British student journalist describes sex attack by crowd in Egypt
A British student journalist has described how she was the victim of “a horrific sexual and physical attack” by a mob of men, amid the celebrations of Egypt’s first democratically elected president in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Natasha Smith, 21, described in her blog how an atmosphere of “jubilation, excitement, and happiness” changed “in a split second,” as she was dragged away from her male companion, stripped naked and violently attacked by a “group of animals.”
She wrote: “I was stripped naked. Their insatiable appetite to hurt me heightened. These men, hundreds of them, had turned from humans to animals.
“Hundreds of men pulled my limbs apart and threw me around. They were scratching and clenching my breasts and forcing their fingers inside me in every possible way. 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.”
Ms Smith describes how a “small minority of men” tried to save her by guiding her to a tent, offering her rags and forming “a human shield” around her but men from the mob could still reach her, because there were just “too many”.
Eventually, after about 10 minutes, Ms Smith reports that her friend reached her and managed to guide her to a medical tent, where local women helped protect her and gave her a burka and clothes.
Ms Smith wrote that the Muslim women told her that the attack “was motivated by rumors spread by troublemaking thugs that I was a foreign spy, following a national advertising campaign warning of the dangers of foreigners.”
She added: “But if that was the cause, it was only really used as a pretext, an excuse, to molest and violate a blonde young Western girl.”
In an interview with CNN Ms Smith said:
“Arab women, Muslim women were all around me, just crying, saying ‘This is not Egypt! This is not Egypt! This is not Islam! These are thugs!’ She said she responded, “I know, I love Egypt, I know this is not Islam, it’s OK.
“And they were stunned, ’cause they thought I was going to be so full of hate and so full of fear. But from the very beginning, I don’t blame Egypt for this. This is not the workings of the Egyptian people. This is not representative.”
She escaped by posing as a stranger’s wife and walked out hand-in-hand with the man who told her not to cry and to “look normal,” as he led her through the crowds.
Ms Smith, who will graduate with an MA in International Journalism from University College Falmouth in August, was on her first international assignment, shooting a documentary on women’s rights in Egypt as her final college project with two male friends.
The incident occured on Sunday when Egyptians gathered to celebrate the announcement of Mohammed Morsi as the nation’s first democratically elected leader.
Smith is not the first western woman to be assaulted while working in Egypt.
CBS News reporter Lara Logan was attacked during the 2011 revolution. She said ‘men in the crowd had raped me with their hands’. Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy was also assaulted by Egyptian security forces in November.
Ms Smith is determined to continue her documentary and expose and spread awareness of the wider issue of sexual assault in the country.
She said: “I will overcome this and come back stronger and wiser. My documentary will be fuelled by my passion to help make people aware of just how serious this issue is.
“It’s not just a passing news story that briefly gets people’s attention then is forgotten. This is a consistent trend and it has to stop.
“Arab women, western women – there are so many sufferers.”