Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What Really Happened in Egypt?

So this is what I just read on Echidne's Blog:
On Friday February 11, the day Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a "60 Minutes" story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy. In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.
This tells me that once again we have been sold a bill of goods by the media on what happened in Egypt. All these articles, newscasts, tweets and blog posts on how the people of Egypt bravely struggled for democracy and against a nasty tyrant make very little sense if this is what really was happening at the time. I wonder how all of those people who sent out celebratory tweets on February 11 about how they were peeing themselves with delight now feel. My Twitter feed was literally inundated by tweets filled with "power to the people" and other cheap slogans like that. I now feel embarrassed that I read those tweets. I don't want to imagine what it must feel to have written them.

Media cannot be trusted, people. They operate on the basis of sound bytes and cliches that have nothing to do with the complexities of reality.


Shedding Khawatir said...

What happened to Lara Logan is terrible. It is also true that media of any sort should be taken with at least a grain of salt. At the same time, the people of Egypt did struggle bravely for democracy against a tyrant, and this incident does not negate that. It is also unclear exactly who did the assaulting--remember that the previous assaults against journalists were led by the regime. Furthermore, the group of women who rescued her would have been among the protesters/celebrators. Some may be bad, some may be good, but you cannot generalize the actions of millions from one appalling incident. As counterpoint, I can assure you that one of the most lauded aspects of the protests (albeit not one mentioned in the American media) was that women were not sexually harassed during the protests in the days leading up to Mubarak's departure and felt safe in the large crowds despite the fact that sexual harassment is increasingly common in Egypt. There are many terrible and wonderful events that will come to light about the Egyptian revolution, and it is important to consider them all critically, including their details and sources, before jumping to conclusions about "what really happened."

Clarissa said...

I'm not generalizing anything. I'm just saying that we are trying to impose our Westernized discourse - yet again! - on a completely different culture. A culture that is neither better or worse. It's just different.

I should have caught this earlier. I'm from a different culture too, and everything I ever read in the American media about the former Soviet Union has been a load of baloney. Because people try to describe events they don't understand through the terminology that simply does not apply.

As for the events in Egypt, nothing good can come out of this according to my scale of values after this atrocity.

el said...

As for the events in Egypt, nothing good can come out of this according to my scale of values after this atrocity.

In Israel people are afraid radical Muslim elements will rule in Egypt and annulate its' peace treaty with Israel, turning Egypt similar to Iran after the revolution. There too some people wanted democracy and look what they got. So I couldn't be happy for them without thinking about the possible, not so bright future. This explanation to show I have never been, can't be hearts and rainbows type of person, BUT I don't understand your logic at all.

Imo, Amanda said it in the best way. What do you think of this?


In another post's (link below) comments I read that women protesters, especially middle & upper class ones, were routinely raped by Mubarak police.

"TRIGGER WARNING: The Lara Logan Case on the Net"

Shedding Khawatir said...

Well, I follow the events in Egypt through a variety of both western and non-western regular and social media in addition to having lived there on and off for the last ten years, so I'm not sure I'm trying to impose Westernized imperial discourse. I agree that the Western media generally demonstrate a lack of knowledge and understanding of the region, and this is most clear through their obsession with potential Islamist rule which is used to justify propping up dictators like Mubarak, even though it is clear that the majority of the current protesters in Egypt want a secular government. However, the victory of all types of Egyptian people via predominantly peaceful protests is something that shines through all sorts of media distortion. There are other atrocities as well, including the hundreds who have died and the looting of many shops as well as the Egyptian museum. However, to discount what millions of Egyptians have accomplished based on the actions of hundreds is absurd. As you like to point out, you cannot generalize about a group of people based on their nationality or political beliefs. So while there are Egyptian anti-government protesters who will loot and rape, there are others who will protect against these activities, and you can find plenty of photographic evidence for this. There are also no doubt those who would loot, but not rape and vice versa. My point is that you seem to be discounting the accomplishments of millions based on one terrible incident involving hundreds. I know many women who were also in the streets that day, and were not raped, so I can assure you that all of Egypt was not full of frenzied raping mobs.

