NYC-based Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy is recovering from a brutal assault at the hands of paramilitary riot police while she was covering demonstrations near Tahrir Square in Cairo on Wednesday night. She says riot police broke her arm and hand and sexually assaulted her during her unexplained arrest. Eltahawy lost her phone while being beaten, but was later able to use an activist's phone to describe her ordeal in a series of dramatic updates on Twitter:
"Five or six surrounded me, groped and prodded my breasts, grabbed my genital area and I lost count of how many hands tried to get into my trousers," Eltahawy tweeted. "Yes, sexual assault. I'm so used to saying harassment but [they] assaulted me." She was detained for about 12 hours, but her she says her treatment improved somewhat after she was handed over to military intelligence, and the military later apologized to her for what the paramilitary riot police did. When she was finally released, she tweeted, "12 hours with interior ministry bastards and military intelligence combined. Can barely type - must go xray arms after CSF pigs beat me." [CSF stands for Central Security Forces, Egypt's feared paramilitary force.]
In an interview with CNN, below, Eltahawy said, "I want the world to know the brutality of the Egyptian police force... I am taking this chance to shame them for what they did. Because when I was being assaulted by those riot police officers, it was as if I was set on by a bunch of beasts." She later added, "God knows what would've happened if I wasn't dual citizen." A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy told The Guardian that the incident was "very concerning" and that "U.S. embassy consulate officers are engaging Egyptian authorities." Egypt receives about $2 billion a year in aid from the U.S., with most of that money going to the military.
The Guardian also reports that a Spanish photographer was taken to the hospital "after being beaten up and having his equipment stolen, while an unidentified woman reporter was reported to have been set upon in Tahrir Square by protesters on Thursday and allegedly beaten and stripped." That incident calls to mind an attack earlier this year on CBS correspondent Lara Logan, who was in Tahrir square covering the protests. Demonstrators are currently demanding that military rulers relinquish power immediately, but the military is vowing to start the first round of parliamentary elections on time next week.