Violent street fights are tearing apart the downtown area, the capital’s economic and cultural nerve center. Secular activists, football hooligans, and grubby street children fight police on the Nile Corniche, an open promenade that runs along the famous river. Meanwhile, gangs of thugs prey on peaceful activists, local businesses, and passers-by in the city’s shadowed side streets.
Women are being viciously targeted. Over the last week, there have been more than a dozen brazen gang rapes and sexual assaults in and around Tahrir Square. In one particularly harrowing case, a gang of youths took turns raping a 19-year-old woman, mutilated her vagina with a knife, and left her naked on the street. She is reportedly still in critical condition in a Cairo hospital, suffering from internal injuries.
I personally witnessed one of these assaults in Tahrir. Some tried to help the woman, while others joined in the assault. There were masses of people pushing past each other to get away, and I, along with everyone around me, was pressed against a wall, unable to help, flee, or move.