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Tahrir Square is again the focal point of upheaval in Egypt, and as was the case with the revolution of 2011, the dark side of the protests is revealed. Over 100 women have been sexually assaulted and even raped by mobs of men between June 28 and July 4, according to Human Rights Watch. On the night of Friday 28 June, a 22-year-old Dutch reporter claims she was raped by five men before being taken to the hospital.

Unfortunately, this is not an unusual phenomenon for women in Egypt. CBS war correspondent Lara Logan said she was raped on the night of Feb 11 while she was covering the Egyptian revolution of 2011. Sexual harassment has become part of daily life for Egyptian women in the street and they are often blamed for it by men who say they bring it upon themselves with the way they dress or walk. Last February, preacher Ahmad Mahmoud Abdullah said that women protesting in Tahrir Square “have no shame and want to be raped.”

These attacks were first seen as unfortunate accidents of mob violence. But they truly express the political believe of these men: stay home, women have no place in politics. Not surprisingly, the men who are said to have violated the Dutch reporter called themselves “revolutionists” according to an Egyptian journalist Dina Zakaria.

During the latest protests in Tahrir Square, gangs of men encircled one of multiple women and drove them away from the crowd while violently beating them. These attacks end up in sexual assaults and rape, where a woman can be violated for over an hour by more than dozens of men before being taken to the hospital.

“They made a very tight circle around me, they started moving their hands all over my body, they touched every inch of my body, they violated every inch of my body,” Hania Moheeb, a sexual assault survivor, told Human Rights Watch in an interview (see video below).

The Egyptian government’s response has usually been to downplay this problem. There are no efforts to prosecute the attackers or actively investigate the crimes. Since November 2011, police have stayed away from Tahrir Square, which leaves women unprotected while the men involved in these gang rapes remain confident that they will not be arrested or identified by the police.

Associations to protect these victims have emerged in Egypt such as Operation Anti Sexual Harassment, a grassroots association set up in November 2012, or Tahrir Bodyguard, a group trying to end all form of sexual harassment. These groups try to provide physical help to women being attacked during the protests but the volunteers are often themselves beaten with chains, chairs and belts and attacked with knives while trying to help the victims.

Many women say they feel more secure since these groups of activists started to intervene in the square. However, the battle against sexual violence against women is not over, as 99.3 percent of Egyptian women reported being victim of sexual harassment, according to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

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