“If you really want to cover the story, if you believe in what you're doing, you have absolutely no choice. If you want to be safe, don't go to Iraq.” ~ Lara Logan
Lara Logan covering the war in Iraq
Lara Logan's Egypt Nightmare and Her Recovery
by Howard Kurtz
The hard-charging CBS News correspondent was attacked in Tahrir Square, sexually assaulted, and hospitalized. Howard Kurtz on the mob she faced, and her first steps toward recovery.
Lara Logan had already been arrested in Egypt when she decided to go back for what turned out to be the closest call of a danger-filled career.
CBS News disclosed that Logan was surrounded in Tahrir Square and "suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers." She was hospitalized upon her return to the United States.
Logan has recovered to the point that she was released from the hospital on Wednesday and is now at home with her two young children. Sources familiar with the situation say she has been in remarkably good spirits despite her ordeal.
As CBS News' chief foreign correspondent, Logan has reported extensively from the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq, sometimes coming under fire while embedded with U.S. military units. She has repeatedly put herself in the line of fire. But an Egyptian mob celebrating the toppling of Hosni Mubarak on Friday turned out to be more dangerous, for Logan, than wars fought with bullets and bombs.
She had returned to Egypt to interview Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who played a key role in organizing the uprising that led to Mubarak's ouster. The interview was to be done for 60 Minutes, and Harry Smith wound up conducting it instead.
“It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into a frenzy.” And she was separated from her crew “in the crush of the mob.”
Logan went to Tahrir Square simply because she was drawn there by the remarkable spectacle of the protesters who had gathered by the hundreds of thousands over 18 fateful days, the sources said. But "she and her team were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration," CBS said. "It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into a frenzy." And she was separated from her crew "in the crush of the mob."
The assault occurred a week after Logan and her crew wound up in the custody of Egyptian military authorities. At first, she was essentially confined to her Alexandria hotel.
"It was literally like flipping a switch," Logan said in a video. "The army just shifted dramatically to a much more aggressive posture. They have absolutely prevented us from filming anywhere today—no cameras, no cameras, is what we're being told." She said when her crew went out to shoot so-called beauty shots, "they were intimidated and bullied, and in fact marched at gunpoint through the streets, all the way back to our hotel—a very frightening experience, and one that was repeated throughout the day for us."
After that video was made, Logan and her crew tried again, and were taken into custody.
"We were detained by the Egyptian army," Logan told Esquire. "Arrested, detained, and interrogated. Blindfolded, handcuffed, taken at gunpoint, our driver beaten. It's the regime that arrested us. They arrested [our producer] just outside of his hotel, and they took him off the road at gunpoint, threw him against the wall, handcuffed him, blindfolded him. Took him into custody like that."
There was more: "They blindfolded me, but they said if I didn't take it off they wouldn't tie my hands. They kept us in stress positions—they wouldn't let me put my head down. It was all through the night. We were pretty exhausted… We were accused of being Israeli spies. We were accused of being agents. We were accused of everything." In the process, Logan said, she became "violently, violently ill." The army eventually released Logan and the crew. And then, because it is hard to keep Logan away from a hot foreign story, she went back.
Numerous Western journalists, from CNN's Anderson Cooper to Fox News' Greg Palkot to reporters for The New York Times and Washington Post, were attacked, beaten, or arrested when pro-Mubarak thugs tried to turn the tide of the demonstrations that were threatening to end his three-decade grip on power. It became clear during that 48-hour period that journalists were being deliberately targeted as a tactic to minimize coverage of the revolt.
But the sexual assault and beating that Logan endured underscores that the Middle East remains a particularly dangerous place for women. And it is hard to imagine that this was some random attack, that members of the mob didn't realize that she was an American television correspondent.
There are obviously unanswered questions about what happened. Was anyone arrested? How was she saved? How bad were her injuries? But CBS isn't providing further details out of respect for Logan's privacy. At least we know how the story turned out, with Logan recuperating at home.
Lara Logan in Tahir Square, Cairo minutes before brutal Mob attack.
Egypt's Women Rally Behind Lara Logan
by Ursula Lindsey
The sexual assault of CBS correspondent Lara Logan sheds light on the constant harassment and violence women face across the country despite the revolution. Ursula Lindsey reports.
Almost everyone in Egypt has now heard the news that on February 11, the night when millions of Egyptians were celebrating the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob.
Logan faced an ugly side of Egypt that Egyptian and foreign women here are all too familiar—and fed up—with. What makes it all the more tragic is that it happened at a time when many here were celebrating women's mass participation in the protests, and their sense that they had reclaimed the streets. The reaction here to the attack on Logan has been consternation. "Lara Logan, I apologize sincerely with all my heart," reads an online petition being circulated Thursday. "To every girl, woman, mother harassed, I apologize sincerely with all my heart. To my mother nation Egypt, I apologize sincerely with all my heart. And I promise you all that I will try the very best that I can to bring an end to this, in the quest to have our sisters 'Walk Free.'"
