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Egyptian Revolution Changes Nothing for Women

The Egyptian Revolution appears to have done nothing for women who attempt to support “change” in Tahrir Square.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 1/26/2012, 11:55 AM

For all of the much-ballyhooed “change” in Egypt the country's "revolutionaries" have wrought over the past year, little is different for women in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

At least two articles published Thursday morning in Arab media described vicious, sexual attacks on women during celebrations of the protests that one year ago toppled the 31-year regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.

One Arab-American woman barely escaped male demonstrators – and at that, without her slacks.

The woman said in an exclusive interview with Bikyamasr.com that she and her foreign female roommates, all living in Cairo, had gone to join the celebrations. But the women were mobbed by men in the square. “They started fighting over who was going to do what,” Heather told the website. Her slacks were torn off in the melee, which occurred at about 7:30 p.m. local time, right in the center of Tahrir Square.

"My roommates and I fell to the ground when they attacked us. The people pulled off our pants even as we yelled and tried to fight,” she said. A man and women pulled the women to safety, “shaking and crying.” Heather doesn't remember how she got back to her apartment.

She came forward to report the attack after subsequently seeing an eyewitness report on Twitter social networking website about another foreign woman who was “stripped, groped and assaulted” by another mob of men in the square.

That woman, whose identity was not revealed and whose husband witnessed the attack but was unable to rescue her, was evacuated by ambulance. 

"I saw the woman and then dozens of men surrounded her and started grabbing her. When she screamed for help some people came – but they were hit in the face,” one witness wrote, requesting anonymity. “It was appalling. The men just started tearing at her clothes and grabbing her body all over. When she fought back, they pushed her. It was chaos.”

The victim's nationality is unknown.

Last month, some 10,000 women marched Tuesday from Cairo's Tahrir Square to the nearby Press Syndicate building chanting "Egyptian women are the red line," according to local media reporting on military brutality against female protesters. The protest was provoked by an image published in media around the world of soldiers violently stripping a Muslim woman during protests two days earlier. They dragged her through the street, her robes yanked up and her blue bra bared for all the world to see. The image was flashed around the world and posted on social media pages, including Twitter and Facebook.

Several months ago, Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy accused Egyptian police of beating and sexually assaulting her while holding her for 12 hours after she participated in Tahrir Square demonstrations in November 2011 against military rule.

No change there.

CBS network journalist Lara Logan was ferociously beaten and raped in Tahrir Square by hundreds of frenzied Arab male protesters during the demonstrations that toppled the Mubarak regime. It took her all-male television team, a mob of completely-veiled Egyptian women and a group of police officers plus a tank to extract her from the scene. She was flown out of the country and required four days of hospitalization to treat the wounds – but continues to suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the attack.

"People need to know what goes on,” Heather said -- even though she was warned not to talk about it because it would “hurt the image of the Revolution.”

But as an American citizen, Heather has a different take on the matter: “It is the only way to start making it a problem that will have to be dealt with.”