With reports of mob attacks and gang rape growing alarmingly common in Egypt, angry protesters demonstrated in Cairo on Tuesday, calling for urgently needed protection and harsher punishment of perpetrators of sexual assault.
Though the protest in Cairo’s Talaat Harb Square was peaceful, the slogans were hard-hitting. One banner displayed a warning that rhymed in Arabic: “Sexual assault doesn’t pay. Try again—we’ll cut your hand.”
Concurrent with the Cairo protest, solidarity demonstrations were held in cities around the world, including Amman, Copenhagen, Melbourne, Washington, D.C. and London to denounce the rise of “sexual terrorism” in Egypt.
“There is a virus afflicting the brains of some of these men,” said Karima El Gharib, 35, a political activist who attended Tuesday’s protest in Cairo. “These sick people think that if they scare the women, we will stop our men from going to the protests. We are the country’s women: your sister, your mother. Try and say ‘boo’ to us now and we will destroy you!”
Last month, the United Nations issued a statement expressing “deep concern” after more than two dozen women reported they had been sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square—in some cases, with extraordinary violence—during demonstrations marking the two-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution.
The activists, though, know that raising awareness of the issue is an uphill battle.