"We are all Lara," says Engy Ghozlan, 26, a co-founder of HarassMap, a digital map that monitors incidents of sexual harassment against women here. Ghozlan and other activists have been at the forefront of a battle against harassment and violence against women here. Even as more Egyptian women than ever attend university and enter the workforce, they have had to contend with a society that still considers unaccompanied women out in public as “fair game” for sexual comments, advances and worse.
I've lived in Egypt since 2003 and much as I love it here I am sometimes disheartened and frustrated by the constant harassment. Most of it is obnoxious but innocuous—men whispering things under their breath, singing songs, and brushing up against me.
Sometimes, though, harassment can be truly frightening. In 2006, online activists posted videos of women being chased by crowds of men on the streets of Downtown Cairo during the Eid festival. Even as former First Lady Suzanne Mubarak downplayed what happened, the videos caused a scandal and launched a national debate. Harassment has become a high-profile social issue here—whether because attacks are increasing, or awareness is, remains unclear. Just last month, Egyptian cinemas screened a new and much-talked-about movie about sexual harassment.
A survey released in 2008 by the Center for Women's Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women had experienced harassment. Still, many here remain in denial about the extent of sexual violence and the very nature of harassment. Until recently, there was no word in Arabic for it—with people instead using the much lighter terms mu’aksa ("flirting, teasing").
When I reported on the subject a few years back, some men I interviewed said only girls who dress provocatively get harassed; other denied flatly that harassment takes place at all.
And many women remain uncomfortable discussing sexual harassment or assault because they fear they will be stigmatized or blamed for it. When I reported on the subject a few years back, some men I interviewed said only girls who dress provocatively get harassed; other denied flatly that harassment takes place at all.
Resorting to the police has been largely useless; they are often accused of harassment themselves.
Under these circumstances, female journalists and photographers face particular challenges doing their work. Being a foreigner in and of itself can attract unwanted attention; add to that that they are often working alone, and heading into the middle of all-male crowds.
After a terrorist bombing in 2004 in the historic neighborhood of Khan Al Khalili, myself and two female foreign journalists trying to cover the attack were surrounded by young men who formed a circle around us and locked their arms. Someone tried to unzip the pants of one of the women I was with. A middle-aged man dragged us to safety. Often, female reporters don't focus on what happens to them because they don't want to appear weak or whiny or get side-tracked from the main story.
In 2004, during demonstrations by the opposition against President Mubarak, government-backed thugs attacked protesters and journalists. I just happened to leave half an hour before the thugs sexually attacked all the women there, groping them and tearing their clothes. Sexually attacking and humiliating female protesters has long been an effective regime tactic to scare half the country off the street. The next day, the state press accused one of the female demonstrators of undressing herself in public.
When pro-government groups attacked the protesters in Tahrir Square, there were also reports of sexual assault.
When they aren’t orchestrated by the regime, the worst incidents tend to happen where there are large crowds: The chaos of proximity and the cover of collective anonymity loosen the enforcement of a shared moral code. Even then, there are always people who try to step in and help. (Logan was reportedly rescued by a group of women and soldiers).
One of the most striking aspects of the protests has been how many women participated, and said they felt welcome and safe. Young female activists played a key role in planning the protests. Asmaa' Mahfouz, a 22-year-old activist with the 6 April group, put a message on YouTube before the protests started. The veiled, diminutive Mahfouz played on gender politics to encourage Egyptians to join the demonstration, saying: "I'll be distributing flyers and I'll be going out on the street [...] Everyone in this country who calls himself a man, should come out. Everyone who says girls who go to demonstrations will be abused, so they shouldn't go—he should act like a man and come out." Not just activists but average Egyptian women came out day after day, facing tear gas, rubber pellets, beatings, and the risk of arrest.
Amany Eid, 34, works at a telecom company. She ventured out to her first protest on January 28. "We were four girls," she says. "We took one guy with us just in case it got nasty, in case we got harassed. We know Cairo—these things end up happening." But, she says, "It was perfect. There was no harassment. Everyone was so emotionally and politically involved." Eid was separated from most of her friends and blinded by tear-gas. Nonetheless, she continued attending protests. "As the days progressed the number of women on the street was incredible," she says.
Nourhan Ahmad, a 17-year-old high school student in Alexandria, says when she joined her first protest on January 28 she was "afraid." "I thought I would be the only girl," she says. Instead, she found many women alongside her. And, she says, "I never experienced this gender equality in Egypt before."
Egyptians insist that what happened to Logan is not representative of their revolution; some note that sexual violence unfortunately happens the world over. But some also say it’s a reminder that the road ahead is a long one, and that they need to focus on social as well as political change.
"Tahrir Square was a small representation of what we want Egypt to be, but not necessarily what it is," says Ghozlan. "Society still does have its problems and we can't ignore them and think they've gone away." Ghozlan's group has long campaigned for a new law against sexual harassment. Today, they and other women’s rights groups are also calling for women to be better represented in the political transition, so their concerns aren’t left by the wayside.
In the last few weeks, says Ghozlan, “We set an example. We set a rule.” What happened to the American correspondent, says Eid, is “unacceptable. If they catch these guys—I hate to say this but they will be beaten to death. They're disgracing us."
Ursula Lindsey is a Cairo-based reporter and writer.
Lara Logan covering Iraq
Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
-- Harold Whitman