An Egyptian court has handed down an eight-year prison sentence for a Lebanese woman who called out sexual harassment in Egypt and harshly criticized the country in a social media post.
Mona el-Mazbouh, 24, was arrested at Cairo International Airport when she tried to leave Egypt in June after she posted a 10-minute video to Facebook. In the clip, Mazbouh complained about sexual harassment from taxi drivers and young men in the streets. She also mentioned a previous visit to Egypt, during which money was stolen from her, and complained about poor service at restaurants during the month of Ramadan.
Mazbouh did not hold back with her criticism in the viral video, and referred to Egypt as a "son of a b**** country."
"God willing, the verdict will change"
According to Reuters, a Cairo court found Mazbouh guilty of "deliberately spreading false rumors that would harm society, attacking religion, and public indecency." An appeal court will hear the case on July 29, at which time the woman's lawyer – Emad Kamal – hopes to change the verdict.
“Of course, God willing, the verdict will change. With all due respect to the judiciary, this is a severe ruling. It is in the context of the law, but the court was applying the maximum penalty,” Kamal said.
The lawyer also explained that his client had a surgery in 2006 to remove a clot from her brain. As a result of the procedure, she struggles to control her anger and also deals with depression.
"I definitely didn't mean to offend all Egyptians"
In addition to detailing her experiences with sexual assault in Cairo, which was named the worst "megacity" for women in 2017, Mazbouh also called Egyptians the "dirtiest people on earth" in her viral rant.
She referred to Egypt as "the country of pimps ... the country of beggars." and also went on to portray the country's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in a negative way.
"You deserve what Sisi is doing to you, I hope God sends you someone more oppressive than Sisi," Mazbouh said.
However, before her detention, Mazbouh apologized for some of her offensive comments in a follow-up video.
In it, she claims that her initial video was not meant to be viewed by the public. The post was a "private one", which was only accessible to her 25 friends on the social media platform.
"I definitely didn't mean to offend all Egyptians, and never meant to say anything about the country's political affairs," she said. "I love all Egyptians and I love this country, that's why I visited it more than once and I keep coming back."
99.3 percent of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment
In May, Egyptian authorities detained activist Amal Fathy under similar circumstances.
Fathy posted a video on social media criticizing the government for "failing to protect women against sexual harassment and over worsening living conditions," according to Reuters.
Fathy was arrested "on charges of inciting to overthrow the ruling system and publishing lies," according to numerous media reports.
Sexual harassment is an issue that millions of Egyptian women face on a daily basis. According to a report released in 2013 by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment.
A recent study conducted by UN Women and Promundo, a Brazilian organization campaigning for gender equality, also revealed that around 43 percent of men in Egypt actually believe that women enjoy getting attention and have no problem with being harassed. Others blame women for inciting the assaults they endure, claiming that victims who wear tight clothing are "asking for harassment."
Egyptian law classifies sexual harassment as a punishable crime. If a woman takes her harasser to court and he is convicted, he can face a minimum of six months in prison. If a harasser is found to be a habitual offender, he could potentially face up to five years in prison.