In a dispiriting turn of awfulness, Egyptian women who convened at Cairo's de facto protest space Tahrir Square to quietly hold signs decrying harassment were attacked and sexually harassed by a group of angry male protesters. And the sad waltz that is the Earth's twirling orbit around the Sun goes on.
On Friday, according to journalist Nadia Abul Magd, 15 women and a handful of men assembled peaceably on a corner of Tahrir Square, bearing signs protesting the harassment that has marred Tahrir Square gatherings. Friday's protest came in response to an ugly incident on Tuesday, when a woman fainted after being assaulted by a large crowd of men. Just as Friday's protesters were getting ready to move to an adjacent street, Abul Magd said that a horde of men descended on them, hurling rocks and glass and harassing some of the women as the few men in the group tried to protect them.
"We were surrounded by men from both sides and by [the time we reached the corner] I saw a wave. I saw so many that attacked some men and women," said Abul Magd. "Every few minutes there was a wave. It was definitely a coordinated attack." She further explained that the attackers aimed to scare women away from the square to make room for more "legitimate" protests, like demonstrations against the candidacy of former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq. Just hours earlier, men had started arguing with female protesters, apparently outraged that they could possibly be as outraged about sexual harassment as the men were about the dumbshow that is representative government.
According to Abul Magd, the coordinated attack against female protesters constituted an effort at intimidation on behalf of men who wanted to prove that they could sexually harass and assault even those who spoke out against such abuse. Protesters, however, remained undaunted in their insistence that street harassment should be criminalized and that Egyptian women should be able to deal with a crowded, restless city without having their civil rights regularly menaced by men for whom the tenets of democratic freedom extend about as far as their angry little penises.