‘I’m so disgusted’: How Egypt’s protesters are fighting sexual assaults

December 5, 2012

Egypt's protest movement has a problem, one that has been getting worse in recent months: sexual assaults. Ever since crowds in Tahrir Square brutally assaulted CBS News reporter Lara Logan, just days after the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, sexual assaults have been a dark side troubling the popular protest movement. Though attacks on foreign women have been the best-publicized – and some activists do say that predators in the crowd sometimes seem to target foreigners – it's a serious problem for Egyptian women as well.

As protesters gather in mass numbers once more in opposition to President Mohammed Morsi's recent decree granting himself sweeping new powers, activists are getting more aggressive in preventing sexual assaults. This video, put together by the invaluable Egyptian grassroots media organization Mosireen, explains their methods and reasoning. "The most important step in preventing an attempted assault is to first reach the girl," an activist tells Mosireen. "You have to do it calmly and without making any violent moves until you've reached her. Try to stay calm, try not to shout, try as much as possible to calm her down and secure her because she'll be panicking and afraid of everyone around her."

A doctor at one of the Tahrir field clinics that has aided assault victims explains the attackers' methods, which seem to be eerily consistent. "Most of the time they form a long chain moving together, their hands on each other's backs like a train," he says. "They push into the crowds of protesters and they pick particular people - foreigners or Egyptians - they start surrounding them and then the assault starts. They attacked the girls. They ripped off their clothes and sexually assaulted them. I'm so disgusted, I feel a huge sense of guilt because we weren't able to get to anyone. I'm trying to help in any way I can."

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Max Fisher · December 5, 2012