Clarissa said...

Have you read the post about Lara Logan, el? Have you read it carefully? I know it's very traumatizing even to read it but it has to be done.

She was being raped by a crowd so huge that only TWENTY ARMED SOLDIERS + a group of women managed to rescue her. Can you imagine the size of the crowd that was raping this woman? It must have been a very very big crowd.

I know what peaceful revolutions look like and it wasn't it. There was a peaceful Orange revolution in Ukraine a few years ago and crazed crowds didn't gang rape anybody. People slept in the square together for months but they didn't gang rape anybody in crowds so huge that only twenty heavily armed soldiers + a group of women managed to stop it.

In case you haven't heard, el, rape isn't about sex. It's about power and rage. The rage of that huge group of people who raped Lara Logan was not aimed at Mubarak. She doesn't look much at Mubarak.

This is why I'm saying that something a lot more sinister is going on there.

Shedding Khawatir said...

This video, for example, shows women commanding the respect of males and females and demanding their rights during the protests. I don't offer this to negate the rape incident, but to provide an example of who you are condemning by saying that nothing good can come of the Egyptian revolution.


Clarissa said...

S.K.: I feel that you are talking to somebody else here. Who has generalized about anybody based on their nationality or political beliefs? When did I suggest that "all of Egypt" was full of anything?

Are you familiar with peaceful street revolutions in other countries? Ones where nobody died, nobody was raped, and not a single store was looted?

I am and I'm telling you that this wasn't one of them. For a HUGE group of people to go into such a violent rage against a woman who obviously doesn't represent Mubarak's regime, something horrible must have been taking place. Something that is completely removed from any political concerns or oppositions to regimes.

Clarissa said...

" but to provide an example of who you are condemning"

-I am condemning the rapists.

Clarissa said...

People continue to surprise me in regards to this topic. I just received a tweet saying: "There are good and bad moments." Apparently a brutal gang rape is classified as a "bad moment" by this person.

I'm speechless.

Shedding Khawatir said...

What I am trying to point out is that the people raping and looting are not necessarily the same people participating in the peaceful protests. Chaos offers opportunities to the worst of society. Expecting untrained protesters to completely prevent looting and rape (remember the police withdrew and the Army was trying to be neutral) seems like a bit much, but I can assure you, they did try. The streets all over Cairo were guarded by civilians every night. By lumping protesters and rapists together, you state that "nothing good can come out of this". I believe that quite a lot of good can come out of the revolution, and it is important to focus on how this can happen (because it is not guaranteed) rather than to discount the entire event because of one out of many atrocities.

Shedding Khawatir said...

If you are condemning the rapists, that's fine with me. However, when you say things like "As for the events in Egypt, nothing good can come out of this" it sounds like you are condemning the entire revolution.

Clarissa said...

I will repeat my question that you curiously disregard:

Are you familiar with peaceful street revolutions in other countries? Ones where nobody died, nobody was raped, and not a single store was looted?

I have another question too. Let's say American crowds are protesting Obama whom they consider a tyrant. Many do, so the example works. During the protests hundreds of American men gang rape a Muslim journalist in a hijab. Would your reaction also be "Oh, shit happens, but let's not say that the protests are inherently bad"? Would you not start questioning what it really was that the crowds very angry about?

Clarissa said...

I also think that the people who say that the gang rape was an isolated incident within otherwise peaceful protests should do some reading on the psychology of the crowd. I can recommend some basic bibliography. Otherwise, the discussion becomes hopelessly naive.

KT said...

I'm with SK on this. I just read another post on the matter here: http://www.thenation.com/blog/158616/attack-lara-logan-war-words

Before you specified that your anger is actually directed towards the rapist and not to the peaceful protesters who achieved the impossible task of removing their dictator, it seemed to me too that you may have been condemning the revolution itself rather than one random act by a psychotic bunch.

Let's not forget that Logan was saved by Egyptians as well. Let's hope that the perpetrators of the act are apprehended and punished, and let's support the aspirations of genuine protesters in a country with better women's rights where this kind of acts will never happen again.

Clarissa said...

KT: please none of this sappy tear-jerking stuff for me.

I see that you cannot answer my questions either.

It's all just empty, quasi-leftist blabber about tyrants and revolutions but nobody wants to answer any specific questions. People just hide behind empty verbiage.

Shedding Khawatir said...

To answer your questions: I am not familiar with every peaceful revolution. However, to use the example of the Orange Revolution you mention above, a few key differences as I see it are that the security forces stopped short of attacking the protesters and the police did not withdraw from the streets/release all of the prisoners from prison. These actions were responsible for much of the bloodshed and looting, rather than the protests themselves.

If hundreds of American male protesters among millions of male and female protesters raped a Muslim journalist, I would condemn the hundreds of males as rapists. However, given ample evidence that rape was not the goal of the rest of the protesters (who had very specific demands over 18 days) I would not condemn the rest of the movement because of that incident.

I agree that crowd psychology can and does result in terrible things. However, her rescuers were also part of the crowd. Therefore, given the ample evidence I have that the majority of protesters and Egyptians do not support this, I am unwilling to condemn the entire revolution because of this. As an example, there is already a Facebook page up called "Egyptians condemning the attack on Lara Logan". It is a public page, so I think you can read it. It contains apologies, regrets that they were not able to protect her, wishes for her recovery, and notes about how inspirational she is as a journalist.

Clarissa said...

Well, I am familiar with quite a few street revolutions, and gang rape - especially of such massive proportions - is never part of the equation. So I have to ask: what was different here? Why was there so much rage against a female reporter? There has to be a reason.

I understand the desire to pretend that this is an isolated rape. That's a very normal psychological reaction to rape of the "This will never happen to me" kind. I see your attempts to avoid the painful aspects of the issue in how you refer to it as "an incident". This is not an incident. It's a brutal gang rape. let's call things with their own names.

I have no idea what any Facebook page has to do with it. I'm talking about what happened in the crowd, trying to figure out what motivated the crowd. Was anybody starting Facebook pages right there inside the crowd or what? how is it relevant to anything that is being discussed here? Or are you trying to convince me that "not all Egyptians are rapists"? That I know but, once again, how is it relevant to the discussion?

My main question is: what motivated the crowd? If the crowd is motivated by hatred for the dictator, that's who gets attacked. Here, somebody who very visibly has nothing whatsoever to do with the regime gets brutalized. By a HUGE crowd. Once again, what exactly motivated this crowd?

KT said...

"Are you familiar with peaceful street revolutions in other countries? Ones where nobody died, nobody was raped, and not a single store was looted?"

I'm not aware of any such revolution and would be glad to learn of them where citizens changed the status quo under a repressive military regime without getting shot at or without some criminal elements taking advantage of the chaos. I doubt that even the Civil Rights Movement in the States achieved such a record. I realize how bad this paints a picture of popular revolts, but again, I say blame it on the inherent evil in perpetrators not on the genuine aspirations of protesters.

I'm not being quasi-leftist when I acknowledge not having any other targets in mind but the perpetrators. Am I?

Clarissa said...

Are you saying that these people raped Lara Logan because they were being shot at or what?

I've also never heard of the Civil Rights movement in the US gang raping anybody. The people who were against the Civil Rights movement did gang rape, but vice versa? That's new to me.

Did you realize from the article that there were not a few perpetrators but rather hundreds of them?

Clarissa said...

Being in a crowd does not create theretofore non-existent feelings. It just intensifies feelings that had been festering before that in each individual. This is psychology of the crowd, people.

KT said...

But you have no evidence to prove that those who attacked her were the anti-Mubarak protesters. That's the point here. Remember that they attacked Anderson Cooper and a few other journalists too. What if those who raped this woman were also anti-revolution miscreants or (as it's being suggested) Mubarak's own rouge police folks?

We don't know the facts, and we should before passing sweeping judgments.

KT said...

"Are you saying that these people raped Lara Logan because they were being shot at or what?"

I'm saying that I don't know of any successful peaceful revolution under a repressive regime where people weren't shot at, or killed. You'd asked me the question earlier. Do you know of any?

Clarissa said...

