Unreported World, Egypt: Sex Mobs and Revolution

Nominated for a Foreign Press Association Journalism Award

On the streets of Cairo, women protesters are facing the threat of sexual assault and harassment, sometimes by mobs of men. Ramita Navai reveals claims that some of those men are being paid to carry out the violent attacks.

The Times

Rape gangs of Tahrir Square

The square has become increasingly dangerous for women Khaled Elfiqi/EPA

Ramita Navai Cairo

December 1 2012

Yasmine had been at the protest in Tahrir Square filming the demonstrations for a few hours before the crowd around her suddenly turned.

The square that was the crucible of the Arab Spring, a centre of protest against dictatorship and brutality that had echoed with hopeful calls for greater freedoms and representation, is now a dangerous and forbidding place.

Before she realised what was happening, a mob of about 50 men began grabbing her breasts. As they became more frenzied, they ripped off her clothes; her headscarf was the first to go. A few men tried to help her but they were beaten away by others in the mob. For nearly an hour, scores of men sexually assaulted Yasmine, indecently assaulting her with their hands.

Finally, a group of residents who had seen the attack from their windows came to her rescue. An elderly couple pulled her into their home. She was bruised, battered and naked. Yasmine suffered internal injuries and could not walk for a week.

Four of her friends were also sexually assaulted in the same part of Tahrir that day, in the summer. No one has statistics on the frequency of these attacks, as they are rarely reported, but what is certain is that there has been a dramatic increase in mob sex attacks against female protesters in the past year. Activists have reported nearly 20 attacks in the past ten days.

Click here for the rest of this article

Unreported World: Breaking into Israel 

The Times

Migrants risk kidnap and death for desert trek into ‘rich’ Israel

Eritreans at a holding house in the desert, waiting for the last leg of their trek into Israel

Ramita Navai Sanai Desert

June 3 2011

Deep in the Sinai Desert in a secret location surrounded by sand dunes, more than 100 Eritrean men, women and children are packed into a low-brick building known as a “holding house”. It has taken them more than a month to get here, smuggled by Beduin nomads hundreds of miles from the border of Sudan.

Scared and tired, they lie on the ground, waiting for the final part of their journey: the attempt to cross the border into Israel. They have each paid $2,000 (£1,200) to be hidden under piles of fruit and vegetables in pick-up trucks and driven for hours in blistering heat. “Before we met our smugglers, we walked across the desert for weeks with no water, no food. Many died,” said Tadsse, one of the migrants. “But Israel is rich and there are jobs there.”

The smugglers will drive Tadsse and the others to the border where the migrants will make a run for it. Egyptian border guards have been accused of a shoot-to-kill policy — 86 people have been reported killed attempting to cross, but human rights groups claim the number is much higher. Once in Israel, if captured within 30 miles (50km) of the border, the migrants can be handed to the Egyptian authorities, then detained or sent back home where Eritreans face prison and torture for having left the country illegally.

Click here for the rest of this article