- Associated Press - Thursday, February 17, 2011

CAIRO (AP) - For a moment, it seemed Egypt wasn’t just throwing off its political shackles. Women long suffering from the scourge of sexual harassment reported Cairo’s Tahrir Square, command central of the uprising, had become a safe zone free of the groping and leering common in their country.

Now the reported attack on a senior U.S. television correspondent during the final night of the 18-day revolt has shown that the threat of violence against women in Egypt remains very real.

CBS has said its chief foreign correspondent, Lara Logan, went through a “brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating” by a frenzied mob in the square during Friday’s celebrations of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. The Associated Press does not name victims of sexual assault unless the victim agrees to be identified.

Logan was released from a U.S. hospital and was recovering Wednesday in her Washington-area home, as her story raised issues often left unaddressed in the Middle East.


On Wednesday, a White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity said President Barack Obama spoke with Logan on the telephone without disclosing details of the conversation.

An Egyptian security official said he was unaware of any investigation into the attack on Logan. He noted that police were pulled off the streets on Jan. 28, three days after the outbreak of the protests, and haven’t returned, with the exception of traffic police.

The American network has said Logan, her team and their security “were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration.” During the uprising, anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square had been largely peaceful, except when coming under attack by police or pro-Mubarak gangs trying to break up the large crowds. The pro-government forces also beat and harassed dozens of foreigners, including reporters and photographers.

Logan was ultimately saved by a group of Egyptian women and around 20 soldiers. After reconnecting with her crew, she returned to the United States on Saturday.

The night that Logan was assaulted, the nature of the crowd in Tahrir changed.

While only the most dedicated had turned up in the preceding 18 days _ overcoming fear of arrest and bound by the shared goal of bringing down Mubarak _ hundreds of thousands from all parts of Cairo flooded the downtown area to celebrate the president’s downfall.

In some areas, men formed human chains, cordoning off groups of women and children from pushing hordes. But it wasn’t enough protection, and women reported later that they were sexually harassed _ stared at, shouted at, and groped _ that night.

“All the men were very respectful during the revolution,” said Nawla Darwiche, an Egyptian feminist. “Sexual harassment didn’t occur during the revolt. It occurred during that night. I was personally harassed that night.”

During the uprising, women say they briefly experienced a “new Egypt,” with strict social customs casually cast aside _ at least among the protesters.

Young women in jeans and tank tops smoked in public, standing next to bearded Islamists who didn’t bat an eye. Men and women mingled freely, unusual for a society where gender segregation in public is still common.

Women who said they had never slept away from home before were spending nights in tents pitched in the center of the square, as protesters tried to maintain control of the strategic location. The women said at the time they felt perfectly safe, even bringing their children.

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