Lydia calls Natasha Smith “another Lara Logan.” But there is a big difference between the two. When Logan was assaulted, she was the first Western female journalist to be sexually assaulted and almost killed by a mob of Muslim men during a political celebration in Tahrir Square. When Smith was assaulted, the assault on Logan had
. Yet Smith, a student journalist, a slip of a girl, put herself—without security—in exactly the same situation in which Logan had been assaulted, in the middle of a victory celebration in Tahrir Square. And she vows to put herself in that situation again.
Whether we are speaking of liberal individuals, or of liberal society as a whole, the only cure for liberalism is death. And since liberal society (as well as many liberal individuals) actively seeks its own death, that cure will not be long in coming.
Here are the two stories Lydia linked. The first is from CNN, the second is Smith’s own article at her blog.
UK journalist assaulted in Tahrir Square: ‘Please make it stop’
Thu June 28, 2012
Cairo (CNN)—Amid the celebrations that greeted the declaration of a winner in Egypt’s first freely elected presidential vote, a British student journalist was being sexually assaulted by a mob in Tahrir Square.
Natasha Smith recounted the experience on her blog and in an interview with CNN. Smith, who has since left Egypt, wrote that the moving demonstrations of freedom turned to horror “in a split second” when dozens of frenzied men dragged her away from two male companions and began to grope her “with increasing force and aggression.”
“Men started ripping off all my clothes,” she told CNN. “First of all, it was my skirt, and that just went straight away, and I didn’t even feel my underwear being removed. Then my shoes went and clothes on my upper half were just being ripped off me, and that was quite painful.”
During the assault, “I was just in this weird, detached state of mind, and I just kept saying, ‘Please God, please make it stop. Please, God, make it stop.’ “
Rise in violence against women in Egypt
UK journalist recalls Egypt sex assault
New Egypt pres. may pick female VP
Economic rebound in Egypt?
Her experience echoes the assaults faced by two prominent female reporters, CBS News correspondent Lara Logan and Egyptian-American columnist Mona Eltahawy, who has said her attackers were officers at a police station. One of Smith’s friends, Callum Paton, told CNN the mob dragged Smith naked across the ground before another group of men stepped in to protect her.
Read Natasha Smith’s account.
“There were several moments at which I thought she was going to die,” Paton said. “And I think that really the fact that we are still alive, and especially Natasha’s still alive, was because there were so many people who were willing to help us and were willing to risk their own lives and put them in direct danger to get her out of that situation.”
Smith was on her first international assignment, shooting a documentary on women’s rights in Egypt as her final college project. A doctor who treated Smith and a British Embassy official who met her at the hospital corroborrated her account for CNN.
“If there hadn’t been a small group of men around me, I would have been raped and killed,” she said. “That’s just without question, because that’s what the men were trying to do. It was very clear what they were trying to do to me. They weren’t just trying to play around with me, they were gunning for me for whatever reason.”
On her blog, she wrote that an ambulance pulled up at one point, but it was forced to leave when it “was invaded by tens of men.” Even after being escorted to a medical tent by volunteers who formed a cordon around her, her attackers surrounded the tent. Women who assisted her told her the attack “was motivated by rumors spread by troublemaking thugs that I was a foreign spy, following a national advertising campaign warning of the dangers of foreigners.”
“Arab women, Muslim women were all around me, just crying, saying ‘This is not Egypt! This is not Egypt! This is not Islam! These are thugs!’ ” she told CNN. She said she responded, “I know, I love Egypt, I know this is not Islam, it’s OK.
“And they were stunned, ‘cause they thought I was going to be so full of hate and so full of fear. But from the very beginning, I don’t blame Egypt for this. This is not the workings of the Egyptian people. This is not representative.”
To escape, she said, “I was told I had to put my trust in this Egyptian man. I was disguised in a burqa and let out of this tent with this man, barefoot and I had to pretend to be his wife and walk through the streets and he kept just saying to me, ‘Don’t cry. Do not cry. If you cry, people will know.’ “
On her blog, she complained about her treatment at the hospital, noting that the doctor’s first question was whether she was married, “which is of course the most important question to be asking a victim of mass sexual abuse.”
“He and a female nurse (who only reluctantly kept me covered up) looked briefly at the damage and just wandered off, saying that because I didn’t have internal bleeding, they couldn’t do anything,” she wrote. “A useful trip, that was.”
But the doctor, Mohammed Meligi, said Smith’s account may be “a misunderstanding, because she was here first time to enter the Egyptian hospital.”
Smith said her case will get attention “because I’m British and I’m young and I’m a girl,” but she said other Egyptian women “will often suffer these attacks and worse attacks and there’ll be no justice done.”
“There’s been an outpouring of support, and I’m so grateful for that,” she said. But she said she wished that support could be shared with “all women, of all nationalities, wherever they are.”
“I’ll be so happy if this could make any difference to other women who are in this situation, not just in Egypt, not just in the Middle East, but everywhere,” she said.
