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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“Very upsetting to hear.”

“I got off lightly, Ron. Human rights groups continue to document this torture to this day, despite the elections we’ve had. And this Interior Ministry where I was kept, they had cells there for what has been described as sexual torture, of men, women and children.

“Six hours into this detention—now, remember my arms are broken, yeh? I kept telling them, ‘I need medical care.’ Nothing.”

“You must have been in great pain.”

“It felt like hell. And I also told every single man who tried to talk to me or interrogate me, that I was sexually assaulted, because I wanted them to know. This is not my shame, this is their shame. Because this is how they train them.

“And then at one point, the big guy, the big boss now, dressed in a nice suit, he thought that because I look like I come from a privileged background, that we could identify. So he says to me, ‘You know those men who did this to you?’ This is the riot police. He said, ‘You know who they are? They are from the dregs of society. We lifted them up, we scrubbed them clean, and we opened the door this much in their minds.’ And he thought I was going to say ‘of course, these barbarians.’

“‘Why do you think we’re having a revolution?’ I asked him. ‘Who let them live like this?’ So I ended up defending the men who broke my arms and sexually assaulted me against this bastard who thought I was going to play the class card.”

Remarkable she had the self-possession to argue politics at such a moment.

“This is the reality of what’s happening in Egypt. But they use this against each other. They treat these men like animals and they turn them against us, and we have to break that by saying, ‘you have made them live like this and you use them against us. You are the enemy, not them.’”

“So in other words, even after Mubarak left...”


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