CAIRO (AP) — Police arrested seven young men for allegedly taking part in a mob sexual assault of a young woman during New Year’s Eve celebrations, a senior security official said Friday.
Since Wednesday, a video showing several dozen men pushing around a screaming woman wearing a black miniskirt and fur coat has gone viral on social media, reigniting a long-running controversy over rampant sexual harassment in Egypt.
Police Gen. Sayed Sultan, head of the Daqahleya Investigation Bureau, said the victim was a 20-year-old woman who had gone out with a female friend on New Year’s Eve in the Nile Delta town of Mansoura. While walking down a busy main street, a group of young men crowded around her and harassed her verbally, he said, citing the victim’s statement. Some male bystanders clashed with the harassers, trying to defend her until she eventually got physically trapped between the two camps.
In the video, some of the men brandished sticks and jumped on top of a car, into which the woman eventually climbed. The handful of men who got her into the car were apparently trying to help her escape the assault.
By interviewing shopkeepers who witnessed the incident and checking surveillance cameras, Sultan said police were able to identify the suspects, who are between 18 and 20 years old. Neither the victim nor none of the suspects was identified.
Surveys indicate the vast majority of Egyptian women feel insecure in the street and there have been multiple mass sexual assaults on women during political protests. But polls have found that most men and women in the conservative Muslim country believe harassment is justified if women dress “provocatively” in public.
In 2014, Egypt’s penal code was amended amid pressure from women’s groups to broaden the definition of sexual harassment and toughen the penalties. But rights groups say authorities aren’t doing enough to combat the problem. Most women also remain reluctant to file complaints for fear of stigmatization.