The Fairmont case: Egypt's battle between civility and savagery

Recently, Egyptian society has been consumed by a horrific rape incident, known in Egypt as "the Fairmont Case."  This case has revealed cultural and ideological aliments in Egypt and has exposed the internal ideological struggle within the Egyptian government.  One side defends civility and the rule of law, while the other advocates rape and savagery.

The incident was publicized in August, after a courageous rape victim sought justice for a horrific attack that occurred on February 21, 2014.  During a pool party at the five-star Fairmont Nile Hotel in Cairo, the victim alleged that a group of men spiked her drink with a date rape drug and then gang-raped her in a hotel room after the party.

The alleged rapists recorded the attack and posted the video online.  The online video showed nine men raping an unconscious woman and writing their initials on her body.  The men are sons of Egyptian businessmen. Seven of the men fled Egypt, and the other two were arrested.

Last July, the government's National Council for Women, a body created to promote women's rights and affiliated with the Egyptian presidency, urged witnesses and victims to report sex crimes.  The council's call for victims to step forward was celebrated, and many thought the trend of punishing sexual assault victims was about to end, because Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has had historic success in the area of women's rights and has appointed an unprecedented number of women to his cabinet.

What happened next was horrifying.

Six witnesses came forward to assist the National Security Agency (NSA) in bringing the alleged perpetrators to justice, but the NSA claimed that the public party at the hotel was a "sex party," thus the gang rape was "consensual."  The witnesses, three men and three women, were used as scapegoats and charged with violating Egyptian family values, damaging Egypt's public image, and debauchery.  To add insult to injury, the witnesses were sexually assaulted by the NSA.  Three female witnesses were forced to endure vaginal exams, and three male witnesses underwent anal examinations.

Among the witnesses is Ahmed Ganzoury, AKA Ganz, a party mogul.  The party where the alleged rapists met their victim was part of the Tea Dance series of events thrown by Ganzoury.  The party series took its name from Victorian-era etiquette and featured live orchestras, bands, dancing, drinks, and hors d'oeuvres.  Ganzoury's parties revived the European tradition in the Middle East, and the party in question featured the famous Dutch musician and D.J. Joris Voorn.  Ganzoury's company, ByGanz Extraordinaire, hosts the best and most prestigious events in the Middle East, and Egypt needs businessmen like Ganzoury to lift its veil of backwardness, despair, and fanaticism.  Instead, the corrupt fundamentalist wing of the Egyptian government has assaulted, defamed, and incarcerated witness in a conspiracy to protect alleged rapists.

The persecution, prosecution, and sexual assault of these witnesses is a direct attack against President al-Sisi's attempts to modernize and deradicalize the country.  This miscarriage of justice is a repudiation of al-Sisi's efforts, and he needs to intervene to stop it.  If he allows this human rights atrocity to stand, the world will know that the Egyptian government is divided, and the side trying to legitimize rape and savagery is winning.

Egypt should immediately release the six witnesses from prison and compensate them for the destruction of their reputations and their sexual assaults.  If forced vaginal and anal exams are the Egyptian government's idea of family values, then they bring shame on the entire country and prove they do not belong in the community of civilized nations.

Cynthia Farahat is an author and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Image: Ehab ahmed mohammed.