WMC Women Under Siege

CPJ: Another journalist reports sexual assault in Tahrir Square

The story sounds hideously like another—one of a chaotic, predatory attack on a woman journalist in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Clothes torn from her body, hundreds of men surging to grab her breasts and claw at her. A woman wondering, “Maybe this is how I go, how I die.” It has been almost a year and a half since CBS correspondent and CPJ board member Lara Logan endured an attack like this. Now, an independent journalist and student named Natasha Smith reports that it has happened to her.

Smith reported the attack on her blog today, describing how a horde of men descended on her Sunday night, pulling her limbs and throwing her around as she tried to protect her camera. She said she soon lost her camera, her backpack, and began to pray: “make it stop.”

“They were scratching and clenching my breasts and forcing their fingers inside me in every possible way,” Smith wrote. “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.”

In Cairo to film an independent documentary on women’s rights and abuses against women in Egypt since the revolution, according to her website, Smith shared an account of her attack that is eerily parallel to Logan’s. Smith did not immediately reply to an email request for an interview. Atul Singh, editor-in-chief at Fair Observer, confirmed that Smith is an associate editor for the website. He said that "the attack occurred" but declined to elaborate.

Protesters chant in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where both Natasha Smith and Lara Logan were sexually assaulted. (Heidi Levine)

Here’s what I mean by eerily parallel. This February, Logan described what happened to her for Women Under Siege, a project I direct at the Women’s Media Center on sexualized violence in conflict:

“I kept appealing for mercy, begging them to stop in the midst of the violence and the chaos, as they tore my clothes from my body and raped me with their hands,” Logan wrote. “Hundreds of them.”

When I spoke to Logan today, she told me that Smith’s account was hard for her to read, that she felt the same terror again “the way the mob came after her; the way the men looked—so close to you—and the faces of the people who looked away."

At one point, Smith wrote, women surrounded her and "frantically tried to cover" her naked body. "I fell to the ground and apparently temporarily lost consciousness." When she awoke, she said, the women told her the attack had been prompted by "rumors spread by troublemaking thugs that I was a foreign spy, following a national advertising campaign warning of the dangers of foreigners."

To read the rest of this article, please click over to the Committee to Protect Journalists.



More articles by Category: International, Violence against women
More articles by Tag: Sexualized violence, Gender bias, Press freedom
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Lauren Wolfe
Director, Women Under Siege
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