In this Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 file photo, Egyptian girls chant slogans in Tahrir Square during a rally to mark the one year anniversary of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, Egypt.
CAIRO — Egyptian police on Monday arrested seven men for sexually assaulting a 19-year-old student during celebrations marking the inauguration of the country's new president in Cairo's central Tahrir Square the day before, security officials said.
The student has been hospitalized after she was attacked on Sunday, said the officials, who gave no details on her condition. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The attack was one of five that occurred in the square on Sunday night, BuzzFeed reported, noting that three of the women were badly injured and remain in the hospital.
Sexual harassment has been one of Egypt enduring social ills, prompting authorities last week to issue a decree declaring it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. The decree, which came from Egypt's outgoing president, Adly Mansour, marks the first time Egyptian authorities took a strong stance on sexual assault in the country's main square — the site of many attacks since the start of the Egypt's revolution.
Many there, however, see it as more of a cultural issue.
"The biggest issue is still the cultural one: society doesn't see it as a crime," Eba'a El-Tamimi, a spokesperson for HarassMap, a group that works to end harassment in Egypt, told the Guardian. "And police often tend to sympathise with harassers or be harassers themselves. Even when someone manages to get to the police station to report harassment, she will still encounter resistance from police officers, who will try to deter her from going through with filing the police report."
The Interior Ministry, in charge of police, identified the seven men arrest in a statement on Monday, giving their ages between 15 and 49. It said they were arrested for "harassing several girls" but made no mention of the student. A policeman was injured while the seven were being arrested, the ministry added.
No further details emerged from the police about Sunday's attack.
Video footage posted on social media purportedly shows the student completely naked, parts of her body bloodied as policemen struggle to escort her out of Tahrir Square where tens of thousands were celebrating the inauguration of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as the nation's new president late into the night.
The video, which we've embedded below, appeared authentic and was consistent with AP reporting of the incident.
WARNING: Parts of this video contain graphic content.
The video has shocked and created a stir, along with another clip posted on social networking sites, showing a correspondent for a private TV network reporting from Tahrir and telling her anchorwoman in the studio that there were several cases of sexual harassment in the square during the celebrations.
The anchorwoman laughs and says it's "because they are happy."