Television show host Reham Saeed has been under fire from social media users and other media personalities after airing private photographs of a sexual harassment victim and claiming her personal choices warranted the assault.
On her show, Sabaya El-Kheir, Saeed interviewed Somaya Tarek on Tuesday after she was harassed and slapped twice by a man at a Heliopolis mall. Tarek attempted to bring the man to justice but police reportedly refused to arrest him because he is known in the area.
After listening to Tarek’s account of the altercation, Saeed asked her, “Don’t you think your clothing was somewhat inappropriate for a place like a mall? Maybe your clothes gave the man the impression that you’re not a ‘good girl.’”
Saeed took the victim-blaming one step further by later airing private photographs of Tarek wearing a bathing suit on a beach, holding a bottle of alcohol in a car and another photograph that appears to have been taken in Tarek’s bedroom, saying Tarek should not be surprised that she was harassed.
While Saeed claimed to have received these photographs through WhatsApp, Tarek said Sabaya El-Kheir’s production team stole the photographs from her phone while she was in the studio with Saeed.
The anchor later denied these accusations, saying that she had actually protected Tarek and had not aired all the information she had received about the harassment victim.
“I stopped there because I have a daughter but you and I both know there is more information to give,” Saeed said in a monologue on her show, addressing Tarek.
Saeed also said that Tarek had her phone with her the entire time and referred to a clip showing the two after they had finished filming the episode, saying that Tarek’s phone was in her hand but the video only shows Tarek holding her phone later on.
Following the backlash and back-and-forth between Saeed and Tarek, social media erupted with outrage over the anchor’s actions. On Wednesday, the top trending hashtag on Twitter was #موتي_يا_ريهام (Die Reham) and several petitions began circulating on Facebook to take Sabaya El-Kheir off the air and take Saeed to court. One such petition has already garnered 108,000 supporters.
Eman El-Hosary, an anchorwoman on Al-Mehwar TV channel, reported on the case and gave Saeed a chance to respond to the backlash. When El-Hosary asked Saeed, who phoned into the show, to stay on topic and address the issue at hand, Saeed retorted by saying, “You will listen to me whether you like it or not.”
El-Hosary responded by ending the phone call abruptly, saying that Saeed had wasted her chance to respond to the accusations.
The media flurry is somewhat reminiscent of the highly publicized case of sexual harassment that took place on the Cairo University campus last year, where a flock of male students maliciously surrounded, catcalled and groped a young woman as she was making her way around campus. The young woman only evaded the assailants, who were acting like a group of hungry hyenas, when campus security finally came to her rescue and escorted her off campus.
Much like Reham Saeed tried to shift the blame onto the woman harassed at the mall, television host Tamer Amin blamed the victim of the assault for her attire, which he likened to that of a belly dancer.
“These clothes are not appropriate for university or a respectable girl,” Amin said on his show. His victim-blaming then turned into attempts to exonerate the assailants: They did not mean any harm, they are young men with overwhelming sexual desires and life is difficult for young men in Egypt, he said.
Sexual harassment in Egypt has become rampant in recent years. A 2013 survey reported that a whopping 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, while 96.5 percent reported experiencing physical sexual harassment and 95.5 percent reported experiencing sexual harassment through verbally abusive language.
Last month, anti-harassment NGO “Shoft Ta7arosh” (I Saw Harassment) reported over 200 incidents of sexual harassment in downtown Cairo during the first two days of the Eid al-Adha holiday.
Earlier this year, police forces arrested 84 individuals during the first two days of Eid Al-Fitr for sexual harassment.
In accordance with recently passed anti-harassment laws, harassers are to be penalized with a fine of LE 3,000-5,000 and/or a jail sentence of no less than six months. However, many of these incidents go unreported to the authorities and many others who do attempt to press charges face serious obstacles to do so successfully.