A prominent Egyptian Salafi preacher justified sexual assaults again female protesters, claiming women “are going to Tahrir Square because they want to be raped” in a video posted online Wednesday. The preacher, Ahmad Mahmoud Abdullah (also known as “Abu Islam”) is the owner of a private television channel called “al-Ummah” and has previously been accused of defaming Christianity for comments made to the press and destroying bibles in front of the U.S. embassy.
The same day as his comments were posted, women protested against sexual assault in Egypt and Amnesty International released a briefing highlighting sexual violence against female protesters in Egypt, noting:
“Several women’s rights activists and others believe that the sexual assaults on women are organized and co-ordinated — possibly by state actors — with the aim of silencing them, excluding them from public spaces and the political events shaping Egypt’s future, and breaking the resistance of the opposition. They point to the fact that perpetrators use similar tactics in their attacks, which seem designed to degrade and intimidate women. The activists also emphasize the perpetrators’ calm demeanor, relatively well-off appearance, and ability to carry out such attacks in public without fear of punishment[…]
Given the stigmatization attached to harassment and sexual assaults against women, most cases go unreported. In the small minority of cases where women and girls do file complaints, they face numerous obstacles in their fight for justice. A lawyer involved in sexual harassment cases told Amnesty International that frequently police officers registering the complaints, as well as prosecutors investigating the cases, encourage plaintiffs to drop the complaints and “forgive” the perpetrators.”
The briefing also reports twenty-five sexual assaults on January 25th alone, including “at least two cases blades were used, including on survivors’ genital areas.”
Of course, Egypt isn’t the only place where rape is goes under reported and unpunished: According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network only 54 percent of rapes in the U.S. are reported, and only nine out of a hundred cases are prosecuted.