Grassroots Group Fights Back Against Sexual Assaults in Tahrir Square

As the massive protests against Egypt's President Muhammad Morsi continue, one group has emerged in response the shocking number of sexual assaults that have been reported out of Tahrir Square since the beginning of the most recent wave of uprisings. Tahrir Bodyguard was formed in December 2012 as coalition of men and women who patrol the crowds at Tahrir Square throughout the unrest in Egypt and has grown to be the main group that protects the women who are subjugated to unspeakable violence amidst the crowds there.

Female protesters in Tahrir Square are the target of gang rapes and group sexual harassment at virtually every large political gathering. It's a known issue, and one that has sparked debate about the status of women an Egyptian society in the grips of political upheaval. The jarring image of "The Girl in the Blue Bra," depicting a protester being dragged and beaten by uniformed military, has come to be the symbol of women's struggle to participate in Egypt's uprisings. But despite the graffitied blue bras that dot the buildings surrounding Tahrir Square in solidarity with female protestors, sexual assaults in the heaving crowds have seemingly worsened. Almost 100 women were assaulted this week alone.

Tahrir Bodyguard attempts to patrol the crowds at Tahrir with groups of men and women wearing helmets and neon yellow vests. In an interview with Now This News, the group's co-founder Maria Sanchez Munoz, said the team of 150-some volunteers intervene in sexual assaults without weapons, only with their bodies. The mob-mentality of the large crowds at Tahrir makes their task especially difficult, as they often become subject to harassment and violent attacks themselves.

Tahrir Bodyguard alerts protesters of pockets of violence with their Twitter and Facebook pages, both of which are actively updated with alerts and information on how to reach the teams on the ground. They've even arranged self defense classes for Egyptian women so they know exactly how to strike an attackers windpipe in the midst of an attack.

Still, the group is vastly outnumbered by sexual attackers in Tahrir Square. There have even been reports of attackers posing as members of Tahrir Bodyguard to take advantage of women. But Tahrir Bodyguard is growing as each new wave of protesters flock to Tahrir Square, as is the effect of their presence. Images from yesterday's protest show a group of men forming a massive protective circle around female protestors so they could join the political upheaval next to their countrymen without fear of rape or attack.

Images via Tahrir Bodyguard