A young British journalist was sexually assaulted in the Egyptian capital by a frenzied mob while filming a documentary about women’s rights.
CNN reports that 21-year-old Natasha Smith, a graduate student in international journalism at University College Falmouth, was attacked in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Sunday amid celebrations marking the announcement of the results of Egypt’s historic presidential election.
The atmosphere was overwhelmingly festive, with jubilant Egyptians smiling, waving and cheering as fireworks burst in the sky above. “Welcome to Egypt!” was a common refrain heard among the thronging crowd as Smith recorded it all for her film.
But the mood soon darkened as a large group of men began groping her. She was violently separated from her male colleague as she futilely attempted to safely stow her camera in her rucksack.
“I could see what was happening and I saw that I was powerless to stop it,” Smith wrote on her blog on Tuesday
The young journalist said that “hundreds of men” dragged her away kicking and screaming.
“Men began to rip off my clothes,” she wrote. “I was stripped naked… 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… 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.”
“Please, God. Please make it stop,” she repeated over and over again as the brutal attack continued.
A small number among the crowd tried to protect Smith. Some of them managed to escort her to a medical tent where she hurriedly changed into a burka and men’s clothes, as the seething mob attempted to enter and drag her back out to what she believed was a certain death
“They wanted my blood,” she wrote.
Holding the hand of a total stranger and holding back tears while pretending to be his wife, Smith was whisked through the crowd to relative safety and reunion with her male colleague. She then had to endure another humiliating ordeal as multiple local hospitals refused to treat her after making intrusive inquiries about her marital status and virginity.
Smith’s harrowing ordeal was similar to the mass sexual assault of CBS reporter Lara Logan, who was attacked while covering celebrations in Tahrir Square, during the 2011 uprising that ended in the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last February.
Despite the horrific nature of the attack, Smith harbors no ill will toward Egyptians. During the assault, she wrote, women were crying and telling her, “this is not Egypt! This is not Islam!”
“I knew that was the case,” Smith wrote on her blog. “I [love] Egypt and its culture and people… This vicious act was not representative of the place I had come to know and love.”
The budding journalist offers this advice to women who find themselves in similar situations:
“Please, take care… Don’t be swept up in a wave of euphoria. Don’t let anything cloud your judgement.”
Smith also says she will return to work and finish the documentary she was working on when her life was turned upside down that fateful Sunday in Tahrir Square.
“Nothing, and nobody, will hold me back,” she wrote. “When I’m ready, I’ll finish this. The show must go on.”