Earlier this week, a hashtag went viral in Egypt exposing a psychiatrist who has allegedly been using his profession and has posed as a spiritual guide to sexually abuse underage girls from the Coptic Christian community in Egypt for years.
Not long after, the hashtag was trending for three days straight, with many women using #M_F_Sexual_Abuser (#المتحرش_م_ف) to share their stories of abuse at the hands of the alleged abuser.
M.F. refers to the initials of the accused assaulter. As charges have not yet been filed and investigations are ongoing, Egyptian Streets has chosen not to name the individual accused per instructions received from the Egyptian Public Prosecution in relation to similar cases.
[TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains graphic details of rape and sexual abuse. Reader discretion is advised.]
According to various social media posts and information received by Egyptian Streets from those close to the case, the man accused of abuse would target underage Christian girls, luring them to his home for unlicensed private psychiatry sessions. Under the pretext of being a spiritual guide, the survivors fully trusted the accused, opening up about their private lives while seeking out guidance from him.
“M.F. claims that he is a psychiatrist although he is a general practitioner. He wrote a religious book that was distributed at the church and people thought that he is a [religious guide] because he used to attend meetings at the church all the time,” said Merhan Keller, a women’s rights activist and one of the main voices driving the campaign for justice, in a tweet.
تحذير !!!!! الموضوع ده في غاية الخطورة و حساس ومحتاجة مساعدتكم عشان نساعد الضحايا. pic.twitter.com/iqaBuQKytU
— Merhankeller (@merhankeller) September 27, 2020
M.F. would allegedly go as far as offering his victims a place to live, using his home as refuge for vulnerable young women. The safety net was allegedly his wife’s involvement, who, according to Keller, would lure them from church to sign up for his private psychiatry sessions.
“She heard the girls scream in that room every time he violated them, while she was sitting right outside, in the same apartment,” Keller told Egyptian Streets, citing victims who had shared their stories with her.
“She was the one who groomed the girls, convinced them that her husband is a miracle worker.”
Abuses Date Back to 2014
This is not the first time the M.F. case surfaces. Social media posts about alleged abuses by M.F. date back to 2014. Prior to 2020, the most recent social media posts warning against M.F. were in 2018. Keller, who has spoken to a number of the victims, also confirmed that some of the alleged crimes date back to 2014.
“I heard about the case a while back, two years ago, but I thought it got resolved because it suddenly stopped circulating. I never thought nothing was done about it,” added Keller. “Then, one survivor reached out to me and said that the accused is still out and working normally as if nothing happened and that he is still violating women inside of his house.”
Keller said the story even reached one of the Coptic church’s highest authorities, when Bishop Raphaeil posted a warning on his official Twitter account in 2018. “He [the bishop] did not mention his [M.F.] name, however, all the comments back then mentioned him clearly,” she explained.
A news report from Copts Today, a publication focused on news from the Coptic Christian community, spread the warning of Bishop Rafael in 2014 and added that the abuser used his title as a psychiatrist to lure young girls.
She said at one point M.F. was banned from the church which is why he used his wife to approach the girls. His wife would even allegedly receive payments from them for booking private psychiatry sessions with her husband.
Keller added that his fabricated identity as a doctor and a spiritual guide were “the two most effective weapons” against vulnerable girls. “The only place where a woman knows it’s okay to take any item of clothing off is during a medical check up and the trust we have in the so-called religious [men] made it even easier.”
She said that the accused would convince underage girls that whatever is wrong with them is because of a mental illness, and that they needed help both physically and spiritually. “Girls at that age are usually vulnerable, they feel alone and that they are not understood… He [then] paints himself as the savior, the older trusted friend, the spiritual guide and the doctor who will make all their pain disappear.”
“The absolute perfect plan to create a cult and place yourself as its leader,” she added.
On her end, Keller supported the survivors by bringing some of their stories to light on social media and helped spark the latest campaign to bring the accused to justice. She was motivated to do so after finding that the stories of abuse had appeared on social media for years, but despite so, the case had never received any significant coverage or attention.
“I relied on the consciousness of [Egyptians] and as usual, they didn’t disappoint me. Once I posted about the story it went viral and everyone was sharing and tweeting,” she said to Egyptian Streets.
For years, Keller says, the survivors felt silenced and oppressed, “living with this pain daily, so they don’t scandalize themselves, their families or their community.”
“This time, the case is so different”
It was the latest feminist movement, Keller cited, that encouraged survivors to try again and to speak up. But it was through Keller, who was heavily involved in similar cases, that the girls found their voice.
“This time the case is so different…Our parents are not famous or rich, we are middle class people and maybe this is what made me relevant to them,” said Keller
“It’s not like the previous cases of ABZ and the Fairmont [Incident], who are mostly upper class [people] with lots of freedom and support from their community and able to speak English fluently and communicate with international media to get the support and coverage.”
After gaining massive traction on social media, Egyptian Streets has received information that survivors are in the process of filing an official complaint against the alleged to the Public Prosecutor’s office.
Egyptian social media users have continued to post about M.F. and the alleged abuses, hoping that increased attention and pressure from the community will finally lead to justice after many years of alleged abuse.
Any victims of sexual crimes or domestic abuse in Egypt needing support or willing to come forward to expose their abusers can contact the National Council for Women at 15115 for assistance.