French television journalist tells of sexual assault in Tahrir Square days after CCTV plans are announced to catch sex pests harassing young girls

 

Cairo

A French television journalist has described how she was sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square just days after the government announced it was planning to rig up a network of CCTV cameras across Cairo in a bid to catch sex pests harassing young girls.

Sonia Dridi, a correspondent for France 24, was surrounded by a gang of young males as she reported from the Egyptian capital on Friday. After being groped for a period of several minutes she was eventually rescued by a fellow reporter who dragged her to safety.

“I was groped everywhere,” she said later.

The incident was the latest in a string of attacks on women and journalists which have blackened the image of Egypt’s revolutionary epicentre.

In June dozens of female protesters demonstrating against harassment were beaten and groped by mobs of angry men inside the square. A number of other reporters have also been molested in Downtown Cairo.

In March last year a group of seven Egyptian women were forced by their military captors to undergo so-called “virginity tests” after being arrested in Tahrir during a rally.

Last week officials announced they were planning to create a network of surveillance cameras along the main streets and squares of Cairo to clamp down on sexual harassment in the city.

According to the country’s state news agency, harassers caught on camera will then have their faces broadcast on television and the internet.

But female activists who spoke to The Independent said that the scheme, though welcome, would not be enough to tackle Egypt’s notorious sexual harassment epidemic.

“If they are going to be putting cameras up in the street then this is OK,” said Karima Kamal, a newspaper columnist who is also a member of the National Council for Women. “But it depends on what they are going to do after they have put them up.”

To the despair of many Egyptians, their country – but especially Cairo – has developed an unsavoury association with sexual harassment.

In much-cited 2008 report, one local NGO reported that 83 per cent of Egyptian women and 98 per cent of foreign women had experienced sexual harassment at one time or another in the country.

“Every day I am harassed,” said Sherine Thabet, a 21-year-old activist who launched a video awareness campaign about the issue.

Her experience is far from unique. And contrary to popular myth, women wearing headscarves or veils are often no less likely to avoid unwanted attention.

The causes are unclear. Many point to the societal strains and anonymity of a mega city like Cairo; others to the difficulties of cash-strapped men buying homes and therefore finding a wife. Religion is also suggested as a factor, though this possibility is dismissed by many victims.

“I’ve been to other places in the Middle East like Morocco and Jordan,” said Engy Ghozlan, co-founder of Harassmap, a website which tracks incidents of sexual harassment across Egypt. “But I haven’t faced the same hostility towards women as I have here.”

It is not just sexual harassment which is generating unease among Egyptian women. Many are also feeling threatened on the political front too.

According to Human Rights Watch, recently published drafts of Egypt’s new constitution – which is currently in the process of being rewritten by an Islamist-dominated assembly – suggest that women’s rights are also under attack.

One article dealing with equality of men and women says that such rights should not be guaranteed if they contradict the ‘rulings of Islamic sharia’.

“It means we are fighting for our rights against Islamic motivations,” said Nadia Hakeem, a 23-year-old who recently took legal action against the Cairo Metro authorities after being attacked on the transport system.

In other respects, however, women are becoming more empowered. Ms Hakeem said she knew of hundreds of cases in recent months where women have reported harassment to the police, while the Facebook pages such as ‘Girls’ Revolution’ have attracted thousands of online followers.

“If we’re fighting for our rights, eventually we will win,” she said.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Life and Style
i100

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

MFL TEACHER, SUPPLY VACANCY, LOVELY SITTINGBOURNE SCHOOL

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The Job We are currently recruit...

NQT Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: Randstad Education can provide you wit...

MATHS TEACHER, PERMANENT VACANCY, TONBRIDGE SCHOOL

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is currently ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week