En mobb bestående av flere hundre menn angrep rundt 50 kvinner som avholdt en demonstrasjon mot seksuell trakassering på Tahrir-plassen i Kairo. Angriperne overfalt demonstrasjonens mannlige voktere og befølte, samt begikk overgrep, på flere av de kvinnelige demonstrantene.

Noen av ofrene mener at angrepets voldsomhet kan tyde på at det var et organisert forsøk på å drive kvinner vekk fra demonstrasjonen og trampe på den pro-demokratiske bevegelsen:

The attack follows smaller scale assaults on women this week in Tahrir, the epicenter of the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak to step down last year. Thousands have been gathering in the square this week in protests over a variety of issues — mainly over worries that presidential elections this month will secure the continued rule by elements of Mubarak’s regime backed by the ruling military.

Tidligere denne uken ble Associated Press` (Ap) utsendte reporter vitne til at nærmere 200 menn overfalt en kvinne som besvimte før menn som forsøkte å hjelpe nådde frem til henne.

Gårsdagens demonstrasjon krevde en slutt på seksuelle overfall, og de rundt 50 kvinnene som deltok var omringet av en større gruppe menn som beskyttet dem. Demonstrantene bar plakater som bla sa: «Folket ønsker å kutte hendene av de som seksuelt trakasserer», og kvinnene ropte: «Den egyptiske kvinnen sier det høyt, trakassering er barbarisk.»

After the marchers entered a crowded corner of the square, a group of men waded into the women, heckling them and groping them. The male supporters tried to fend them off, and it turned into a melee involving a mob of hundreds.

The marchers tried to flee while the attackers chased them and male supporters tried to protect them. But the attackers persisted, cornering several women against a metal sidewalk railing, including an Associated Press reporter, shoving their hands down their clothes and trying to grab their bags. The male supporters fought back, swinging belts and fists and throwing water.

Eventually, the women were able to reach refuge in a nearby building with the mob still outside until they finally got out to safety.

«After what I saw and heard today. I am furious at so many things. Why beat a girl and strip her off? Why?» wrote Sally Zohney, one of the organizers of the event on Twitter.

The persistence of the attack raised the belief of many that it was intentional, though who orchestrated it was unclear.

Mariam Abdel-Shahid, a 25 year-old cinema student who took part in the march, said «sexual harassment will only take us backward.»

«This is pressure on the woman to return home,» she said.

Ahmed Mansour, a 22 year-old male medical student who took part in the march, said there are «people here trying to abuse the large number of women protesters who feel safe and secure. Some people think it is targeted to make women hate coming here.»

«I am here to take a position and to object to this obscene act in society,» he said.

Assaults on women at Tahrir have been a demoralizing turn for Egypt’s protest movement.

During the 18-day uprising against Mubarak last year, women say they briefly experienced a «new Egypt,» with none of the harassment that is common in Cairo’s streets taking place in Tahrir. Women participated in the anti-Mubarak uprising as leading activists, protesters, medics and even fighters to ward off attacks by security agents or affiliated thugs. They have continued the role during the frequent protests over the past 15 months against the military, which took power after Mubarak’s fall on Feb. 11, 2011.

But women have also been targeted, both by mobs and by military and security forces in crackdowns, a practice commonly used by Mubarak security against protesters. Lara Logan, a U.S. correspondent for CBS television, was sexually assaulted by a frenzied mob in Tahrir on the day Mubarak stepped down, when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians came to the square to celebrate.

In a defining image of the post-Mubarak state violence against women, troops dispersing a December protest in Tahrir were captured on video stripping a woman’s top off down to her blue bra and stomping with their boots on her chest, as other troops pulled her by the arms across the ground.

That incident prompted an unprecedented march by some 10,000 women through central Cairo in December demanding Egypt’s ruling military step down in a show of outrage

In contrast, the small size of Friday’s march could reflect the vulnerability and insecurity many feel in the square, which was packed with thousands of mostly young men by nightfall Friday. Twenty rights groups signed on to support the stand and hundreds more vowed to take part, according to the Facebook page where organizers publicized the event, but only around 50 women participated.

Seksuell trakassering av kvinner er svært utbredt i Egypt. I juli i 2008 offentliggjorde Det egyptiske senteret for kvinnerettigheter i Kairo en undersøkelse der 1010 egyptiske menn, 1010 egyptiske kvinner og 109 utenlandske kvinner deltok. Den ble foretatt i Kairo, Giza og Qalubiya – tre av landets tettest befolkede fylker.

I motsetning til en utbredt oppfatning viste det seg at islamsk tildekning av kvinner verken forhindrer eller reduserer seksuell trakassering:

83 prosent av de egyptiske kvinnene i undersøkelsen svarte at de har blitt seksuelt trakassert, mens hele 98 prosent av utenlandske kvinner bosatt i Egypt opplever en eller annen form for seksuell trakassering. 68 prosent av slik trakassering er verbal. Totredeler av de egyptiske mennene innrømmet seksuell trakassering av kvinner, men flertallet var samtidig av den oppfatning at kvinnene har seg selv å takke – til tross for at tildekkede egyptiske kvinner daglig blir utsatt for det samme.

– Den seksuelle trakasseringen er så utbredt at det kan true turisttrafikken til Egypt, kommenterte Senteret for kvinnerettigheter.

Oktober samme år ble en egyptisk mann for første gang i historien dømt for seksuell trakassering av kvinner, da kriminaldomstolen i Kairo dømte 28 år gamle Sherif Gebriel til 3 års fengsel for seksuell trakassering av Noha Rushdy al-Ostah.

Dommen ble karakterisert som en oppreisning og en seier for egyptiske kvinner.

Associated Press: Mob attacks women at Egypt anti-sex assault rally