Shortly before his latest film was supposed to be featured in the 42nd edition of the Cairo International Film Festival, Egyptian director Islam El Azzazi has faced an online storm of criticism and calls to boycott him, after three women came forward talking about his sexual misconduct, saying that he had tried to rape them.
شهادات المخرج -اللي عامل فيلم نسوي- مُرعبة و تحزن حقيقي ، و بتختصر استخدام الامتيازات و السلطة الذكورية و المهنية اللي واضحة ف اعتداءاته، و اتمني مهرجان القاهرة ياخد اجراء يخص الشهادات دي، و يفكر ف اجراء عادل نوعاً ما لباقي فريق الفيلم طبعا اللي ملهمش ذنب ف الخرا ده.— Sally Yousri (@SallyYousri) December 8, 2020
Translation: "The testimonies of the director, who creates pro-women films, are terrifying and really sad. It summarizes his realization of the authority and privileges he has because of his gender and professional identity, which is very clear in his attacks. I hope the Cairo Festival takes fair action that doesn't affect the other stars who took part in the movie."
The young director, whose 2018 film "About Her"scheduled to be shown today, during the festival tried to defend himself, writing a Facebook post in which he claimed that all allegations are "fake and baseless," asking accusers "to provide their evidence through the police instead of the digital world." However, the director removed his post several hours later.
On an increasingly popular website that encourages women to report rapists and sexual harassers in Egypt, three anonymous women detailed their disturbing encounters with El Azzazi, in which he tried to take sexual advantage of them.
تاني شهادة في يومين عن إسلام العزازي. واحدة عاملة عملية في ضهرها،والتانية فاقدة الوعي، وحاجة تقرف بجد احنا عاوزين نرجع كلنا وبس— سارة ?️ (@Her_Randomness) December 8, 2020
لا وعاملي فيلم نسوي. بتش بليز بجد.
Translation: "This is the second testimony against Islam El Azzazi in two days; one had back surgery and the second was unconscious. And he dares to pretend he's a feminist."
After the three testimonies went viral online on the hashtag (#المخرج_المغتصب: The rapist director), Egyptian female director Salma El Tarzi wrote a Facebook post in support of two of the women, saying that, despite the old friendship she has with him, "she was personally present during the time Islam El Azzazi attacked them."
In an official statement posted on Facebook, the Cairo International Film Festival expressed concern over the allegations. However, they described the testimonies as "unconfirmed" and demanded that the women present evidence that harassment actually took place."
#Egypt : Press conference at Cairo Film Festival cancelled for new film About Her - عنها - by director Islam El Azzazi after allegations on social media of sexual harassment- which he has denied - in latest #MeToo like development in Egypt - #اسلام_العزازي pic.twitter.com/rqUOUgv7J3— sebastian usher (@sebusher) December 9, 2020
While the festival administrators confirmed that they will go ahead with plans to show the movie on time, they also announced canceling a press conference that was supposed to follow the show, where El Azzazi was scheduled to speak.
Throughout 2020, Egyptians have witnessed a notable anti-sexual harassment movement, one that is mainly being supported by online efforts to encourage women to come forward and report sexual attacks they have endured for years.
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