Less than a week following a case of mass assault in which a young Egyptian woman was assaulted by a group of men in public at night, the victim in question has dropped charges against the perpetrators.
According to local news outlets, the young victim, “May” announced her decision to the Public Prosecution after negotiations with the attackers’ families.
However, local news outlets also reported that despite the victims dropping their charges, residents of Mansoura demanded that the Public Prosecutor proceeds with the case, in order to punish the accused of ‘crimes against society’.
A number of local media outlets, including El Balad and BBC Arabic, claim that the video took place on New Year’s Day. The young woman was seen inside a store while a mob of young men waited for her exit, in anticipation for the attack.
In an interview with famed TV presenter Amr Adeeb on his MBC show, the young woman explained that around 20 men had been harassing her and her friend, ‘Zahra’, for more than two hours. It is when the men started taking their pictures that they sought refuge inside a mobile shop, where they called friends to help them.
The mobile shop owner, fearing danger to his business, asked the young women to leave.
Approximately ten to twenty men then proceeded to assault the young woman, and another female friend, ripping their clothes in the attack while the victims screamed in horror.
In her interview, May also mentioned that those who had been initially detained were not the men who inflicted the harassment on her and her friend.
“We were surprised [to see] these children who were accused in our case,” she had said.
“Those who attacked us were thugs, and adult men, not these children.”
May also stated that the friends who had arrived to help them were wrongfully accused of attacking them, and that she had motioned to police officers for help but received no assistance.
The young woman, a college student, revealed that she was being pressured from family and friends as soon as the videos were leaked online, where they circulated quickly on social media.
Videos of the attack also show some men who tried to help the woman escape.
Social media reactions have ranged from victim blame, with special focus on the young woman’s attire and presence in the streets at night, to unwavering support considering that Egypt is a country reputed for sexual harassment which affects veiled, non-veiled, young and old women alike.
It is common for women to experience increased harassment on public holidays and national events.
Cases of mass harassment and rape have been widely talked about in Egypt since 2006; they were especially common during religious festivals, holidays which see a strong public presence in the streets, and political demonstrations, namely in 2011 and 2013, in Tahrir Square.
In 2011, then Cairo-correspondent for CBS Lara Logan was sexually assaulted by around 200 men in Tahrir Square prior to her rescue by soldiers and Egyptian women.
Egypt’s oldest and biggest Islamic religious institution, Al Azhar, has repeatedly stated that harassment, physical or verbal, was a “deviant behaviour” and was forbidden.
However, due to the prevalence of the crime, scholars and social analysts have suggested that harassment is rampant in the country due to lack of education and ethics, extremely conservative values, economic woes which restrict the option of marriage, and inherited sexist attitudes towards women.