Operation Anti Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH) announced Tuesday morning that it received over 17 new reports of sexual assault committed at the Tahrir Square sit-in on Monday, increasing the number of total alleged cases reported to at least 63.
OpAntiSH, a group of volunteers who assist sexual harassment and assault victims, released a statement Monday evening, detailing 46 sexual assault cases reported to it during the 30 June protests in Tahrir Square. The reports ranged from “mob sexual harassment and assault to cases of rape using knives and sharp objects”. Victims of the latter needed surgery, while several other cases required milder medical intervention.
The alleged incidents all took place Sunday night from 6 pm until around 2 am, the statement read, adding that most of the assaults reported took place at the multiple entrances to Tahrir Square; such as the Mohamed Mahmoud Street entrance, and the entrance from the Arab League building.
OpAntiSH observed cases of physical attacks against female protesters by men using sticks near the entrance of the Sadat metro station, the statement read. It also claimed to have received reports of women being kidnapped in vehicles.
The group stated that it expected the actual number of sexual assault cases which occurred on Sunday to have exceeded the number they cited.
“A woman’s life and the inviolability of her body are neither numbers nor statistics,” the statement read. It also stressed that “a single case of mob sexual assault should be enough incentive for society to combat the phenomenon.”
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expressed on Tuesday his concern regarding the use of sexual violence against female protesters, reported AFP.
“I really hope that while addressing the current crisis in a peaceful manner, they [Egyptians] pay more attention to the female demonstrators, since we have seen many sexual assault cases over the course of the demonstrations,” AFP quoted him saying.
OpAntiSH expressed its “disappointment” in the government’s response to the alleged mob sexual assaults of female protesters. It accused a source at the Ministry of Health of publishing details of an assault victim, describing the act as “a blatant violation of the most basic rules and ethics of the medical profession”.
OpAntiSH also accused the presidency and the Muslim Brotherhood of exploiting the sexual assaults incidents for political gains. It stated that the presidency has been placing the responsibility for such assaults on the victims, adding that it refuses to believe that the presidency can “develop a sudden concern for women’s physical safety or their full right to protest”.
Presidential adviser on foreign relations Essam Al-Haddad claimed in a statement on Saturday that the crowds in Tahrir Square were “out of control”. He noted the case of a Dutch journalist who was allegedly gang-raped near the square, one of seven reported on Friday, adding that such criminal acts “do not appear to be politically motivated or controlled.”
The group held similar sentiments regarding the Brotherhood’s described “deep concern” for female protesters’ safety. It recalled in its statement that the Brotherhood considers female genital mutilation “a custom and cultural trait”, adding that the Brotherhood’s “animosity” against women led them to reject the UN document on violence against women.
“We should not forget that female protestors joined the protests to oppose patriarchy,” the statement read.
OpAntiSH outlined the responsibility of the political movements organising large protests to protecting female participants from sexual assault. The group repeated its call for them to take “tangible steps” in preventing assault and to not stop at issuing statements of condemnation.
The group proposed illuminating entrances to the square at night and mobilising youth members of political movements to help in securing the square and combating sexual assault.
OpAntiSH called on protest organisers to avoid “fall[ing] in the trap of politicising the issue of harassment and assault to heap accusations upon counter political groups without basis or proof”.
I Saw Harassment initiative accused the Muslim Brotherhood on Monday of using mob sexual assaults to “taint the revolution”.
The protests marking the second anniversary of the January 25th Revolution were also marred by sexual assaults, with at least 24 cases reported.