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Attack on CBS correspondent in Cairo: 'Sexual torture taking place amid the greatest jubilation'

Feb 16, 2011 9:37:31 PM- transcurrents.com

Attack on Lara Logan inevitable in retrospect

By Heather Mallick
Toronto Star

The violent sexual attack on CBS correspondent Lara Logan took place on Egypt’s greatest day, the Friday that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down. It was in Tahrir Square, the place known as “Freedom Square” that the whole world had been watching for days.

If there is safety in numbers, she and her crew, which included security people, should have been safe.

But suddenly they were surrounded by a mob of 200 within the celebrating crowd and it turned into any human’s worst nightmare.

Logan was extracted from her 60 Minutes team and carried away for what CBS calls “a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers.” Logan is now recovering in a U.S. hospital.

It was sexual torture taking place amid the greatest jubilation, a nightmare unfolding with the backdrop of thousands of distant people cheering.

It seems almost inevitable in retrospect. For street protests, as heroic as they may seem, often look different to women viewers, if only because women are cynics about protests said to be “universal.” Are women included in this “freedom-loving” population or are they shut away at home?

I always check photos and TV footage to see if women are included. I did this during the 2009 Toronto street blockade by Tamils, during the G-20 Toronto police riots and in Cairo this time. Women were always present. How ironic that I rejoiced in this. Maybe men and women were finally finding common cause. Women were there, not just Logan and other female journalists, but many other women, protesters who for once had absolute faith in their bodily safety.

And I feared for them because the sight of them didn’t square with the reality of everyday life in Cairo. One 2008 study said 86 per cent of Egyptian women — and 98 per cent of foreign women — reported that they were regularly harassed, with fully 62 per cent of men admitting to doing it.

It is unusual for a woman to make it to work in the morning without being assaulted in some way, so much so that the two front cars of every Cairo subway train are reserved for women only.

This is just a day in the life of Egyptian women. The country is famous for its casual brutality toward its female citizens. Women’s groups call groping a national “cancer.”

For all that we praised the protesters for using Facebook to coordinate their fight for freedom, it’s a fact that Egyptian women regularly use such technology to protect themselves from men. Women’s groups have set up a new tool named HarassMap to mark the worst leering and fondling sites in the city and let women (and men) text message and post notices on social media sites about their assaults.

Logan was a visible presence in the crowd if only for her blond hair and bright white clothing, a hard person to kidnap. A tall clear-skinned woman of great beauty, she was a target. A 39-year-old South Africa native, she was on her second trip to Cairo during the protests. She was arrested and interrogated the first time and had returned the day before the attack took place.

Logan knows war. She covered the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 as well as the Iraq invasion and the bloodshed that followed and became CBS chief foreign correspondent in 2006. Married to a U.S. defence contractor whom she met in Iraq, she has a 2-year-old son. These are details that would normally appear in an obituary, I note sadly as I write them.

TV journalism has been a hard road for her, and she once said in an interview that her personal life, as complicated as that of any male reporters, had been “tabloid fodder.”

It hurt her deeply. In work, in life, in every way, Logan’s life has been a thousand times more difficult because she’s female. And it has come to this. [ Heather Mallick ~ hmallick@thestar.ca ]

~ courtesy: Toronto Star ~