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Mobs Allegedly Raped Egypt's Female Protesters In Tahrir Square

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Egyptian officials and political leaders across the spectrum to condemn and take immediate steps to address the horrific levels of sexual violence against women in capital Cairo's Tahrir Square.

HRW quoted Egyptian anti-sexual harassment groups as confirming that mobs sexually assaulted and in some cases raped at least 91 women in Tahrir Square over four days of protests beginning on Sunday, amid a climate of impunity.

"The rampant sexual attacks during the Tahrir Square protests highlight the failure of the government and all political parties to face up to the violence that women in Egypt experience on a daily basis in public spaces," said Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East director at HRW. "These are serious crimes that are holding women back from participating fully in the public life of Egypt at a critical point in the country's development," he added in a press release issued on Wednesday.

The Egyptian group 'Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault,' which runs a hotline for victims of sexual assault and seeks to intervene to stop attacks, has received scores of reports of attacks on women in Tahrir Square over the past three days. The group's volunteers intervened to protect and evacuate women in 31 cases of sexual assault. The women's rights group Nazra for Feminist Studies had confirmed another five attacks on June 28.

One woman required surgery after being raped with a "sharp object," HRW said quoting volunteers with the group.

HRW, which has long documented the problem of sexual assault in Cairo streets and particularly at protests, has released a new video highlighting the stories of women who have been attacked, in some cases as recently as January.

Since November 2011, police have stayed away from Tahrir Square during bigger protests, to avoid clashes with protesters. This has left women protesters unprotected, and the men involved in the gang attacks and rapes secure in the knowledge that they will not be arrested or identified by police, HRW said.

According to the Egyptian Health Ministry, at least 16 people were killed and over 200 injured during a rally by President Mohamed Morsi's supporters near Cairo University on Tuesday night. Another 16 were reported killed across Egypt in clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents on the night between Sunday and Monday.

The embattled leader has rejected the Army's ultimatum to meet the people's demands and resolve anti-government protests to avoid a military intervention within 48 hours ending 16:30 hrs on Wednesday.

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