Sonia Dridi experienced one of the most traumatic events in her entire life, being mobbed and sexually assaulted by a gang of at least 50 men while reporting in Cairo. But in the midst of the chaos, shock, and “exploding tears,” decent selfless individuals risked their lives to protect her. And that should be the story told.
Dridi, a French TV journalist, was reporting live at Tahrir Square for France 24 on the night of October 19, 2012. Dozens of men physically groped her, attempted to rip her close off and get their hands underneath. Her colleague, Ashraf Khalil, put his life on the line to save her.
“I was lucky Ashraf was with me,” Dridi said. “He warned me that the crowd was getting hostile and he grabbed me to protect me.”
“It was basically me keeping her in a bear hug, both arms around her and face-to-face,” Khalil told the Associated Press. “It was hard to tell who was helping and who was groping her.”
Eventually the two of them broke from the crowd and rushed into a restaurant for safety.
The restaurant workers “closed the door behind us and closed the gate,” Dridi added. “They brought us to the second floor and kept the attackers away. We stayed in there for hours. They gave me water and tried to keep me calm.”
After waiting hours at the restaurant, the frightened and shocked journalist with “exploding tears” got another surprise of goodwill.
Hours later, a man she had never met before arrived at the restaurant to return her bag that was stolen during the mob attack.
A man from Aswan “saw a bunch of guys on the metro deciding how to divide up my stuff. He punched one of them and grabbed my bag.”
The Good Samaritan found a cell phone in the bag and called numbers trying to find out Dridi’s location. After hours of searching, he was finally led to the restaurant where the traumatized journalist was taking refuge.
The French Ambassador has escorted Dridi back to France where she will receive comfort from friends and family, but the ambitious journalist promises to be back in Egypt soon.
“I don’t want this to change my plans. I want to go back to work. I love doing my job here and I want to keep doing it.”
Without the courageous acts of a few men risking their own lives to protect a foreign journalist, worse could have been done by the aggressive mob.