Activists decry sexual assault by mob caught on video in Egypt


A sexual assault of a woman by a mob in Egypt that was caught on video is currently being investigated by the police, authorities said on Thursday, January 02, as the longstanding problem of sexual violence against women has once again ignited outrage in the country.

The video shows a group of men swarming around a woman, grabbing at her as she screams and struggles to get into a car, surfaced online on Wednesday.

Activists said it was recorded in the city of Mansura, north of Cairo, though it was not immediately clear when, except that it was night.It was also not clear who the woman was or what happened to her after she got into the car.

At least seven people were arrested in connection with the attack, according to the news site Al Masry Al Youm.

Ragia Omran, a human rights lawyer in Cairo, said there had been outrage on social media in response to the video.

“I am of course upset and shocked that these incidents continue to happen,” Ms. Omran said in an interview on Thursday.

She said she was relieved to read reports that the police had moved swiftly to investigate the case.

“I think now we have better legislation in place to fight these kinds of crimes,” Ms. Omran said, referring to tougher measures against sexual harassment that Egypt enacted in 2014. “It’s not the best, but it’s better than it was 10, 15 years ago, when there was not much awareness on the issue or legislation in place to fight these crimes.”

In October, a 17-year-old Egyptian boy who had been defending a girl from sexual harassment was stabbed to death. Three teenagers were sentenced last month to 15 years’ imprisonment each for the killing. A fourth boy was sentenced to five years.

For years, Egyptians have tried to draw attention to the routine sexual harassment and assault of women.

SorayaBahgat, a women’s rights activist, wrote on Twitter that the attack in the video was reminiscent of mob assaults in Tahrir Square, which have drawn international condemnation.

“Our fight is far from over & we must admit that sexual violence against women in Egypt remains a big problem,” she wrote. Responses to the video had exposed “a lot of misogyny,” she added. “Many men — and women — are stating that her outfit was inappropriate & could have well provoked the men.”

The police under President Hosni Mubarak, the strongman who ruled Egypt for almost three decades, largely kept sexual assault out of the public eye. But after a popular uprising ousted Mr. Mubarak during the Arab Spring in 2011, the issue burst into the open and its prevalence at demonstrations exposed the scale of the problem.

On the day that Mr. Mubarak was ousted, a CBS News correspondent, Lara Logan, was attacked and sexually assaulted by a mob while covering the celebrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo.

And in a case that drew international attention, a graphic video posted online in 2014 showed the mass sexual assault of a woman, also in Tahrir Square, during celebrations of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s election victory.

A month after the attack, nine men were sentenced to lengthy terms in prison on charges of sexual assault. (Source: New York Times)