But almost immediately, they were outnumbered and beset upon by men who gathered. Some of the men were from the protesters' encampment in the middle of the square.
Dozens of women engaged in arguments with the men, who said that women had enough rights already; that now was not the time to demand inclusion; or that Islam does not allow a woman to become president. Some of the men were polite; many were aggressive. Soon, a large group gathered in front of the protest, shouting it down with insults. A sheikh from Al Azhar was hoisted on mens’ shoulders, chanting against the women.
“Go home, go wash clothes,” yelled some of the men. “You are not married; go find a husband.” Others said, “This is against Islam.” To the men demonstrating with the women, they yelled “Shame on you!”
Suddenly, the men decided the women had been there long enough. Yelling, they rushed aggressively upon the protest, pushing violently through the rows of women. The women scattered. Eyewitnesses said they saw three women being chased by the crowd. A surge of men followed them, and Army officers fired shots into the air to make the men retreat.
The men took over the raised platform where the women had held their demonstration, as many of the women trembled in rage. During the melee, one of the attacking men groped Fatima Mansour, a college student who wore purple for International Women's Day and argued eloquently with a man who said it was unIslamic for a woman to become president, quoting the Quran back at him. Sexual harassment is a common indignity for women in Cairo, though it virtually disappeared during the first few days of the uprising. After the attack, she was disheartened, but determined to continue the fight.