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sabato 2 febbraio 2013

Tahrir Square Rapes

Sex attacks on female protesters in Egypt's Tahrir Square are premeditated and state-backed, claims an organisation that rescues sexually assaulted female activists.
Last Friday marked the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution and the highest number of sexual crimes against women in Tahrir Square to date.
Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault (OpAntiSh), set up to rescue victims from the Square received 19 reports of group sexual assaults, six of which resulted in hospitalisation, while the worst case involved the mutilation of a woman's genitalia with a knife.

OpAntiSh is convinced that the attacks are orchestrated by the state in an attempt to deter women from protesting against perceived failures by the Muslim Brotherhood to deliver on its revolutionary promises. 
'We have no concrete evidence, only testimonies from victims, but we know it is a tactic. 
'They are an attempt to ruin the image of Tahrir square and demonstrators in general.'
'They happen most of the time in the same places and at the same times, using the same methods.

'It is a disease in this country and encouraged and played on by the state to exclude women from public life and punish them for participating in political activism and demonstrations.

'We also recognise that any organised attack depends on the widespread and chronic harassment of women that exists on Egyptian streets, a problem which deserves equal attention and treatment.'
The spokesman added the testimonies recorded were similar to the accounts of attacks on female activists in 2005, believed to be instigated by the secret police and referred to as 'Black Wednesday.'
It comes as Egypt's army chief today warned that political strife was pushing the country to the brink of collapse.

It's a stark warning from the institution that ran the country until last year as Cairo's first freely elected leader President Mohamed Mursi  struggles to contain bloody street violence.
Since Thursday of last week hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in protest against the President, the Muslim Brotherhood and the failure to deliver on pre-revolutionary promises.
'Nothing has changed since the revolution,' a spokesperson for OpAntiSh said.
'We protest for a reform of the Ministry of Interior and the prosecution of those responsible for the deaths of demonstrators. 
'The reality is that Interior ministers still hold the same positions, in fact many have been promoted and had their salaries improved.'
OpAntiSh was set up in November 2012, the same month a woman was raped near to Tahir Square.
The organisation is made up of approximately 100 men and women who distribute flyers within Tahir Square, alerting people to their existence as an emergency rescue service for victims of sexual assault.

Whenever their hotline number is called they descend on the Square and, with the help of the ambulance service, do their best to intervene and pull women from the middle of attacks that range in size from 15 men up to 500.
The privately-financed group takes victims to hospital and can provide legal aid, safe houses and psychological help if necessary.
The group, which has a Facebook page, also aims to prevent attacks by actively monitoring the square and intervening quickly in the early stages of mob formation. 
'Our work is an integral part of this revolution and we want to force change,' said the spokesperson.
'Part of this revolution is about forcing changes for women, to ensure they are no longer looked upon as second-class citizens.'

Drawing parallels with the December gang-rape attack on a 23-year-old student in Delhi, India, the spokesperson said: 'At least in India the country has reacted to the attack with outrage and protest. Here people are too afraid to discuss such things, as if it is the woman's shame.'
The outbreak of widespread protests highlight the mounting sense of crisis facing the Islamist head of state who is struggling to fix a teetering economy and needs to prepare Egypt for a parliamentary election in a few months that is meant to cement the new democracy.

Protesters have spurned a call by Mursi for talks to try to end the violence. Instead, protesters have rallied in Cairo and Alexandria, and in the three Suez Canal cities - Port Said, Ismailia and Suez - where Mursi imposed emergency rule.
Today, thousands were again on the streets of Port Said to mourn the deaths of two people in the latest clashes there, taking the total toll in Mediterranean port alone to 42 people. Most were killed by gunshots in a city where weapons are rife.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, appointed last year to head the military, added in a statement on Tuesday that one of the primary goals of deploying troops in cities on the Suez Canal was to protect the waterway that is vital for Egypt's economy and world trade.
Since the 2011 revolt, Islamists who Mubarak spent his 30-year rule suppressing have won two referendums, two parliamentary elections and a presidential vote. 
But that legitimacy has been challenged by an opposition that accuses Mursi of imposing a new form of authoritarianism. Mursi's supporters says protesters want to overthrow Egypt's first ever democratically elected leader by undemocratic means.
The instability has provoked unease in Western capitals, where officials worry about the direction of a powerful regional player that has a peace deal with Israel. The United States condemned the bloodshed and called on Egyptian leaders to make clear violence was not acceptable.


Lara Logan
CBS News correspondent Lara Logan in Tahrir Square shortly before she was assaulted
The 39-year-old CBS foreign correspondent said she was convinced she was going to die when the frenzied mob tore her away from her film crew and bodyguard in Cairo's Tahrir Square in February 2011.
A group of at least 200 men beat her, pinched her and tore at her clothes in a 40-minute attack that only ended when a group of women came to her aid.
She told the New York Times: 'For an extended period of time, they raped me with their hands...What really struck me was how merciless they were. 
'They really enjoyed my pain and suffering. It incited them to more violence.'
She was attacked on February 11, on her first day back in the city - and the day Hosni Mubarak's government finally fell.

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