Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called on Egypt Monday to investigate attacks on women protesters [press release] after a group of activists were violently assaulted last week. AI reported that a protest against sexual harassment turned violent on Friday when a large group of men moved in and began groping and punching women in the crowd. Men involved in the protest were also injured, and many were robbed in the confusion. AI urged Egyptian authorities to investigate increasing harassment of women protesters by both civilian attackers and government security:
These forms of sexual harassment, sexual assault and other forms of ill-treatment against women protesters are an attempt to intimidate them and prevent them from participating fully in public life. The authorities have so far done nothing to investigate these attacks. The impunity so far enjoyed by those attacking women protesters seems to have encouraged the trend of sexual harassment and assault to continue. The epidemic of sexual harassment in Egypt will only stop if the authorities, and society at large, confront the men who act as if women are commodities. The prevailing climate on impunity must stop by bringing perpetrators to justice.AI noted that using sexual assault as a fear tactic was a method allegedly used under former president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile, JURIST news archive] and argued that women in Egypt must feel free to express themselves.
Egypt has been heavily criticized for the way it treated protesters during the Egyptian revolution. Last month an Egyptian court convicted five police officers [JURIST report] in absentia for the death of protesters last year and sentenced each to 10 years in prison. AI and Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] released reports that protesters had been tortured and improperly detained [JURIST reports]. AI has also criticized the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) [NYT backgrounder], stating that human rights violations against protesters committed by the SCAF may be equal to those committed under Mubarak.