EGYPT FACES RECKONING OVER SEX CRIMES AS “ASSAULT POLICE” PAGE IS SHUT DOWN. Some of the accused men have powerful connections, Egyptian filmmaker Shady Noor warns
August 3, 2020
Hamdah Salhut, Trey Yingst
Farah Radwan, a 27-year-old small business owner, was walking down the street in Cairo when she said a man stepped in front of her.
“You get people who are aggressive and that’s when it gets dangerous... Today I’m embarrassed to be Egyptian,” Radwan told Fox News.
Before long, more than a dozen people came out from shops laughing as the man allegedly harassed Radwan, making sexually suggestive remarks
Her experience, which took place in 2018, is not unique. Around 99 percent of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment or assault, according to a 2013 United Nations study.
Much like the United States, Egypt has been going through its own version of the #MeToo movement. The difference is that many of the women stepping forward in Egypt have been putting themselves in danger to do so.
Radwan, who comes from an upper-class family, made a widely seen video about her experience. She said she felt she was protected while coming forward. Others haven’t been as fortunate.
“The untouchables cannot be touched,” Radwan said.
Inaction by Egyptian law enforcement, coupled with a justice system that often benefited the wealthy and connected, has empowered many women to take matters into their own hands.
Apps such as Instagram and TikTok have been critical tools for survivors to tell their stories. This summer, dozens of accounts have detailed brutal stories of sexual assault, harassment and blackmail.
Last week, one of the largest Instagram pages for survivors was shut down. The page, “Assault Police,” had over 175,000 followers and was used as evidence in the arrest of a suspected serial rapist.
Page administrators said they received a series of death threats from individuals associated with men who were being discussed on the account.
“These men drive around in Maseratis and Ferraris. They are vulgarly rich. They have connections within the government. They have everyone by their side,” Egyptian filmmaker Shady Noor said.
Noor was outspoken on social media about getting justice for assault survivors and said he directed numerous women to the Instagram page.
Many of the women accused the same man, Ahmed Bassam Zaki, of rape, leading Egyptian prosecutors to pursue a case. According to court documents, Zaki was charged with six different crimes and has been in jail awaiting trial.
“Arresting the accused created a sense of comfort and safety within every Egyptian girl and woman; that behind her there is a law that protects and safeguards her right,” the National Council for Women responded in a statement.
As more attention is being brought to the issue of sexual assault, the Egyptian government has faced growing pressure to act.
On July 8, Egypt’s parliament passed a bill via teleconference, designed to protect victims of sexual harassment and abuse. The bill aimed to ensure anonymity in reports of sexual crimes to protect women and children against the common fear of retaliation.
While the move was seen as a step in the right direction, many Egyptian women said they’re still afraid to come forward and have been concerned about threats of persecution and damage to their reputations.
In late June, two women were arrested after posting TikTok videos, one discussing an assault that occurred and the other talking about how to make money using the app. They faced charges of “debauchery” and “immorality” for the clothes they were wearing and the comments they made in the videos, according to reports. Those two women have remained in jail.
Once again, Egyptians are using the Internet to fight for justice, this time creating a change.org petition calling for their release.
“Because of their class, they are being punished, and denied their right to own their bodies; to dress freely; and to express themselves,” the petition read.
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