New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany saw an unprecedented number of sexual assaults against German women. This, of course, is just one example of a trend occurring across Europe after an influx of Middle Eastern and North African refugees.
Vienna Police Chief Gerhard Purstl warned, “Women should in general not go out on the streets at night alone, they should avoid suspicious looking areas and also when in pubs and clubs should only accept drinks from people they know.”
While Purstl’s advice has been met with backlash, mainly from feminists who reject the initial stance that women should need to be more careful, the question remains, why is this happening?
The origin of these exceedingly violent sexual attacks, known as taharrush–gang gropings and rapes–can be traced back to the Egyptian Revolution, which followed the fall of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Angie Abdelmonem, a doctoral candidate at Arizona State University, who recently published a study regarding instances of taharrush during the Egyptian Revolution, stated, “Between 2011 and 2013, sexual harassment became common at protests in Tahrir Square, exemplified by a number of highly publicized violent attacks that demonstrate how women’s bodies became objectified and dehumanized during the uprising.”
Egypt has been a hotbed of sexual harassment, usually verbal, for a long time, but something about the uprising and forced resignation of Mubarak sparked the physical and more violent taharrush.
Some analysts believe taharrush to be a product of North-African men, not necessarily Middle-Eastern or Muslim men. It is unclear why this is the case, except for the fact that North Africa, especially Egypt, is home to a patriarchal society that permits or at least to some extent turns a blind eye to sexual harassment against women.
Since Egyptian society refuses to give women independence from men, it presumably makes it easier for women to be viewed as objects instead of people. This, coupled with the destabilization of the Egyptian government, seem to be the most plausible factors that created the type of environment necessary for this particularly violent kind of sexual assault to manifest.
This is just one filmed example of recent sexual harassment of women in Europe: