Below is information from the meeting held by OpAntiSH today: The Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment aims to combat sexual harassment, especially at MASS EVENTS in Cairo and around Tahrir on FRIDAYS, and other MASS PROTESTS too. They tell protestors they are anti-harassment and wear a T-shirt saying the same. Because they need to combat large crowds, these volunteers use the rule of safety in numbers by working in groups to rescue victims from mob attacks. More information and an account at this article at Egypt Independent on sexual assault and the work of OpAntiSH.
Some points noted:
Women in particular have been the target of mob sexual assaults during protests in Tahrir recently. This phenomenon seems increasingly organised, and while it is or is not, it needs to be countered in an organised manner.
Men also have been subjected to sexual assaults and harassment during such mob actions, particularly if they are defending a woman who is under attack.
Men and women who volunteer in OpAntiSH know they are putting themselves at risk, they can be attacked with weapons such as knives, blades, belts, tear gas, flamethrowers. They can also be sexually harassed or assaulted. Women often are asked why they participate in teams and putting themselves at risk. In answer it was brought up that a victim in a mob often does not know who is helping and who’s harassing them. It is immediately reassuring for them to see a woman offering help. (Also, logically it would seem if there is a higher male to female ratio, individual women are more at risk. By increasing numbers of women, you actually make the square a safer place for women).
How OpAntiSH works:
Volunteers, men and women, form teams that perform RESCUE operations at Tahrir, TALK to people while in Tahrir, and form a SAFETY group that takes away victims to a safe place following an attack.
The group comes to the square with marches, and stays at Tahrir. Upon hearing or witnessing any account of attacks they work in a group which has a CAPTAIN (usually a more experienced member) that takes decisions. The RESCUE group is responsible for rescuing women under attack – ideally by cordoning them off from attack, and holding back the mob. Then within a group they move the assault-victim out, give her clothes and take her to a safety place.
The SAFETY group is a group that waits for assault victims at SAFETY ZONES – areas near the square .
There is also another group that talks to people in the square and informs of what’s going on, who OpAntiSH is, and seeks their help – this is the TALK group. Their function is to raise awareness for the problem, give some guidelines to people on what to do if they see an incident and distribute the hotline number
Want to volunteer for OpAntiSH: Rescue / Safety Zone / Talk work? In ALL cases, please get in touch at OpAntiSH@gmail.com and indicate where you would like to help.
Can’t go to Tahrir Ops but still want to help? There is also another initiative for people who want to be involved, through either translation, writing, peer counseling, and troubleshooting other issues as they come. If so, also write to OpAntiSH@gmail.com. I’m also helping out with this bit, so if you like you can directly write to me too at chitra[dot]kalyani[at]gmail[dot]com.
Related initiatives are:
– Egyptian Institute for Personal Rights (on Twitter and Facebook) work on improving human rights situation in Egypt
– Nazra for Feminist Studies (on Twitter and Facebook) building an Egyptian feminist movement.
– HarassMap (also on Twitter and Facebook) working to end the social acceptability of sexual harassment in Egypt. (targets harassment, maps where and when incidents occur, and records testimonies.)
– Tahrir Bodyguard a collective effort to ensure safety in Tahrir, especially for women.
PS: Please DO SEND comments providing any further information / corrections / suggestions. Thanks!