The recent protests in Egypt have been dominating international headlines and many Egyptians are looking towards the future with optimistic anticipation. Egyptians' happiness about the future, however, has been clouded over by violent sexual attacks on Egyptian women.
While many celebrated the ousting of former President Morsi in the streets around Tahrir Square on July 4th, over 80 women were victims of harassment, rape, and mob sexual assaults. The most common scenario: a group of men pushed their way through the crowd, isolated a group of lone women, and proceeded to rip off their clothes. Sometimes the attacks stopped there, but other times they escalated.
Though incidents of sexual harassment are not unique in Egypt, these latest incidents are gaining international attention because they are more serious than typical acts of sexual harassment. According to Soraya Bahgat, co-founder of Tahrir Bodyguard, a volunteer rescue group, "Egypt is full of sexual harassment and people have become desensitized to it - but this is a step up. We're talking about mob sexual assaults, from stripping women naked and dragging them on the floor - to rape."
How did Egyptians respond to these attacks? Volunteer rescue groups, such as Tahrir Bodyguard and Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, stepped up and patrolled Tahrir Square and its bordering streets. It was lucky that these rescue groups took action because the Egyptian police force did not. As Baghat observed, "there [was] an absolute absence of any security forces in Tahrir."