Meet Nadeen Ashraf — أصواتنا “our voices”

Hello everyone! Today I want to tell you about a woman who inspires and motivates me everyday: Nadeen Ashraf. At 22-years-old, she’s only a couple years older than me. She's a change-maker. Not to mention, she's frequently referred to as the the 22-year-old force behind Egypt’s growing #MeToo movement.

Before we talk about Nadeen, we should probably talk about sexual assault in Egypt.

I mentioned this in my introduction, but it's worth repeating — "a United Nations study in 2013 found that 99 percent of women had experienced harassment or violence — but reporting it is notoriously difficult. Police officials are reluctant to register assault cases. Powerful institutions prefer to sweep accusations under the carpet. Even the families of victims, wary of scandal or feeling a misplaced sense of shame, tend to hush it up." (NY Times)

A mural that reads “Safe streets against harassment,” along a road in Cairo. Amr Adallah Dalsh/Reuters

I've been harassed too many times to count. Walking to the grocery store. Standing outside my high school while wearing my school uniform. All while, having creepy men continuously drive by-- winking at me, yelling out inappropriate phrases, asking me to get in their car. When Nadeen was 11, she experience it too. A delivery man carrying laundry approached her as she was walking down the street and slapped her butt. "I had no idea why he was doing this," she said. "It took me years to realize it was sexual." (NY Times)

This is the reality for women living in Egypt; assault is a norm. But women like Nadeen Ashraf are organizing to change that. In my last post, I outlined three events that inspired me to start- أصواتنا “our voices” -this project. Writing about Nadeen is the perfect follow up -- considering, she led the fight against two out of three of them. Specifically: Baseem Zaki's years of assaulting women and the assault that took place at the Nile hotel.

Meet, Nadeen Ashraf

Nadeen is an Egyptian woman and student at the American University of Cairo, where she studies philosophy and political science. On July 1st, she was up late studying for an exam when she noticed that a Facebook post she was following had disappeared. The post had been made a couple days earlier by a fellow student warning about a sexual predator on campus.

That predator was serial r*p*st, Ahmed Bassam Zaki. A man who has since been accused of assaulting 400 different women. Then blackmailing them to stay silent. Nadeen was aware of Zaki’s bull shit. She told the NY times, “This guy had been getting away with stuff since the 10th grade,” she said. “Every time a woman opened her mouth, someone taped it shut. I wanted to stop that.”

So, on July 1st, Nadeen put aside her studying and created @AssaultPolice and ignited an Egyptian #MeToo moment

In just one week, the account reached nearly 100,00 followers. Women from all over Egypt came forward with their stories of assault. Several messages came from women stating that they, too, had been assaulted by Zaki. And by the end of the week, Zaki was arrested.

Ashraf has continued building assault police.

Assault Police was a huge, much needed, hit within the Egyptian community. The account encourages women to tell their stories. It provides a safe space. Plus, it discusses topics that have been considered taboo for far too long. A topic that's traditionally been neglected from public discourse.

Today, Assault Police has 215K followers on IG with a mission of fighting sexual violence in all its forms.

The account provides a platform for victims of sexual assault to come forward and has played a significant role in sparking Egypt's #MeToo movement. They receive testimonies from survivors, share them anonymously with the public, and at the same time, connect survivors to legal and psychological experts who can help. They've contributed to amending Egyptian laws, providing increased protections for victims of sexual assault.

In an interview with Egyptian Streets, Ashraf revealed that she is planning to expand from an online platform to a full-time organization that can support survivors; helping them become connected to professionals, legal aid, and therapy. “I also plan to look into curating awareness programs for younger generations whether through schools or other institutions, so we can really start to tackle the issue at its core,” she said.

Since founding Assault Police, Nadeen was featured on BBC's list of 2020's 100 most influential women.

“I grew up surrounded by women who dedicated their lives to pushing for change; I never thought I would be in a position to amplify their voices. It’s never too late to do something you believe in,” Ashraf told BBC.

Follow Nadeen (@actuallynadeen) and Assault Police (@assaultpolice) on IG!

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