Man accused of sexually harassing journalist on EgyptAir flight referred to detention
Photograph: Virginie Nguyen

An Egyptian engineer accused of sexually harassing an American journalist on a flight to Cairo has been ordered into detention for four days pending investigations, the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported on Monday.

Cairo-based journalist Kimberly Adams was on an EgyptAir flight from Nairobi when the man sitting next her groped her leg while she was asleep, she said on her Twitter account.

“I threw him off me and told him to get away from me. He moved to another seat when he saw me calling the attendant. I told the (male) flight attendants I wanted the police waiting when I arrived. They tell me the guy is claiming it’s an accident and since no one saw it I can’t really prove it, but it’s ‘my right’ to have the police and they called them anyway to be waiting for us,” Adams tweeted.

After landing in Cairo, Adams reported the incident to the tourism police unit in the Cairo International Airport.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Adams criticized police forces for their lack of sensitivity training on dealing with sexual harassment victims. According to the journalist, police asked her to walk down the tarmac alongside her harasser, and they were held in the same room together for questioning.

“They kept saying it wasn’t a big deal, and didn’t understand why I didn’t want to be seated a couple feet away from him,” said Adams. “They asked me my address right in front of him. And I was like, ‘He is right there, and I don’t want him to know where I live.’”

But a day after filing the report, Adams said she was welcomed by a tourism police general who assured her that police in Egypt take sexual harassment seriously.

After heading to the public prosecutor’s office to get a copy of the complaint she filed, Adams was surprised to see the harasser there, “begging” her to drop the complaint, saying that he has wife and kids.

“I felt horrible to know that my pressing charges means so much drama and embarrassment for the guy’s family. But I am continuing the case. I do have pity on the guy’s family, but it was his choices that created this situation, and choices have consequences. But all of the guilt and pressure I felt today highlights how hard it must be for Egyptian women to report cases of sexual harassment/assault,” she tweeted.

An Egyptian taxi driver in New York was arrested last month for sexually harassing a girl. In the interrogations, the driver said that if a girl in Egypt was dressed like the girl he harassed, it means that she wants to be sexually assaulted.

Sexual harassment has become endemic in Egypt since incidents of mass sexual assaults and rape in Tahrir Square against female protesters. Former President Adly Mansour introduced some amendments to the Penal Code last year to criminalize sexual harassment, but women’s rights organizations said the amendments were not enough to stop the escalating situation.


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