A meeting for an anti-sexual harassment movement was interrupted after being raided by attackers near Tahrir Square on Wednesday.
Held at Abgadeya bookstore on Talaat Harb Street, the meeting by the “I witnessed harassment” initiative was scheduled to train new members on how to combat sexual harassment during mass protests. It was, instead, violently attacked by a group of street vendors.
Two female initiative members were verbally assaulted by a group of street vendors in the vicinity of the bookstore, said Fathy Farid, the initiative coordinator.
Farid stated that several attacks were committed against anybody fully dressed in black on Wednesday. Both initiative members were dressed in black.
The harassment escalated after one member was spat at by the perpetrators. When the girl protested, Farid claims the attackers slapped her on the face.
“After hearing the girls’ screams, all six of us attending the meeting rushed to the streets,” Farid said. Among the six members was the brother of one of the harassed girls.
They arrived to find almost a dozen assailants armed with knives. The initiative members were saved by the owner of the bookstore, who was familiar with some of the assailants.
“He said they were street vendors stationed outside the bookstore,” Farid said.
After returning inside bookstore, some of the assailants attempted to break in with knives and swords. “They said they wanted the girl and her brother,” said Farid.
Some protesters nearby came to the victims’ aid, eventually forcing assailants outside the bookstore without any injuries. The meeting, nevertheless, was cancelled.
The ‘I witnessed harassment ‘ campaign is part of Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, a movement aimed at forming rescue teams to prevent sexual harassment and assault during mass protests, especially in Tahrir Square.
Operation Anti-Sexual harassment received 19 reports of group sexual assaults on Friday; it was able to intervene in 15. Assaults included verbal harassment, groping, rape and one incident in which a woman was sexually assaulted with a knife.
Additional reporting by Salma Hegab