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Arabisc: Sexual Harrassment and the Egyptian Blogosphere

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Egypt, Breaking News, Development, Economics & Business, Education, Human Rights, Politics, Protest, Religion, Women & Gender, Youth

After a month of abstinence (from sex naturally) during daylight hours in the Holy month of Ramadhan [1], a mob of sex starved Egyptians decided to celebrate Eid [2] by attacking and sexually harassing women on the streets of Cairo.

The first the incident was made public was during a television show, posted on You Tube [3] by Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas [4]. From what I gathered from reading blogs, women were attacked by mobs, who touched them up, hit them and tore off their clothes in the busy Cairo streets. While others were lucky to take refuge in shops, some were pulled out of taxis, where the orgy continued.

The mobs became more organized on the second day of Eid, following sporadic attacks on the first, with the police keeping a safe distance as if it wasn't their business.

Blogger Malek [5] gives us a chilling account of the abuse he witnessed.

وجدنا اعدادا غفيرة من الشباب تصفر وتركض بإتجاه شارع عدلي تحركنا معهم لنرى ماذا يحدث

فوجئنا بفتاة في أوائل العشرينات تعثرت على الارض والتف حولها عدد كبير من الشباب يقومون بتحسس اجزاء جسدها ونزع ثيابها عنها
لم افهم او لم استوعب بمعنى ادق ما يحدث قامت الفتاة مسرعة مره اخرى وحاولت الركض في اي اتجاه الى ان رأت مطعما سوريا يدعى المضيفة او شئ من هذا القبيل ودلفت الى الداخل وحاوط الشباب المطعم ولم ينصرفوا الا بعد ان صاح اخر (في واحده تانية قدام ميامي
ركض الجميع اتجاه شارع طلعت حرب مره اخرى ووجدت هناك فتاه محاصرة تماما داخل دائره محاطة بمئات من الشباب يحاولون ان يتحسسوا جسدها وينزعوا عنها ملابسها انقذ الفتاه هذه المره سائق تاكس قام بإركابها لكن الشباب لم يدعوا التاكس يمر وشكلوا حوله دائره

“We saw a large number of men whistling and running in the direction of Adly Street. We went with them to see what was happening. I was surprised to see a girl in her early 20s falling on the ground and a mob of men gathering around her, feeling up her body and tearing her clothes off her. I didn't understand or rather I couldn't comprehend what was happening. The girl got up and ran into a restaurant and hid inside. Some boys surrounded the restaurant and wouldn't leave until one of them shouted that there was another one coming. All of them ran towards Talaat Street again and there I saw a girl who was completely surrounded by a mob of hundreds of men trying to touch her body and take off her clothes. This girl was rescued by a taxi driver, who pulled her into his taxi. But the boys would not allow the taxi through and formed a circle around the car,” he said.
لم ينفض الجمع بسهوله الا بعد ظهور فتاتين ترتدين عباءات خليجيه يسيرون لوحده في الشارع واحاطوا بهم تماما وقام عدد كبير منهم باحتضان الفتيات واخلاعهم الاحجبه التي كانوا يرتدونها ومحاولة فك العباءات وكان هناك اطفال في الحادية عشر والعاشرة من العمر يقومون بالدخول من تحت العباءات .

مره اخرى تدخل بعض اصحاب المحلات وقاموا برش المياه على الشباب وجذب الفتيات الى داخل المحلات

“The gathering wasn't easy to break. Suddenly, they turned their attention to two girls wearing the Gulf Arab cloak (abaya) walking down the street. A number of boys tried hugging the girls and taking off their head scarves. They also tried undoing their robes (abaya). There were even children aged 10 and 11 years trying to get under the abayas. Once again, a number of shop keepers intervened and splashed water on the boys and pulled the girls into the safety of their shops,” recalled Malek.

Malek, whose post has other incidents which he witnessed, said he and his friends were forced away from the scene.

هذه الحالات التي استطعت ان اراها رؤي العين خلال اقل من ساعه مكثتها في تلك المنطقه وانصرفت بعد مشادات بيننا وبين الامن الذي رفض التصوير وبين الشباب الذي كان يود ان يسرق كاميرا وائل عباس وبيتر ألفريد وناصر نوري

الصور التي اخذت لم تكن دقيقة بما فيه الكفاية ولم تظهر حالات الانتهاك كما يجب لانه عند كل حالة انتهاك كان يتم تشكيل دائرة ضيقة جدا وتكون الفريسة في داخل الدائرة ولا يرى احد ما يحدث بشكل جيد

“These are some of the cases I personally saw with my own eyes in less than an hour. We had to leave after getting into an argument with the police who banned us from taking pictures and some of the youth who threatened to steals the cameras of Wael Abbas, Peter Alfred and Naser Nouri. The pictures we took weren't very clear because they didn't show the extent of the abuse as they should have. The reason for this was because in every case, the perpetrators would form a tight circle around their victim making it impossible to see what exactly was happening,” he wrote.

