Woman living in Egypt fears the worst

Posted Friday, Feb. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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There's little laughter in Egypt these days.

Once again, Mary Thornberry, a former Fort Worth woman, is a witness to it all - the instability of the Egyptian government, increasing violence and protests in the streets. And she and others in the middle of the mayhem aren't finding much to smile at these days.

"Egyptians have always been known for their native ability to laugh at life," said Thornberry, who made international news in 2011 by defending herself during violent political protests in Egypt with a rolling pin after being trapped in her apartment. "Now, no laughter.

"A seething cauldron of rage ... overlays people's beings. It bursts out in violent acts and in routine everyday transactions," she said. "There is no hope of redress for ills and no visible future plan for the future by the government. Recipe for an imminent explosion."

In Egypt, tensions are rising, protests are increasing and bloodshed is an increasingly familiar sight in the midst of political chaos - and officials have said they worry about everything from a civil war to the collapse of the country.

Thornberry, who moved to Egypt more than 15 years ago to study ancient Egyptian history, said protests and violence are all around her and the tiny apartment she lives in near Tahrir Square in Cairo.

She is no stranger to violence.

She became a focus of international news in 2011 during the beginning of the uprising that swept President Hosni Mubarak out of power after her son told media that she was trapped in her apartment building amid protests.

For days, she was believed to be the only tenant left in her apartment building overlooking Tahrir Square as activists took over the building. She stood guard at her front door, preventing people from entering by using a rolling pin and kitchen knife to hit hands reaching through shattered glass to unlock the door. Eventually, an Egyptian who works for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo helped her leave the building and go to the airport.

She returned to Egypt last year.

Now, she said, female sexual harassment in and near the square is rampant.

"One day, between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m., 19 cases were seen by an unofficial anti-harassment group," Thornberry said. "They were able to intervene in 15 of these. The incidents ranged from groping to rape.

"A female anchor for Sky Arabia was attacked and rescued by a group from a nearby cafe. She was taken to a hospital with bruises and a nervous breakdown," she said. "Some were bitten 'all over their bodies.' One lady had cuts on her genitalia. Where are the police?"

She described the side of the square where she lives as the Egyptian Museum side.

On the other side of the square is the structure that houses the American Embassy, government offices and offices charged with issuing passports and visas.

Much of the violence seen, protests held and general violence happens on the American Embassy side of the square.

But an increasing number of problems have been on Thornberry's side of the square as well.

One protester was shot earlier this week, and another was killed not far from her front door.

Recently, Thornberry got into an argument with a taxi driver that made her fear for her safety. Later, she said was groped on a microbus. "Me!" she exclaimed. "A 781/2-year-old female."She has for the most part stayed inside - other than to visit an Internet cafe and her neighborhood grocery store and to pick up her newspapers.

But she fears that more problems loom.

Especially since word on the street is that today, after noon prayers, there will be a "huge demonstration" called "The End."

Anna M. Tinsley,

817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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