Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Operation Anti Sexual Harassment/Assault and the murky way of the masses

This chilling video has been blowing up on youtube the last few days. If you don't speak Arabic, to experience it properly you'll need to turn on the English subtitles, and watch it in full quality.


A calm, aerial camera follows an atrocity in the midst of a chaotic crowd, a nighttime riot in Cairo. We are informed that one woman, in a knot of dozens of men, is being sexually assaulted. It is impossible to ascertain this from the video alone*, but the reactions of the men around her certainly support this conclusion. The chilling thing is that while the many of the dozens of men around her don't support this violence, the violence still takes place. In public. With thousands of people around. Gang-raping a woman has nothing to do with the goals of a people's struggle, yet it happened.

In times where rule of law breaks down, traditional power dynamics are scrapped. This moment has great revolutionary potential. The unfortunate reality is that other power inequalities emerge. If the people protesting, collectively, are not able to protect the people who are made vulnerable by those power inequalities, then they lose valuable support of those disenfranchised, and the atrocity itself stands to undermine their movement.

In Egypt, groups like OpAntiSH, and individuals like Aida El Kashef (featured in The Square!) are fighting against this violence, both because it is unacceptable and because it undermines the people's struggle. Support them, and if you're elsewhere, emulate them.

*It can be assumed that OpAntiSH did their homework and followed up with this woman and closer witnesses after the video was shot. If that is not the case, I apologize for misinformation.

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