In the last week alone, more than 169 cases of mob sexual crimes were reported in Tahrir Square, The Guardian is reporting. And since last Sunday, at least one woman was raped with a sharp object.
"We call it the circle of hell," one woman said of the assaulting mobs.
According to The Guardian, a typical attack consists of large groups of men who surround a lone woman, ripping off her clothing until she is naked. Soraya Bahgat, a women's rights advocate and co-founder of Tahrir Bodyguard, says that most of these groups of men head into the packed squares with the specific intention of assaulting or raping women.
These mob assaults are nothing new; thousands of women are attacked annually and a large group of men attacking and sexually assaulting CBS reporter Lara Logan in Cairo were captured on video in 2011. But the high number of assaults in the last week suggests that the violence appears to be escalating.
There are at least two volunteer rescue groups (Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment and Tahrir Bodyguard) who are currently patrolling Tahrir Square trying to stop the assaults. They use weapons, like clubs and flamethrowers, to fight off the men, then clothe and hide the women in safehouses or hospitals. Even then, however, the nightmare is not over — according to The Guardian, mobs will sometimes break down safehouse doors or even assault rescuers.
The problem is compounded by poorly defined sexual harassment and assault laws coupled with law enforcement that is largely indifferent to women reporting attacks. According to a UN survey, 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have reported being sexually harassed.