The 17-year-old South Sudanese refugee finally managed to escape after three months as a prisoner in a Cairo apartment where she was repeatedly gang raped, only to realise that she had become pregnant by one of her attackers.
She is one of a growing number of African migrant and refugee women in the Egyptian capital who report abuse, in what rights groups say has become an epidemic of sexual violence that has worsened in recent months.
Reuters met five women from Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia at a community centre in Cairo, each of whom said she was a victim of violent sexual assault.
The 17-year old South Sudanese woman said she was snatched by strangers in a poor neighbourhood and brought by a taxi to another area, where a man locked her up in an apartment for three months and repeatedly raped her with friends.
“I tried several times to escape,” she said, adding that she finally managed to flee when her captor left a key in the house. She asked not to be identified but agreed to be filmed provided that her face was not visible.
A Sudanese woman who gave her name as Bakhtia said she was assaulted by a stranger on the street in what then became a gang attack.
“He touched me, after which I slapped him on the face,” she said. “Immediately, around four other people (came over), each one grabbing me from a different body part. I tried to defend myself, but how can I defend myself?”
Three other women who spoke to Reuters said they were attacked while cleaning houses as domestic workers. Two were raped and one sexually assaulted. They asked not to be filmed or quoted directly.
The United Nations estimates around 500,000 migrants, half of them refugees, live in Egypt. Many arrived aiming to reach Europe via Israel or by boat to Turkey, routes that have been largely closed by tougher security measures.
Cairo was named most dangerous megacity for women in an international perception poll carried out by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2017.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered a crackdown on sexual harassment after seven men were arrested for attacking women near Cairo’s Tahrir Square during his inauguration celebrations in 2014. Tougher sentences have been imposed for sex crimes.
Fatma Abdelkader, who works with local aid group Tadamon which runs the community centre, said cases of sex abuse had increased in the past six months, with attackers seeming to seek out African women as prey.
“The darker the skin tone, the more susceptible the women are to violence,” she said. (Source: Reuters)