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Egypt opens investigation into hotel rape that reignited 'Me Too' wave

Allegations that a group of 'rich and powerful' young men committed a gang rape have renewed campaign against sexual violence
Thousands of people have come forward with their own stories of sexual assault (AFP)

Egypt’s public prosecution office announced on Wednesday that it has opened an investigation into the alleged gang rape of an 18-year-old woman in a luxury hotel in Cairo in 2014. 

The allegations surfaced in recent weeks on social media, with accusations levelled at a number of wealthy young men by users urging the authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable. 

The prosecution office issued a statement saying that it received a file from the National Council for Women (NCW), as well as a complaint from a woman regarding sexual assault at the Fairmont Nile City Hotel in 2014. 

“The prosecutor general has ordered an examination into the documents presented and an investigation into the incident. The public prosecution will announce the results of the investigation at a time it deems appropriate, in order to preserve the integrity of those involved as well as ensuring the smooth running of the investigation,” the statement read. 

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According to several prominent social media accounts, six men, believed to be from wealthy backgrounds, drugged and raped a young woman at Cairo's luxury Fairmont Nile City Hotel in 2014, then used a video of the incident to blackmail her into silence.

Thousands of people have been using the hashtag #FairmontIncident to share details about the case, as well as pressuring authorities to take action against those accused. 

The hashtag has been trending in Egypt for a number of days, encouraging women to come forward about their experiences of sexual assault. 

The names of those accused have circulated online, however MEE has not been able to verify the information.

An Instagram account called Assault Police, with over 170,000 followers, was abruptly closed last week after its administrators said they received death threats for encouraging people to come forward about the incident.

The account had been at the forefront of reporting sexual assault allegations in recent months, and was critical in revealing information about Ahmad Basam Zaki, a 22-year-old Egyptian man who had been accused by around 100 women of a range of sexual crimes, including blackmail, rape and online sexual harassment. Zaki is currently held in pre-trial detention pending investigations into sexual assault charges.

Following his case, Egypt’s Ministry of Justice submitted a bill to parliament proposing amendments that would include further protections for survivors of sexual harassment who are afraid to speak up. 

The bill would ensure “full confidentiality” for the survivors, with the purpose of “protecting their reputation” and aims to make it safer for survivors to seek justice and to name the perpetrators of those crimes without fear of retaliation.

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The Fairmont hotel has said that it has carried out an investigation following the number of serious claims posted online. 

"An internal investigation was undertaken by the hotel upon receipt of knowledge of the disturbing allegations," Yara Eldouky, Fairmont's director of communications, told AFP.

"We can confirm that at no time were any reports of the incident filed to the hotel, nor to the hotel’s tourism police," she said. 

"All personnel at the hotel are committed to assisting the relevant authorities and we will continue to offer our unfettered support," she added.