Egypt: violence against women, gang rape - rights groups ask 'is this Islamist morality'?

The numbers of gang rapes in Egypt has soared, being used as a terror method against women. In the past few days, it has become endemic, rights groups say, with men swarming any women they find in areas of public protest, assaulting them sexually, harassing or raping them. Defenders are also attacked. The intention is dissuasion, the message: ‘don’t be here’. Egyptian anti-predator organisations said that between 28 June and 2 July there were at least one hundred sexual assaults in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Human Rights Watch recorded testimony. Hania Moheeb said: “They made a very tight circle around me. They started moving their hands all over my body. They touched every inch of my body, they violated every inch of my body. I was so much traumatised I was only screaming at the time, I couldn’t even speak, I couldn’t cry for help, I was just screaming.” Yasmine El-Baramawy said: “A car backed up and stopped on my hair. So they took advantage of the fact that I was trapped on the ground. They held my legs and turned me around. They raised my legs up and raped me as they wished.” Islamist media have been broadcasting Salafist preaching in which women are blamed – and other perverse justifications, critics say – since the rise of Islamist political dominance in Egypt after the 2011 Arab Spring. None of the rapists have been prosecuted so far. In February, a member of the human rights committee in the Egyptian parliament said publicly that the women were 100 percent responsible for being assaulted. This kind of discourse from people in positions of supposed responsibility spreads the mentality. A young man interviewed at random in the street, and asked about women and where the fault lies said: “It’s not a good habit, it’s wrong, but they lead us to do this. From the way they dress, from the way they walk, everything. They push Egyptian men to do this.” The police and government have proved their impotence against sexual assault. Preventive vigilante groups in Tahrir Square, dressed in yellow, can not handle the problem. Experts say the horrendous prevalence of sexual violence runs deep in Egyptian society. NGOs say the government must create a national strategy involving the media and religious and educational institutions to change the men in a country where more than eight out of ten women suffer sexual assault and harassment every day.