Screen capture of a video showing security guards escorting a female student who was a victim of harassment at the University of Cairo.
Although cases of sexual harassment are common in Egypt, this one particularly shocked the nation. A young woman was assaulted by a group of students in broad daylight at a university campus. The university’s dean as well as several journalists were quick to point the finger at her clothes, which they say were too provocative.
Video of the sexual assault, which took place at the law school of the University of Cairo on March 16, has gone viral on social media and been broadcast by local television channels. The footage, posted onto YouTube on March 17, shows the woman moments after the assault. Wearing leggings and a pink top, the woman is protected by university security while a group of students follow and hiss at her.
Video showing security guards escorting the student to the university’s exit as a group of students follow her.
According to witness accounts in Egyptian media, the young woman was in the university’s courtyard when a group of students started to insult and undress her. She hid in the toilets and waited for security guards to arrive and escort her to a taxi at the campus exit.
A video showing another angle of the woman being escorted from the campus.
The university’s dean, Jaber Nasser, told local television station ONTV that the student entered the university wearing an “abaya” (a long robe) over her clothes “because security will not allow students to enter wearing inappropriate clothing”. He says that, once inside, the girl took off the abaya. “The university doesn’t impose a dress code on students, but you need to respect the customs and traditions of our society,” he adds. A female journalist from Rotana Misriya television station went further, accusing the girl of dressing “too provocatively, like a cabaret dancer.”
These remarks led to an outcry on social media and from women’s rights organisations, which called for the university’s dean to resign. Nasser has since apologised, saying he wasn’t trying to hold the young woman responsible. He also opened an inquiry and promised to bring those responsible for the assault to justice.
“I think the university dean must be punished for these scandalous remarks, just like those who committed the assault.”
“Women wearing veils and even those who wear the niqab are also victims of sexual harassment.”
Sexual harassment is a major problem in Egypt. In the most populated country in the Arab world, more than 99% of women say they have been victims, according to a United Nations report published in 2013.

“It’s a dangerous precedent, as this shows the attackers are not even scared of being punished or expelled from the university”

Fethi Farid is a spokesperson and one of the founders of the campaign “Shoft Taharosh” (“I witnessed an act of harassment”). He was one of the first to alert the media about the assault at the University of Cairo.
One of our activists at the University of Cairo alerted us to this case on Monday. We received the video and posted it online. It quickly attracted a lot of media attention.
This isn’t the first time a female student has been a victim of harassment at a university. In 2012, a young female student at the University of Cairo’s architecture school University sued a classmate who assaulted her. However, it is the first time that such an act happened in the courtyard in front of everyone. And it’s a dangerous precedent, as this shows the aggressors are not even scared of being punished or expelled.
There is, unfortunately, a climate of impunity that encourages sexual assault attackers in Egypt. The situation has worsened since the start of the revolution of February 25, 2011. Taking advantage of the disorder and knowing that they will not be punished, attackers repeatedly harassed women who took part in demonstrations at Tahrir Square. We have been fighting since the fall of Mubarak for sexual harassment to be criminalised under the law [Editor’s Note: As opposed to rape, sexual harassment doesn’t exist in Egyptian law].
During protests against former president Mohammed Morsi in 2012, the parliament’s human rights commission, which was controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, even said that women who went to Tahrir Sqaure were bringing sexual assaults onto themselves!
“The dean promised to give us everything we need to fight against harassment on this campus”
Unfortunately, this attitude remains pervasive today. A lot of people, particularly journalists, have tried to justify the assaults in Cairo. That’s unacceptable. We have spoken to the University of Cairo’s dean, who has promised to give us everything we need to fight against harassment on this campus.
What’s worse is that several women who reported sexual harassment at police stations say they have been mistreated by police. Furthermore, some women don’t dare to report their aggressors for fear of repercussions.
Despite this, I remain optimistic. Women understand that the authorities will not do anything for them, so they’ve started to organise themselves over the past two or three years. Today, there are intervention groups against harassment, apps and websites to report attackers, self-defence courses for women, and more.