During his campaign to become Egypt’s next president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi insisted that he would restore the “sense of shame” that he claimed had once kept sexual assaults in check in Egypt. No more than 24 hours after his inauguration, that pledge is being sorely tested.
In a video circulating online Monday, a woman can be seen being sexually assaulted by a crowd in Tahrir Square celebrating Sisi’s inauguration. The video shows a woman being extricated from a violent crowd, her thighs and buttocks visibly bruised. It’s an ugly, awful scene, and the video has caused a sensation online. One version being circulated has garnered more than 300,000 views. But it gets worse: The video shows just one of five women reported to have been sexually assaulted Sunday in the square, which was once synonymous with the pro-democracy movements of the Arab Spring.
It was far from the first time a sexual assault occurred in Tahrir. In one of the most notorious incidents, CBS reporter Lara Logan had her clothes ripped off by a crowd of men the night that former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak stepped down. Logan, who required hospitalization, said she was repeatedly violated during the attack and feared that she would be killed.
Indeed, the sexual violence marring Tahrir has been a near-constant subplot to the last three years of upheaval in Egypt. The country has a serious problem with sexual assault, and it’s only gotten worse since the revolution that brought down Mubarak.
A 2013 study by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women found that virtually all Egyptian women have been victims of sexual harassment and paints a dismal picture of women’s status in Egyptian society:
The study surveyed Egyptian women and found that there is virtually no place they can go where they do not experience harassment:
Moreover, sexual harassment is a depressingly regular feature of life in Egypt:
And the problem of sexual harassment has only gotten worse since Mubarak’s fall:
While violence toward women can escalate to the level seen Sunday, the most common form of harassment is “whistling and verbal abuse”:
And when that violence escalates to physical harassment, Egyptian women say their countrymen typically target their bodies in the following ways:
Typically, bystanders do nothing in response to sexual violence:
Meanwhile, Egypt’s women suffer immensely as a result: