A message to Lara Logan

2011-02-21 14:33

Nechama Brodie

I am so angry I have no words. But I am a writer and words are my weapons, and I will sharpen them and hone them until they can pierce and puncture. Something. Anything. Nothing.

This week I found out that a woman I know was beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob of angry men.

That woman is a journalist called Lara Logan. She comes from Durban, and is now the chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News. She was attacked in Egypt last Friday, separated from her camera crew in Cairo and beaten and assaulted until she was rescued by a group of women and soldiers. There are no further details. I don’t think I want to know any further details.

Lara is the mother of two small children. You should know this because, when she was attacked last week, it was not because she was a journalist or even because she was a foreigner. She was attacked because she was a woman. She was also, by all reports, not the only woman assaulted on or near Tahrir Square that day; but this is my message to Lara, to Lara alone. Lara would have been alone when this happened.

Lara Logan, I salute you.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a war reporter like Christiane Amanpour. I wanted to be brave enough to stand on the rooftop of a building, while missiles were being fired, while wars were being fought. I wanted to be fearless.

In my first few years as a journalist, I learnt that fear was the easy part to conquer: being in a hostile or volatile environment gives you an adrenaline rush that’s hard to explain to someone who’s never been in a similar situation. You exist in the moment; you narrate your own life story; you are the story, in your head.

What’s harder is what comes next, the aftermath. The memories of the events you witness – because that is your job, to bear witness – the humanity, the inhumanity. The weight of expectation that comes when someone vulnerable shares their story with you and they dream that the story you write will change their world. Trying to change the world, and having your story bumped off because George Clooney has a new girlfriend.

I can deal with the fear, but not the disappointment. Perhaps that is why so few women choose to become, or at least continue as, hard news or conflict correspondents. We are not soft in the field. We are ruthless, strong, assertive – no different to our male colleagues, although perhaps less indifferent.

At home we are, usually, not so unbreakable. We are daughters and sisters; some of us are wives, mothers…  These are very different, disparate worlds to reconcile.

Over the years, Lara has been criticised by the media – targeted by her colleagues, to be blunt – for exploiting her “considerable physical charms”. Lara is blond, she is very attractive. She’s also a damn fine journalist.

Lara is a veteran war correspondent who has worked on the frontlines for well over a decade; she’s been in Iraq and Afghanistan. She was captured and detained in Cairo the week before her assault. Lara returned to the US with her crew, then travelled back to Egypt to continue covering the story. Because that’s her job. And because she’s good at it.

Lara Logan, I salute you.

In my life, I have been called many things. I have been called a fucking Jew, which provokes an anger that is white and cold, and makes me want to stand up and be counted. I have also been called a fucking bitch. I have had strange men grope my breasts as I walk through the crowds at a music concert. I have had men shout comments from their cars as they drove past, about my breasts, my arse… These comments make me want to be smaller, to disappear, to shrivel up like a dead flower, to be not me, not there.

There is a Jewish saying, “bli ayin hora”. It means “without the evil eye”. You say it to ward off bad fortune. My daughter is beautiful, bli ayin hora. My business is doing well, bli ayin hora.

In South Africa, when we hear about a crime that has happened to someone else, we say many things, like: “At least it wasn’t worse…” And, secretly, “At least it wasn’t me.” When a woman hears of another woman who has been sexually assaulted, she thinks: “At least it wasn’t me. Yet”. I have not been sexually assaulted. Bli ayin hora.

In the aftermath of Lara’s attack, in addition to an outpouring of support for Lara herself – from journalists, from citizens – there have also been those who, predictably (this is so sad), have commented that she provoked or even deserved the attack. Because she was too beautiful – “I would totally rape her,” read one stunningly fuck-witted earlier post on – or because she was a “warmonger”; or because she was trying to “outdo” CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who had been harmed by a mob in Cairo the previous week.

I don’t know if any of us can fully understand what a brave decision it was, for Lara to allow news of her sexual assault to be made public – in an environment where backs are targets for daggers and all women ask for it and victims’ rights must accommodate those of the perpetrators. I cannot fight for Lara, I cannot help her heal, I cannot offer words of wisdom that will be better or wiser than those that her excellent family will proffer.

But I can stand up against those who continue to attack Lara, those bilious, soft people who type from the safety of their living rooms. I can stand up and say that the fight for freedom in Egypt is only half won if women continue to be treated like this. I can stand up and say that the systemic sexual assault of women around the world is an abomination.

And I can say: Lara Logan, I salute you. 

