Officials free Lebanese woman jailed for insulting Egypt

Egyptian authorities deported a Lebanese woman who was jailed for insulting Egyptians in a video she posted online, days after she was sentenced to a suspended one-year sentence. (Photo: Facebook)
Updated 14 September 2018
0

Officials free Lebanese woman jailed for insulting Egypt

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities deported a Lebanese woman who was jailed for insulting Egyptians in a video she posted online, days after she was sentenced to a suspended one-year sentence, her lawyer and airport officials said.
Mona El-Mazbouh was deported Thursday. She was arrested in May after she posted a 10-minute video in which she used profanities to describe her vacation in Cairo, where she said she was sexually harassed. She calls Egyptians the “dirtiest people.” She later posted a video apologizing, saying “I definitely didn’t mean to offend all Egyptians.”
In July, the 24-year-old el-Mazabou was sentenced to 11 years in prison but the sentence was later reduced to eight years. A higher court earlier this month approved her appeal and handed her a suspended one-year sentence.
She was released and boarded a flight with her family to Lebanon late Thursday after paying a fine of 10,700 Egyptian pounds (around $598), her lawyer Emad Kamal said.
Airport officials confirmed her deportation. They said El-Mazbouh arrived at the airport with police directly after she was released. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
El-Mazbouh posted on her Facebook account photos of her arrival at Beirut International Airport. “It was a nice experience. ... I was there (in prison) for three months and a half ... that’s it. I am good, thanks God,” she said in a posted video.
In her first video, El-Mazbouh said she was sexually harassed by taxi drivers and young men in Cairo. She also said her money was stolen at some point during her vacation.

She was arrested after the video went viral and accused by authorities of “deliberately broadcasting false rumors which aim to undermine society and attack religions.”
Sexual harassment, mostly ranging from catcalls to occasional pinching or grabbing, is rampant in Egypt. Polls have found that a majority of both men and women in the conservative Muslim country believe it is justified if women dress “provocatively” in public.
The problem of sexual harassment in Egypt gained worldwide attention during and after the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, when women were harassed, groped and, in some cases, beaten and sexually assaulted during mass protests.
A study released last year by the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked Cairo as the most dangerous megacity in the world for women. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi questioned its findings, but acknowledged in TV comments last November that “there is sexual harassment in Egypt. There is a big percentage, but not to say it is the worst.”
Another last year by UN Women and Promundo, a non-governmental organization, found that nearly 60 percent of Egyptian women say they have been sexually harassed, and nearly 65 percent of men acknowledge harassing women, though they mainly admitted to ogling.
The poll, which surveyed 1,380 men and 1,402 women in five governorates, found that 74 percent of men — and 84 percent of women — agreed that “women who dress provocatively deserve to be harassed.” Forty-three percent of men said women “like the attention” when men harass them.
Only 20 percent of women said they did.


Iran-backed militias accused of reign of fear in Iraqi Basra

Iraqi activist Hajjar Youssif hands out masks to protesters for a demonstration last week in Basra. (AP)
Updated 24 min 21 sec ago
0

Iran-backed militias accused of reign of fear in Iraqi Basra

  • Angry Basra residents have repeatedly taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest failing government services, including water contamination that sent thousands to hospitals

BASRA: Hajjar Youssif was on her daily commute to work, staring at her phone and flicking through her Instagram account when she looked up to find herself in an unusual location. The taxi driver had turned into an alley. When she questioned the driver, he sped up.
“I started to feel uneasy and knew that something bad was going to happen,” said the 24-year-old office administrator, who had taken part in protests over lack of clean water, frequent power cuts and soaring unemployment in her hometown of Basra, Iraq’s oil capital and main port.
She yelled and tried to open the door, but the driver had locked it. The taxi swerved into a courtyard where three masked men were waiting.
“They immediately told me, ‘We’ll teach you a lesson. Let it be a warning to other protesters’,” Youssif said in an interview several days after the incident.
The men slapped and beat her and pulled off her Islamic headscarf, she said. “At the end, they grabbed me by my hair and warned me not to take part in the protests before blindfolding me and dumping me on the streets,” she said, her cheeks still bruised.
Youssif believes the attack was part of what she and other activists describe as a campaign of intimidation and arbitrary detentions by powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militias and political groups that control Basra, a city of more than 2 million people in southern Iraq’s Shiite Muslim heartland.
Angry Basra residents have repeatedly taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest failing government services, including water contamination that sent thousands to hospitals.
Earlier this month, protests turned violent when demonstrators attacked and torched government offices, the headquarters of the Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Consulate in Basra — in a show of anger over what many residents perceive as Iran’s outsized control over local affairs.
The events in Basra reflect the growing influence of the militias, which played a major role in retaking Iraqi territory from Daesh militants, who are Sunni Muslims.
Shortly after IS militants captured much of northern and western Iraq in 2014, tens of thousands of Shiite men answered a call-to-arms by the top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani.
Many volunteers were members of Iran-backed militias active since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, while others formed new groups. These fighters are credited with helping government forces defeat the extremists. But during the war, the militiamen were also accused by Sunnis and rights groups of abuses against the Sunni community, including killings, torture and destruction of homes.
Buoyed by victory against IS, some of the most feared Shiite militias took part in the May national elections and their list — Fatah — won 48 seats in the 329-seat Parliament.
Fatah and other factions formed a wider Iran-backed coalition in Parliament earlier this month and will likely be tasked with forming the new government.
In Basra, some alleged the militias were working with local authorities to quell the protests — a charge denied by Bassem Al-Khafaji, head of Sayyed Al-Shuhada, one of several Basra militias.
He said threats and intimidation of protesters were “individual acts,” but not the result of a central directive.
“Our order for all the factions in Basra ... is not to confront the protesters who burned down the offices of the militias,” Al-Khafaji said, arguing that the militias are trying to prevent more bloodshed.
He accused infiltrators of turning the protests violent and said the alleged saboteurs must be dealt with by the security agencies.
Some militia leaders in Basra accused protesters of colluding with the US, which has long worked to curb Iranian influence in Iraq.
A local leader of a prominent militia vowed to retaliate.
“We have pictures of those who burned down our headquarters and they will pay dearly,” he said on condition of anonymity in line with his group’s rules for speaking to the media. “We will not let them attack us again and if they do we’ll open fire. That’s what we’ve agreed on, all of us.”
The government has said protesters’ demands are legitimate, but claims infiltrators were behind the violence.
A senior official in the Interior Ministry’s intelligence service said dozens have been arrested since the protests began. He acknowledged that others may be held by political parties and their militias, but said his office has no way of tracking that. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.