Mapping Sexual Assaults in Egypt

The chaotic showdown between the Egyptian military and now-former President Mohamed Morsy has overshadowed another troubling development in the country: the nationwide protests that began on June 30 brought a new round of sexual assaults and mob attacks, with Human Rights Watch reporting on Wednesday that “mobs sexually assaulted and in some cases raped at ...

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

The chaotic showdown between the Egyptian military and now-former President Mohamed Morsy has overshadowed another troubling development in the country: the nationwide protests that began on June 30 brought a new round of sexual assaults and mob attacks, with Human Rights Watch reporting on Wednesday that "mobs sexually assaulted and in some cases raped at least 91 women in Tahrir Square" over the last four days (journalists and foreigners have also been victims of the violence).

Since Egypt's first wave of game-changing protests in 2011, several online tools have sprouted up to help document these kinds of cases and reduce their frequency. HRW, for instance, cites Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH), which confirmed 46 attacks in Cairo's Tahrir Square on June 30, 17 on July 1, and 23 on July 2. The Twitter accounts @OpAntiSH and @TahrirBodyguard are organizing volunteers to protect women and intervene in instances of assault (according to HRW, OpAntiSH intervened in 31 such cases over the past week). The massive number of people in Tahrir Square in recent days prompted @TahrirBodyguard to tweet, "Women of Tahrir, plz do not trust anyone without our full uniform -yellow helmet &neon yellow vest- and is in a group of at least 8 or more."

Several activist groups are working with OpAntiSH, including the HarassMap project, which started in 2010 to document sexual harassment across Egypt by allowing women to report incidents online or by SMS -- and also by dispatching group members to monitor developments on the ground. Click the image below to see the map the group has been building (note: not all reports of harassment are verified).

The chaotic showdown between the Egyptian military and now-former President Mohamed Morsy has overshadowed another troubling development in the country: the nationwide protests that began on June 30 brought a new round of sexual assaults and mob attacks, with Human Rights Watch reporting on Wednesday that “mobs sexually assaulted and in some cases raped at least 91 women in Tahrir Square” over the last four days (journalists and foreigners have also been victims of the violence).

Since Egypt’s first wave of game-changing protests in 2011, several online tools have sprouted up to help document these kinds of cases and reduce their frequency. HRW, for instance, cites Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH), which confirmed 46 attacks in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on June 30, 17 on July 1, and 23 on July 2. The Twitter accounts @OpAntiSH and @TahrirBodyguard are organizing volunteers to protect women and intervene in instances of assault (according to HRW, OpAntiSH intervened in 31 such cases over the past week). The massive number of people in Tahrir Square in recent days prompted @TahrirBodyguard to tweet, “Women of Tahrir, plz do not trust anyone without our full uniform -yellow helmet &neon yellow vest- and is in a group of at least 8 or more.”

Several activist groups are working with OpAntiSH, including the HarassMap project, which started in 2010 to document sexual harassment across Egypt by allowing women to report incidents online or by SMS — and also by dispatching group members to monitor developments on the ground. Click the image below to see the map the group has been building (note: not all reports of harassment are verified).

During Egypt’s 2011 protests, HarassMap received fewer reports of mob assaults. “They occurred, but not as often or as extreme,” HarassMap co-founder Rebecca Chiao told FP. “There are more reports now. Partly I think this has to do with our own improved operations. Partly I think that the mob assaults are happening more often.” She said the group has received reports that paid “thugs” are perpetrating attacks, though it’s unclear who’s funding them, and that political actors have not “made a serious effort” to prevent these incidents or punish the assailants.

Since HarassMap first launched, Chiao has noted a shift in Egyptians’ attitudes. “People are speaking out more — sending more reports, being more open about discussing the issue and volunteering more,” she explained. “This is important since breaking the silence is the first step to stopping the problem.”

<p> Lydia Tomkiw is a freelance journalist and graduate student at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. </p>

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.