Tuesday, July 21, 2020

#Metoo summer’s return in Egypt: It started on social media posts written in English

On Saturday, Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church announced that it defrocked a priest who served abroad after receiving complaints there about his behaviour according to its investigation.

The news or the statement did not include too many details on why the Church defrocked Priest Reweiss Aziz Khalil and stripped him of his priestly rank, thereby he becomes once again Youssef Aziz Khalil.

The statement is considered as a notification to both civil authorities in Egypt or the United States where Khalil allegedly resides currently that he is no  longer a member of the church's clergy

He is said to allegedly live in Missouri. 

Youssef Khalil is accused of sexual harassment and molestation of minors.

In other words, he is an alleged paedophile.

The case of Khalil came to the public when one of his victims in the United States called Sally Zakhari came forward online and shared horrifying details about his sexual assault to her in English on her Twitter and Instagram account.

Zakhari has informed the Church about his crime since the time of Pope Shenouda II but there had been no real action.

In 2014 according to the Church’s statement and from what I understand he was suspended from serving the church but was not defrocked.

This is the first time a case of this kind comes to the spotlight in Egypt. I am sure that there are other cases but there are handled away from the social media and public attention.

Nevertheless, this case is unique because it comes at time taboos are broken for the first when it comes

It did not stop at women victims because for the first time we find men breaking even bigger taboo and that’s sexual harassments by other men.

Horrifying details were shared online.

Renowned actor and screenplay writer Abbas Aboelhassan took a huge step and reported an infamous renowned dentist known for his sexual harassments towards other men online.

The outspoken actor launched a hashtag collecting testimonies about this famous dentist whose clinics are in Cairo and Alexandria.

Aboelhassan announced that he would go and report the dentist to the authorities with other men.

The big shock for me is that the behaviour of that famous star dentist whose list of the clientele includes the current prime minister of Egypt and A-class actors was well known for the dentistry community in the country for decades.  

Ironically it turned out that my mom and aunt used to go to this dentist when he had a very small clinic and his mother used to help him in that clinic. They were shocked !! 

Egyptian men did not report him officially or speak about him publicly for fear of mockery.

After all, we are dealing with a highly patriarchal misogynistic society.

It was sad to see the women feeling sympathetic and supportive to Abbas Aboelhassan than men who turned the matter as a joke on social media.

Anti-sexual harassment graffiti in Cairo after 2011
No for sexual harassment graffiti once in the streets 
of Cairo circa 2011-2013 "Reuters" 

The wave extended to the Egyptian political activism and human rights community with women researchers coming forward with tales of alleged harassments involving big names of activists and human rights lawyers, some of them are in self-exile now.

Sadly, some of those alleged names were once highly respected and some of them were imprisoned and the social media stood beside them in solidarity till they were free.

Some of them I wrote about in this blog.

The wave also put other activists in a test about whether they would support the victims or their comrades, some of those activists succeeded while others failed miserably.

I totally understand the fear of hijacking the wave for political character assassination but attacking potential victims in the most disgusting way won’t help.

Also, women and girls began to share their memories of sexual harassments in the countryside in Nile Delta in Facebook pages and groups to warn other girls from certain teachers or doctors or even students.

There is no doubt in my mind that bill approved by the cabinet to keep the identities of sexual assaults and harassments victims confidential will encourage more people to speak up when approved and ratified hopefully soon.

According to the bill, the identities of the victims will be revealed to court and to defence upon request.

This is a huge step because again we are Eastern society where women and men fear to report such actions for fear of bringing shame and scandal to themselves and to their families.

The case that started all in English or the alleged serial rapist living in an upscale compound

This is what has just been happening in the past three weeks. It started with a case that was the talk of the town for real.

An Instagram account called “Assault Police” appeared online with posts in English accusing a young man of not only sexual harassments but sexual assault and blackmail of his victims from girls and boys allegedly in Egypt and Spain where he used to study.

The formerly AUC student turned to have a history of sexual harassments and “inappropriate behaviour” since his time in Qatar and Egypt’s elite American high schools.

An Upper-class young man who seems to enjoy his privileges as rich firstborn of a father working as an executive working in the top IT sector companies in Egypt, this young man allegedly threatened his victims by his alleged family connections which all turned to be false.

The case of this young seems like an episode of “Criminal Minds” if you pay attention to its details.

Some people mocked the campaign calling for the arrest of this young man because the girls participating in it were using English regardless of the importance of the cause.

Yet the campaign began to win when the National Council For Women decided to take a step forward and help the girls who want to report the young man officially to the prosecutor general calling them to come forward.

The prosecutor general’s office also was following the case online and called the girls and women to come forward promising them with confidential investigations.

What started with a young lady’s official complaint ended up with a dozen complaints officially and an arrest warrant.

Now suspect “Ahmed Bassam Zaki” is currently detained 15 days pending investigations into the following charges according to the Prosecution’s statement: Attempting to have sex with at least two females including a minor without their consent and sexually assaulting them and blackmail.

According to the prosecution’s statements, the young man in his 20s admitted to blackmailing six women with whom he had a relationship before !!

The case is still on and many people are wondering if he will get away with it considering that he is considered from that filthy rich class. He lives along with his family in an exclusive gated compound for the very rich in the outskirts of Cairo.

There he is accused of allegedly committing two rape incidents including one at the compound’s gym.

You have to pay not less than LE 21 million to get a villa there. You pay not less than LE 6 million to get a small apartment just to enjoy the privileges of that exclusive compound including security and safety for your kids. 

This was discussed among other issues like for instance how far the elite international educational institutions in Egypt knew about his behaviour and kept it under the carpet.

Hopefully, I will keep you updated.

Anyhow for history, I believe the starting point of this new season of #Metoo in summer 2020 did not start with Assault Police Instagram account in July but rather in June 2020.

More than 20 girls reported about an alleged sexual harasser who was fired from his work and work a very poor apology online in late June.

A week later or two we were then introduced to Assault police and the alleged sick serial rapist.

The social media in Egypt was the one that broke the taboo of sexual harassment in the media with the first and early reports about mass-harassments against women in the blogs in 2004 and in 2005.

This blog is a witness on this.

Then we had Facebook and Twitter as the medium in 2011 and what followed it.

It was always the social media that delivered the women’s voices to the public breaking this taboo in the mainstream media.

The blog posts, Facebook posts and tweets then came the time of Instagram posts in 2020.

All those changes in the legislations started with posts online.

Ironically in 2020, the victims of sexual harassment and assaults are facing the same accusations, bloggers faced from 15 and 14 years ago: You are trashing Egypt’s image with the classical line “Why do you write in English!?”

Well, guess what? Those posts in English may help in changing the society for a better a little bit and make it a little safer.

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