Egyptian women use social media to combat escalating violence against female protesters

Citizens of Egypt are taking to the streets to protest the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsi’s dictatorial power grab. Unfortunately, while all protesters are putting themselves in the crosshairs of the Brotherhood and police, female protesters face an additional risk: sexual assault. Incidents of harassment and rape at protests in Tahrir Square have been on the rise since the beginning of the Arab Spring, and reports of sexual assaults at the anti-Morsi protests are all too common.

Note that rape and harassment are used as some sort of a weapon to deter girls and women from coming to Tahrir….

— Rajaa Aquil (@rajrouj18) November 25, 2012

Many reports of rape and sexual assault on unveiled women on #mohamed_mahmoud and #tahrir be very careful. MB thugs to blame.

— Karim El Hakim (@half_revolution) November 25, 2012

Why is there always so much sexual harrasment in Tahrir? #Egypt #PT

— FadiM (@FadiG_Syr) November 27, 2012

Sexual harassers in #Tahrir targeting female journalists. Watch it ladies!

— Run (@Run_Rana) November 27, 2012

“ARAB WINTER” – Near Tahrir, 3 women have clothes ripped off, another woman victim of “mass rape.”

— Mark Wadsworth (@Wadsworth_Mark) November 26, 2012

***Middle East Media reporting a mob of 300 men sexually harassed 3 women near Tahrir Square in Egypt: #tcot #p2

— El SOOPer!! (@SooperMexican) November 26, 2012

descriptions of sexual abuse incidents in #tahrir indicate intentionality & organization that goes beyond spontaneity or drug-behaviour

— فجر الثورة الأممية (@maysarathustra) November 26, 2012

Female protesters are being warned of the possibility of sexual violence:

Anyways, for all the women in Tahrir Square today, sexual harassment there is SERIOUS! So, be safe, don’t walk alone, and leave before dark.

— Norhan Tomoum (@LeTomoum) November 27, 2012

Ladies if u wish to partake, do so. But be aware of ur surroundings. Stay in a group. And expect harassment & b prepared to act. #Tahrir

— Rehab El-Bakry (@Rehab_Elbakry) November 27, 2012

How heartbreaking to think that women are at risk of being raped merely for having the courage to speak out against tyranny.

Fortunately, citizens are taking steps to address the misogynistic violence and are spreading the word via social media:

To report sexual harassment cases in #Tahrir, call 01011910917.

— S. (@SummerNazif) November 27, 2012

report any sexual harassment incidents that happen to you or you witness in tahrir or elsewhere by sending an sms…

— HarassMap امسك متحرش (@harassmap) November 27, 2012

report sexual harassment today in tahrir and elsewhere by sending an sms to 6069 with what happened and where or send us @harassmap #endSH

— HarassMap امسك متحرش (@harassmap) November 27, 2012

All girls and women in #Tahrir, Dial 01157892357 to report incidents of mass Sexual Assault or Tweet @tahrirbodyguard cc @harassmap

— Shaimaa (Bad)ra (@Shikalinaa) November 27, 2012

A group of women has also created a special Twitter account, @TahrirBodyguard, to provide support to victims and potential victims of harassment and assault:

Heads up Cairo: A civilian effort to provide protection to women from sexual harassment in #tahrir: #FF. @tahrirbodyguard. Pls RT

— Rawahروعه(@RawahBadrawi) November 27, 2012

Women in #Tahrir, contact @tahrirbodyguard for cases of sexual harassment. Great initiative to ensure safety for women!

— MK مريم (@MariamKirollos) November 27, 2012

Indeed. It’s incredible and encouraging to watch these women boldly put themselves out there and use social media to effect positive change.

We set up this account to help keep you safe in #Tahrir. If the government can’t protect us, we can protect ourselves. Pls RT

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

We cannot stand back and watch another woman being sexually assualted in #Tahrir. Time to act now. #TahrirBodyguard

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

Women in #Tahrir. If ur alone in Tahrir and need support, please tweet at us and we will RT and hook you up with protection #TahrirBodyguard

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

We started because a woman was too scared to go to #Tahrir and fight for what she believes in. #TahrirBodyguard

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

We want to get vests with #TahrirBodyguard written on them to volunteers in #Tahrir. Noone should be terrified to go and demonstrate

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

@twitdemaria Hi Maria. We are just getting started. We are women who just couldn’t see other women being assualted

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

We have to be honest with you, we are just getting started. The least we can do is to get the word out that someone is being assualted (1/2)

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

We are now working on getting PRE-SCREENED volunteers who will be there to provide cover for women alone or in distress.(2/2)

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

@miaelfeky Yes we do know better because we are women ourselves. Still we ask women to watch their clothes to not draw much attention

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

We are not doing this for today, this will be a long ride so we are building a support system for future visits to #Tahrir #TahrirBodyguard

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

We have a long to do list, but we know it’s not just about today. This is a long-term effort. #TahrirBodyguard

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

We also want to report and record every incident. Please get in touch and we promise to withold your identity.

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

Instruction doc sent by our friends at @eipr on managing & dealing w/sexual harrassment/assault. #TahrirBodyguard

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

In addition to raising awareness, acting as a distress line and volunteer link, we are also creating a network of volunteers to protect

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

There are volunteers on the ground in Tahrir wearing badges with أمسك متحرش on them, trying 2 help those facing harassment #TahrirBodyguard

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

Ladies in #Tahrir, please remember 2 things: 1 volunteers wearing امسك تحرش badges and the “safe tent” – Al Dostour’s tent #TahrirBodyguard

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

We came into being because of the many women before us who were assualted and we want to END this. #TahrirBodyguard

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

One of the things that inspired to take a stand is how people dismissed some sexual assualt cases as exaggeration – we need to record!

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

This isn’t just about #Tahrir by the way, but like everything in the past 2 years, everything starts in Tahrir. #TahrirBodyguard

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

This painful footage for a girl being gang-harassed gives us more determination to take a stand.… #TahrirBodyguard

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

Horrible. But it’s truly inspiring to witness the fierce determination of these brave women to ensure that such violence is stopped cold.

When something so beautiful & courageous turns ugly & cowardly : Let’s end sexual assaults in #Tahrir NOW #TahrirBodyguard

— Tahrir Bodyguard (@TahrirBodyguard) November 27, 2012

Hear, hear.

#nov27 #egypt #tahrir #alexandria GOOD LUCK no democracy thru temp. dictatorship.Safe spaces for all, no sexual harassment!

— Amir Matar (@aamatar) November 27, 2012

To men going to Tahrir tomorrow: ensure you are prepared and ready to let sexual harassers know they are never welcome. Ever. In Egypt.

— H.A. Hellyer (@hahellyer) November 26, 2012

We applaud the efforts of the women — and their male supporters — to put an end to the violence, and we pray for their safety.

Please lets pray for no sexual assaults in #Tahrir tonight

— Noah Raford (@nraford) November 27, 2012

* * *

Update: Twitter has inexplicably suspended the @TahrirBodyguard account. The brave women who set up the account are now tweeting from @TahrirBGBackUp.

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