The case of the Cairo International Airport pervert

Last week a terrible case of harassment occurred in Cairo International Airport, an Egyptian young lady posts to Instagram about her experience.

On June 14th, Basma (an Instagram blogger known as “BeeBishay”) was crying hysterically in her video where she recounted an incident; it all started when she was returning from Beirut, and a man started to take pictures of her from behind. When she, her friend, and their husbands confronted him, he denied everything, and refused to show them his phone. They decided to take him to airport security in hopes that they will help her; however she found herself in a room with 10 unidentified men, that she, at that moment, thought were police officers, who kept checking the guy’s phone, and all the pictures of the other girls that guy has taken. Basma, feeling cornered, especially when the guy pushed her, and none of the present “police officers”, took action, posted her story to Instagram, and it quickly went viral.

A few hours later, at 2 in the morning specifically, Basma posted a video to thank her followers, the authority, and all those who helped and supported her. Actual police officers arrived at the scene, and a quick, and thorough investigation occurred, leading to the assailant’s arrest.

On June 16th, Egypt’s Public Prosecution released a statement that it had referred the Cairo International Airport employee to a criminal trial for taking photographs and violating a female traveler’s privacy. The statement added that similar photographs of other travelers were also found on the man’s mobile phone; based on the statement, the man’s duties at Cairo International Airport did not include nor allow him to capture any photographs. The company stressed on the fact that it would swiftly act against any violations, and guarantee the safety of all passengers. Reports indicate the man was also fired from his position at Cairo International Airport. According to the Youm7 newspaper, the harasser was sentenced to 3 years in jail with labor, enforcement, and a EGP20,000 fine.

Although Basma’s harasser has been punished her case going viral caused her to face both supporters and attackers; some of Basma’s criticizers called her an attention seeker; that she is ruining the country’s reputation, and that she is already dressed like that in public, so “what is the difference if someone takes a picture of her”. Furthermore, a guy started criticizing Basma on his Instagram stories, talking about the way she dresses, and other factors that would have “caused” the man to harass her. His post went viral, especially in his community, and posts started coming out, and speaking up about him and attacking him over his ignorance. Adding to that a news channel started a smear campaign against Basma discussing that her clothes were inappropriate; leading to Basma posting a new video to reply to those accusations saying she was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, nothing more, nothing less.

Once again Basma’s supporters were loud, and kept repeating that her clothes, any woman’s for that matter, are not an invitation for anyone to touch her, take pictures of her, or do anything to makes her feel violated.

Egypt has gone a long way in recent years to stop, and punish harassment. Although harassment cases are still coming out constantly, the creation of a safe space for the victims is the best start. The recent cases also proved that no matter what your status, and no matter who you are, you will not be able to bury your case, and that every victim is believed, no matter the gender, and although a minority might try to shame them, the majority will be supportive to the victims.

Just know that there is always a safe space for you, and that your feelings are valid.