Esraa Mohamed is your regular 23-year-old girl from Egypt. She updates her Facebook regularly. She enjoys watching American movies like Angels and Demons or Cloud Atlas. Her favorite TV show is Spartacus: Vengeance. She listens to contemporary Arabic music and is a huge fan of the Egyptian 80s/90s pop music movement.
One day Mohamed was walking downtown, Cairo, Egypt at 3 pm. She felt someone walking up behind her. Like any other Egyptian girl, she thought it was a casual pick up tactic and completely ignored him. The man didn’t look suspicious, unlike the majority of street harassers, he was well-dressed and good looking. He kept on stalking her as she walked. Later on, however, the guy went up to her and told her, “I am not harassing you but don’t forget to wipe your pants off!”
Mohamed forgot all about it as she took the metro to reach her desired destination, in the Downtown. She was reminded horribly of the creepy stalker when she suddenly felt a painful, burning sensation in her buttocks and her thighs. As soon as she mounted off the metro, the pain increased and she had to rush to one of the downtown cafes to see what was wrong.
She couldn’t take off her pants and took a cab home because in her words, “The pain was excruciating and it was impossible for her to put the pants back on.”
When she saw her body at home, Mohamed almost fainted in shock. Her body looked savagely disfigured and the pain didn’t stop until the doctor examined her and prescribed her pain relievers and wrapped the burned area in sterile dressing. The doctor’s report indicated that Mohamed suffered from burns ranging between 2nd and 3rd degree in her buttock and the back of the thigh areas with cell necrosis in some parts of the skin. The cause behind this deformity was: chemical burn with an unidentified corrosive substance.
Mohamed has been in a terrible emotional and physical state ever since. She updated her Facebook status saying:
“Why would anybody disfigure my body from behind while I was walking peacefully? I feel angry at the world after seeing the complete damage that has happened to my body.”
Is that a single incident? Speculations arose on Facebook after Cilantro Secularists -an Egyptian, liberal revolutionary movement group- posted about the incident. Many condemned the crime and expressed their sympathy and support to Mohamed. A few of the religious crazed ranted about how Mohamed deserved what happened to her because -in their words- she came out as an atheist and was unveiled. Some were skeptical at the corrosive substance penetrating the skin but not the material from which the pants were made and a medical debate started in the comments. The most shocking replies, however, came from other girls who said they were attacked the same way as Mohamed, although their burns were not as severe.
Are Egyptian women facing a threat in the streets? Through personal recounts and testimonials on Facebook, some girls told of similar attacks being made on them. A lot of girls expressed their concern and fear of walking in the streets.
“Egyptian streets are not a safe place for women anymore,” Salma Mohamed, a Cairene tweeted.
With sexual harassment rates increasing and the subject being horrifyingly accepted as a daily routine, Egyptian women are endangered. Violence against women seems to be getting more fans, as well as blessings from extremist Islamist clerics. Prominent researchers and women’s rights activists are calling for both legal reform and action on the street to tackle the “harassment plague” before it escalates into extreme sexual violence.
Esraa Mohamed’s assailant should be tracked and the spotlight must be put on her accident. She may be a single girl amidst millions of Egyptian women but her story could be any girl’s story. Sooner or later, Egyptian women should take matters into their own hands and defend themselves, before it is too late.
Written by: Jaylan Salah
Sexual violence escalating in Egypt