By: Alexandra Kinias
As the crowds in Tahrir Square jubilated the news of Hosny Mubarak’s stepping down, ending his thirty years of dictatorship in Egypt, CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan was surrounded by a frenzy mob, separated from her film crew and sexually assaulted and brutally beaten. As much as I was disgusted to hear the news of Logan’s attack, I was not surprised, but rather deeply saddened. What Logan had witnessed was not a random incident, but in fact a living nightmare every Egyptian woman suffers from. The tragic attack on Logan which is unequivocally denounced brought international attention to a problem that had previously been contained within the Egyptian borders.
The pandemic of sexual harassment in Egypt is absolutely ignored by the officials and lawmakers. Laws were never enforced to secure the lives of women walking in the concrete jungles of the Egyptian streets. The disgraceful behavior of men roaming the streets won Egypt the highest rank in countries where women are subjected to these heinous crimes. According to a survey conducted by The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR), 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women are subjected to sexual harassment, 62% of Egyptian men admitted to harassing women and this should not come as a surprise that 53% of men blame women for ‘bringing it on’. ECWR has repeatedly requested the assistance of the government to curb this cancer that is growing in the society, but to no avail.
Sexual harassment became culturally embedded within the Egyptian society. It even has its seasons where herds of young men flood the streets at certain times of the year, usually during the celebration of national holidays. They take part in groping and assaulting women under the watchful eyes of the policemen, who on multiple occasions have been accused of assaulting women who took part in rallies against the corrupt government of Mubarak.
While tightly holding its people by an iron grip, Mubarak’s government ruled over them by fear while creating chaos and division. Women and minorities became the main targets. In such atmosphere, extremist religious groups were allowed to spread their venom against women and created lies that women assaulted were at fault for their promiscuous behavior or attire. The surveys conducted by ECRW disproved such allegations. Women’s dress code was never a decisive factor in their assault. Both veiled and unveiled women were victims to sexual harassment. Before the surge of these religious clouds that have been chocking the society for the last thirty years, incidents of sexual harassment were not as common as they are today where religion became a dominating factor in the lives of most Egyptians.
Under the reign of the Mubarak’s regime, Egypt became a lawless country where the police forces operated only to assure the safety of the dictator and his regime. In such gloomy environment, women’s rights, safety and other issues were not of core importance to the regime.
The phenomenon indeed requires social scientists, psychologists and psychiatrist to study this male species. On one hand these men request a virgin to marry and can go out and kill their sisters or cousins to restore the family honor, but at the same time have no remorse to harass women as a source of entertainment.
Under the reign of the fallen regime, the demands from women’s rights groups for the intervention by officials and lawmakers to step in and end this crime, fell on deaf ears.The irony is that not only women were shamed into silence for carrying the burden of their assaults on their shoulders, but their voices for salvation was also challenged by, Susan Mubarak. Living in her crystal castle the first lady who never set foot in the streets for the past thirty years, announced in an interview with the guardian newspaper that the amount sexual harassment is blown out of proportion. She also accused the media of exaggerating the threat posed by sexual harassment, and raised concerns about tarnishing the country’s image. That doesn’t come as a surprise from someone who belonged to such an ailing and corrupt regime that was ousted by its people.
Mrs. Mubarak, by exposing these reports nobody was trying to tarnish the image of Egypt, neither the people of Egypt nor its women who were groped in daylight and exposed to profanity in the streets that your regime didn’t care to secure. Tarnishing the image of Egypt and its reputation is the sole responsibility of your government that failed miserably, among many other things, to acknowledge the problem, address it and take viable measures to protect its women.
In Tahrir Square, Lara Logan was rescued by a group of women and soldiers. My sincere apologies to Ms. Logan who was there simply to get her job done.
To all the women of the New Egypt, wish you all a brighter future and safer streets where you can walk in dignity and pride. This disgusting phenomenon will certainly be eradicated once your predators are caught, punished and locked away.
Lara Logan, I hope to see you reporting from these same streets soon and to announce to the world that yes Egypt became once again a safe haven for its women.