Mona Eltahawy on Egypt’s Next Revolution

The Egyptian-American activist speaks out on the dangers women still face in a changing Mideast

Journalist Mona Eltahawy isn't finished fighting Egyptian oppression. (Clayton Cubitt)
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“So we’re sitting there in the store waiting for the shooting to stop, and then I noticed that this man was holding onto me and it was very strange, because men and women don’t hold hands in public in Egypt. The shooting was getting closer and closer so we ran farther into the store. More men came in. And one of the guys groped my breast.

“So I began to punch the guy who groped me, because I couldn’t believe—who gropes a woman’s breast as we’re being shot at? I mean, who?! My friend tried to pull me away. He said, ‘Mona, we’ve got to run, we’ve got to run.’ Because he could see that the police were getting closer.

“And then the riot police come and everyone runs away, and I understood that these guys had entrapped us. They were plainclothes security or thugs. And they kept us there until the police came. I thought my friend had managed to escape, but they took him to a place where he could see me getting beaten and they beat him as they were beating me.”

“Oh, my God.”

“So I was surrounded by about four or five of the riot police who had nightsticks and they were beating me. It was really painful. So to protect my head I went like this [putting her arms in front of her head], which is why my arm was broken here and my hand broke here and here. As they were beating me, my phone fell, so I didn’t have my smartphone anymore, and then they started to drag me away, and I actually said, ‘I gotta get my phone, I gotta get my phone,’ because I understood without this phone, I couldn’t tell what happened to the outside world.

“They wouldn’t let me get my phone, of course. Then they dragged me into the no man’s land where they sexually assaulted me. I had hands all over my body, I was pulling hands off my trousers. They were pulling my hair, they were calling me a whore, the daughter of a whore, everything. And at one point, I fell to the ground and something inside me said if you don’t get up now, you’re going to die. I don’t know how I got up. Because if I hadn’t gotten up—you know that picture of the woman they stripped down to her underwear and they were stomping on her in Tahrir—did you see that picture?”

“I didn’t see that.”

“It became known as ‘blue bra girl,’ it was a very unfortunate name. Because they stripped her down and she was wearing a blue bra. But the soldiers were stomping on her chest.”

“Where does this behavior come from?”

“Oh, my God. It’s rage, rage that the people rose up and were able to do something.”


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