Death threats. Racist taunts. Vows of violence. Inside the increasingly personal attacks targeting Canadian female journalists in Egypt, there is increasing alarm. In the country where the press was the only protected space for female reporters until the late 1960s, many are being left with no other option but to leave.
In April, two female journalists published an open letter in The Washington Post. They wrote the letter in the wake of a series of attacks on female journalists during Egypt’s recent political transition.
The two women, Egyptian-born Canadian-Americans, were both writing for the Post: one for the opinion section and the other for the national section. They were not targeted specifically: both women reported on events. But in the course of their coverage, they were attacked.
In their letter, published April 14, the women detailed how those attacks, mostly verbal but even physical, had left them with no other option than to leave the country.
One of the letters was to the editor of the Post. The Post did not publish the letter, but it was copied and distributed to various women’s news organizations, including the US Department of State, where the women had also written letters.
This is what the women wrote:
“We were targeted because we were women in Egypt, writing about women’s issues for a Western newspaper. We were not targeted because of our political opinion or expertise. Our goal was simply to report honestly and objectively, and that we are not alone: Women of all faiths, races and backgrounds live under the constant threat of violence because of the choices made by the Egyptian government. This kind of violence has cost us dearly.
“I will never forget what my sister, Nour, wrote to describe how the Egyptian government tried to beat her up in Tahrir Square that day: “I hope I’m not the first reporter to be attacked. I hope the number is high.” You might say that it is the Egyptian government’s fault for creating safe work conditions. But you did not do it: They did it for you.
“We are both American journalists, but our work in Egypt cannot be compared. It took me 19 years to learn English at high school, and my sister almost a decade. No English-language newspaper in Canada, perhaps, would have published letters from two Canadian readers who were attacked in Egypt.
“We know that our letters would have been published somewhere