A young woman has been murdered in Egypt after turning down a marriage proposal from a 29-year-old man from the village of Toukh Tanbesha in Menoufia Governorate in the Nile Delta, underscoring an ongoing tragedy in the country: violence against women and the authorities’ failure to prevent it happening.
Ahmed Fathi Amerirah shot Amani Abdul Karim, 19, on Saturday and then reportedly turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. Amani is the third female murder victim in Egypt in just three months – each was murdered after refusing to marry the killer.
“What happened is not just an ordinary crime, it is a new crime of violence against women, and it is a femicide,’” Shaimaa Elbanna, spokeswoman for the Committee for Justice told MEMO.
“We note that violence in general is increasing in Egypt, especially violence from the state against all citizens. At least identifying the crime and labelling it correctly helps us determine the reasons it is happening and helps us find solutions to protect women.”
— It's Mariam (@mariamomran1102) September 4, 2022
Amani was murdered not long after an outpouring of solidarity with the student Naira Ashraf, who in June was beaten and stabbed multiple times outside Mansoura University by Mohamed Adel.
The footage of the murder went viral and the killing shook Egypt, especially after it emerged that Mohamed harassed Naira for a year, to the knowledge of authorities, who failed to prevent her death.
According to a Reuters article, Mohamed edited her face onto pornographic images and sent her death threats for months before he stabbed her.
Naira reported Mohamed to the cybercrime police unit and filed two restraining orders against him, yet her lawyer said the police did not undergo proper legal procedures and action was not taken against him.
State-run media has tried to draw the focus elsewhere, in one case running an article which argues men kill their lovers due to “Othello’s disease”, or a pathological jealousy.
The romanticisation of events like this is the very problem why our society is still branded as uncivilised and barbaric. Other than all the infringements of human rights that could be raised, this is simply atrocious.#أماني_الجزار #نيرة_اشرف #اوقفوا_قتل_النساء https://t.co/HA3oEqyabe
— Ragheb Malli راغب ملّي (@Raghebmalli) September 4, 2022
From Naira Ashraf to the student Amani. The story, ‘Love never kills,’ is an ongoing drama
Naira’s autopsy was published, focusing on the results of her virginity test and whether her hymen was intact. Then a discussion erupted online. Why didn’t Naira wear the headscarf? Could other women who chose not to wear it be subject to the same act of violence?
“Cover up or meet the same fate,” one Al-Azhar professor said.
Egyptian media outlets have published #NayeraAshraf's autopsy, focusing on result of a virginity test. As if invasively checking whether her hymen was intact should change the fact that she was murdered in broad daylight in the middle of the street by a man she repeatedly refused https://t.co/iMcfnluoEe
— Lina (@Lina_Serene) July 12, 2022
Then just one and a half months after Naira’s brutal murder, it happened again. At the beginning of August, Islam Mohamed stabbed 20-year-old Salma Bahgat to death 17 times in Zagazig on the eastern part of the Nile Delta. Islam had posted a story on his social media threatening Salma after she turned down his marriage proposal with a firm “no”.
As Amina’s story spreads on social media, observers continue to mourn Naira and Salma, call for urgent justice for women in Egypt, and for the attention to be put squarely on what happened, rather than what they were wearing.
3 women, in less than three months, killed for rejecting a man’s advances, in Egypt. Today, Amany el Gazzar, 19, shot dead outside her home in Menoufia by a male colleague who’s romantic advances she had rejected.
— Hafsa Halawa (@HafsaHalawa) September 4, 2022
“The killings are an extension of violence against women in Egypt, which began with threats, beatings and harassment, and have continued every day without confrontation or clear rejection by society,” Shaimaa says.
“This is due to toxic relations between men and women, a cultural heritage that encourages violence, religious interpretations that incited it, the absence of adequate legal protection, the existence of legal loopholes that allow criminals to go unpunished, and the deterioration of the security system in Egypt. And for these reasons, women don’t report what is happening to them.”
In June, Naira’s killer, Mohamed Adel, was sentenced to death, the maximum penalty for murder in Egypt, with the court even asking for the law to be changed so his execution could be televised to the nation.
In 2021 Egypt was the third highest executioner worldwide, despite calls by human rights groups and the UN to impose a moratorium on the death sentence as it spiralled out of control.
“A deterrent law does not mean revenge or death sentences – that we reject completely – because as we see Naira Ashraf’s killer was sentenced to death, but this didn’t stop the crime and it happened again. Issuing a death sentence was never enough and it didn’t deter and protect the new victim,” says Shaimaa.
Instead, women need a safe environment which encourages them to report violence, she says, and which offers them protection and takes their complaints seriously. This needs to start by schools educating new generations and through civil society, a difficult task as censorship and restrictions on NGOs are at an all-time high in Egypt.
“I wish patience to all women who are suffering from trauma which is renewed with each new incident of violence against women in Egypt and the Arab world,” says Shaimaa.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.