“Please God. Please make it stop.”
Posted on June 26, 2012
I have been forced to leave Cairo prematurely following a horrific sexual and physical attack in Tahrir Square.
The atmosphere was one of jubilation, excitement, and happiness as I walked, accompanied by two male companions for safety along Kasr El Nil bridge. I had had an awful day, caused by problems in personal relationships, so I was so happy to be in such a wonderful environment, getting such amazing footage. Women, children and fathers smiled, waved, and cheered happily at the camera, calling out the widely used phrase “welcome to Egypt! Welcome!”. Fireworks lit up the sky. It was a moving and captivating experience.
Just as I realised I had reached the end of the bridge, I noticed the crowd became thicker, and decided immediately to turn around to avoid Tahrir Square. My friends and I tried to leave. I tried to put my camera back in my rucksack.
But in a split second, everything changed. Men had been groping me for a while, but suddenly, something shifted. I found myself being dragged from my male friend, groped all over, with increasing force and aggression. I screamed. I could see what was happening and I saw that I was powerless to stop it. I couldn’t believe I had got into this situation.
My friend did everything he could to hold onto me. But hundreds of men were dragging me away, kicking and screaming. I was pushed onto a small platform as the crowd surged, where I was hunched over, determined to protect my camera. But it was no use. My camera was snatched from my grasp. My rucksack was torn from my back—it was so crowded that I didn’t even feel it. The mob stumbled off the platform—I twisted my ankle.
Men began to rip off my clothes. I was stripped naked. Their insatiable appetite to hurt me heightened. These men, hundreds of them, had turned from humans to animals.
Hundreds of men pulled my limbs apart and threw me around. They were scratching and clenching my breasts and forcing their fingers inside me in every possible way. So many men. All I could see was leering faces, more and more faces sneering and jeering as I was tossed around like fresh meat among starving lions.
I shouted “salam! Salam! Allah! Allah!”. In my desperate state I also shouted “ma’is salaama!” which actually means “goodbye”—just about the worst possible thing to say to a horde of men trying to ruin me. I might as well have yelled “goodbye cruel world! Down I go!”
A small minority of men, just a couple at first, tried to protect me and guide me to a tent. The tent was crushed, its contents scattered into shards all over the ground. I was barefoot as they stole my nice new shoes. I was tossed around once more, being violated every second. I was dragged naked across the dirty ground. Men pulled my blonde hair.
The men trying to protect me tried to guide me into another tent. I was able to scramble onto the ground.I sat with my back against a chair and surveyed the surging mob. Although a few men tried to form a human shield around me, offering me rags to cover my bruised body, men were still able to touch me. There were just too many.
I felt surprisingly calm. I understood what was happening and just transcended into a detached state of mind. I gazed around at the bared teeth and raging eyes. The tent began to collapse and I was cloaked in a huge sheet. I was struggling to breathe. One man lifted a tent pole and attempted to strike me with it.
At this point, I said aloud to myself, calmly, over and over, “please God. Please make it stop. Please God. Please make it stop.”
I’m not religious. But at times of desperation, we all feel compelled to appeal to some higher power to save us. It’s human nature. The need to feel safe and loved is what compels many to reach for religion in the first place.
An ambulance forced its way through the crowd. It opened its doors, and was invaded by tens of men. It closed up and drove away.
I began to think, “maybe this is just it. Maybe this is how I go, how I die. I’ve had a good life. Whether I live or die, this will all be over soon. Maybe this is my punishment for some of the emotional pain I’ve caused others through some foolish mistakes and poor judgement recently. I hope it’s quick. I hope I die before they rape me.”
I looked up and saw a couple of women in burkas scattered around. They looked at me blankly, then looked away.
After 5-10 minutes, my friend managed to convince people inside a medical tent to form a pathway through the crowd to guide me into the tent. During transit I was mauled and invaded.
I reached the tent and saw my friend Callum. Muslim women surrounded me and frantically tried to cover my naked body. I fell to the ground and apparently temporarily lost consciousness.
The women told me the attack was motivated by rumours spread by trouble-making thugs that I was a foreign spy, following a national advertising campaign warning of the dangers of foreigners. But if that was the cause, it was only really used as a pretext, an excuse.
The men outside remained thirsty for blood; their prey had been cruelly snatched from their grasp. They peered in, so I had to duck down and hide. They attempted to attack the tent, and those inside began making a barricade out of chairs. They wanted my blood.
Women were crying and telling me “this is not Egypt! This is not Islam! Please, please do not think this is what Egypt is!” I reassured her that I knew that was the case, that I loved Egypt and its culture and people, and the innate peacefulness of moderate Islam. She appeared stunned. But I’m not really a vengeful person and I could see through the situation. This vicious act was not representative of the place I had come to know and love.
