The crowd attack on women in downtown Cairo is front page news in the London based daily Al Quds al Arabi. Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the newspaper mentioned the attack in the context of a general criticism of the Egyptian government. He faults a regime that is only interested in perpetuating and protecting itself and not its citizens. He calls Egypt a stone-age banana republic.
Atwan uses the somewhat archaic expressions "Al Muhassanat" (the protected, the impregnable, though there must be a better translation) and "Hara'er Misr" (free women of Egypt) to refer to the molested women. I think "women walking in the street," or "Mwatinat: female citizens," would have been adequate: do we really need to "idealize" these women in order to get outraged at the violation of their rights?
It's easy to blame this event on the regime and to see it as "symbolic" and symptomatic of a larger problem. The danger of that, despite its merit, is to drown the fact that the violation is directed at women and their presence in the street. People like Atwan need to examine how their attitude to women's bodies in public is part and parcel of the whole problem. Anyone who ever demanded that women be "modest" in their dress in public or blamed them for attracting attention has contributed to this atmosphere of violation and abuse.
I'm also not happy with calling the attacking men "sexually frustrated" or "sexually frenzied" etc. One side makes use of the "repressive hypothesis" by saying all this is caused by the sexual frustration of men in the society, and their inability to get married for economic reasons. The other side blames this "sexual frenzy" on Haifa Wahbi and Nancy Ajram and on western cultural invasion. In other words, it's either too little sex or too much sex.
I don't think it's about "sex" per se. Among the attackers in the crowd were kids who thought it was fun to join in with the adults to humiliate women.
The society's tolerance of daily sexual harassment of women in public--in the street, on buses, in stores--and the "blame the victim" segregationist solutions, such as veiling, hiding at home (because it's a "woman's kingdom" you know), or separate transportations for men and women, are responsible.
Not just the regime.