Several cases of sexual assault have been reported from Tahrir Square, as growing protests and confusion offer a cover for the harassment.
According to sources on the ground, women are being groped, verbally assaulted, and harassed in the crowds.
As the crowds continue to gather in Tahrir at nightfall, women’s safety is a growing concern.
Several volunteer forces, including one using the Twitter handle @TahrirBodyguard, is offering protection to women who are in Tahrir. Others are patrolling and intervening in incidents they see.
Ahram Online journalist Bel Trew witnessed one such attack near "infamous spot" Hardees burger restaurant.
"Sexual harassment has suddenly started in Tahrir. There was a huge mob of people by Hardees and the Ismailia hotel, with people screaming 'harassment harassment', and much confusion as people tried to get all women out of the area. I couldn't see the woman who was being attacked because of the crowds, but was told she had been stripped and beaten and was screaming hysterically. The anti-sexual harassment team rushed to her aid and tried to get her out. She is apparently now in an ambulance. Groping is also rife now as night falls on Cairo's streets.”
According to reports on Twitter and Facebook, several women have reported being assaulted or harassed in Tahrir, including several female journalists, Bikya News noted.
Activist Gigi Ibrahim tweeted:
Sexual harassment throughout today has been horrible, I had at least 4 encounters today verbal and groping #EndSH
— Gigi Ibrahim(@Gsquare86) January 25, 2013
There are also suspicions that the attacks are coordinated. An organization called HarassMap, which collects data about reported assaults and publishes them online, told Women's E-News that they believed "paid thugs" were behind them.
"We think it's organized and planned," said Eba'a El-Tamami, head of marketing and communications for HarassMap. "We think it's probably paid thugs, but we don't know who is paying them."
"There are quite a few eye-witness reports," she continued. "People who have had this happen say it's very difficult to imagine this is random or sporadic. I don't want to speculate but there are definitely people who have interest in positioning the square as dangerous and make protesters look like harassers or thugs."
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