An Egyptian-American columnist who said she was sexually assaulted by Egyptian riot police this week said her experience showed why protesters are pressing their demands for democratic government, nine months after Hosni Mubarak was toppled.
Riot police also broke Mona Tahawy's hand and arm during the assault on Wednesday night near Cairo's Tahrir Square, where protesters have been demonstrating for a week against the military council which replaced Mubarak in February.
"I was surrounded by four or five guys and systematically assaulted," Tahawy said in a telephone interview. "I was surrounded by four or five guys, I was prey in the middle of them. They were in frenzy."
Tahawy was near the front line of clashes between Egyptian youths and the security forces when she was attacked.
"What happened to me is nothing compared to the kinds of brutalities they have unleashed on Egyptians for decades, which is why our revolution continues and must succeed," said Tahawy, 44, who lectures on Arab and Muslim affairs.
Police brutality was one of the main triggers for the uprising that toppled Mubarak earlier this year. "Here we are nine months later and they're just as bad as ever," Tahawy said.
The assault occurred just off Tahrir Square, where youths had been confronting security forces for several days, part of violence which killed 41 people across the country.
Tahawy said she was held for five to six hours at the Interior Ministry after the assault and that her request for medical attention was ignored. She was then transferred to military intelligence, where she was detained for five hours, two of them blindfolded, before being released.
"The military guys actually apologized for what happened to me," she said. The Interior Ministry had said it was an isolated incident, she added.
The ruling military council, trying to defuse the protests, has promised that parliamentary elections will start on time next week.
Protesters who accuse the military of clinging to power want a rapid handover of power to a civilian government, and some say they do not trust the army to oversee a fair election next week.