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Egyptian Women Fear Increased Sexual Attacks During Eid Holiday

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Bikyamasr.com, an independent news agency, reports that Egyptian women are hunkering down for the current three-day holiday of Eid el-Fitr, a festival that follows the Muslim month of Ramadan. The festival, normally filled with joyous celebration, has become a nightmare for the country’s women, who have been massively and increasingly attacked — group-style– on the streets during the holiday.

A 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights found that well over two-thirds of Egyptian women are sexually harassed daily. But this year — with the advent of the “Arab Spring” and its subsequent street protest by the tens of thousands — has seen a dramatic increase in attacks against women, with many memorably gruesome.

No woman is safe from these attacks – both foreign and Egyptian, those veiled and those dressed in Western clothing alike, even those protesting sexual harassment, as in the case of women last March on International Women’s Day. The women taking part in the protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were attacked by a mob of men, injuring many of the women and sexually assaulting almost all of them.

Another protest in Tahrir Square against sexual harassment last month by 20 different women’s groups was also attacked by a group of men who threw rocks and glass at the women. This time the women were prepared bringing with them volunteers who intervened and stopped the assault.

Bikyamasr.com interviewed women who were outside early in the morning of the Eid holiday in Cairo. “I just want to enjoy and relax so I came here this morning because I won’t be going out later,” said Assma, a 23-year-old recent university graduate. She told the news agency that she and her friends are concerned that this Eid, more attacks against women will come.

“It’s always there, especially after the past year we’ve had that saw women stripped and violated at protests, not to mention that in other holidays in recent years we women have been attacked by gangs of boys and men for simply walking in public,” she added.

Since dozens of young men and boys sexually assaulted and mobbed women outside a downtown Cairo theater at the beginning of the Eid holiday in 2006, the holiday has been known as the “fear season.”  

True to course, on Sunday morning (the first day of the holiday), Bikyamasr.com reports seeing groups of young men harassing women on Qasr el-Aini street in downtown Cairo.

“They just yelled horrible things at us and asked us for sex,” said one of the women. “This is what Egypt has become for us, especially during holidays.”

Women in Egypt also report being harassed through social media as well.

See the following update from Bikyamasr.com: Egyptian Police Stand By, Laugh as Women Harassed, Groped

 

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org