The attacks he had witnessed left Malek with more questions than answers.

ماحدث كان مهزلة بكل المقاييس الى الان لا استطيع ان اتفهم الدوافع التي تحرك اكثر من الف شاب ويزيد دفعة واحده اتجاه التحرش الجنسي والانتهاك الجنسي لفتيات يمررن بالشارع فتيات من كل الاطياف محجبه ,منقبة ,غير محجبه,مسلمة ,اوغير مسلمة
“What happened was a farce. Until now I cannot understand the reason why more than 1,000 or more young men mobilized behind one goal – to sexually harass women walking down the street without discrimination. They have attacked women wearing the Hijab (head scarf) as well as those covering their faces with the veil and those not covering their hair. They attacked the Muslim and non-Muslim,” he explained.

Malek, who was also at the scene on the second day, was also surprised at the lack of police intervention.

اليوم رأيت نفس المشهد على كورنيش النيل (عبد المنعم رياض )نفس ماحدث بالامس ولم نستطع التصوير لكن أكدت لي رضوى انها رأت حالات تحرش أمامها قبل ان تستقل التاكسي مسرعة مغادرة الى المنزل .

لم يكن هناك ا ي تدخل امني على الرغم من وجود قوات امن مركزي بجوار جامعة الدول العربي وبجوار السفارة الامريكية الذين لايبعدون سوى 5 دقائق سيرا على الاقدام من مكان الاحداث.

كان هناك اليوم تطور في الأداء بعد ان كان بالامس مجرد هجوم عشوائي اصبح الشباب يشكلون قطارات بشرية ويقتربون من الفتاة بسرعة ويحاوطونها تماما ويبدأون في التحسيس على أجزاء جسدها .

“Today I saw for myself on the Corniche Al Nile (Nile Water Front) a similar enactment of what had happened yesterday but I couldn't take pictures. However, Radwa [6] assured me that she too witnessed girls being sexually harassed before she took a taxi and returned home as fast as she could. There was no intervention from the security forces which camped outside the Arab League and near the US Embassy although they were only five minutes away by foot from where the incident was taking place. Today's attack was better organized after it was haphazard yesterday. The men would form human trains, come close to a girl and attack her rapidly. They would surround her completely and start touching up parts of her body,” he wrote.

For many sexual harassment comes as a shocking despicable act, but according to illustrious Egyptian blogger Ala [7], “everybody knows it's prevalent but denial flows like a river in Egypt [8].”

Why is sexual harassment bugging the Egyptian blogosphere as I am writing this? Why has it united almost all Egyptian bloggers under one theme, which has generated scores of posts and hundreds, if not thousands of comments, over a few days? Why is it making all those people tick? Was the attack of a mob on girls during the Eid festivities because of religion, poverty, drugs, corruption, unemployment or lack of human rights, freedom and democracy in a country with a population of 70 million and growing [9]? Well, according to Egyptian bloggers, it could be all of the above.

According to Ala [10], it could be the start of a new Egyptian folklore.

ده جزء جديد في الفلكلور المصري احتفالا بنهاية رمضان الشباب المصري بينزل وسط البلد و بدل البمب و المراجيح و الكحك و الحاجات بتاعت زمان دي بيبقى فيه حفلة هتك عرض جماعي.
“This could be the beginning of a new Egyptian folklore to celebrate the end of Ramadhan. Egyptian young men would come to the city centre not to enjoy himself eating cakes and playing on the swings. These are things of the days gone by. They now come for a party to gang rape women,” he writes with sarcasm.

Radwa [6], who witnessed incidents on the second day of the attack, tried to analyse it differently. At first, she reacted to the incident with shock and horror.

