Social media has helped harassment and rape victims in Egypt

Social media has encouraged many victims of harassment and rape in Egypt to speak out for the first time and press to expose or prosecute the perpetrators. In recent times, many sexual harassment cases have appeared after the girls who are victims of attacks have talked on social media, followed by community sympathy for what they were subjected to and demands for an investigation into the assailants.

Thousands of Egyptian activists participated in massive campaigns that revealed many harassment incidents and rape. In these cases, the role of social media showed the victims of sexual assaults lacked a “safe haven” on the ground, which many have replaced with virtual reality on the Internet. In all of the rape and harassment cases revealed over the last month, social media was the hero in highlighting these crimes. Such as the case of accusing a student of the American University in Cairo of harassing several female students, the rape of a girl in the Fairmont Hotel, and the case of the famous investigative journalist who harassed and raped some female trainee journalists.

Rape and harassment

On August 25, the Naga Hammadi Criminal Court in Qena Governorate, southern Egypt, upheld the execution of the three defendants in the case known in the media as “Farshout Girl,” after taking the legal opinion of the country’s mufti. The events of the case date back to October 2018, when the security services arrested the three accused of kidnapping and raping Farha, a 17-year-old student, in an agricultural area. The three defendants took turns assaulting and raping the girl and leaving her close to death.

In the other case, preliminary investigations conducted by the security services in the Fairmont Hotel case revealed that some defendants escaped during the past days.  The public prosecution opened an investigation. The Egyptian public prosecution ordered the arrest of the defendants in the incident and placed them on the travel ban lists. Later, Lebanese security forces announced they had arrested three of the accused, confirming their intention to send them back to Egypt. On August 4, the Egyptian public prosecution received a letter from the National Council for Women, accompanied by a complaint submitted by one of the girls to the council about some people sexually assaulting her in 2014 inside the Fairmont Hotel.

Famous journalist

A few days ago, an Egyptian journalist, who did not reveal her name, published her experience of sexual harassment and attempted rape, by a prominent investigative journalist who only published the initials of his name, “HA,” on Al-Moudawana website. She said that he works in one of the major international press institutions, and she gave painful details of the sexual harassment and attempted rape, and said that he confessed to doing it years later. This story quickly spread on social media and screen shots of conversations between her and the famous journalist Hesham Allam, which contained many sexual references, were circulated.

A victim or a defendant?

The first big case that sparked these movements is student Ahmed Bassam Zaki who has been accused of harassment and the sexual assault of dozens, after more than 100 girls accused him of rape, sexual assault of a minor, and harassment of others recording their testimony on Instagram. This case was followed by electronic campaigns to encourage victims of harassment and rape to disclose what they had been subjected to, to raise awareness on the one hand, and to expose the aggressor to obtain his punishment on the other hand.

Bloggers and tweeters talked about why girls and women are reluctant to submit official reports if subjected to harassment or rape. With every incident of harassment or sexual assault brought out into the open, the victim becomes a criminal and is not only forced to confront the harasser but collides with an entire social system that justifies the perpetrator’s act and stigmatises the survivors.

Harassment in Egypt

In general, sexual harassment affects all Egyptian women, and this is what was shown by the results of a study conducted by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, which showed that about 99 per cent of Egyptian women had been exposed to some form of sexual harassment. According to a survey by Thomson Reuters Foundation, Egypt also ranks first in the world in the phenomenon of sexual harassment, according to several studies and research, and Cairo was classified in 2017 as the most dangerous city in the world for women.

A study conducted by the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights in 2008 showed that 83 per cent of women confirmed exposure to harassment daily, and 62 per cent of men admitted that they harass women.