As for the opposition to violent military regimes: in the 90ies in Russia people threw themselves under the tanks to resist the regime. Has anybody seen the footage of tanks coursing the streets of Moscow? Firing at the Parliament? The Parliament in flames? People died during those days. But there were no gang rapes. And not because Russians don't rape. At least, every other woman in Russia has been a victim of rape. But during those days people weren't thinking about rape. They were resisting the regime. Is anybody noticing the difference?

"What if those who raped this woman were also anti-revolution miscreants or (as it's being suggested) Mubarak's own rouge police folks?"

-And then Mubarak's soldiers were the ones who intervened in the crowd of Mubarak's police forces who all gathered in the same place mysteriously? What sense does it make to assume that every single person in the crowd who had rape on their mind somehow managed to arrive at the same spot where the journalist was? Isn't it more reasonable to assume that there were other parts of the crowd who were there in the same mood but there was simply no female journalist accessible to them? let's be logical about this.

Clarissa said...

"II'm saying that I don't know of any successful peaceful revolution under a repressive regime where people weren't shot at, or killed. You'd asked me the question earlier. Do you know of any"

-I know of revolutions were people were shot at and killed but still didn't rape anybody (see above.) Raping an innocent bystander because you are being shot at by somebody else makes very little sense.

KT said...

You're getting me wrong. I've not tried to justify the rape in any way. Neither have I said that being shot at makes the rape an alternative. I only said that there are no revolutions without sick elements present whether in the crowd disguised as genuine protesters or outside the periphery as anti-protesters. The point I've been trying to make - which I believe you understand - is that just as we can't blame the victim, we shouldn't blame the revolution either. The only people to blame are the perpetrators of the crime the identities of which we don't yet know. I'd be surprised if we disagree here.

And on this note, I'm out :). Have to work.

Shedding Khawatir said...

Since you know that all Egyptians are not rapists, then we can agree that this brutal gang rape (which I am quite happy to call it) does not represent the revolution.

If you are interested in what is in the mind of the crowd, obviously I cannot tell you as I was not there. However, I can say that attacks on foreign and Egyptian journalists have been a constant theme from the very first day of the protests--the first news item I heard was an Arabic news channel reporting that their cameraman was beaten and his camera smashed and that's why they were filming from inside their studio. This was followed by the stabbing, beating, and detaining of many journalists, male and female by the police and pro-government thugs. I am not aware of any other journalist rape cases, but I did hear reports of the police harassing women, and female journalists have been harassed by the police in protests in earlier years. As you point out, rape is about rage and power, not sex anyways.

Another scenario is that the state TV stations were inciting against foreigners, and it is true that some people believed them, and some foreigners were detained/beaten by the military and civilian patrols. So perhaps this can explain it.

In all of these cases, it is again not the protesters engaging in this brutality. However, we still don't know who attacked Lara Logan, so I cannot rule out the protesters based on these previous attacks. However, I cannot think of a reason why the protesters who refrained from sexual harassment in the preceding days would engage in it in such a brutal way at the end. There may be one though.

Finally, while a crowd of 200 is large, there were hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people in the square. Which brings me back to the only point I've been trying to make all along. Brutal gang rape does not represent the millions of Egyptians who participated in their revolution, and the vast majority do not support it, nor have feelings that would make them engage in it in a frenzied state. If they did, there would be many more brutal gang rapes.

Shedding Khawatir said...

To clarify a few things that went on while I was writing my comment:

There were plenty of other female journalists and females in the square that day. As far as I know, none of them have been raped. If there were lots of people with rape on their minds, it seems like they would have been.

In Egypt, police, police thugs/plain clothes police, and the military are all separate groups, and it is entirely conceivable that they could be at odds with each other. They could also support each other.

el said...

Did I see right that FaceBook page has only 10 comments? One of which is:

She was not attacked by a nation or by a people, she was attacked by the members of a particular mob. Condemnation should be directed ONLY at the individuals who carried out the attack or enabled those attacking her. Commendation should go to those who rescued her. And sympathy should go to those who are unfairly blamed.

No word of sympathy going to her that I see.

