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Prominent writer arrested for sexual assault as Egypt’s #MeToo movement expands

Egyptian writer and general manager of the Cairo independent Merit publishing house Mohammed Hashem on 12 October 2011 [JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images]
Egyptian writer and general manager of the Cairo independent Merit publishing house Mohammed Hashem on 12 October 2011 [JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images]

A prominent Egyptian writer has been arrested after a poet filed a complaint with authorities accusing him of sexual assault.

Mohamed Hashem manages the Dar Merit publishing house in Cairo and was well-known for his resistance to state censorship.

The poet Alaa Hasanin wrote a Facebook post describing how Hashem attacked her in 2019 at Dar Merit, reports the New Arab.

Hashem offered her a drink and took her into a separate room so they wouldn’t wake up his daughter, who was asleep.

She said Hashem forcibly kissed her and touched her inappropriately. She tried to push him off her and he told her to wait and then continued.

“He is an old man and I am younger than his daughter who is sleeping in the next room,” wrote Hashem. “This day was the worst day of my life.”

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Since Hasanin’s post was shared other women came forward with similar stories under the Arabic hashtag “Mohamed Hashem is a harasser”.

Hasanin’s complaint comes amid what many commentators are calling Egypt’s #MeToo movement. Earlier this month 50 women accused Egyptian student Ahmed Bassam Zaki of rape, sexual assault and sexual blackmail on social media.

Some 400 women came forward to complain about sexual violence in the aftermath of the allegations.

The level of debate on social media pressured the Egyptian authorities to take rare action and arrest Zaki, since it is far more common that the victims are punished rather than the perpetrators.

Zaki was detained and charged and Egypt’s cabinet approved a bill which stipulates it will keep the identities of women filing complaints of sexual assault a secret.

READ: Egypt suspends Islamic preacher who says women are harassed due to tight clothing

The case has helped shine a spotlight on the nine women who published videos on social media app TikTok and who are currently incarcerated for allegedly promoting debauchery, offending family values and promoting sexually suggestive videos.

A petition currently circulating under the Arabic hashtag “Egyptian families if you please” documents the systematic crackdown on TikTok women and calls on the government-run National Council of Women to offer legal representation to the women who have been incarcerated for sharing videos on the platform.

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