Assaults on Egyptian Women Peak in Protest, Group Says

At least 19 women were severely sexually assaulted or raped in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the second anniversary of Egypt’s uprising, in what rights groups say was the highest reported toll in the country in two years.

A 19-year-old woman had her genitalia sliced with a knife while others were assaulted on Jan. 25 by male mobs, Dalia Abdel-Hamid, a researcher at the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said by telephone yesterday.

Abdel-Hamid and other women’s rights activists have repeatedly highlighted sexual harassment and assaults in Egypt, saying the problem has grown increasingly widespread and violent since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011.

“The assaults were the largest and most intense as far as we know since the revolution,” Abdel-Hamid, who volunteered with the Cairo-based Op-Anti Sexual Harassment, or Opantish, initiative on the night of the attacks, said. “The attackers were using weapons and sometimes there were four concurrent mob harassments in the street that could be seen from the top of a balcony.”

Male volunteers with the Opantish group, which worked to rescue women being assaulted in the square, also came under threat. “Attackers had knives and bottles; one of our volunteers was stabbed in the leg,” Abdel-Hamid said.

Women in public in Egypt frequently experience sexual harassment and assaults, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a December 2011 report.

The ruling military council at the time “continued the poor record of the ousted Mubarak administration by failing to prevent, investigate or punish such attacks,” HRW said.

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