More than 100 accusers have emerged online in the past two weeks, triggering a new #MeToo movement in Egypt.
The girls and women described meeting a young man — a former student at Egypt’s most elite university in person and online, followed by deceit, then escalating sexual harassment, assault, blackmail or rape.
Some were minors when the alleged crimes took place, reports Associated Press. The suspect was arrested last week from his home in a gated community outside Cairo.
“What’s before this case is totally different from what’s after,” said Nihad Abuel-Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights and a lawyer representing some of the alleged victims.
In a statement, the public prosecutor’s office said the accused acknowledged he blackmailed at least six girls, saying he would send sensitive photos of them to their families if they cut ties.
At least 10 women have officially reported their claims, according to Abuel-Komsan, of the women’s rights center. Activists also set up the Instagram account @assaultpolice to collect allegations, said Sabah Khodir, a US-based writer who helps run the account. She said there are more than 100 accounts.
A court has ordered the accused to remain in custody pending an investigation into an array of accusations that include attempted rape, blackmail and indecent assault, according to a five-page statement by the public prosecutor. In the same statement, the prosecutor urged more alleged victims to come forward.
Last week, the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi moved to amend the country’s criminal law to increase protections for the identities of sexual assault victims, which activists have welcomed. The amendment still needs parliamentary approval and el-Sissi’s signature to be made law.
The current series of complaints has prompted Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution, to speak out on sexual harassment and assault, even challenging the widely held belief that a woman is at fault if her clothing is less than modest.
There are also other corners where accusations of sexual harassment are emerging, such as in civil society groups and businesses.