Sexual violence against women at protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square has reached "horrific levels," with confirmation that at least 91 women have been assaulted and, in some cases, raped since Friday, according to Human Rights Watch. A group set up to protect women at the protest says it recorded 46 attacks on Sunday alone, reports the AP. Many of the victims have required medical treatment, and some were "beaten with metal chains, sticks, and chairs, and attacked with knives," al-Jazeera reports. One woman required surgery after being raped with "fingers and a sharp object," according to HRW, which says some women were attacked by large groups for as long as 45 minutes before they were freed.
"Intervention teams" of 25 to 30 people have been working to rescue the women. Recounts one team leader, who says he witnessed 12 attacks on Sunday, "Sometimes there are hundreds of people surrounding the girls." Some say the attacks are part of a campaign to discredit the anti-government protests and deter women from joining the movement; others say that the attackers are just thugs taking advantage of the lack of security. HRW is calling on Egyptian leaders from "across the [political] spectrum" to condemn the attacks and "take immediate steps to address the horrific levels of sexual violence against women in Tahrir Square." (Read more sexual assault stories.)