Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Letters from Egypt: Did Lara Logan Really Get Harassed in Tahrir?

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of Egypt’s revolution. That’s almost a year after US reporter Lara Logan made claims as to being sexually assaulted in Tahrir, and months after her first interview with 60 Minutes. Is it coincidental that Logan has now released a statement claiming that she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Tomorrow Egypt will appear on every news station and media outlet, so I have to wonder as to Logan’s real motives behind her latest report featured in the Huffington Post. Throughout Logan’s horrific tales, all that could be found was excerpts saying that she “suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 soldiers.”

In her 60 Minutes interview, Logan recanted that she was told that the crowd began saying things like, “Let’s take her pants off.” As she detailed the horrendous attack six months later, she said her clothes were completely torn off and that people were taking pictures with their cell phone cameras. She said, “I remember looking up and seeing them taking pictures with their cell phones, the flashes of their cell phone cameras.” Egyptians do have internet access, yet to date no nude photos have been released of Logan.

The CBS reporter continued, “I didn’t even know they were beating me with flagpoles and sticks and things because I couldn’t even feel that.” For any of you in the Square that day, surely you are aware of how flimsy the actual flagpoles were. And should those poles have come into contact with a hard surface, like a human body, they would either bend or break.

She also said: “They were tearing my body in every direction at this point, tearing my muscles. And they were trying to tear off chunks of my scalp, they had my head in different directions.”

In all of this, no photos were ever released to validate Logan’s accusations. If this did occur, I understand that it would be difficult to speak about it right away; however, pictures would have been taken to show the brutality that was suffered such as bald spots/scabs from where hair had been ripped out of the head as well as a bare back to show the marks of the “flagpoles and sticks and things.” Yet none of this was ever released.

Logan spoke out at the end of April, and now she seems to have resurfaced marking the one-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution.

While all of these stories could very well be true, I have reservations based on my own personal experience. I was in Tahrir Square the same day Logan was. I have blonde hair and blue eyes. I am not here to say that harassment doesn’t exist because quite frankly, it even got worse after the revolution; however, from January 25 to about February 18 was the ONLY time I never received any harassment whatsoever in this country.

It was shoulder to shoulder in Tahrir. Moving wasn’t an option, it was how the crowd pushed you. I was separated from my group and while I was surrounded by men, the man behind me put his hands on my shoulders and helped me guide through the crowd. A man in front of me took my hand and helped me get past another crowd. And finally when I was meeting some friends at the nearby hotel, Semiramis, another guy helped me find my way out as I couldn’t see the exits with so many people.

Katie Couric also made claims that she was harassed, but when I watched the video and listened to the Arabic, I never heard such a thing. When you don’t speak the other language and already have preconceived notions as to the behavior or Arab men, you may assume everyone is speaking about you in such a way – this, I think, was Couric’s problem.

I’m not here to contradict Logan’s story per se, but I do raise valid questions. I wonder why no one else who has interviewed Logan has asked the same. Do I necessarily believe her? Well, if it isn’t true, I hope that she one day understands that making up stories doesn’t pay off in the long run – just ask Stephen Glass.

Interestingly enough, I happened to stumble upon someone who says they witnessed the attack on Logan and refutes her claims. “I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe something happened in another part of the square, but from what I saw, she was being taken by men to the soldiers, and her clothes were not torn off. There were no women. I didn’t see a single woman in the crowd around her.”

3 comments:

  1. Great post, I had the same thinking when this story broke and subsequent interviews- too many questions and no one has ever come forward one way or another on it.

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  2. Do you now speak Arabic? I was under the impression from your previous posts that you do not. Can you further elaborate? Have you studied or just picked it up over time? I enjoy reading about the good, the bad, and the ugly of living in Egypt. Keep up the great posts.

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  3. Hi Jamie, thanks for your comment. I am not fluent in Arabic by any means; however, I have lived here coming up on four years. What I did was always keep a pen/paper on me and in the beginning I learned one word a day. Once I had enough vocabulary, I learned a phrase a week. Also, as a female you would (or should) learn the most common types of harassment phrases and/or keywords that are used often. So the base of my Arabic is for cabs, negotiating, combating harassment and other odds/ends things like grocery shopping/dining out.

    In Couric’s video, which I had hyperlinked on a blog posted during the revolution in 2011 – the crowd of men around her were simply trying to get their voices heard discussing Mubarak (please see the blog "Sensationalized Coverage" posted on Feb. 4 to get the link). It was overwhelming for Couric because the men were surrounding her and invading her personal space.

    I wish my Arabic was fluent and I hope to continue even after I leave.

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