02/04/2011 01:58 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

'You Will Be Lynched': One Reporter's Harrowing Account Of Violence In Cairo

Bloomberg reporter Maram Mazen was not acting in her official capacity as a Bloomberg reporter when she was attacked by Mubarak supporters and pro-regime police forces in Cairo. She had originally come to Egypt's capital on vacation, and was attacked while accompanying friends who were delivering food and medical supplies to injured demonstrators. But her account of the attack she faced is as harrowing as any we've heard.

We got out of the car when we arrived at about 11:30 a.m. in Talaat Harb square near Tahrir, our planned transfer point for the medical supplies. We felt somewhat safe, as one of the demonstrators had told us it was a secure entrance. When I left the night before, it was controlled by anti-Mubarak protesters.

In less than a minute, a mob of about 40 civilian men surrounded our car, banging on the vehicle and grabbing our bags. They looted 1500 Egyptian pounds ($256) worth of medical supplies and 800 pounds worth of food and drinks, uninterested in our explanation of whom it was for.

Things degenerated from there. Mazen and her compatriots fought off the mob and managed to drive away. Pursued by the angry mob, they sought protection, unsuccessfully, first from the uniformed soldiers who had helped to preserve order and protect demonstrators during their Feb. 1 march, then from uniformed police. But when a member of the original group of attackers accused Mazen and her friends of running people down with their car, those police weren't inclined to help.

A policeman took away the car key, and about 50 men in plainclothes and five policemen started pounding on our car. They asked our nationality -- we were all Egyptians -- and accused us of being Palestinians, Americans and Iranians. And, they said, traitors to Egypt.

For about 30 minutes, though it seemed more like an hour, the crowd grew, reaching between 100 and 200. They smashed the back windshield, shattering glass all over the car and in our clothing. Men got onto the roof of the car, jumping and yelling. We tried to hold it up with our hands so it wouldn't fall on us.

Then uniformed policemen took our ID cards and searched the car, our bags and our pockets. They took both my mobile phones and Mahmoud's Blackberry, promising to give them back.


A policeman looked me in the eye and said: "You will be lynched today," running his finger across his neck. Others spat on us. They hit the two men in our group in the face through the broken windows, scratching Mahmoud and punching my other male friend. Someone pulled my hair from the back.

Mazen and her friends were eventually, safely, transported to a downtown police station, where they were detained and questioned. Overall, the tone of the police can best be described as paranoid. At one point, it was suggested that the police had to act hostile toward Mazen and her friends, or else they would have been attacked themselves.

As they were released, they were given a warning in the form of advice: "Go on Facebook and tell your friends the streets are not safe, and that they shouldn't come to Tahrir. You were lucky to get out of there alive."

Go read the whole thing.

[This item also appears in our liveblog of breaking news about the events in Egypt. For more, click here.]