Like many many people, I was clearly horrified by the well-publicised sexual assault on Lara Logan during the celebrations in Tahrir Square, but was I surprised? No. Sexual Assault and sexual harrassment is disgusting and deplorable – carried out by cowardly evil men, whose dehumanising attitudes to women needs to be examined. Whether or not they were bultageyeen (government thugs) or men ‘celebrating’ by pathetically violating a defenseless woman is not the point. I have been disappointed that people are saying that this was a ‘one off’ or blaming the baltageyeen or accusing people who talk about this giving Egypt a bad name. What good does sweeping a problem under the carpet do? What good is it saying, well other countries have the same problems? Saying ‘but what about them?’ is not an answer. It’s wrong wherever we is. To say that it gives Egypt a bad name to talk about it is to defend the tyranny of women by these men – it is not the people who are openly and honestly challenging the wrong within our own society causing this bad reputation – it is the scum that think women are nothing more than objects without rights, existing purely for their own sexual gratifaction. The ones who blame the victim are the worst – nobody ‘asks for it’, how shameful. Women, no matter who they are or how they are NEVER deserve or ask for it. This is about the bastards that do this, not about the women they target!
This problem does exist almost universally – Egypt though, is particularly bad. I live in London, it happens sometimes. I lived in Milan, that was horrible, and it is problematic there too. I have been groped in Medina in Saudi Arabia, whilst wearing a nikab outside the Prophet’s Mosque! Nowhere though, NOWHERE, have I seen such rampant harrassment and violation as I have felt in my own country, Egypt. I have always been so traumatised by this, and so ashamed that my beautiful country, with it’s wonderful people could have this huge unacknowledged problem. It is women often, too, that get the blame!! How can that be? I used to wear a hijab, I stopped wearing it 11 years ago. It happened as much then as it does now. I have seen women, young & old, covered, uncovered and even young girls subject to foul behaviour and it is the norm. If I am in Cairo, it’s a promise that it happens everywhere you go. Who can forget a couple of years ago, when gangs of young men rampaged and sexually assaulted women in broad daylight during Eid?
We have to acknowledge that Egypt has a massive problem with sexual harrassment, it is endemic. In whose interest is it if we ignore the problem or do not admit that there is a problem. Do we really want to go down the route of Suzanne Mubarak, who last year claimed “Egyptian men always respect Egyptian women…This gives the impression that the streets in Egypt are not safe. That is not true . . . the media have exaggerated…Maybe one, two or even 10 incidents occurred. Egypt is home to 80 million people. We can’t talk of a phenomenon. Maybe a few scatterbrained youths are behind this crime.”
If this revolution was not about the citizens of Egypt reclaiming our dignity, then please correct me! This was not just about food prices, or the police, or the emergency laws, economic conditions or Mubarak. This revolution has been a perfect illustration of people uniting from all walks of life – women, men, children, conservatives, moderates, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, the poor, the wealthy, urban-dwellers, rural people, farmers, doctors, beggars, doormen, journalists, lawyers, almost any classification of people that you can think of in Egypt – they were out, putting their lives on the line to improve the lot of Egyptians, remove the oppressive regime and to demand Democracy. But what is democracy if it is not the implementation of equality & freedom? How can women have liberty & dignity in Egypt if this is a part of our culture? That is not equality! The attitudes that excuse or deny or victim-blame or foster this issue must stop. We owe it to Egypt and her women. It is not only to the regime that we need to look to challenge unfairness, the inequalities & the discrimination that are such flaws on the jewel that should be Egypt, but to ourselves and each other. We need open dialogue about the problems, or they will only get worse. I love my country, I want the best for my country & this travesty against women in Egypt to be addressed and stopped, and the first thing to do is for their to be open dialogue and for us not to let it happen anymore. The culture of denial and silence has allowed it to reach such endemic proportions. It must be challenged and those who do it, stopped. Don’t the sisters who have fought so bravely in this revolution, and risked their lives too – deserve this dignity & freedom in our new country?