'Rampant' Sexual Attacks on Women in Tahrir Square

According to Human Rights Watch's (HRW) report Wednesday, since Sunday, at least 91 women have reported incidents of sexual assault, including rape. The figures come from the Egyptian Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault, which runs a hotline for victims of sexual assault.

Danya Nadar, a spokeswoman from Op Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault, known as Opantish, told The Daily Beast, “We know in the past when we have gone down to Tahrir there was a group of instigators, four or five, and then people around them start participating in the attack against the woman."

Al Jazeera reports that the attacks seem to be staged by "thugs" who are taking advantage of the "security vacuum" caused by the political instability in the country. Others believe that the attacks are meant to deter women from joining the protests, and damage the reputation of the anti-government demonstrations.

The HRW report detailed the horrific level of violence some female protesters experienced: "One woman required surgery after being raped with a “sharp object,” volunteers with the group said. In other cases, women were beaten with metal chains, sticks, and chairs, and attacked with knives. In some cases they were assaulted for as long as 45 minutes before they were able to escape."

Opantish and other groups that aim to end sexual violence against women in Egypt say both protest organizers and the government are to blame. Nadar points to comments made in February in the Egyptian Parliament as evidence of government attitude: “Girls who join [the protests] do so knowing they are in the middle of thugs and street types. She must protect herself before asking the Ministry of the Interior to do so. Sometimes a girl contributes 100 percent to her rape because she puts herself in those circumstances.”

Sounds like blaming the victim, alright.

This video made by Human Rights Watch features personal accounts by a few of the Egyptian sexual assault survivors:

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