Saturday, July 20, 2013

Menna Alaa : How I was attacked by Angry Morsi protesters

Dear friend and colleague Menna Alaa , a video journalist from Al Masry Al Youm was attacked today by angry Morsi protesters while she was covering the protests of 10th Ramadan . She was smacked and her camera was stolen. I am honored that she chose my blog to post her testimony in English. Menna is one from the brightest and finest video journalists in Egypt as well Student unions leaders in the country.
Here is the testimony
Before writing this post, I was hesitant. Should I say what happened or just calm down and just keep it to the tweets I wrote earlier regarding my attack? I changed my mind though when I read the hateful comments on Al Masry Al Youm's post regarding my attack. I have never been so disgusted by people who decided to claim that I had no footage to send back to the newspaper, so I made the whole story up because I was a "failure". People who know me well enough know that I have risked my lives several times by deciding to report from Islamists' protests. I am no hero, no one is…but I decided to do what my parents taught me: "Show the truth…and nothing by the truth". Every time I went to a protest, I kept assuring myself that I'm doing the right thing….those people need to be heard.
It was the 19th of July, 10th of Ramadan….several pro Morsy protests were expected after Jumaah Prayers. I called my boss at 3:30 pm and told him I won't go to the newspaper HQ in Qasr El Einy Street and will be heading instead to the Republican Guards Headquarters at Salah Salem to shoot a video from the pro Morsy rally there before they head back to Rabaa Adaweya. He was hesitant at first, but I insisted and went. I arrived to the Republican Guards headquarters and found the protesters at the other side of the street, next to the Ministry of Planning. They were trapped because the army blocked most of the ways, one of the protesters told me. I got my camera out and started shooting the protesters' discussions with the Rep Guards. The protesters chanted: "You killed our brothers during Fajr prayers"( They were pointing out at what many refer to as the massacre of the Republican Guards). A guy from the protesters screamed in my face: "What are you shooting?". I assured him that I am a journalist who is here to report so another protester came back and apologized for the misunderstanding. The Republican Guards ignored them and showed no interest so the protesters decided to go back to Rabaa through a shortcut next to Ministry of Planning ( also in Salah Salem). I decided to walk with them for a while just to get the shots I wanted from the rally and head back to Al Masry Al Youm HQ. The protesters marched and it was perfectly peaceful until we reached Asmaa Zaghloul Street. I saw a car that was speeding up towards the march so the protesters thought it was planning to run them over. They ran behind it and started cursing: "You son of a ****". I saw protesters carrying sticks and what is really similar to a baton...only worse. They jumped on the car, smashed its windows, and were going to kill the three men inside the car who were already screaming for help. I was recording all that with my camera...until one of the protesters who was already smashing the car jumped in front of me and took my camera and screamed: "Who do you work with, daughter of a dog?". I decided to handle this with a bit of calmness and told myself: "Okay, they can take the camera. I just want to be out of here safely". My camera disappeared and I think he smashed it on the spot. Suddenly, a bearded guy carrying his 2 year old son ran towards me and smacked me hardly on my face: " You daughter of a dog! Who sent you? The army?". I screamed and started crying, protesters gathered around me while asking each other: "Who is she?". A guy replied: "She is related to the car that tried to run us over". I screamed in agony and swore: "I'm not, I swear! I've been with you since the beginning of the march".  A protester shouted in my face: "You're a liar". I said it was over....they're going to kill me so I closed my eyes and prayed: "Dear God, if it was destined for me to die now...please make it fast". One of the protesters put his hands around me and started to calm me down: "She is not one of them! Leave her alone". A woman wearing a niqab next to me started crying while other women were in shock and repeatedly told me: "This is not us...surely it was an army/police officer who smacked you". The protesters urged me to head back to Rabaa with them, I asked them to leave me alone and just try to get me my camera back. Residents of the area went down and one of them asked me: "What happened?". I was going to answer when a Pro Morsy protester answered: "An army officer beat her up". I approached the resident and asked him to take me back to the Rep Guards HQ where the same Pro Morsy protester again said: "You're coming with us to Rabaa". His persistence was weird so I refused again and the residents decided to take me out of the area. I walked with one of the residents until I found an army officer asking me to approach him. I did, he saw that I looked tired and seemed clumsy. "Weren't you the person shooting the protest in front of us a while ago? What happened?", he asked. I told him it was me so he requested to see my press card and told me: "I'm sorry there is nothing I can do, but I hope you report the truth and show their true faces to the world". I left him and went back to Salah Salem with the resident who volunteered and took me. I got a call from my friend, Haitham El Tabei, AFP reporter who decided to come and pick me up and take me back to my newspaper HQ. I went back to Al Masry Al Youm's HQ and the nightmare was finally over.
Note:
  1. According to some Ikhwan members, it was an army officer who smacked me and stole my camera. I deny this.
  2. Pro Morsy protesters never knew I was an Al Masry Al Youm journalist and I didn't show them an ID. Maybe if I did, I wouldn't have come out of there alive.
  3. I really hope Gehad El Haddad, Ikhwan media spokesperson, reads this and starts tweeting about the so called "media blackout" again.
  4. A smack on my face, a bruise, and a stolen camera won't stop me from reporting. I report what I see and I will continue to report even if it will cost me my life. The truth is what will always keep me doing what I love.

