A young lady left her home to head to a party at the five-star Fairmont Hotel Nile City in Cairo, aiming to have fun with her friends as usual, having become a well-known face on the city’s partying scene.
Unfortunately, that seemingly normal trip, just the latest of many that had previously given her happy memories, turned into a nightmare that the young woman only wants to delete from her memory. It’s a nightmare that has lasted for six years, a constant trauma hanging over her days.
Now, though, with the surge in Egyptian women coming forward to speak out about sexual assault and harassment, this woman, too, felt she had to deal with her trauma and speak out.
Last week, the Fairmont incident hashtag went viral on social media in Egypt, with the popular Instagram account “Assault Police” publishing the story of the then 18-year-old woman’s rape at the hands of at least five men. The incident occurred in 2014 at an after-party to a tea dance party held at the living room of a suite in the Fairmont Hotel in Cairo, with all the assaulters coming from Egypt’s wealthy, upper class.
In the lead-up to the attack, the men are said to have slipped the date-rape drug, GHB, into the young woman’s drink while being in the living room of the suite , and as soon as she became unconscious, they dragged her to the master bedroom of the suite, where they gang-raped her. The ordeal did not end there for the young woman – after they finished, the assailants even signed their initials on her body. Such was the feeling of impunity, the men also captured a video of the incident which was later circulated in their circle of friends.
Notably, the Assault Police Instagram page, which is now followed by about 174,000 users on the social networking platform, has greatly contributed to encouraging women and girls across Egypt to speak out about their harassment.
The page has already published many of the testimonies of rape, harassment, and electronic extortion related to sexual assault suspect Ahmed Bassam Zaki, who has since been detained pending an investigation.
And following its success in helping move the authorities to arrest Zaki, Assault Police has also tried to help the Fairmont Incident’s victim, calling on those individuals who have the video to get in touch with them.
Meanwhile, an anonymous account on Twitter released seven names of the alleged perpetrators before it was deactivated. Following this, a Facebook account published the same seven names, with two of the names later being removed.
Following reported death threats and intense pressure from largely unknown quarters, those behind Instagram’s Assault Police have since deleted all its posts and deactivated the account. The move was reportedly out of fear for the safety of both themselves and their loved ones, with multiple reports going viral on social media with the news that it was the alleged assailants in the Fairmont Incident making the death threats.
But other accounts have continued the work that Assault Police started, including “Gang Rapists of Cairo”, “The Mental List”, “Moghtasebon”, and “Fairmont incident”, among many others. Those are the most well-known and have most credibility, as they are in contact with several victims of sexual assault. On 5 August, Egypt’s Prosecutor General ordered an investigation into the alleged gang rape at the Fairmont, after receiving a report from the National Council of Women (NCW). The report included a complaint from a woman about the 2014 incident at the hotel, as well as other testimonies on the alleged crime.
On 13 August, Assault police activated its account on Instagram, saying ” as always our top priority is the safety and comfort of all survivors, we are not afraid, we decided to step back and let the authorities take the current case into their own hands to ensure the safety and comfort of survivors with such sensitive, a high profile case, the fight is not over.”
“Assault police does not publish names or faces of the preparators before official police reports are filed with the Egyptian authorities: doing so on our large platform can weaken the survivor’s case and put them in danger, our role is not to accuse or investigate, we strive to act as mediators between survivors and the appropriate authorities by helping them take the necessary legal steps while protecting them with the help of the NCW,” Assault police said in its post.
The page called on the people to be active participants in this historical movement, saying ” we need your voice now more than ever,” Assault police said.
Daily News Egypt has looked into the case, interviewing different witnesses and sources to put together what we know so far about the incident.
Most of the sources have spoke in condition of anonymity for their safety, since most have received threats not to talk from at least two of the alleged rapists.
What happened that night?
