Amnesty International is calling on the Egyptian authorities to immediately end the shameful prosecution of journalist Rasha Azab, who is on trial for her outspoken support of victims of sexual violence.
Azab is being tried, according to the organization’s statement, on charges of defamation, against the background of her tweets expressing her solidarity with the victims of sexual violence who published testimonies, without revealing their identities, accusing director Islam al-Azzazi of committing sexual assaults against them. If convicted, Azab could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 50,000 pounds. “The prosecution of Azab for expressing solidarity with victims of sexual violence sends a shocking message that women must suffer in silence and refrain from seeking justice,” said Philip Luther, director of research and advocacy for the organization’s Middle East and North Africa program. He also added that the authorities should focus instead on tackling the rampant sexual violence in Egypt. In December 2020, the feminist blogg Daftar Hikaiat published 6 testimonies, without revealing the identity of the women behind them, accusing Azzazi of sexual violence.
Amnesty International said that the Egyptian authorities have made no efforts to work with women’s rights organizations and activists to encourage victims to report abuses to state agencies. Azab had published several messages on her Twitter account, between December 2020 and November 2021, expressing her support for the women behind these allegations. On January 13, Azzazi filed a complaint against Azab and director Aida Al-Kashef, who also expressed her support for the victims through her Facebook account, accusing them of defamation. A few days later, the Public Prosecution decided to refer the case against Azab to the court.
Amnesty International has indicated that its research shows that the Egyptian authorities are failing to prevent widespread violence against women and girls in Egypt, and are instead threatening, arbitrarily detaining and prosecuting victims, witnesses and activists who report or campaign against sexual violence.