A Los Angeles Times report identifies soccer stadiums as a prime venue in Egypt for sexual harassment. By implication, the article revives the question of whether soccer fans who played an important role in the protests that earlier this month swept President Hosni Mubarak from power, may also have been responsible for a brutal sexual assault on an American journalist.
This month’s brutal sexual attack on CBS foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan while she was covering the celebrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square immediately after Mubarak’s resignation focused attention on the problem of sexual harassment. Prominent Washington Post columnist David Ignatius raised the specter that ‘soccer hooligans’ may have been responsible for the vicious attack on Logan.
Logan was attacked by a group of unidentified men who ripped her clothes off. Her body was covered with welts and bruises when soldiers finally came to her rescue. She was evacuated to the U.S. and hospitalized for several days.
Egyptians, like others, were shocked, but unlike non-Egyptians were not surprised by the attack, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The paper quotes human rights groups, social scientists and diplomats as saying that catcalls, fondling, indecent exposure and other forms of sexual harassment of women by strangers are an everyday occurrence on the streets of Cairo. Predatory packs have brutalized women at several public places, including a soccer stadium, in recent years, the paper quotes witnesses and local news accounts as saying.
"There is increasing violence against women in our society," The Los Angeles Times quotes Nehad Abul Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, a nongovernmental group that campaigns against such abuse as saying.
A recent U.S. State Department travel advisory for American visitors to Egypt warns that unescorted women are "vulnerable to sexual harassment and verbal abuse." It cites "increasing reports over the last several months of foreigners being sexually groped in taxis and in public places."
Sexual harassment is the premise behind "678," a feature film that opened last month in Cairo. Inspired by true stories, the movie portrays three women — one veiled and poor, one middle-class and striving, the other rich and privileged — who fight back after a lifetime of indignities and mistreatment.
Some critics denounced the film, warning it would tarnish Egypt's image, but women have packed theaters to see it, The Los Angeles Times said.
Mohamed Diab, the director, shot some scenes at a packed Cairo soccer match last February. His script, which includes a gang assault on the rich woman, proved prophetic.
"We went in only 50 steps, and men in the crowd grabbed my actress and pulled her away," he said. "Her clothes were ripped off. She fainted. The actors had to fight their way over to rescue her."
James M. Dorsey authors The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog