“He started touching himself as I shouted at him to let me out of the taxi,” said Mary Zakaria, a medical student from Upper Egypt.
Zakaria was on her way back from Assiut University to her apartment at 1.30pm when she was sexually harassed by a taxi driver, she claims. “Assiut is a small city so we usually share taxi cabs,” she explained. “There were two women in the back seat so I sat next to him. He asked if he could drop the others off first and I saw no problem with that.”
As soon as the other women were out of the cab, he started touching himself and trying to grope Zakaria. “I screamed and he hit me. I hit him back and idiotically told him to take me to the [nearest] police station so he started to drive fast like a mad man.” She tried to get hold of the steering wheel, threatening to crash the car. He stopped at a house and “called on this woman, who later I found out was his wife and told her ’this girl refuses to leave the cab’. She beat and dragged me on the floor. I screamed ‘I am a doctor’ asking people to help me, but no one did”.
She then called her friends who came to collect her and drop her at the nearest hospital. “One of my friends found out where he lived and I filed a complaint with the police the very same day along with the medical report detailing my injuries; bruise marks on my shoulder from where he hit me and on my head and back from where his wife dragged me.”
Lawyer Hassan El-Shenawy volunteered to take over Zakaria’s case. “Currently the taxi driver is remanded in custody for 15 days pending investigation as he is facing charges of kidnapping and sexual harassment,” he explained. Under the Egyptian penal code, such charges can lead to up to 15 years in jail.
El-Shenawy expressed confidence that an indictment would be issued, bearing in mind the medical report included in the complaint. Zakaria is the first documented case of a complaint filed against a sexual harasser in the more conservative Upper Egypt.
Meanwhile, Zakaria has complained of pressure from different groups to drop the charges. “My parents were very supportive until some people from the local [Saint Abadir] church intervened warning me that this may lead to a sectarian strife because the driver is a Muslim.”
She expressed her anger at the church for not standing by her and pressuring her to accept reconciliation with the taxi driver’s family.
Zakaria had to leave her current home. “The landlord even asked me to leave because ‘they do not want trouble’,” she explained. She added that the psychological strain is “too much, although I do not want to let go of what is rightfully mine,” talking about the vindication of prosecuting her attacker.
The Daily News Egypt attempted to call lawyer Michael Momtaz, whom Zakaria had accused of pressuring her to drop the case. Momtaz, who previously worked for the reconciliation committee at the National Democratic Party, refused to comment.
There was no one available at the Saint Abadir Church for comment.