It might have been another #MeToo moment: An Egyptian woman says a man stalked her at a bus stop, made inappropriate advances, and only backed off when she began filming him with her cellphone.
But when she posted the video on Facebook, it ignited an online debate in which many Egyptians, including women, took the man’s side. Some say he was politely flirting and the woman overreacted, while others have speculated about what she was wearing, suggesting she was the one at fault.
Sexual harassment, mostly ranging from catcalls to occasional pinching or grabbing, is rampant in Egypt. Polls have found that a majority of both men and women in the conservative Muslim country believe it is justified if women dress “provocatively” in public.
That may explain the response to the brief video Menna Gubran posted on August 15. In it, a man later identified as Mahmoud Soliman can be seen approaching her on a suburban Cairo street and inviting her to coffee at On the Run, a nearby convenience store. She politely declines, and he apologises and walks away.
In a subsequent video and in TV interviews, Gubran said Soliman had circled in his car three times as she waited for a bus and made comments that made her feel uncomfortable. At one point, she went into a nearby supermarket, hoping he would leave. When she returned, he came by again and got out of his car, at which point she says she began filming.
Soliman, who has also given TV interviews, denies doing anything wrong and disputed her account of circling in his car. “I just invited her to drink coffee, and I never bothered her. When she said I was bothering her, I apologised and left,” he said.
The video provoked a torrent of angry responses, but while many praised Gubran for outing an alleged harasser, just as many accused her of overreacting or questioned her motives.
“The man was speaking in a very polite and respectful way and she as any Egyptian woman called him a harasser,” a man who identified himself as Mustafa el-Sokarri wrote on Twitter.
Others asked what Gubran, who does not appear in the video, was wearing, with some fishing personal photos out of her social media accounts. Many treated the incident as a joke. The Arabic phrase for “Let’s drink coffee” trended on social media, and “On the Run Guy” even enjoyed a moment of local fame.
The diverging responses reflect a long-running debate in Egypt over what constitutes sexual harassment and who is at fault.
“The incident was indeed harassment and a violation of the girl’s privacy,” said Maha Ahmed, a human rights lawyer at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms. “Unfortunately, there is misunderstanding of harassment in Egypt and this caused the controversy.”
The problem of sexual harassment in Egypt gained worldwide attention during and after the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, when women were harassed, groped – and in some cases, beaten and sexually assaulted – during mass protests.
In 2014, the government passed a law making sexual harassment punishable by up to five years in prison, but it is not widely enforced, particularly when it comes to milder forms of street harassment.
Mozn Hassan, a women’s rights activist, said that although the law was a positive step, it does not define different kinds of sexual harassment. “The state should lay down a clear definition,” she told the daily al-Shorouk on Sunday.
A study released last year by the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked Cairo as the most dangerous megacity in the world for women. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi questioned its findings, but acknowledged in TV comments last November that “there is sexual harassment in Egypt. There is a big percentage, but not to say it is the worst.”
Another poll carried out last year by the UN Women and Promundo, a non-governmental organisation, found that nearly 60% of Egyptian women say they have been sexually harassed, and nearly 65% of men acknowledge harassing women, though they mainly admitted to ogling.
The poll, which surveyed 1 380 men and 1 402 women in five governorates, found that 74% of men – and 84% of women – agreed that “women who dress provocatively deserve to be harassed.” Forty-three percent of men said women “like the attention” when men harass them.
Only 20% of women said they did.
Al-Shabaab Executes 3 Men In Somalia
Somalia’s militant Islamist group al-Shabaab has killed three men execution-style, accusing two of them of working for the army. The third man it killed was an elderly clan leader who helped choose candidates for the 2016 parliamentary elections.
Media linked to al-Shabaab reported the killings took place in front of a crowd in Mubarak village in southern Somalia.
The militants, who are affiliated to al-Qaeda, control much territory in rural areas of Somalia and are fighting to overthrow the un-backed government.
The militants are known for killing suspected informants, including those accused of spying for the U.S. And other foreign intelligence agencies.
Kenya Drops Plans To Introduce Controversial New School Syllabus
Kenya’s education minister Amina Mohamed says the government has dropped plans to introduce a controversial new school syllabus at the start of the academic year in January because it is not ready to roll it out.
The syllabus has caused huge debate in Kenya as it makes radical changes, moving away from an exam-focused to a competency-focused system, which the government says will improve the chances of building successful careers.
The minister added the government still needed to train teachers, and the earliest it would be able to roll out the syllabus would be in 2023.
She said it would be a bad idea to roll out something with which the government is not at all comfortable. The minister said the government also takes parents into consideration.
Tanzania’s President Signs Agreement For The Construction Of Controversial Hydro-Electric Power Project
Tanzania’s president John Magufuli has signed an agreement for the construction of a controversial hydro-electric power project in one of East Africa’s best-known game reserves.
The power plant on the Rufiji River in the Selous game reserve is to be built by two Egyptian firms at a cost of more than three billion dollars.
The project has been strongly opposed by conservationists who warn it would cause irreversible damage to the wildlife habitat, and impact the lives of about 200,000 people who depend on the environment.
The Selous game reserve is a UNESCO world heritage site and is home to a vast array of wildlife.
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