Sexual harrasement of women in public spaces has been discussed several times before in the Egyptian blogosphere, everybody knows it's prevalent but denial flows like a river in Egypt, any woman dares open the topic has to face an avalanche of abuse on anonymous comments sometimes even from fellow bloggers. blaming the victims is the most common response but sometimes they even deny it happens at all, with the abuse also comes more accounts and stories of how it's like to be female in urban Egypt.
Last tuesday was the first day of Eid El Fitr the streets are typically full of people celebrating and enjoying their time, downtown Cairo is full of cinemas and Eid is the main cinema season, this year Malek, Wael Abbas, Mohammed Sharkawy, Ma3t, GemyHood and Radwa Osama witnessed a mob attacking and sexually harassing women in downtown cairo, their reports sparked heated discussions on the blogosphere, with no shortage of theories everything was blamed at one point or another as being responsible, music videos, sheikhs, israel, drugs, mubarak, class dynamics, you name it.
One topic that always pops out when discussing sexual harassment is the veil since the veil is sometimes promoted as a way to protect women from sexual harassment, yet it's as common to hear complains from veiled women as from unveiled ones, the molesters do not differentiate they attack anything that might be female.
This time the question of policing was brought to the front, downtown Cairo is where most political protests happen it's common to see thousands upong thousands of police officers and anti riot soldiers attacking a few hundred (and sometimes a dozen) protesters yet on a day like the first day of el Eid they failed to show up and protect the women.
As with any interesting discussion it was mostly in Arabic, but we had a few English posts on the topic.
3arabawy wrote a short post focusing on the role (or lack of) of police. Mechanical crowds did a great job of trying to summarize and dissect all the eyewitness accounts and some of the discussions, a must read. Zenobia searches for a reason and Tarek offers an explanation based on identity and culture while chris finds it hard to believe. Hope links the incident with Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali's sermon that offered the metaphor of women as uncovered meat and men as hungry alley cats.
To my knowledge the incident was not mentioned in any traditional/mainstream media outlet, it's being discussed in webforums too, Hossam Deyab did 5 interviews with shop owners in the area, they confirmed the incident but played it down (And also mentioned it's been happening every Eid for a while now).
Welcome to Egypt, if you're visiting bring your taser, pepper spray or body-guard along, we are a warm people and we've got millions of shebab who are eager to show you just how warm we can be.