It just intensifies feelings that had been festering before that in each individual.

Amanda talks about festering anti-women's liberation feelings. I would add also strong Anti-Western sentiment. A Western? Check. A Woman? Check. A journalist? Check.

I heard of this poll in Israeli press first:


I was especially impressed by:

82%: Believe adulterers should be stoned
84%: Believe apostates from Islam should face the death penalty
77%: Believe thieves should be flogged or have their hands cut off

Ukraine's and Russian's cultures and their history are entirely different from Egypt, thus you can't compare their revolutions and what's going in Egypt imo. Women's position extremely differs too.

On another topic, after reading another blog I am curious to hear what you think about being vegetarian due to ethical beliefs. Just another idea for a post under "Controversy" tag.

Clarissa said...

"Ukraine's and Russian's cultures and their history are entirely different from Egypt, thus you can't compare their revolutions and what's going in Egypt imo. Women's position extremely differs too."

-Thank you! Finally! That's the point of this entire post. You can't fit things that happen in other cultures into the Westernized discourse of revolutions and fighting for democracy.That's exactly what I've been trying to say.

I might write about vegetarians, that's a great idea. In the meanwhile, see the post "Zizek on vegetarianism": http://clarissasbox.blogspot.com/2010/03/slavoj-zizek-on-vegetarians.html

Zizek's one-word comment on vegetarians kind of summarizes what I feel.

el said...

What do you think about the poll? One can have an opinion without making bad comparisons.

You can have democracy (at least, at first and in the tyranny of the majority way) and sharia law as the law of the country. I just don't understand why I should be happy of future religious radicalization of our formerly relatively secular neighbor. The worry is about most of the population be more radical, more anti-West than the former dictator.

Clarissa said...

I think that applying the word "democracy" to non-Westernized countries is a huge mistake. It's a gross simplification that only leads to complete misunderstanding of the situation.

I hope that your prediction about the radicalization of Egypt doesn't come true. But I think it will. Unfortunately. For a variety of reasons that people will only see when they stop gushing about democracy.

Shedding Khawatir said...

If you'd like more sympathetic comments, read the rest of the comments on the page (there are more than ten) or look at the other Facebook pages/twitter/whatever you like. Another Facebook page is Write for Lara Logan's Recovery.

If you are concerned about oppressing women's liberation, see the video I posted earlier.

From the same poll, it's interesting to note that 59% of Egyptians prefer democracy and 61% are concerned or very concerned about Islamist extremism in Egypt. Unfortunately, that poll only asked 1000 people and we have little detail about their background other than that they are Egyptian.

Egypt is a very diverse place, where you will encounter all sorts of viewpoints. There are some I agree with, and others I abhor. I am sure you can find someone who supports gang rape, but you will find many more who condemn it. As I keep reiterating, brutal gang rape does not represent the Egyptian revolution.

I also believe it's unfair to compare Egypt to Ukraine or Russia, but I was specifically asked to compare it to another revolution.

Shedding Khawatir said...

I don't think the government will ever be secular in the American sense (under Mubarak it wasn't either), but it seems unlikely it will be a radical Islamist one, as the main opposition groups are not. The American media (I don't know about the Israeli) has something of an obsession with the Muslim Brotherhood (perhaps because they've been around the longest and they don't know the names of the other opposition groups?). While I personally think the Muslim Brotherhood has some deplorable views on women, they are not that radical, have said they would honor the treaty with Israel (this is new), and are not running a presidential candidate, for example. So, unless there are dramatic new developments, I would not worry about radicalization just yet.

Shedding Khawatir said...

Okay, I promise I'm not trying to spam this post, but I think the commenters would appreciate this article, from the English version of an Egyptian opposition newspaper, which touches on both the Islamist prospects (or lack thereof) for Egypt as well as the animosity towards foreign journalists:


Anonymous said...

Your bigotry and smallness of spirit becomes obvious with each ridiculous post. I still enjoy your blog though, I get to see how racism can hide in even those people with PhD from Yale.

