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NGOs: 101 sexual assault cases in Tahrir Square since Friday

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26 new cases of sexual assault on Tuesday; groups describe official reaction to assault cases as “new low”

Anti-Morsi Protesters at Tahrir Square July 02, 2013 (Photo by Aaron T Rose)

Anti-Morsi Protesters at Tahrir Square July 02, 2013
(Photo by Aaron T Rose)

26 new cases of alleged sexual assault against female protesters in Tahrir Square were reported on Tuesday, putting the total number of assault cases reported since Friday at 101.

Operation Anti Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH), a group of volunteers who assist sexual harassment and assault victims, stated that out of the 26 cases, its volunteers were able to intervene in 12 cases before they reached the “usual level of escalation … and advanced stages of violence.”

The group noted that unlike in previous days, Tuesday witnessed large numbers of protesters who intervened to stop the assaults.

“We’re back to witnessing a bit of the true [positive] spirit of Tahrir Square and the revolution”, the OpAntiSH statement read. The group added that its ultimate goal is to reach zero cases of sexual assault and see “respect for women’s rights to contribute to the revolution and to the nation.”

A group of seven human rights and women rights organisations released a statement on Wednesday detailing the sexual assault cases reported in Tahrir Square since Friday. Apart from Tuesday’s 26 cases, the statement cited 17 cases on Monday, 46 cases on Sunday (including rape) and 12 cases on Friday. The alleged attacks were reported by anti-assault groups such as OpAntiSH and Tahrir BodyGuard.

“The attacks have reached an unprecedented level, not only in number but also in their brutality,” the statement read. It added that the recent assaults were even harsher than those reported during the second anniversary of the January 25th revolution.

The organisations condemned the official responses to sexual assault cases, claiming that they surpassed blaming the victim, reaching a stage of “gloating”. They cited a statement released by presidential adviser on foreign relations Essam Al-Haddad on Saturday saying that the crowds in Tahrir Square were “out of control,” comparing opposition protests to demonstrations of the president’s supporters.

Al-Haddad cited the case of a Dutch journalist who was allegedly gang-raped near the square, one of seven alleged rapes reported on Friday, adding that such criminal acts “do not appear to be politically motivated or controlled.” The organisations criticised Al-Haddad’s focus on the Dutch victim while disregarding the other Egyptian victims.

The groups also accused a source at the Ministry of Health of providing the Freedom and Justice news portal with information about an assault victim, describing the act as “violating the ethics of the medical profession and the victim’s privacy”.

In their statement, the organisations accused the ruling regime of using reports of sexual assault to “taint” the opposition rallies, and portray President Mohamed Morsi’s opponents as “a group of thugs.” They described such behaviour as “hitting a new low in the state institutions’ speech”.

The organisations concluded by stressing that the international law obliges governmental authorities to protect peaceful protesters. They added that the Egyptian authorities are responsible for investigating the assault and rape cases, a process the organisations claimed has not yet begun.

The organisations which signed the statement included: Nazra, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Tahrir BodyGuard, OpAntiSH and El-Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Violence and Torture Victims.

Reports of sexual assault in Tahrir Square have been on the rise since the start of anti-Morsi protests on Friday. Protests marking the second anniversary of the January 25th Revolution were also marred by sexual assaults, with at least 19 cases reported.


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