Moving from an online space to a global offline campaign to fight sexual assault...
This was my Facebook entry on February 1, 2013: “ :'( This happened!!! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZyo74ESr2s&feature=player_embedded#! ) A video of the mob sexual assault of a woman in Tahrir Square on the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, January 25. 2013. This is beyond vile. This video was made by the group "Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault". From the voice-over in the video translated from Arabic: "But, we will not be silent, we will not be broken, we will not shy away. There are mob sexual assaults happening in Tahrir square and it's surroundings. Come and stand against the rapists because we do not plan to hide in our homes. This square is OUR square, this revolution is OUR revolution and we will fight this battle to the last breath!"
That's the day my anger toward this despicable injustice cranked up many notches. Watching this unfold in Ottawa, while I was so far away from Cairo was just too damn depressing. I felt helpless. This was a clear, organized attack on Egyptian women protesters, to try to break their spirits and scare them away from Tahrir. Then, more stories of sexual assault emerged one after the other. Like the case of Yasmine El Baramawy. She bravely spoke out about her sexual assault on an Egyptian TV program, during which she held up the torn pants she wore the day she was attacked.
“They gathered around me and started ripping my clothes off with knives,” El Baramawy said. She was dragged several hundred meters while being touched and groped until local residents saved her from the crowd.
To add insult to injury, the human rights committee of Egypt's Shura council was actually publicly blaming women for being sexually assaulted.
A few days later, I saw a call launched on Facebook by "The Uprising of Women in the Arab World" (https://www.facebook.com/intifadat.almar2a) for a “Global Protest Against Sexual Terrorism Practised on Egyptian Female Protesters” :
https://www.facebook.com/events/150788335077948/?fref=ts . The idea was that on Tuesday February 12, 2013, at 6:00 pm, citizens of all nationalities all around the world would gather in front of their local Egyptian Embassy to show solidarity with the victims and send a clear message to the Egyptian government that people will not watch in silence while the epidemic of sexual terrorism against Egyptian protesters spreads.
Next thing I knew, I was getting a protest permit, creating a Facebook event for Ottawa, asking people to make signs (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151296898037919&set=oa.1615832... ) and bring megaphones, co-ordinating with the global organizers through a FB group called “Admins of events of #GlobalProtestFeb12”, and contacting media to get the event covered (http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/Ottawa/ID/2334536918/ )
The positive solidarity energy the #GlobalProtestFeb12 created was palpable. During the protest in Ottawa, a woman came up to me and said: “I heard you talking about this on the radio while driving home from work. I couldn't believe this was happening and I didn't know about it. I had to come to the protest. Thank you for organizing this.”
This gave me hope and, although far from Egypt, I felt I was still helping out, somehow. From Ottawa, to Nouakchott, to Beirut, to Oslo...women united on and off-line to stand against this injustice because in the end -- this wasn't just an assault on Egyptian women, it was an assault on all women.