Last weekend saw the birth a movement when an Instagram page entitled @AssaultPoliceposted anonymous accusations towards Ahmed Bassam Zaki, a 22-year-old man who is alleged to have assaulted over 100 students at the University of Cairo.
In just a matter of days, the account amassed 160,000 followers, ultimately leading to an investigation by Egyptian authorities and subsequently to the arrest of Ahmed Zaki, after which he confessed to harassing six women.
Quickly, more and more women took to their platforms to discuss their own experience of sexual harassment in Egypt. Their voices were eventually amplified by some of the Arab world’s biggest names, speaking out against the deeply entrenched issue of sexual assault in Egypt and around the world.
Egyptian actress Salma Abu Deif was amongst the first to speak out. In a video that now counts over 600,000 views. Abu Deif spoke about her own experiences of sexual harassment, also writing in a caption: “There is so much anger inside of me, feeling unsafe, feeling harassed. Please speak up speak up speak up I want to feel safe in my own skin. I want to feel safe.” The actress also included the phone number for Egypt’s Women’s Complaints Offie (15115), encouraging women to report crimes against them.
Egyptian influencer Maya El Sayed also spoke out in a video that counts over 1 million views at the time of writing. El Sayed described instances of sexual harassment she has experienced in the workplace, with a caption that read: “I want to feel safe. I call on all survivors who opened up about their experiences with the abuser Ahmed Zaki to submit official reports to make an example for anyone who thinks about harassing, raping, or attacking women”.
Hend Sabry also addressed the issue of sexual abuse across the Arab world. The Egypt-based Tunisian actress wrote: “I can guarantee that all Arab women – with the exception of few lucky ones- have experienced some sort of harassment and were too afraid to expose their predators because of the unfair social response.” “I am very proud of this new generation of young girls who speak up. Harassment and rape are shameful for those who commit it, not the victim,” she continued.