Source 1 told Daily News Egypt that the victim was going to attend a tea dance party at the Fairmont Hotel Nile City. Upon entering the hotel, she was said to have met one of the alleged rapists in the lobby who invited her to attend another after-party to the tea dance in the presidential suite, located on the top floor of the hotel.
The source added that the victim accepted the invitation, and excused herself to her friends after finishing the first party, to attend the after-party.
“The plan was that she would not attend all of the after-party, but she would see her friends there and then return back to other friends that she would leave with them from the first party,” the source said. “But when she went up at the after-party, she did not return to her friends again. They thought that she was having fun and left her.”
Another source, who we will call Source 2, added to this, saying that the next day there was another party in another hotel attended mainly by the same people. It was at this party that the video of the gang rape was circulated, with its circulation rapidly spiralling out of the assailants’ control.
Although the video was watched by most of the attendees, it seems that none were surprised as the alleged assailants have apparently gained a reputation for such abuses.
Source 3 told Daily News Egypt that the alleged assailants drugged the victim with the date-rape drug, GHB. It was only once the victim fell unconscious that the gang rape occurred. Despite the victim’s repeated calls for water during periods of lucidity, the assailants only plied her with more of the drug to knock her out again.
“Being under the influence of GHB, the victim was unable to defend herself or even voice her dissent, with the rapists signing their initials on her body, and filming it all for two main reasons,” Source 3 said. “The first was to blackmail her, and the second was to send these videos as trophies to other people to show their achievement of being gang rapists.”
Source 3 added that this group of alleged rapists have a group chat in which they share all the assaults they commit. So far, they have allegedly attacked over a dozen young women.
Both Source 1 and Source 2 said that the alleged assailants are currently contacting those who have the video to delete it, to avoid incrimination. This has also included threats.
Source 4 said that the party-goers saw the victim fall unconscious, despite it being clear she had been drugged against her will. The victim had not given her consent to being drugged, the source stressed.
She also said that the party-goers all knew that this was the prelude to the victim being raped, although no one apparently saw fit to do anything. Source 4 said this was because the alleged assailants are known for their wealth and power.
The tea dance that the victim attended was the Ganz Tea Dance, 13th Edition. A promotional video from the event was captured by Mo4 Network, represented by Cairo Zoom. As with other events captured by the company, the video was published on digital platforms.
Once news of the alleged gang rape spread, the company took the decision to remove the photo album and video of the event from its website.
A tweet by MO4 founder, Amy Moafi, says all the visuals from the event are saved and will be provided to any legal authority requiring them for evidence.
“We felt that if this material had been kept on the site publically, it would seem like a tacit acceptance of what happened on that night,” Moafi said. “Zoom is a promotional platform and we don’t want to promote this event on our platform any longer, clearly given what we now know.”
The Fairmont responds
Commenting on the issue, the management of the Fairmont Hotel Nile City told Daily News Egypt that it is aware of online posts currently in circulation which concern an “unfortunate incident which may have occurred in 2014” on its premises.
“Allegedly, the incident arose during a well-attended event, organised and hosted by a third party events company at the hotel,” the management said. “An internal investigation was undertaken by the hotel upon receipt of knowledge of the disturbing allegations, and they can confirm that at no time were any reports of the incident made to the hotel, nor to the hotel’s tourism police.”
The hotel added, “Irrespective of the non-existence of a report, all personnel at the hotel are committed to assisting the relevant authorities and we will continue to offer our unfettered support on the issue. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with anyone who may have been affected by any of the circumstances referred to in the various posts made on social media.”
Under the Egyptian law, no Egyptian mixed gender couple is allowed to use the same hotel room if the two individuals are not married. This particularly law falls under the jurisdiction of Egypt’s tourism police, who follow up on any infringements.
Responding to a Daily News Egypt inquiry regarding this, the Fairmont Hotel Nile City’s management noted that there are no exceptions to this ruling, even for parties.
