Egypt woke up to the shocking murder and attempted rape of 5-year-old Zeina Arafa. In a nation boiling with political unrest, social and religious oppression, the murder and rape attempt of the 5-year-old girl from Port Said, one of the most important Egyptian cities, created mainstream rage and raised public awareness for the dangers that Egyptian children, and females in particular, are facing in the streets.
Port Said is a duty-free port. Its economy is based on fishing and industry. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Port Said was a cosmopolitan city with a mesh of religions and nationalities coexisting in peace, filling its streets and suburbs. Ever since the 2011 revolution, the city’s state has been declining to the worse. The deterioration became too much for the Port Said people after the February 2012 soccer massacre where fans of the Port Said-based soccer team Al-Masry assaulted Cairene fans of the rival team, Al Ahly. The clashes resulted in 72 deaths from the Ahly fans and left the city stumbling under an unofficial economic and social boycott.
The recent incident took place in Port Said which led to shedding the public light on the war-torn city. Port Said has witnessed over five wars starting from World War II and continuing up to the recent 2011 revolutionary clashes. Port Said people are described as hot-blooded and level-headed and the horrific death of Arafa has left them enraged, flooding the streets in mass protests demanding justice.
On Thursday, November 14, police investigations uncovered the mystery behind the death of 5-year-old Zeina Arafa who reached Al Solomon Hospital in Port Said with multiple injuries and massive bone fractures. Arafa died as soon as she reached the hospital. The coroner’s report indicated signs of sexual assault as well as bone and spinal cord fractures, severed brachial arteries, hemorrhage and shock due to free fall.
Despite initial reports attributing Arafa’s death to accidental slipping from the roof of the building, further investigations proved the involvement of two teenage males who lived with Arafa in the same building in her murder. The two males: Alaa A.A. (the doorman of the building, 18) and Mahmoud M.K. (another resident in the building, 17) lured the little girl from where she was playing out in the street. The defendants attempted to rape her and when she tried to scream, they panicked and threw her off the roof of the building. The defendants are sent to 15 days of prison pending investigations on charges of murder and attempted rape of a child under 13.
The accident is not the first of its kind but with the rising sexual tension and the widespread blessing of Muslim child marriages which is actually euphemism for pedophilia, fear for women and children’s safety is getting stronger. Around 17 percent of Egyptian women between 20 and 24 admit to having been married before the age of 18, many even before the age of 15. Sexual tension and violence has risen to the extreme in Egypt’s main cities as well as the rural parts.
Social media burst with angry and sympathetic posts concerning the Zeina Arafa crime. There were enraged posts on Facebook advising parents not to allow their children out of the house alone under any circumstances. Women were advised to carry mace or self-defense tools before getting out into the streets. Many Facebook pages were made in memory of Arafa and in solidarity with her mother who appeared on national TV crying and asking for justice. There will be solidarity marches in memory of Arafa as well as demands for laws to impose harsher penalties for sexual harassment as well as protecting child rights.
Many activists are calling for including children’s rights in the new constitution. Imposing child protection laws will help end the scary journey which Egyptian children face everyday out in the streets or in schools. Over 81 percent of Egyptian children declared they were beaten at home and 92 percent were beaten at school. Over 800,000 children between ages 5-14 years are involved in child labor. Up to 200,000 street children in Egyptian cities are subject to abuse and exploitation.
Egyptian intellectuals and activists are warning against a future era of extreme violence against women and children. Sex crimes against women are rarely discouraged and punishment for the accused doesn’t take place except in rare cases.
The solidarity march is expected to take place on November 30th, 2013 and will take place in front of the High Supreme Court building.
By: Jaylan Salah