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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“And their privileged position was being threatened as well?”

“Exactly. So I managed to get up somehow. And they drive me to the Interior Ministry and all the way, their hands are still all over my body.”

“You must have been terrified.”

“I didn’t know what the hell was going to happen to me. We passed all of these men coming out of the Interior Ministry and I thought, ‘someone is going to stop this.’ I mean, they can see what they’re doing to me. Nothing. It’s like their eyes are dead to me.

“So they take me to their supervising officer. This man in a leather jacket—plainclothes. He says to me, ‘You’re safe now. I’m going to take care of you. You see those guys over there?’ And there’s a mob of riot police just waving their arms like this. He said, ‘You know what would happen to you if I wasn’t here?’ So he’s basically threatening me with gang rape. And he’s saying this, ‘I’m protecting you,’ and their hands are still all over my body.

“This only stopped when a man from the military, an older man from the military in fatigues said, ‘Take her away.’ And I thought they were going to let me go. But they took me inside the Interior Ministry. I spent six hours in the Interior Ministry and three hours into it, an activist came from Tahrir to try and negotiate a truce, and he didn’t know me and I didn’t know him, but he had a smartphone. So I asked if I could use it.”

Here at last, Twitter to the rescue.

“By that time they weren’t paying too much attention to me, and I managed to tweet, ‘beaten, arrested, Interior Ministry.’ And that’s how I got the word out. I was told afterward that in 15 minutes, #FreeMona was trending globally. Al Jazeera and the Guardian reported my arrest and the State Department tweeted back, We hear you and we’re on this.”

America comes through, I say.

“Yes, I know! But that’s why I say I must speak about what happened to me very, very openly because I have a privileged position. Because of who I am, because of my profile, Al Jazeera, the Guardian and the State Department paid attention. How many thousands of Egyptian women and men and children go through this anonymously?”


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