual assaults return back to Tahrir Square despite the criminalization of the harassment,” I Saw Harassment campaign announced in a Monday statement.
The Ministry of Interior announced Monday that seven of the harassers involved in Sunday’s incidents were detained and being investigated by using the evidence of viral video clips.