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Warda case raises question: how the society sees sexual harassment?
Published in Daily News Egypt on 02 - 07 - 2019

Women in Egypt are always judged and attacked if found wearing revealing clothes or photographed smoking or drinking alcohol. The society never shows tolerance for such issues or respects those women's personal freedom.
The prominent actress Rania Youssef appeared in a black, see-through outfit in the closing ceremony of the 2018 Cairo International Film Festival last November. She was harshly criticised on social media platforms. Not only this, a lawsuit was filed against Youssef accusing her of committing an obscene act and inciting infidelity, immorality, and vice. The actress was interrogated by the prosecution over her dress.
Many defended Youssef, but more people though her dress is inappropriate and she should be punished for this act.
There are several similar cases in which the people judge females for the way they dress or live, however, when it comes to their exposure to sexual harassment, the people apply double standards.
A few days ago, Egyptian football player Amr Warda was excluded from the national team participating in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) over accusations of sexual harassment, but he later re-joined the team after pressure from his teammates on the Egyptian Football Association (EFA). Many defended Warda on the grounds that he is young and deserves a second chance.
Last week, some women posted screenshots of their personal online messages with Warda, which included inappropriate comments. One of those women posted a clip on Twitter featuring Warda exposing himself to her.
It began when British-Egyptian Instagram model Merhan Keller shared screenshots of her conversations with Warda which showed lewd and aggressive messages from him. More women came forward about Warda after Keller spoke out, sharing similar messages.
A few hours later, Ehab Lehita, the Egyptian football national team's director, stated that Warda will be permanently excluded from the national team.
Despite Warda was previously involved in several harassment cases, many people, including females, supported him ignoring the fact that harassment is one of the big phenomena that have long disturbed the Egyptian society.
However, this is not new to the Egyptian society as harassment is typically tolerated among conservative social segments.
Warda case sparked a debate, especially on social networks, between those who think the player made a big mistake but would prefer to give him a second chance, and those who think Warda deserves exclusion from the national team because of his repeated faults.
It was not Warda's first controversial case. In 2017, he was excluded from the Greek PAOK club because of his misbehaviour. He was joining the team's camp in the Netherlands. He was then transferred to a Portuguese club where he also continued his shenanigans.
In Portugal, Warda stayed with the Portuguese club for only three days and was excluded again over accusations of harassing two of his teammates' wives, as reported in the Portuguese press. At that time, Warda denied harassment claims, threatening anyone accusing him of harassment without evidence to prosecute him.
Before the aforementioned cases, Warda was accused of harassing a French girl in Tunisia during the Egyptian Olympic team's camp in 2013. It was the first time in which he faces such allegations in the media. The French girl called security after Warda reportedly stormed her room in a hotel, and the team's officials intervened to contain the situation, and sent Warda home.
Egyptian football team backs Warda
Ahmed Elmohamady, the captain of the Egyptian national team, expressed his solidarity with Warda in his recent case. Elmohamady's stance provoked argument on social media platforms between opponents, who urged that he should not have backed the player, and supporters, who thought that his act reflects the good spirit among the team members.
Celebrating his goal in the team's match against DR Congo in AFCON, Elmohamady made a “22” sign with his fingers, in reference to the number of Warda's shirt, showing his support to the player.
Also, Egypt's football star Mohamed Salah called for giving Warda a second chance, though he affirmed the necessity of respecting women.
“Women should be treated with the utmost respect,” Salah said on Twitter in an implicit reference to Warda's crisis. “No means No. Those things must remain sacred.”
“I also believe that many who make mistakes can change for the better, and should not be sent straight to the guillotine, which is the easiest way out," Salah added, urging that “We need to believe in second chances… we need to guide and educate. Shunning is not the answer."
The situation caused a sharp split between Salah's fans. Some accused him of applying double standards as he always praises women's roles in society and calls for respecting women, but he is now defending someone accused of sexual harassment. In an April interview with Time magazine, Salah called for a change in the way women are treated in the Muslim world.
While debates are still ongoing on social media, Egyptian lawyer Ahmed Mahran filed a complaint to the Egyptian General Prosecutor Nabil Sadek against Warda for “harassing girls on social networks.”
Notably, the decision to exclude the player from the Egyptian team came hours before Egypt's match against DR Congo in AFCON.
Afterwards, Warda posted a video apologising for the Egyptian fans and teammates for his mistakes, and he promised not to repeat such acts again. "I apologise for anyone I have upset."
Later, the Egyptian national team players met with the EFA's President Hany Abu Reida, as they feel that Warda has been subjected to injustice which will affect his career. As a result, Warda's punishment was reduced and was allowed to returned to the national team starting from the AFCON's last 16 stage.
How did the people react to Warda's return?
Following the EFA's decision, hashtags went viral on social media criticising the full team, particularly Salah, of supporting harassment. Some Egyptian supporters are even considering to boycott the national team.
Warda's case is part of a problem that is plaguing the Egyptian society, as activists and associations have exerted in the last years significant efforts to raise awareness and limit the spread of sexual harassment.
Meanwhile, public figures and normal citizens are questioning and rejecting the return of Warda after being allegedly accused of sexual harassment, there are others who believe that the player's apology is enough and should return to the team, rationalising that all human beings make mistakes.
Women's rights lawyer Azza Soliman said in a press statement that the idea of tolerance for harassers is always present in Egypt, as they are not viewed as criminals. She also criticised the fact that there is no comment from the government on the case.
Soliman pointed out that she was “shocked” by Salah and other player's support of Warda, saying, “he is a role model for the community and by this way he is spreading tolerance for harassment.”
Meanwhile, MP Saeed Hassassin requested the Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal to contact the minister of youth and sports over the EFA's decision to allow Warda to re-join the national team.
“The ethics are more important than the tournament, and everyone should have complied with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's instructions to adhere to ethics and show Egypt's civilised image to the whole world,” Hassassin said.
He wondered in the parliament: “Why the minister of youth and sports did not address such acts that harm the Egyptian youth and sports?”
A sports reporter Tarek Talaat commented: “The players have the right to support Warda, but the EFA should have been stronger and not overturned its decision to punish the player."
Warda's return “created a division between the public and the national team,” and this is a “disaster for the community” because those players have a big guidance role, especially among young people.

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