بعد مغادرتي للعمل امس في العاشرة والنصف مساء ومحاولة الركوب من عبد المنعم رياض وجدت المكان مزدحما بشكل غير عادي ..فتوقعت بانه العيد الذي نسيته لانني نزلت العمل من اليوم الثاني ..لكن الموضوع تجاوز الزحمه العادية وباءت كل محاولاتي لركوب تاكسي بالفشل ..فوجدت اتوبيس فاضي وبمجرد الركوب والنظر للجهة المقابله علي الكورنيش رايت جموع غفيره من الشباب وسمعت اصوات صراخ نسائية وهتافات الجموع بلفظهم البذىء”هنيييييييك”وظللت لفتره مذهوله ومرعوبه فهاتفت مالك واخبرته بما يحدث وظل الاتوبيس واقفا لفتره واخذت اراقب الموق
“I tried getting a cab after leaving work at 10.30pm but I found the place near Abdulmonem Riyadh to be more congested than usual. I thought it was because of the Eid I nearly forgot as I had to go to work on the second day of the celebration. But the crowds were bigger than usual and all my efforts to get a taxi failed. I finally found an empty cab. As soon as I was in the car, I was surprised to see huge crowds of men and hear the screams of women outside. I froze in my place for a while. I was scared. I called Malek and told him what was happening. I stayed in the cab watching the horror unfold,” she said.

Back in the safety of her home, Radwa reflected on the youth involved in the attacks as well as the victims fleeing the scene.

.فوجدت الاطفال في سن العاشرة والحادية عشر يشجعون بعضهم علي الانضمام “يا الا يا ياض ندخل معاهم “وينضموا بسرعه رهيبه للثوره واخذت اتامل ملامح الذعر علي وجه ام وهي ممسكه بحرص شديد علي ايدي بناتها الثلاثه وكانها تحاول اعادتهم الي رحمها مرة اخري ..امتد الذعر الي الازواج والرجال الذين يخرجون بصحبه بنات..واخذوا ينكمشون بجوار بعضهم او يهرولون بسرعه ..لم استطع رؤيه وجوه الضحايا لكنني كنت استمع الي الصرخات واري الجموع الغفيره وهي تجري مسرعه ..ياااه اعداد ضخمه جدا جدا ..اكثر بكثير من اكبر مظاهره عملناها واعمار مختلفه ..ابتداء من العاشره الي الثلاثينات وربما الاربعي
“I was surprised to see boys aged 10 and 11 years encouraging each other to join in the attacks. Following some encouragement from others, they would soon join the rebellion. I observed the horror in the face of a woman trying to shield her three daughters from the mob. She was holding tightly to them as if she wanted to return them to her womb again. The horror extended to the husbands and men out with their women. They were all huddled up and trying to escape the scene. I couldn't see the faces of the victims but I could hear their screams. I also saw the crowds running fast. They were huge crowds..bigger than any demonstration we have held and of different ages..including 10 to 30 year olds or even those in their 40s,” she said.

Radwa is at a loss in what brings all those men together in this brutal attack on women.

..كنت افكر ما الذي يدفع مجموعة لا تعرف بعضها الي الانضمام حول هدف واحد ..ولو فسرنا الوضع علي انه البطاله والكبت الجنسي فما الذي يدفع اطفال الي الانضمام لذلك ..افكر في حب المغامره مع عدم استبعاد كل ذلك واضافه لهم دوله تتحلل ونظام لم يقف كرادع لهم منذ اول يوم ..وامس لم يكن هناك تواجد امني حتي الفتره التي كنت موجوده فيها .
“I was thinking what pushes those groups which don't know one another to rally behind one cause. If we attributed the cause to unemployment or sexual deprivation, what then forces children to join in the riot? I am more inclined to think that it is because of a love for adventure and a country which is deteriorating and which doesn't have a regime which suppressed the abuse from the first day. Yesterday, there were no police forces in the area for the whole time I was there,” she wrote.

Radwa doesn't hide her disappointment at the lack of media coverage of the attacks.

الامر يبدو كئيبا ومثيرا للتامل ومثيرا للدراسات السيكولوجية والاجتماعية ..ومثيرا للشفقة علي صحافتنا الحرة التي تجاهلت الامر ولم تنشر كلمه واحده
“The situation is depressing and calls for psychological and social studies. What is more pathetic is that our free Press has totally ignored the incidents and has not published a single word about them,” she noted.

From Mansoura, Gemy Hood [11], bring another link to the story, which is truely shaking the Egyptian blogosphere.

