After the sexual assaults on nine young women on Milan’s Cathedral Square, the Italian authorities are now investigating 18 men with a North African migration background. The men are between 15 and 21 years old. The course of the attacks was almost identical to those on New Year’s Eve 2015/16 in Cologne. At that time, 648 young women who wanted to greet the New Year with friends or family on the cathedral square were victims of attacks. There were five completed rapes and 15 attempted rapes. The majority of the women affected were victims of sexual harassment and coercion, and some were also robbed.
The affected girls in Milan reported – similar to those in Cologne on New Year’s Eve – of encirclement by groups of men. Numerous hands grabbed them all over their bodies, pulled their clothes off and tugged at them. There was no way for them to break out or flee, they had their mouths covered. The men acted systematically and shielded the women in such a way that neither relatives nor the police authorities could get to them.
This type of group harassment even has a name in North Africa: “Taharrush dschama’i”, which translates as “collective harassment.” Men gather around a woman, shield her from the outside world and harass, harass or rape her. Because of these incidents, in countries like Egypt or Algeria, you rarely see young women alone on the streets – and if they do, then only veiled and hurrying down the streets. One looks in vain for them at meetings. This is one of the reasons why 99 percent of Egyptian women are now veiled – this gives them a certain “protection against rape.”
In the neighboring country of Algeria, courts have recently ruled very leniently against perpetrators who had raped young women and girls who were traveling alone or not covered. The case law often even blames the girls and women. After being raped, the woman is usually considered impure in Islamic countries and brings shame on her family. She often has to leave her parents’ house and live in a women’s shelter.
In 2012, Die Welt reported on a British journalist who was severely harassed in Tahir Square in Cairo during the presidential election celebrations. “That evening she was in the cheering crowd in Tahrir Square, accompanied by two male friends, and at first she enjoyed the joy of the people. Suddenly, however, the mood changed. She was separated from her companions, she was dragged away by hundreds of men. Her camera and backpack were stolen, and the crowd tore her clothes from her body. She describes the attack as follows: They “scratched and squeezed my breasts and pressed their fingers into me”.
One case that caused a stir in the US was that of journalist Lara Logan. She had also been to Tahir Square in Cairo with her camera crew, where she had reported on the overthrow of Egyptian President Husky Mubarak. The journalist, her team and several security guards were suddenly surrounded by a group of more than 200 men, the broadcaster said. Logan was separated from her employees, brutally beaten and sexually assaulted. According to the information, she was rescued by several women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She was badly injured, with over a hundred wounds and stab wounds all over her body. She gave her only rousing interview on the events to the American broadcaster CBS.