Image: Lara Logan
AP
CBS Correspondent Lara Logan is pictured in Cairo's Tahrir Square moments before she was assaulted in this photograph taken on Feb. 11.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/16/2011 8:33:08 PM ET 2011-02-17T01:33:08

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 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.

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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.

Slate: CBS went public on Logan under pressure

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.

Story: Lara Logan out of hospital, in 'remarkably good spirits'

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

A 'new Egypt'
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."

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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 tight shirts smoked in public, standing next to bearded Islamists who didn't bat an eye.

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.

Veiled lives
Logan's case was an extreme one, but it was a reminder that sexual assault and harassment is common in Egypt, and even women covered up by veils and long robes in strict Islamic dress say they are not immune.

A 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women in Cairo said they had been harassed — while 62 percent of men admitted to harassing.

Harassment is often the flip side of conservative mores. Men who believe women should stay out of the public sphere tend to assume that those seen in the streets are fair game. Widespread unemployment leaves young men bored, frustrated and unable to marry.

The killing of women by male relatives for perceived violations of a strict moral code are often either covered up by the families or the assailants, if prosecuted, face light sentences.

Women in Egypt — and in many areas of the Arab world — are still afraid to report sexual assault or harassment, fearing they and their families will be stigmatized, said Medine Ebeid of Egypt's New Woman Foundation.

Only rarely do women come forward. In a widely publicized 2008 case, a woman dragged her assailant to a police station, and succeeded in sending him to jail for three years.

Activist Rasha Hassan said she and others hope to harness the spirit that made Tahrir safe for a while.

"We believe that when people think about a big thing, all of us collect (gather) for a main goal, our good morals return," said Hassan, who helps run Harrasmap, a website that allows women to quickly report instances of harassment via text message or Twitter. Uploaded onto a digital map of Cairo, it shows hotspots and areas that might be dangerous for women to walk alone.

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Moving forward, or back?
Asma Barlas, an expert on women in Islamic societies at Ithaca College, said change will likely be slow because traditional attitudes run deep.

"When societal images of women begin to change," she said, "maybe things will get better."

Egyptian women's rights campaigners now worry that the reprieve they experienced during the uprising was a fluke, and that their society will quickly revert to oppressive social mores that leave women vulnerable to sexual violence, with little recourse.

Police witnessing harassment have a history of not interfering or even joining in, going after female political activists in particular, Darwiche said. In 2005, plainclothes agents trying to break up a rally by female anti-government protests tore at their clothes and pulled their hair.
A proposed law banning sexual harassment and outlining criminal punishment was never put to a vote to parliament. It's unlikely to see any action during Egypt's ongoing political turmoil, with parliament dissolved and elections not expected for several more months.

Msnbc.com reporter Kari Huus contributed to this story, written by Associated Press writers Karin Laub and Maggie Hyde, with reporting from Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb in Cairo.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: CBS News' Logan recovering at home after attack

  1. Transcript of: CBS News' Logan recovering at home after attack

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: CBS correspondent Lara Logan is now out of the hospital following the brutal beating and sexual assault that she suffered while covering the revolution in Egypt . TODAY national correspondent Amy Robach is here with the very latest. Good morning to you, Amy .

    AMY ROBACH reporting: Meredith , good morning to you. Logan flew back to the United States on Saturday, the day after that attack took place. She was treated at a hospital before being released to her family and now the mother of two is recovering at home. The latest news on Lara Logan was reported by CBS News Wednesday night.

    Ms. KATIE COURIC: We're happy to report she's out of the hospital now, continuing her recovery at home. She received a call today from President Obama , who expressed his concern.

    ROBACH: Logan was in Cairo Friday to report on the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak , but became separated from her crew and was surrounded by a mob of more than 200. This photo released by CBS was taken the moment before what CBS News has described as a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating. According to the Committee to Protect Foreign Journalists at least 140 reporters have been attacked while covering the protests in Egypt .

    Mr. JOEL SIMON (Committee To Protect Foreign Journalists): What was unusual about the situation in Egypt is the systematic and sustained nature of the attacks on journalists.

    ROBACH: This was not the first difficulty Logan experienced in Egypt . One week before the attack, Logan and her colleagues were detained by Egyptian security forces and endured a long interrogation before being expelled from the country. But Logan managed to return, telling Charlie Rose before she went back she felt compelled to go again.

    Ms. LARA LOGAN: It's very hard for me to be away from this story. I feel like I failed because I didn't deliver. But fundamentally it's in my blood to be there.

    Ms. JUDITH MATLOFF (Columbia School of Journalism): If you don't want people to at all question your ability to carry out what's been considered a man's job for very long...

    ROBACH: Judith Matloff is a journalism professor who used to work with Logan . She says attacks against women reporting in foreign countries often go unreported.

    Ms. MATLOFF: Women are worried that if their news editors are concerned that they might, too, suffered an attack like this they might now send them into dangerous assignments.

    ROBACH: Logan has covered war zones for two decades. The married mother of two young children has spoken openly on CBS News ' Web site about the difficulty of working in dangerous environments.

    Ms. LOGAN: Would I go back now that I'm a wife and a mother? I have. Is it much harder? Yes. Do I feel terribly guilty? Yes, I do. But I have a sense of responsibility and a sense of duty and I believe that this is something that I was meant to do.

    ROBACH: No word on when Logan could return to work, but experts say for some getting back to work can be healing.

    Dr. GAIL SALTZ (Psychiatrist): An attack changes a person. It makes them aware of their vulnerability. But as much as you can hold on to family, what you do, your identity in the world, the more that that can mitigate the emotional impact.

    ROBACH: Experts tell us as the demonstrations spread in the Middle East so too does the opportunity for more attacks on Western journalists, like the violence we saw overnight in Bahrain . Meredith :

    VIEIRA: All right, Amy Robach , thank you very much .

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