Egypt: Activist arrested for Facebook video on sexual harassment

The arrest of an Egyptian activist for posting a Facebook video in which she shared her experiences of sexual harassment is a new low in Egypt’s crackdown on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today. 

Amal Fathy was arrested at around 2:30 AM today (11 May), along with her husband Mohamed Lotfy, a former Amnesty International researcher and the current director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms. Police raided the couple’s Cairo home and brought them both to the police station, along with their three-year-old child.

Amal Fathy criticized the Egyptian government for failing to protect women, and her arrest has shown just how pertinent her concerns are
Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International

“Amal Fathy criticized the Egyptian government for failing to protect women, and her arrest has shown just how pertinent her concerns are. It is a dark day when the Egyptian authorities are more concerned with silencing a woman who speaks out about sexual harassment than taking steps to address the issue,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

“The backlash against Amal Fathy is exactly why Egypt needs brave activists like her to speak up for women’s rights. We call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Amal Fathy. Her detention for peacefully expressing her opinions is an affront to the freedom of expression guaranteed by Egypt’s own constitution.”

On 9 May Amal Fathy posted a video on her Facebook page in which she spoke about the prevalence of sexual harassment in Egypt, and criticized the government’s failure to protect women. She also criticized the government for deteriorating human rights, socioeconomic conditions and public services. Amnesty International examined the 12-minute video and found that it does not contain incitement of any form, and as such is protected by freedom of expression.

Over the next day, pro-government and state-owned media outlets released articles citing the video, identifying Amal as an April 6 movement activist and the wife of Mohamed Lotfy and accusing her of insulting Egypt and Egyptian institutions. Since yesterday, there has been a wave of harassment on social media along with threats to her as a result of the video. This includes the use of gender-based insults, and calls for her arrest.

Amal Fathy and Mohamed Lotfy were taken to the Maadi police station in the South of Cairo. After around three hours, the police said that Mohamed Lotfy was free to go with their child, but that Amal Fathy had to stay until the prosecutor had examined her case. So far, the prosecutor has not examined her case and she is still detained in Maadi police station.

Background

Amal Fathy is an Egyptian activist who focuses mostly on democratization in Egypt. She has been vocal about human rights violations in Egypt, especially the arbitrary detention of activists.

Mohamed Lotfy is a former Amnesty International researcher, and the director of the NGO Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF). ECRF staff members have been frequent targets of government harassment since its founding in 2014. In June 2015, Mohamed Lotfy was prevented from boarding a flight to Germany and the authorities confiscated his passport, without giving a clear reason. He was not issued another passport for two years.