After much heated debate, it was decided that Callum and I would leave separately to avoid attracting attention. I was disguised in a burka and men’s clothes and ordered to hold the hand of an Egyptian stranger who would pretend to be my husband. I was terrified but I could see it was the only way out, and had to decide to trust him.
He pulled me through the crowds out of the back of the tent. He told me: “don’t cry. Do not cry. Look normal.”
I was barefoot, dodging broken glass and debris, trawling through mud and dirt. My inner reserves of strength kicked in, and I stopped crying and just thought “keep calm and carry on.”
My trousers had clearly belonged to someone much fatter, and were falling down.
I thought I was being led to an ambulance, or to hospital. The man sat me down by the side of the road, still ordering me not to cry. Eventually, his friends turned up, with Callum. They explained that they couldn’t take us to hospital since they might be arrested if they were seen with us.
One man helpfully suggested: “you want to go to McDonalds? Get some food?” I declined this generous offer of culinary compensation for the evening’s events. Surprisingly, I wasn’t really in the mood for a Big Mac.
Callum and I went on our way. We eventually hailed a taxi. Upon reaching a government hospital downtown, we tried to explain the situation. People stared at us blankly, sloping around the corridors. We were turned away and told to go to a nearby hospital instead. Nobody would take us; we just had to walk there.
Upon arrival, I was eventually ushered into a small cubicle. Two men asked “are you pregnant? Married? A virgin?” They seemed displeased by my response of “no”.
They led me back outside to sit with Callum. I was refused examination and treatment. Eventually I decided I’d just have to check for damage myself. I went to the bathroom and couldn’t believe the reflection. I was dirty, wounded, with hair like a tramp and eyes wide with shock.
For 2-3 hours, people strolled past us, a couple of them making vague attempts at phonecalls to the embassy. At every stage, Callum did everything in his power to speed up the process and talk sense into everyone. It was thanks to him that the people in the medical tent saved me. He effectively saved my life.
Somehow, we ended up with the embassy thinking we were at the police station, the hospital staff not realising we were still at the hospital, and the police thinking we were … god knows where.
I was sat in a room full of men. One of them seemed to be taking a photo of me. I’m not sure why, as I wasn’t exactly looking glamorous. It all made my heart race.
It was Callum’s phonecalls (he had to use other people’s phones as both of ours had been stolen) that bore fruit. Finally our friends turned up with a lady from the embassy. I was taken to a private hospital where a doctor’s first question was “are you married?”, which is of course the most important question to be asking a victim of mass sexual abuse.
He and a female nurse (who only reluctantly kept me covered up) looked briefly at the damage and just wandered off, saying that because I didn’t have internal bleeding, they couldn’t do anything. A useful trip, that was.
Finally, I was taken home by my friends, and put to bed. I didn’t want to tell my family right away, as I knew it would destroy them.
Yesterday, I had a proper examination and darted around sorting things out, spending an eternity giving a police report. People with me were reduced to tears, but I didn’t real feel like crying. People kept telling me “you’re being so brave”, but I just felt like getting on with it. Maybe it’ll catch up with me in a few days, I don’t know.
A few things yesterday made me realise the impact this has had on me. During the examination, which was carried out by a woman, I was crying and shaking. To have someone touch me so soon after the event was terrifying.
Later, I couldn’t bear to be around groups of Egyptian men. And when it got dark, I panicked, and couldn’t bear to look any man in the eye. I clung to Callum all day. As we drove around Cairo, I couldn’t help but think “of all the people we’ve driven past today, one of them must have been in that crowd of hundreds last night. Just one.”
I am determined to continue with my documentary at some point. I have no equipment, (not even any of my photos) am nervous about the possibility of not getting my insurance to cover all the equipment and everything taken from me, and no money to resume the process. But I’ll get there. I have to find a silver lining to this experience. I have to spread awareness; it is my duty to do so. I have to do this; I will not be driven into submission. I will overcome this and come back stronger and wiser. My documentary will be fuelled by my passion to help make people aware of just how serious this issue is, and that it’s not just a passing news story that briefly gets people’s attention then is forgotten. This is a consistent trend and it has to stop. Arab women, western women—there are so many sufferers.
I am determined to return to this wonderful country and city that I love, and meet its people once again. I am determined to challenge the stereotypes and preconceptions that people have of Arab women back in the UK and the US. I have so much to say, and I will say it, in time.
So, to anyone taking risks, whether in the UK or worldwide, please, take care, and don’t make the same mistakes. Don’t be swept up in a wave of euphoria. Don’t let anything cloud your judgement. I was not focused enough because I was distracted by the wonderful atmosphere which was cheering me up after a difficult day.
But don’t let yourself become a victim. Don’t let bad experiences ruin your life and determine your future. One of the worst things two nights ago was that I had never felt so powerless. I had no control and I was violated. But now I can take control and rebuild my confidence, and learn from my experience.
Nothing, and nobody, will hold me back. When I’m ready, I’ll finish this. The show must go on.
Thank you very much for reading.