Mob attack on Egyptian women

Women are reportedly assaulted during a Ramadan celebration in Cairo.

Tracy Clark-Flory
November 2, 2006 6:50AM (UTC)

What would Sheik Taj El-Din Hamid Hilaly have to say about this? Egyptian blogs are reporting mass sexual assaults on women -- veiled and unveiled -- in Cairo, Egypt, amid the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. The shocking reports, which are as yet unsubstantiated, indicate that as thousands of revelers thronged the city's downtown area, large groups of men began harassing women by cornering them, groping them and ripping their clothes off, the BBC reported Wednesday.

For the most part, Egypt's media seems to have avoided the story, but certain blogs report that there were hundreds of women harassed or assaulted that night. An eyewitness told a local television station, "We saw one girl being chased by a man, her blouse torn off, she ran inside a restaurant. Seconds later young boys were shouting that there was another one by the Miami cinema. We went there and saw another girl surrounded by a crowd trying to assault her. She managed to run inside a nearby building. A third girl jumped into a cab as she was being chased. But the taxi couldn't move because of the crowd. Then they tried to pull the driver out of the car, then the girl herself."


If such a mass attack did take place, and police really failed to intervene, it's a sad comment on women's current place in Egyptian society. The country is engaged in a very vital debate about the role of women, as public officials decry the wearing of the niqab, while other sources report that Cairo women get harassed and groped when riding the city's metro unless they ride in female-desginated cars. Still, mass sexual assault isn't a problem unique to any one country. (Who can forget the mob attacks in New York's Central Park after the 2000 Puerto Rican Day Parade? Or the host of rapes during the apocalyptic Woodstock '99?)

The bloggers who reported the Cairo attacks blamed Egypt's cultural prohibition on premarital sex, which, coupled with the fact that most young Egyptian men cannot afford to get married, creates a dangerous powder keg. There might be something to that. But the prevailing wisdom that violent men are simply sexually frustrated insults men as well as women -- it's just a new spin on the old "boys will be boys" attitude, and, per usual, it entirely avoids blaming the offenders.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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