Amnesty International on Monday called on Egyptian authorities to investigate reports of sexual assaults on women protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, to counter the impression that no one will be punished.
There has been a rise in violent attacks against women since demonstrators returned to the square 10 days ago to protest verdicts against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, his sons and security aides. Mubarak escaped a death sentence over deaths of protesters, and he and his sons were acquitted on corruption charges.
The protesters are concerned that the verdicts indicate the hold the repressive Mubarak regime continues to have on the country, and that the sexual assaults are at attempt to drive women, and eventually the rest of the protesters, from the downtown Cairo square. A number of sexual assaults on women were reported during the week, including one incident in which the attackers attempted to strip a woman naked.
On Friday, in the face of these assaults, activists organized a rally to demand an end to the harassment — only to be attacked by a mob of men. The men groped the women, tore off their clothes and robbed them, despite attempts by other men to fend them off. The frenzy lasted about an hour. Women were rushed to a shelter to hide them from the pursuing attackers.
Amnesty said that the attacks appeared designed to intimidate women and prevent them from fully participating in public life. It said Mubarak’s regime used similar tactics of intimidation against women.
“The authorities have so far done nothing to investigate these attacks,” Amnesty’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said.
She said the lack of investigation has encouraged the attackers.
“The prevailing climate of impunity must stop to bring perpetrators to justice,” she said.