Last updated: 9 June, 2014

Egypt arrests seven over sex assaults as video goes viral

Egyptian police have arrested seven men accused of sexually assaulting women at celebrations marking President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s inauguration, officials said Monday, as a graphic video of one such attack triggered outrage.

The footage shows a crowd of men surrounding the young woman, who was stripped of her clothes and badly bruised, as police escorted her to an ambulance following Sunday’s attack at Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square.

Shared widely on social media websites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, it appears to have been filmed using a mobile telephone.

A security official authenticated the video, saying police had arrested seven men for assaulting and stripping the 19-year-old student.

The woman was transferred to a hospital and prosecutors had been asked to investigate the attack, the official said, adding the seven were also accused of involvement in three other cases of sexual harassment.

“Sexual harassment in Tahrir… is absolutely disgusting. I have no words. So appalled and ashamed,” said one Twitter user.

The Egyptian interior ministry said police had arrested seven men aged 16 to 49 as “they had (sexually) harassed a number of girls during the celebrations in the Tahrir area”.

It did not specify whether the seven were involved in the assault of the young woman seen in the video.

“It is shameful that security officials from the interior ministry did not adopt any measures or security plans to prevent such assaults, despite the fact they have repeatedly occurred,” said the “I Saw Harassment” activist group.

It said it had documented five cases of sexual assault by mobs, with four victims needing medical aid on Sunday.

Egypt has been plagued by rampant sexual harassment cases, with more than 99 percent of women subjected to some form of such abuse, the United Nations said in a study issued last year.

Women in the North African country said that they were harassed regardless of whether they wore conservative Islamic attire or Western-style clothes.

But since the revolution that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the problem has worsened, with women now being regularly attacked during rallies by groups of men in and around Tahrir Square.

Almost 100 women were sexually assaulted during the four days of mass protests that led to the military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July last year, Human Rights Watch reported at the time.

“Between November 2012 and June 2013, around 250 cases of sexual assault or harassment by mobs or rapes using weapons were reported during protests in Cairo,” Fathi Farid of “I Saw Harassment” told AFP.

Sunday’s attacks come days after the presidency approved new punishments for sexual harassment, entailing hefty fines and jail terms for offenders.

Sisi, the former army chief who deposed Morsi, was sworn in on Sunday amid mass celebrations organised by the authorities, after winning last month’s presidential election in a landslide.