This article was originally published in City Press. Follow Nechama on Twitter @brodiegal.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24

  • bill - 2011-02-21 14:46

    I salut all the brave men and women who risk their lives to bring us the trust .Tyrants will try to suppress truth , but it will always prevail.

  • Nicole von St Ange - 2011-02-21 15:27

    Fantastic column! Thank-you

  • dbnnet - 2011-02-21 15:33

    @onemantribe: Lara was not saved by the Muslim Brotherhood. She was saved by a group of women as well as a number of Egyptian soldiers. Her words... not mine!!!

  • andrewelvidge - 2011-02-21 15:35

    Why did the men not rescue her? I mean a blond women would have stuck out like a sore thumb in that crowd. Interesting that in a square full of thousands of people ( mainly men ), it look a small band of women and some soldiers to rescue her. I feel disgusted. I have two daughters and I am worried for them. Men are a major problem in this world, sorry guys, but if we are not doing the crime then we are looking the other way. From a Husband, Dad, Brother.

  • Tanya Retief - 2011-02-21 15:51

    I salute her too. As a mother, a daughter, a wife and a sister: I condemn them. I condemn those sorry excuses for 'human beings' straight to hell. I also condemn all those sorry-ass men for even thinking it's fine to comment that it's okay to assault and rape a woman. Would they do it right to your face? Or mine? It's the anonymity of the internet that's giving a voice to these pathetic beasts. I salute Lara. And I salute you! No more silence. (Please read this!:

  • Malema Dilema - 2011-02-21 16:08

    What kind of fucktard says “I would totally rape her,”? The kind that's stealing my oxygen. Well written article, and I salute all women who have the strength and courage to overcome such evil deeds.

  • ikabot - 2011-02-21 16:11

    There's a lot of confusion in reports of this incident. It's unclear whether she was assaulted and fondled or raped and sodomised.

      Quinton - 2011-02-22 11:02

      WTF has that got to do with this horrific occurrence? The bottom line is that a group of men, who think they are better than women, abused her. There is noting more that can be said! It is disgusting, and makes me sick to think that men can do anything remotely like this to any other human being. Makes me a little ashamed to be male. :( Be strong Lara.

      Tulababa - 2011-02-22 13:22

      I tell you what. why dont you get assaulted, fondled or raped and sodomised and see if it makes a difference to you.

      Tulababa - 2011-02-22 13:23

      ikabot, it does not matter how or what happend. it happend.

  • JudithNkwe - 2011-02-21 16:21

    Well said Nechama. She is a courageous and feisty woman.

  • arnoyoung - 2011-02-21 16:24

    At risk of stirring an altogether new topic of debate: What CBS didn't mention -- what was later attributed to an unnamed network source -- was that as the thugs assaulted the 39-year-old journalist and mother of two, they shouted, "Jew! Jew!" She not being a Jew was irrelevant. The justification for this abhorrent attack deserves the spotlight, and those who can find the rational in advocating and condoning this behaviour.

  • wiebina - 2011-02-21 16:34

    I don't usually comment on News24 columns, but this is an exception. I salute you. You have said it and said it well. thank you.

  • - 2011-02-21 16:45

    I like the way you wrote this and Yes Lara is a fine journalist, very unfortunite and hope she will pass this and prove she is a hard ass, who is their to report the truth were ever it may be. Really sorry she had to go through it at all. no women should have to go through this abuse. Us men need to stand up and say no to small element as next time it could be your Wife or Daughter.

  • Dog!! - 2011-02-21 17:09

    If you want to be a true journalist - because you opted to - and you can't stand the heat, get out the kitchen!! Simple as that!! Life has limits and it seems journalists don't have the savvy to realise if it is life threating situation or not!! It doesn't means you will not be shot if you are in the middle of war purely because you wear your company badge for all to see. It is like being a professional cyclist, if you train six deep and a truck runs you over because you were the one in the middle of the road don't complain. I sometimes get the impression that it is ok for a journalist to be killed as long as your passing is on the front page and the killer apologizes. lol!!

      Lauren - 2011-02-21 18:32

      How the fuck do you equate being shot if you are in the middle of a combat field with being raped/sexually assaulted by men who are protesting their Government? Huh? Your analogies are very weak. Because, yeah, being run over by a truck due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time is the same kind of "accident" as a man raping you. Yeah. It's ok though, we need people like you to balance out the gene pool. Can't be doing with too many geniuses in this world.

      darkwing - 2011-02-21 19:47

      Doggone idiot, who said this woman is getting out of the kitchen? You sound angry over several issues all at once.