17 comments:

  1. Ahmed abdel wahab7/20/2013 02:40:00 AM

    You are a true hero. I hope whoever male decided to slap you no matter who he belongs to gets his hands cut off his body. It is a matter of principle to slap a woman and scare her is an act of shovonism.

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  2. Dear Meena,

    I'm sorry to read of your ordeal today and wish you a speedy recovery. I have no reason to doubt your professionalism or objectiveness as a journalist. In situations like this God presents us with unique opportunities to be healers and bridge builders. It is my hope that in your future reporting you'll also help the pro coup side understand the victimization similarly happening to the anti coup camp. Physically while you were assaulted four women in mansura opposed to the coup were reported stabbed to death. I'm not asking you to ever accept your attacker's rational, but I will hope like Mandella you'll understand the poisoned environmental factors aggrevating their frustrations. Like for example seeing friends&relatives gunned down in prayer then blamed for their own deaths, media blackout as if they're non citizens living as foreigners in their own land, or constant stress that state security forces will target them post coup for political purposes instead of treated according to equality under the law.

    My well wishes again and take care,

    Mohamed Elibiary
    Dallas, Texas, USA

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  3. Why would an honest journalist work in a very biased newspaper that is used to spread lies and rumors and make up stories?!!

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  4. a real heroine,May Allah protect you .

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    Replies
    1. and get you a job at a non-hypocritical, non-biased organization. Ameen

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  5. You're a drama queen but that is already clear from your twitter account. A smack across the face does not equal "beaten up". If you'd been beaten up you'd have serious injuries and be in the emergency section of a hospital. As a journalist you should be able to separate fact from fiction. This doesn't justify their behaviour however.

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    Replies
    1. And where does she say she has been beaten up? She clearly says: smacked hardly .. I think you are the drama queen here :)

      How can you even doubt what she has gone through? The protesters know very well what they are doing, protesting in a public place, where all eyes are on them actually!! It's disgusting how journalists are attacked but maybe even more disgusting how people can take what happened so lightly!!! Which creates a vicious circle of wrong judgements or even lies.

      Menna, you are brave and a true journalist! Exactly what Egypt needs! Real journalism, in the lion's cage! :)

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  6. Your a brave lady God bless you

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  7. so sorry to hear this happened to you :(
    Be careful dear.

    Prayers from the U.S. to you.

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  8. Good for you keep up the good work and let's hope Egypt will find its peace soon.

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  9. I respect u and respect what u have done ,, Egypt needs more and more people Like U ,, God Bless u and hope u recover soon

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  10. I am really sorry for what happened to you and I wish you well.
    But wasn't it a bit naive to shoot a violent scene, standing right next to the attackers, and hope that they just let you do that?
    Do not all the protesters (pro or contra) always claim that their protest is peaceful? That the start of violence always came from "the other side"? That they were only defending themselves? And then there is somone like you filming how they destroy a car and beat up the people inside? Nobody wants coverage of him/her being violent.

    And nobody can forsee what will happen, when the peaceful atmosphere in a crowd turns frustrated, angry and finally violent. If that happens, you have to get out - and not get espescially close to get the best pictures!

    Your words "I will continue even if it will cost me my life" is just as radical as the protesters who claim the same for their protest. What makes you people always talk about "martyrs" and about how only death can make you stop doing what you are doing? Don't you see that with such arguments you will never be able to compromise and never unite the different fractions, if everybody fights for his/her beliefs "until death"?

    Please be more careful next time! Do the filming from a safer distance. Risking your life is not part of the contract with your employer, and it is not what your parents wanted to teach you! Besides if you died, the world would be missing all the true reports and stories, that you could have done in the rest of your (hopefully) long life!

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  11. I really think you should translate this to Arabic, it will reach more people, especially people who consider everything the MB says or does holy.

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  12. Thank you Menna for your work in documenting the events. So sorry , for what happened to you. No one , no one should lay a hand on another, but its a "Mob". Take care, be careful..so you can continue your good work.

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  13. I feel sad for you. And Alhamdulillah you happened to get out safely, thanks to the help of the anti-coup supporters. I hope you appreciate that as much as you hate the violent protesters, if not more.

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  14. WHY U ARE ALWAYS BELEVE IN OFFICERS AND NOT THE OTHER PARTY ,U SHOULD GO BACK TO HISTORY

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