(TheBlaze/AP) — A correspondent for France 24 TV was “savagely attacked” near Cairo’s Tahrir Square after being seized by a crowd, the network said Saturday. It was just the latest case of violence against women at the epicenter of Egypt’s restive protests.
The news channel said in a statement that Sonia Dridi was attacked around 10:30 p.m. Friday after a live broadcast on a protest at the square and was later rescued by a colleague and other witnesses. France 24 did not give further details about the attack, but it said its employees were safe and sound, though “extremely shocked,” and that it will file suit against unspecified assailants.
Dridi wrote on her Facebook page Saturday that she was “more frightened than hurt” after the attack, and thanked a colleague for helping her escape.
The colleague, Ashraf Khalil, said the crowd was closing in on him and Dridi while they were doing live reports on a side street off Tahrir.
“The crowd surged in and then it went crazy. It was basically me keeping her in a bear hug, both arms around her and face-to-face,” he told The Associated Press, estimating that at least 30 men were involved. “It was hard to tell who was helping and who was groping her.”
Khalil said they retreated into a fast food restaurant with a metal door, to keep her out of the reach of the attackers. After they got to a car, he said men continued to bang on it as they sped away.
“It didn’t feel organized or targeted. It felt disorganized,” he said. “I felt angry. I love Tahrir. I have a lot of nostalgia for Tahrir. I am still angry. I know this is not the first time this happened; it happened to other people I know. Still, it was a shock.”
Tahrir Square was the main hub of a popular uprising that toppled longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak last year. Since then, it has seen numerous other protests staged by a range of groups.
Reuters has frightening video of how the square appears during the protests:
At the height of the uprising against Mubarak, Lara Logan, a correspondent for U.S. network CBS, was sexually assaulted and beaten in Tahrir Square. She said later that she believed she was going to die. After being rescued, Logan returned to the United States and was treated in a hospital for four days.
The square has seen a rise in attacks against women since protesters returned this summer for new rallies, including incidents of attackers stripping women – both fellow demonstrators and journalists – of their clothes.
No official numbers exist for attacks on women in the square because police do not go near the area and women rarely file official reports on such incidents, but activists and protesters have reported a marked increase in assaults against women.
Amnesty International said in a report in June that such attacks appeared designed to intimidate women and prevent them from fully participating in public life. The London-based human rights group has called on Egyptian authorities to investigate reports of sexual assault against women to counter the impression that no one will be punished.
Sarah El-Deeb contributed to this report from Cairo.