First victory for the #MeToo movement in Egypt
An Egyptian serial predator was sentenced to three years in prison for harassment and stalking by a Cairo court. That is the first sentence in a trial linked to the movement against sexual violence against women #MeToo in the most populous country in the Arab world. His name is Ahmed Bassam Zaki, 20 years old former student of the American University in the capital, the child of a well-connected family. Abz, as the activists called him, will also have to answer for the rape and attempted rape allegations in a second trial, which opens on January 9.
The #MeToo movement is a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment where people publicize allegations of sex crimes committed by powerful or prominent men. The expression “Me Too” was initially used in this context on social networks in 2006, on Myspace, by sexual harassment survivor and activist Tarana Burke.On October 15, 2017, American actress Alyssa Milano posted on Twitter: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” adding that she got the idea from a friend.Several stars’ posts and responses from American celebrities Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, and Uma Thurman, among others, soon succeeded.
The #MeToo hashtag has spread to millions of users and has also been translated into other languages, including Arabic. The post-denunciations reached North Africa, Tunisia and Egypt. The conviction of Ahmed Bassam Zaki represents the first legal victory for Muslim women who believed in the movement.”Congratulations to all the women who thought it would be better to remain silent. Do not forget that we are waiting for another court decision on January 9: the one for rape”, wrote the activists of Assault Police on Instagram, the same ones who in July joined on social media to encourage anyone aware of facts concerning Zaki to come forward, with the guarantee of anonymity and protection.The Court for Economic Affairs, judging crimes related to digital, sentenced him to three years in prison, finding him guilty of sexual harassment by phone to two women. He sent photos of a sexual nature to one of them, and he repeatedly contacted the other without her consent, judicial sources report.
The case erupted last July 1 when the police Instagram account published dozens of testimonies accusing Zaki of being a sexual predator. The accuses were coming mainly from former comrades. Stories with supporting screenshots indicate scenes of sexual blackmail, assaults, and rape. Arrested on July 4, the former student confessed to attacking and blackmailing six women, including a minor.On Instagram shortly before his arrest, activists created the “Assault police” channel, asking the women involved not to be afraid and to come out, assuring them legal assistance, protection, and anonymity.
#WomensRights activist Nadeen Ashraf created @assaultpolice on Instagram to share women & girls' accounts of sexual harassment & abuse in Egypt. She's been awarded @ChimeforChange Changemaker Award at EN's Make Equality Reality gala for her pivotal role helping ignite #MeTooEgypt https://t.co/j7cabJrm5k— equalitynow (@equalitynow) December 4, 2020
“Ahmed Bassam Zaki is a sexual predator who has abused a shocking number of underage women and girls across Egypt for five years now, with no consequences for his actions,” the first post of the profile affirms. “He humiliated and blackmailed his victims. Together we can collect a large database of evidence of his harassment. More than 100 girls provided evidence that Ahmed Bassam Zaki molested them online or in real life. It happened in prestigious institutions.” and all the schools and universities where Abz had studied.Zaki would lure them with deception, then pressuring them for intimate photos with which he blackmailed them for sexual purposes. Gender and sexual violence are a deep-rooted problem in Egypt, often falsely perceived as linked to poverty contexts. Victims also have to fight the patriarchal and conservative culture, which connects the female sexual conduct to family reputation.