      Tanya Retief - 2011-02-22 07:42

      Your 'lol' is idiotic. Since when is raping a journalist in a protest even close to being the same as getting shot on a battlefield whilst reporting. It's attitudes like these that will keep feeding the abuse against women. 'Get out of the kitchen' indeed. My word. Your ignorance is palpable.

      Whuyu - 2011-02-22 07:53

      I cannot believe that you can even make a comment like this................people like you are a waste of huiman skin.........oxygen thief. There is again..there is NO justification whatsoever to rape a woman........You are a sick human being!!

  • gill.katz - 2011-02-21 17:20

    "In South Africa, when we hear about a crime that has happened to someone else, we say many things, like: “At least it wasn’t worse…” And, secretly, “At least it wasn’t me.” When a woman hears of another woman who has been sexually assaulted, she thinks: “At least it wasn’t me. Yet”. I have not been sexually assaulted. Bli ayin hora." I think that paragraph speaks volumes. Great letter, and I salute you for writing it

  • jeremy - 2011-02-21 17:45

    What a load of self-indulgent hogwash! Yes, she's a good journalist, but Lara has always used her sexuality, both to help uncover stories - and probably to get her present job. Sex sells - particularly on TV! As for her "brave" decision to go public, I'd suggest it has a lot more to do with her gift for self-promotion, something she shares with Debora Patta. A REALLY good journalist would never put herself at the centre of the story. something Lara is inordinately fond of. By the way, does anyone know what form her sexual assault actually took? Was it actually rape - or something a bit less violent? Nechama may not want to know details, but a true journalist wants all the details as a matter of course.

      ikabot - 2011-02-21 18:01

      Jeremy, I think you're being a unfair on her. That sexually attractive women are advantaged in the workplace is not her fault. Attractive men also benefit from their looks anyway. And if she did benefit from her sex appeal, that in no way justifies her ordeal if she was indeed raped. That said, they really should clarify what happened. Accounts range from anything to assaulted and groped all the way to stripped, raped, sodomised and ejaculated upon. There have also been whisperings that it was a hate crime.

      ikabot - 2011-02-21 18:02

      That should read "Jeremy, I think you're being unfair on her". Sorry for the typo.

      Zingara - 2011-02-22 13:13

      A man I know thinks that a womanshould be able to walk down the street naked without being raped. I know it sounds idealistis and far-fetched, but think about it - where do you draw the line? If you're blaming her for what happened because she uses her sexuality (um, how does she use it - clothing, expression, mannerisms?) then can someone rape your mother or yur sister because she may have worn an alluring outfit? Be very careful about throwing blame at the victim. Rather imagine someone you love in her shoes, and think what justification you'd accept from the criminals for what they've done. Makes judging her a little less simple, doesn't it?

  • Dog!! - 2011-02-21 17:57

    In the aftermath of the abduction, rape and beating of Lara Logan, CBS foreign correspondent, in Cairo on February 11th during the “celebrations” in Tahrir Square over the resignation of Hosni Mubarak as head of Egypt’s government, the news media and the web have been buzzing with accountsandrecollectionsof how dangerous it is for especially women journalists to cover events in so-called “hot spots.” Note that I do not stress that she and her camera crew were surrounded by a “dangerous element” of two hundred men in a crowd of tens of thousands of Muslims. That whole crowd in the whole square was the “dangerous element.” Note also that I do not stress that she was somehow, inexplicably “separated” from her crew and bodyguards. Physically, yes, she was “separated,” but what does that mean in the context of what happened to her? Any kidnapping requires that the victim be “separated” from home, family, friends, and safety. She was separated with malice aforethought. Muslims consciously interposed themselves between her and her bodyguards and crew. She was blond, unscarved, unveiled, distinctly non-Muslim, dressed to the nines to conduct an interview later that night with an Egyptian official. In short, she was Western. Too late, to judge by the look on her face in the CBS-released photograph, did she realize the foolhardiness of wading into a crowd of maddened Muslim men celebrating their vaunted omnipotence. It may have been that the men who raped and beat her were pro-Mubarak Muslims, angry at Western journalists for precipitating the downfall of their man. But, regardless of the attackers’ political persuasion, she was an infidel, and a natural, inevitable target. And as they assaulted her, they shouted “Jew! Jew!” in conformance with the common fairy tale in Egypt that Israelis were behind Mubarak’s capitulation. However, they could have just as well believed that she had spit in Mubarak’s face, or hailed Islam as the end-all and be-all of human existence, and it would not have mattered. She was a value – to herself, to others – and had to be defiled and destroyed. She was the good, and Islam is all about hating and destroying the good for being the good. What happened to Lara Logan in Cairo was Islam-by-the-book, the book being the Koran. Like many stonings and beheadings in that Islamic hell-hole, the whole thing was probably recorded on video by participating Egyptian men, but that near-snuff video will not surface in the West. I read Don Kaplan’s account of the incident, inThe New York Post, and offered him these thoughts: See this report from the LA Times on a CNN-altered photograph of her “moments” before the attack. My questions are: Who took the photo? One of her crew? And did this person have time to take subsequent pictures? Was it taken with a cell phone, or a regular professional camera? Has CBS, which released the original photo to the AP, any other photos that would record and shed light on what happened in the next few moments? Why isn’t there a photo credit? Where did the “200” figure for the crowd come from? Whose estimate was it? Who were the twenty women who rescued Logan and escorted her back to her hotel/crew? Is the mob in the background pro-Mubarak or anti-Mubarak? They don’t look angry enough to be pro-Mubarak, who’s just stepped down, and not jubilant enough to be anti-. It hasn’t been specified whose mob it was. The one Egyptian in the background to the right of Logan’s head looks like he’s mugging for the press. If so, would he really want the crew to escape unharmed with an incriminating photo if he planned to take part in the assault? Hypothesis: Because Logan and her crew were arrested by the military a week earlier, detained overnight, and kicked out of the country, was this the military’s punishment for her and the crew having returned to Cairo – that is, was it a set-up to drive home the point that she wasn’t welcome?