ارسلت لى صديقة من المنصورة رسالة ترجونى محادثتها تليفونيا
بخصوص الموضوع سابق الذكر و تم الاتصال لتسترسل فى الحكى كالتالى
و الكلام على لسان الصديقة
خرجت ثانى أيام العيد بوسط البلد فى المنصورة ضايقنى المعاكسات الشديدة من الشباب
و هذا أمر عادى يحدث يوميا لكل فتاة تقريبا و قد يتطور الامر الى الملامسة
بالايدى اما ما حدث لى لا أتصوره على الاطلاق ان يحدث مع أى فتاة
و خصوصا فى الشارع فأثناء رجوعى للمنزل انا و صديقتى
بعد زهقنا من الخروج من جراء المعاكسات المستمرة بالالفاظ النابية
كنا نمر فى شارع مرور المارة فيه خفيف لانه شارع جانبى وسط المنازل
و كان يأتى من أمامنا شاب فى العشرينات من العمر
عندما أقترب منا فوجئت بأنه فاتح سوسته بنطلونه و مخرج عضوه الذكرى
خارج البنطلون و يحاول أثارتنا بتحريكه بيده
“A female friend send me an email, urging me to call her. When I spoke to her she told me she went out on the second day of Eid with her friend to the town centre of Al Mansoura. She said she was annoyed with all the men flirting with her although it was a normal thing which happens to girls everyday. The situation may develop to holding hands but what she witnessed is beyond expectation, especially on a road in broad daylight. She said on her way back home with her friend, in the middle of a neighborhood, a man in his 20s approached them, unzipped his trousers and showed them his private parts,” he wrote.

Gemy lists other incidents in which girls were harassed and then urges women to protect their rights by not keeping silent.

أظن واضح أن السكوت ما عدش ليه فايدة
و أظن ان ما فيش حد دلوقت يقدر يقول دول شويه مدونيين
كانوا خارجين مع بعض و قرروا يعملوا ضجة
يا ريت كل البنات فعلا ما تسكتش لان بعد اللى حصل
فاضل خطوه واحدة بس على اعتبار ان الاغتصاب أمر عادى جدا
و ممكن يحصل لاى واحدة
“I think it is clear that keeping quiet has no benefits and I think no one can now say that a group of bloggers made up this incident (the harassment episode) when they were out. I hope every girl won't keep quiet because after all that has happened we are one step away from becoming a society which sanctions rape and considers it as something natural which could happen to any woman,” he cautioned.

Meanwhile, Bint Saad [12], attempts to analyse the situation as a social phenomena that has always been there.

هذه التصرفات البهيمية تحدث كل عيد تقريبا و لكن الاختلاف هنا في ان الكثافة كانت شديدة للغاية هذه المرة . كيلا يظن احدكم ان الموضوع عبارة عن انهيار اخلاقي مفاجئ في مجتمع الفضيلة و الايمان و انما العدد قد زاد عن كل مرة دليلا على ازدياد الجرأة لدى المعظم في فعل ما تم
ومعلومة من احد دراسي الطب النفس فى مصر : الاحصائيات تقول ان اعلى عدد لمن يكتبوا كلمة جنس فى محرك البحث جوجل على مستوى العالم باكستان ثم مصر ثم ايران ثم المغرب
“Such behavior is witnessed every Eid but the difference this time is the concentration of the attacks which went over board. You should not think that it has resulted from a sudden deterioration in the morals of the righteous youth, it just increases year after year. According to a psychology student in Egypt, statistics show that the largest number of people who type the word sex in Google search engines comes from Pakistan, followed by Egypt, then Iran and finally Morocco,” she said.

Bint Saad says a number of factors contributed to the chaos witnessed during Eid.

ما حدث ليس بسبب واحد كما يظن البعض و الا نكون قد سطحنا الحادثة بدرجة كبيرة .. بل هو اتحاد مجموعة من عوامل الفقر و البطالة و عدم وجود الهدف في الحياة و الكبت و انهيار الاخلاق و الوازع الديني و انتشار الاباحية تحيط بهؤلاء الذكور . معذرة فهم في رايي ذكور بالمعنى التشريحي للكلمة و لكن ابعد ما يكونوا عن كلمة رجال . كل هذه الاعذار ليست كافية ليتحولوا الى حيوانات عجماءأيرضون هذا لاخواتهم او لامهاتهم او بناتهم؟؟ اذا كانت الاجابة بنعم ..

فلا اجد سوى ان اقول . اللهم ارفع غضبك و مقتك عنا

“What happened cannot be blamed on one factor. Otherwise, we would be trivializing the situation. It is a number of issues which has led to it, including poverty, unemployment, lack of an objective in life, deprivation, a lack of moral and religious guidance and the widespread of pornographic material amongst those males. Pardon me if I mean males in the anatomic sense of the word for those creatures are far from men. All those excuses (factors) are not a good reason enough for them to turn into animals. Will they accept for their sisters, mothers or daughters to be treated in this manner? If the answer was Yes, may God protect us from His anger,” she added.