Egypt’s #MeToo Crusader Fights Sex Crimes Via Instagram

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After exposing two major sexual assaults in her first two months as an Instagram activist, and spurring Egypt to bring in a law to protect victims’ identities, Nadeen Ashraf has bigger plans.

The 22-year-old student wants to turn her #MeToo-style Instagram account Assault Police, which has emboldened hundreds of Egyptian women to speak out about violence, into an advocacy group that can win justice for sexual assault survivors.

“I want to create an entity on a wide scale where women can go to when they experience any violence to help them get their rights,” Ashraf told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview in her house in Egypt’s capital, Cairo.

“Change is already happening and we will keep pushing for more changes.”

Women’s rights campaigners say there is a deep-rooted bias in the conservative, Muslim-majority nation to place more blame on women for behaviour deemed provocative than on men for sex crimes.

A 2017 Thomson Reuters Foundation poll found Cairo to be the most dangerous megacity for women, and a United Nations’ survey in 2013 found that 99% of women had experienced harassment in Egypt, a country where women have long felt disadvantaged.

Ahmed Bassam Zaki, a former student of the American University in Cairo (AUC) in his early 20s, was arrested in July after several women used Assault Police to make allegations about him.

The public prosecutor on Wednesday referred Zaki to the criminal court on charges of sexually assaulting three girls under the age of 18 and using threats to continue abusing them.

Zaki has not addressed the accusations publicly but denied some of them during questioning, according to a prosecution statement. The Thomson Reuters Foundation was not able to locate a lawyer representing him.

Ashraf, who is a student at AUC, said she decided to set up Assault Police after she heard allegations from friends at the university about Zaki, who comes from a wealthy background, raping and blackmailing women.

“I saw a post written by a woman I know on her personal account in which she narrated a sexual harassment incident by (Zaki) and warned other girls against him,” said Ashraf.

“I got really angry because the girl was pressured (by people who commented online) to delete the post … Many people knew about what he did to many women, but (no action) was taken against him.”

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