During the Egyptian protests that led to the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, there was considerable talk about the role women played in the demonstrations . There were reports, including this account by Sarah Topol in Slate , that women felt safe at the protests, sometimes safer than they’d ever felt. That in itself isn’t saying much-as Topol pointed out in her piece, 86 percent of Egyptian women report having been sexually harassed-but it certainly contributed to the feel-good atmosphere surrounding the events in Cairo.
A depressing counter to that is today’s news that CBS’s Lara Logan was the victim of a "brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating" in Tahrir Square on Friday, the same day that Mubarak stepped down and celebrations broke out in the square and around the country.
I wish I could say I was surprised by the news. But amid the cacophony of revolution, however, quieter voices expressed concern about what life would be like for women after the revolution , drawing comparisons to the Iranian revolution of 1979, when the ouster of the Shah led to reduced freedoms for women. Jenna Krajeski wrote a post for XX Factor worrying that " women will be thanked, and dismissed ." There’s debate over whether the Muslim Brotherhood is secular or Islamist , and how will women will fare if Sharia were to be imposed in Egypt.
It’s hard to say if we’ll ever know who was responsible for the attack on Logan. And stupid things tend to happen during moments of spontaneous celebration. How many cars were set on fire when the Lakers won their last title? But there’s a huge difference between flipping over a truck and spraying friends with beer and prying a woman away from her security detail and sexually assaulting her. Is Logan’s attack an anomaly, or is it to be expected from men raised in a culture that treats women as lesser citizens?
Egypt might have come very far, very quickly on the path to democracy by getting rid of Hosni Mubarak. But the future is still uncertain. The one encouraging sign in the CBS release about Logan? She was dragged to safety by a group of women and Egyptian soldiers. We can only hope that the women in Tahrir Square-and their likeminded sisters around the country-will continue to have a voice as Egypt transitions to a new government.