The hotel’s management added that all hotels in Egypt have a tourism police office to which a daily list of room occupancies are taken. So if any Egyptian nationals of different genders are found to be in the same room, there must be proof of family ties or marriage contract, as the tourism police take the number of the marriage contract.
Daily News Egypt also contacted more than one source at the NCW to find out more on the next step in the case. All sources, however, refused to comment due to the case still being under investigation with the Prosecutor General.
Although the names and pictures of the alleged rapists involved in The Fairmont Incident have been widely circulated online, Daily News Egypt is unable to verify their authenticity due to the ongoing investigation. All the accused, however, are widely claimed to be both from wealthy families.
Daily News Egypt has also received information about the workplaces of the alleged rapists, all of whom work for reputable commercial companies.
More than source who agreed to talk to Daily News Egypt confirmed the presence of the alleged rapists and the victim at the same party. Another source said that a room at the hotel had been reserved on the same day by one of the alleged rapists.
Source 3, who claimed that they viewed the rape video, confirmed that one of the alleged rapists took it by his phone. The source added that the faces of the other alleged rapists also appeared in the video, in addition to their voices.
Sources 5 and 6 said that two of the alleged assailants admitted to them that they raped the victim. When the news of the attack circulated more widely, they suddenly changed their story, denying the attack took place and that they had consensual sexual contact with the victim.
Daily News Egypt has received many accounts highlighting that the alleged rapists are known for committing such abuses. The abundant testimony also points to the young woman involved in the Fairmont incident not being the first victim too.
The alleged rapists are said to exploit their wealth and power to rape the girls. An administrator for “Mental List” Instagram page told Daily News Egypt that the account has also received many testimonies against the alleged assailants carrying out abuses of this nature.
The admin of Mental List said that mostly all of men involved in the incident are currently outside Egypt. They noted that the issue was discreetly brought up a month before the Ahmed Bassam Zaki case, so they travelled to different countries, including Lebanon, America, and Europe.
Moreover, Source 7 said that this group used to choose their prey from vulnerable young women who were always present on the partying scene. Despite their vulnerable position, the source noted that these are the same girls who people love spreading rumours about. The rumours spread about these young women make them easy prey, and frequently opens the door to their being physically and sexually attacked.
The implication here is that in Egypt, it is easier to blame the victim as it is, in one way or another, her fault rather than the attackers.
In a voice note that has been widely circulated, and which has been attributed to one of the alleged rapists, a caller can be heard threatening to kill the unnamed and unidentified recipient. The voice note cannot be printed in detail, due to the nature of the content and the language used.
Source 1 did, however, confirm that the voice which is heard in the note belongs to one of the alleged rapists.
Testimony provided by the ex-girlfriend of one of the alleged rapists said that she has received threats from her ex-boyfriend, who called her from a number abroad.
“Up until that moment, I did not believe everything that was said about him, but his threats made everything clear, he thinks I am behind the campaign that’s after them,” the young woman said, “His small mind makes him think that a woman seeking revenge for a break-up is more driven than a woman who was sexually assaulted, unfortunately.”
She added, “I was with him for a long time, and I am aware of how abusive and aggressive he can get.”
Following the testimony provided by the young woman, a social media account published an alleged marriage document between her and one of the alleged rapists It appears to be aimed at convincing people that the young woman is trying to defame him following the breakup.
A source from The Mental List told Daily News Egypt that the alleged rapists are now creating fake social media accounts, even buying accounts on Instagram with large numbers of followers, in efforts to diffuse the attention.
The source noted that this is aimed at creating a backlash, convincing the people that it is just a campaign to defame them.
The hashtag “Mofag2et Garemat el Fairmont”, which translates as “the surprise in the Fairmont incident” has been used on these fake accounts.
“We made sure that they brought these accounts, as the accounts have tagged posts since 2016,” The Mental List source said.
Although the truth of what happened in The Fairmont Incident is yet to fully come out, it is hoped that the official investigation will be soon announce its results.