The Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm is reporting that organizers of Sunday’s massive demonstrations protesting the rule of President Mohammed Morsi are so concerned that women might be sexually assaulted that they’ve set up a female-only protest zone in Tahrir Square.
The Popular Committees who are organizing the protests have cordoned off space near Mohammed Mahmoud Street and are setting up guards in special uniform to protect the women.
Ahmed Mostafa, a Popular Committees’ member tells the Egyptian paper (translated by Egypt Independent), “We want to bring down the Muslim Brotherhood in a civilized and peaceful way.”
The United Nations reported earlier this month that more than 99 percent of Egyptian girls and women were subject to harassment ranging from sexual innuendo to uninvited touching to rape. The report stated, “99.3 percent replied that they have been subjected to one form or another of harassment” calling the levels of sexual harassment “unprecedented.”
The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights reported in 2008 that two-thirds of Egyptian women experience sexual harassment daily.
In the travel warning it issued on Friday to discourage U.S. citizens from traveling to Egypt, the State Department wrote, “Of specific concern is a rise in gender-based violence in and around protest areas where women have been the specific targets of sexual assault.”
Last year, British journalist Natasha Smith described the brutal sexual assault she experienced in Tahrir Square after the Muslim Brotherhood’s election victory, including being stripped naked, pulled at the limbs and violated.
During the 2011 revolution, CBS News correspondent Lara Logan was attacked while reporting from Tahrir Square, and described in a “60 Minutes” interview how her assailants “raped me with their hands.”
Last year, a group of Egyptian women demanding an end to the scourge of sexual assault were themselves assaulted by a mob of hundreds of men during their march in Tahrir Square.
On Sunday, thousands of Morsi opponents were gathering in the streets, waving flags and chanting slogans demanding he step down.
Sunday marks exactly one year since Morsi took office.