Egypt’s embattled Muslim Brotherhood regime is paying gangs of thugs to rape women and beat men who gather in Tahrir Square to protest the power grab of President Mohamed Morsi, say activists.
In a bitter replay of the Arab Spring protests that brought down President Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago, protesters have flooded the Cairo square to denounce Morsi, who has stripped the judiciary of power and is rushing through an Islamist constitution. And while Mubarak is now in prison for using violence to quell protests targeting him, Morsi’s regime is now accused of doing the same.
“This is still happening now,” Magda Adly, director of the Nadeem Center for Human Rights, told The Times of London. “I believe thugs are being paid money to do this ... the Muslim Brotherhood have the same political approaches as Mubarak.”
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have gathered in the square to protest the new constitution and to call for Morsi’s ouster. Morsi briefly fled the Itihadiya presidential palace in Cairo Wednesday, after the complex was surrounded by tens of thousands of protesters chanting slogans reminiscent of those used during the revolution that ousted Mubarak. The protesters scrawled anti-Morsi graffiti and waved giant banners carrying images of revolutionaries killed in earlier protests.
A protester the newspaper identified as Yasmine said she was attacked while videotaping demonstrations. She said about 50 men surrounded her and began tearing off her clothes, grabbing her breasts and sexually assaulting her. She said she suffered internal injuries and was unable to walk for a week.
The Daily Mail reported that most attacks take place at night when men form a human chain around women, then move in for the assault. Two men told the paper they were paid to attack women.
“We're told to go out and sexually harass girls so they leave the demonstration," one said.
The current crisis pits his Muslim Brotherhood and their ultraconservative Islamist allies against a coalition of youth groups, liberal parties and large sectors of the public. It began on Nov. 22, when Morsi decreed himself and his party above the judiciary and escalated after the Muslim Brotherhood pushed through a draft constitution without the participation of liberals and Christians.
The constitution faces a Dec. 15 referendum, but opponents and the nation’s judges have signaled they won’t take part in what they consider a sham process.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.