@El: But of course the brown people can never be enlightened enough to want the freedom to choose those who lead them. That human right is reserved for the Ukrainian and Israelites of the World. And by the way there are very radical sects in Israel who actively subjugate women and hate all brown people and yet Israel is a democracy and these elements are not elected to power. I wonder if they are simply more enlightened than the Egyptians. (That would be you and El's point, I suppose).

My sympathy goes to Lara Logan. I pray she gets better soon. I hope she still believes in struggling against oppression, whether sexual or political.

Clarissa said...

Anonymous: you are projecting. No sane person can see racism in what I have written in this post. Don't be stingy on visits to a psychoanalyst! Or your projections will getter the better of you.

Clarissa said...

SK: I don't mind either your comments or your links, so feel free to leave as many as you want.

I am annoyed, however, by spammers who tried to leave 3 comments peddling viagra on this post, of all posts. idiots.

Clarissa said...

I'd also want to ask the Anonymous commenter: what race do you think most Egyptians belong to? I have a small hint for you: the same as I do.

Shedding Khawatir said...

Well, since this apparently the day when I actually get around to reading blogs, here is another Brotherhood analysis. This is also a very good blog to follow for information about Egypt and the Middle East:


el said...

Anonymous, I didn't say they don't deserve freedom, whatever freedom for them means (sharia laws imo, look at the poll's results). I am worried Egypt is on the path to radicalisation and Israel will again be forced into war with it in the end. Probably near future. That because Mubarak was more for peace with Israel than his people. Look at my second part of the comment to Clarissa.

And, of course, average Israeli citizen is more enlightened than average Egypt citizen. By enlightened I mean Western humanistic principles, protecting the rights of minorities, caring about human life & dignity. Why should I pretend to be happy, if there is every reason to worry? Again, read further what I wrote to Clarissa.

Clarissa, you and I speculated about the crowd's feelings. Today I believe I stumbled upon the correct answer and just couldn't not share it with you:

A network source told The Post that her attackers were screaming, "Jew! Jew!" during the assault. And the day before, Logan had told Esquire.com that Egyptian soldiers hassling her and her crew had accused them of "being Israeli spies." Logan is not Jewish.


I found the link among comments to this post:

Which has another interesting comment by Expat (number 26):

I am an American woman who has lived in various countries, including Pakistan (2 years). The fact is that fundamentalist Muslim societies are very, very different from the Americas and Western Europe, and no one without firsthand experience can really comprehend just how great the difference is. Women ARE at risk in those societies. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but it is true, and until those societies have evolved, women should not be sent into crowded situations there. Not at all, not ever. Not because women are weak or unprofessional, but because the environment is hostile and dangerous and especially so for women.

And I believe her.

Clarissa said...

El: The comment you quoted from Feministe is so egregiously offensive and ridiculously wrong that I'm dedicating an entire post to it.

el said...

I hoped you would dedicate a comment / post to what you think about the Jew explanation. I didn't think we were liked in Egypt, even after peace treaty of ~30 years & numerous Israeli Jewish tourists going there every year, but was shocked that in this case too one should "Cherche les Jews" instead of going only after "it's misoginy" + anti-West explanation like Amanda at Pandagon and other liberal blogs did.

You asked what moved the crowd and whether all "bad elements" were somehow, in a mysterious way near Logan. I guess not and that in any part of the crowd to have somebody cry "Jew!" at you, whether true or not, would put one's life in grave danger. There were other women there, but they weren't "identified" as Jews and didn't have ~200 attackers jump at them either.

Underlying the case and the last "Logan is not Jewish" sentence is the assumption that had she been Jewish, the violence would be somehow (partly?) justified. At least, to the Egyptian crowd it would.

We all talked about future Egypt radicalization, to be spontaneously practically raped to death for the crime of being a Jew seems radical enough for me. She was saved by locals, yes, but I wonder how it would end had she really being Jewish.

Don't know about women going there, but for a Jew it would've been especially dangerous.

Clarissa said...

There is no reason to discuss "the Jewish explanation" because at this point it's nothing but gossip. As we have seen, people use pretty inventive strategies of relating to this horrible event. People don't get raped because they are female and/or Jewish. people get raped because OTHER people are criminals.