It is a sordid tale: A 16-year-old girl is groped while walking along the street. She responds by spitting in her attacker’s face, vowing to take back her rights. He, in turn, guns her down with an automatic weapon.
That is what is alleged to have happened to Eman Mostafa two weeks ago in a small village in Upper Egypt’s Assiut Governorate. While details of the incident have only slowly trickled out, the monstrosity of the alleged crime suggests a frightening increase in gendered violence following a spate of well-publicized cases of harassment and assault in recent months.
The suspect, Ramadan Nasser Salem, is now in police custody after having fled for more than a week. In an interview on Al-Hayat TV channel Saturday, he denied the version of events offered by witnesses.
“I was riding my motorbike and I saw her,” he said. “I said hello, and she thought I was harassing her and started cursing at me and spat in my face. I mistakenly fired my gun, and a passer-by told me the bullet hit a wall. We thought the girl was afraid and fell on the ground, but then people told us that the bullet hit her. I never meant to kill her.”
Salem’s denial notwithstanding, Dalia Abd El-Hameed, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, warns that the reported circumstances surrounding Mostafa’s death reflect a disturbing trend in sexual abuse against women.
“It’s becoming more violent, and this Assiut incident is a very vivid example of this,” she says. “He killed her. He killed her just because she defended herself. The mere fact was that she just didn’t accept what’s very accepted in society. When you don’t accept the norm, society punishes you. And he punished her.”
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