Female reporter groped in Cairo square was rescued by colleague

Female journalist escaped into fast food restaurant after being groped in Cairo square

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 3:28am

A male companion of a female reporter for France 24 TV who was "savagely attacked" near Cairo's Tahrir Square, described retreating into a fast food restaurant with a metal door, to keep her out of reach of the attackers.

Sonia Dridi was attacked about 10.30pm on Friday after a live broadcast on a protest in the square and was rescued by the colleague and other witnesses. France 24 said its employees were safe and sound, although "extremely shocked".

Ashraf Khalil, who works with France 24's English language service, said the crowd was closing in on him and Dridi while they were doing live reports on a side street off Tahrir. He said the attack and rescue took about half an hour, but it felt a lot longer.

"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 said, 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. They then were hustled into a car, and some men banged on it as it sped away. Some of their belongings were stolen, he said.

"It didn't feel organised or targeted. It felt disorganised," 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 has happened. Still, it was a shock."

Tahrir Square was the main hub of a popular uprising that toppled long-time Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak last year.

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.

"More frightened than hurt," wrote Dridi in French on her Twitter page at the weekend. Referring in English to a colleague, she tweeted: "Thanks to @ashrafkhalil for protecting me in #Tahrir last nite. Mob was pretty intense. thanks to him I escaped from the unleashed hands."

At the height of the uprising against Mubarak, Lara Logan, a correspondent for US 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.