Almost 100 women have been sexually assaulted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in just four days, according to Human Rights Watch.
The charity described the attacks as “rampant” and said they highlight the “failure of the government and all political parties to face up to the violence that women in Egypt experience on a daily basis”.
Some of the 91 women assaulted were reportedly beaten with metal chains, chairs and sticks, while others were attacked with knives.
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “These are serious crimes that are holding women back from participating fully in the public life of Egypt at a critical point in the country’s development.”
The assaults come amid escalating protests in the square around the first anniversary of President Mohamed Morsi’s election.
He faces mounting pressure to resign, as well as an army deadline to resolve the country’s political crisis that could lead to military intervention.
Some say the attacks are staged by thugs who are abusing a lack of security and are confident of escaping prosecution.
Others claim they are organised to scare women into not joining anti-government protests.
Human Rights Watch cited figures from a hotline for victims of sexual assault andNazra for Feminist Studies, a women’s rights group.
The watchdog called on Egyptian officials and political leaders to “condemn and take immediate steps to address the horrific levels of sexual violence” in the square.