With violence in Egypt currently at the front of many people’s minds due to the horrific attack on CBS’ Lara Logan in Cairo, GQ‘s interview with Fox News correspondent Greg Palkot seems more relevant than ever.
Palkot – who was blindfolded and severely beaten along with photo journalist Olaf Wiig while covering the uprising in Egypt – told Taimur Khan that he would have been abducted much sooner had it not been for the selflessness of a few fast-acting individuals after the commotion broke out in Tahrir Square:
An interesting running theme to this whole story is that it was a few people out there who just did not want to see us killed. So a handful of them pushed the pro-government thugs aside and shunted us quickly up into that building and we were up there for about five hours, from the day into the evening, until about 11 at night. At first it was a good place to hide out and even a good place to overlook the action…
Then, pro-government protesters (whom are suspected as having been hired by Hosni Mubarak‘s government to intimidate journalists and dissidents) entered the hotel where Palkot, Wiig and others were hiding. They didn’t find them, but Palkot was able to view the thugs lighting Molotov cocktails. Sensing that it would only be a matter of time before they were caught, Palkot and the others in hiding decided to make a run for it… and were soon caught:
It happened almost immediately. Within about 30 to 40 seconds Olaf and I were running along the street by the building edge and we were pounced upon by the crowds. I saw him being attacked first and then within seconds it was me too. We were foreigners and they were just rabid for anything and so they were pummeling us and hitting us and using sticks and fists and using open hands and using rocks, primarily in the head but all over the body too. While this was all going on, we were moving forward because in theory the hotel, our goal, was at best a half-mile away or less than that. But there was about 5,000 pro-Mubarak protestors between us and our goal.
Palkot is careful to make clear that he believes he, Wiig and others were targeted and attacked because they were foreigners, not because they were members of the press. Palkot also describes how his captors sought medical treatment for his extensive wounds, including a substantial amount of blood lost after having been struck on or near an artery:
There were a good bunch of doctors there. I had almost 30 stitches in my scalp and a lot that was done right there in the ER. But almost immediately after that they realized who I was, and what I was, and the same with Olaf. There was an armed guard attached to Olaf and me, and we were basically under house arrest.
You may remember that one of these doctors contacted Palkot after the fact, wanting to share his thoughts on Egypt’s uncertain future.
But not everyone in Egypt, of course, demonstrated such a degree of care and kindness. According to Palkot, members of the Egyptian army, the country’s secret police and possibly hired “thugs” masquerading as pro-government protesters were all complicit in his abduction.
Khan posed a very good question that places Palkot’s attack in a greater context: If members of the army saw what has happening to him and others and failed to intervene – and, in some cases, aid directly – in these wildly violent, unjust acts, what does that say about the ability to govern Egypt in the interim? Palkot responds:
That’s a good question. I know the riot police were much more hated, much more antagonistic. In fact, the crowds pretty much favored the military and inspired their trust. I think we were more a victim of the policy that was given to them [the Army] not to intervene on one side or the other. I don’t think it was a policy of the Army per se to allow us to be attacked and killed. I think we got caught in the crossfire on that one. I think in general the military is seen as a bit of a stabilizing force. But many people I talked to there are not in favor of Egypt reverting to military rule, so, you know, I think the hope is that democracy can go forward there.
Take a look at the article in its entirety for yourselves – it’s really quite a fascinating look highlighting both the heights and lows of human interaction when character and endurance are truly put to the test
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