CAIRO: Reports of sexual harassment have again marred the first day of celebrations on Eid al-Fitr, the three-day feast that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The harassment comes despite Interior Ministry assurances earlier this week of a “comprehensive” plan to secure streets and public gardens.
By mid-afternoon on Monday, there had been reports of harassment from at least three different areas in greater Cairo, with at least one harasser being arrested.
In Korba, an upscale area in Cairo’s Heliopolis neighborhood, two teenage girls were surrounded by a group of young men on motorbikes, who circled them and attempted to touch them. Two young men saw the incident and intervened, and one of them later posted about the incident on his Twitter account.
“He touched a 15-year-old girl in a sensitive place and people started running away and no one helped her,” wrote Ahmed Magdi on Twitter. He said the girls ran into McDonalds, and their harassers waited for them outside. Magdi wrote that when he and a friend tried to help the girls escape to their car, but the harassers again attacked them “and one of them pulled a knife on us.”
“Twelve harassers surrounded us trying to hurt the girl. We asked for help from the people working at the coffee shop,” he added. Eventually they were able to take the girl to a hospital. Ahmed said he received four stitches for a knife wound he received on his hand, and his friend got two stitches for a cut on his knee.
At Al-Fustat Garden, security forces arrested a harasser Monday morning as he tried to harass a group of girls. Witness said other men interfered to stop him and called the police, who arrested the young man and took him to the police station, Youm7 reported.
Police presence outside the garden was heavy from the beginning of the day as many visitors often celebrate Eid there, and public gardens have become common areas for harassment, which tends to increase during religious feasts.
Asked about repeated accidents of harassment inside the garden, Fustat manger Mohamed Hanafy told Al-Watan Sunday that the accusations are nothing but “unspecified claims” with no proof.
He said 50 Central Security Forces soldiers would be stationed at the garden during Eid, in addition to surveillance cameras that monitor everything that happens inside.
In another incident Monday, three girls were sexually harassed in Abdel Moniem Riyad Square, beneath the 6 October Bridge and just steps from Tahrir Square. Some boys took advantage of the lack of security to bother the girls, Youm7 reported.
The “Rapid Deployment Force” was assigned by the Ministry of Interior to patrol downtown Cairo’s streets, particularly the area from the Cairo Opera House across the Qasr el-Nil bridge to Tahrir Square, specifically to confront harassment.
Several NGOs announced that they would lunch campaigns and establish operating rooms to monitor the situation in the streets, along with specifying hotlines to report the accidents.
The I Saw harassment Initiative issued a statement Sunday, telling women they should enjoy Eid with no fear and sending another message to Egyptian families asking them to teach their sons that there is no difference between women’s and men’s rights, and finally a third message directed at the harassers themselves describes their actions as “crimes” and “twisted behavior.”
“Cheer up and go out to all the streets and squares, resist harassment and confront the harassers through the law, seek to enforce and improve this law,” said the group’s message to women. “Do not let anyone detract from your rights and do not walk across the streets without enjoying a safe life and good living.”
I Saw Harassment coordinator Fathy Faried told The Cairo Post Monday that the initiative is working with group of volunteers according to a fixed plan announced Friday to confront harassers, and said they have not yet compiled the number of incidents during Eid but will issue a detailed report by the end of the day.
Harass-Map NGO also announced on its Facebook page Monday a hotline to receive any notifications about sexual harassment in the streets, adding that they have volunteers to monitor the situation and to interfere with legal support if needed.
Eid celebrations in Cairo often see escalation of sexual harassment of women on the streets and in public places.
Additional reporting by Rym el-Shaikh.