  • rightguard - 2011-02-21 18:06

    Most of the criticism directed at Lara Logan stemmed from the fact that she was an embedded journalist with the US military corps during the Iraq invasion.Fellow journalists that uphold the highest values of the profession had every right to criticise her then.The truth became a casuality long before the first missile hit Baghdad.

  • Grazy - 2011-02-21 22:16

    "I cannot fight for Lara, I cannot help her heal, I cannot offer words of wisdom that will be better or wiser than those that her excellent family will proffer." You did well with this article.

  • freddy - 2011-02-22 06:37

    Thank you for your Collumn. Much appreciated.

  • Pierre - 2011-02-22 06:40

    Great article Nechama. To "Dog": whichever way you spin these events, I think the point you are missing is that the way men suppress/punish women (and sometimes other men or gay men or lesbian women - in fact anyone who threatens male power) is through rape and sexual assault. Men, those great strong beings who need to use humiliation and sex to show how strong they are. These kinds of men sicken me. All societies run on male power - and boy do they hate sharing it.

  • Mpinchi6 - 2011-02-22 07:27

    Hail 367 days of Activism Against Women Abuse.."bli ayin hora"

  • Vaal Donkie - 2011-02-22 08:41

    My feminist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard.

  • pawsaw - 2011-02-22 11:48

    Fantastic column and amen. Mre strength to the elbows of any woman who risks life and limb to bring us the truth. Patriarchy has to step in and have a good hard look at itself and what it has done through the ages to women and children through their lack of selfcontrol and lust for violence against anyone/thing that they deem to be aberrant. You are the aberrant ones. Thanks for this column.

  • Maurice Nyangon - 2011-02-22 14:19

    Well written!! Thank you.

  • niels - 2011-02-22 22:36

    I am sorry, but this attack on Ms Logan could well have been avoided... she willingly went back to Egypt knowing how volatile and dangerous this was...

      Vaal Donkie - 2011-02-23 08:32

      That's my point too.

      charne.anderson.89 - 2011-02-25 14:55

      Someone had to do it... and I admire her for going back despite comments like this!

  • Eish! - 2011-02-23 10:31

    "but this is my message to Lara, to Lara alone". If the message is not for us, why tell us? Redundant commment, methinks.

  • Rippedtulle - 2011-02-24 21:32

    and what about the men who got killed or assaulted?

  • Njayam - 2011-02-26 07:10

    Lara Logan is a brve soul. No other person could have been where she was that day. Impi yabantu ayizange ize nabantu bezizwe, kodwa u-Lara ukhethe ukuya lapha ukusibonisa sonke ukuthi kwenzekalani. Ngiyathemba ukuthi uzokwazi ukuthi aphindele phakathi, kodwa bengingajabula ukuthi abuyele nabantu abazomusiza makunzima. Lora, I do not doubt you as a journalist and fear for you as well. i wish it could pay for me somehow so I could be your spotter but my wife would probably divorce me. i would be part of your crew whenever you need. You Rock.

  • pages:
  • 1