The Regional Coalition of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) in the Middle East and North Africa calls on feminist organizations to stand in solidarity with the Egyptian journalist, writer, scriptwriter and WHRD Rasha Azab, as she was referred to trial on Saturday, February 26, 2022 on charges of defamation and slander. The background to this trial is due to her solidarity and support for the survivors of crimes of sexual violence committed by (film) director Islam Azazi. Testimonies against him were published on the “Daftar Hekayat” blog, that published numerous testimonies of survivors of sexual violence crimes committed by more than one perpetrator. It is worth noting that she is the first activist to be tried for this reason, as a result of Azazi filing a case of slander and defamation against her, now she is liable to be tried according to Penal Code No. 58 of 1937 and Communications Regulatory Law No. 10 of 2003, which is punishable by imprisonment for two years and a fine ranging between 20 and 500 thousand Egyptian Pounds.
It should also be noted that the date of the director’s release of a power of attorney, against which 6 rape and harassment testimonies were published, accusing 5 people of slandering and defaming him dates back to January 10, 2021, while he submitted a complaint on January 13, 2021 against Rasha Azab and director Aida Al-Kashef on charges of slandering and defaming him. The communication was filed and closed on February 9, 2021, but a grievance was filed on February 16, 2021 and the case was reopened on March 1, 2021. The statements of the concerned director were taken on December 5, 2021, and the solidarity statements were added to the case file against Rashsa without investigation on December 26, 2021. After that, the case was referred to the court within only 13 days, as the report moved from the Partial Prosecution to the Public Prosecution, then the papers were moved from the Helwan Comprehensive Prosecution to the Financial and Administrative Affairs Prosecution on January 12 and 20, 2022, and finally, the case was referred from the Financial Affairs Prosecution to the Economic Court, stating that Rasha Azab was referred to trial on January 25, 2022.
Our region is witnessing a wave of feminist resistance that defies the silence that is expected of women and individuals towards sexual violence. This resistance is represented in multiple forms of disclosure, but also in accelerated unprecedented public waves of solidarity with the survivors and their supporters, demanding justice for them and those who preceded them, and calling for protection for future generations. Sexual and gender-based violence usually aim to exercise power over the survivors, and relies mainly on societal norms that protect the aggressors in the name of culture, but no culture or art is built through violence. While many institutions and initiatives in the region are working on laws criminalizing harassment and violence and protecting women, they sometimes overlook the violence practiced within artistic, civil circles and societies, making the places we assume safe infested with perpetrators who believe in their ability to escape accountability and punishment.
In the past few years, the voice of feminists and activists in the region has risen from silence-breakers, pioneers of revealing what is happening, believing in the ability of feminists, women and individuals to practice solidarity, through shaming perpetrators and putting pressure on the institutions concerned in holding the perpetrators accountable, and believing in the ability of women to change their fates and destinies. Protecting each other, as feminists, feminist organizations, and a community, and our safety and security as individuals is an essential step in protecting – not only survivors – but also the safety nets that help them recover and move beyond violence. Therefore, the WHRDMENA coalition calls for solidarity with Rasha Azab, as she is punished because of her solidarity with survivors of sexual violence crimes ranging from harassment to rape, as if society and the state are sending a clear message of the imperative to punish those who stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence crimes to ensure that the perpetrators are not punished! An indirect message is also sent to the survivors of these crimes not to disclose what is being committed against their right to their physical safety, in light of a time when these crimes are being revealed globally. Sexual violence is not the destiny of women and individuals in the region, we believe the survivors, support solidarity activists and insist that the perpetrators be punished
About Rasha Azab: Rasha Azab is an Egyptian journalist, activist, and writer. She received a B.A. in Media Education from Cairo University, where she studied journalism, theater and visual arts. She began her career in visual arts and theater in 2000, establishing an independent amateur theater festival. She edited the book Amateur Theater in Egypt, which includes articles and critiques by a number of prominent researchers in the field. She is one of the founders of the political social movement “Kefaya” against the Mubarak regime in 2004. Her role as an activist has been prominent in the Egyptian revolution through documenting abuses and police brutality by the military state against civilians. Her influence through writing has positioned her to be one of the influential women writers of this generation in Egypt. Azab then assisted director Manal Khaled in the production of her first documentary project in Gaza, Palestine, in 2008. She worked as a researcher for the Egyptian feature films The Day I Ate the Fish by Aida El Kashef. She is the author of Cinema Cairo, an illustrated book published by Zeytouna, in 2017. She wrote the introduction of Dream Factory on the Nile, a book about the history of Egyptian film production in Alexandria at the turn of the twentieth century to the late 1990s, published by AUC Bookstore, in 2019. She wrote the screenplay for the film Hammam Sokhn, “Trapped”, that was screened in 2021, for the first time by the Southwest Film Festival, Texas. Alongside her career as a scriptwriter and researcher, Azab has worked in local journalism since 1999, focusing on culture journalism in 2002 before moving to investigative reporting in 2013. Rasha Azab wrote her first fictional book, “A Heart of Salt”, published by Al Kotob Khan in January 2022.