Video of Egyptian woman beaten up at work 'for being unveiled' sparks outrage

Video of Egyptian woman beaten up at work 'for being unveiled' sparks outrage
An Egyptian pharmacist was beaten up by her colleagues at the workplace for not abiding by the Islamic hijab.
2 min read
12 October, 2021
Women in Egypt are often pressured to wear the Islamic hijab [Getty-file photo]

CAIRO: video of a woman being beaten at her workplace in northeastern Egypt for being unveiled has sparked outrage in the Muslim-majority Arab country.

The video, which has been shared widely on social media, shows a pharmacist named Isis Moustafa being beaten, dragged on the floor, and having her hair pulled by her female colleagues at a public medical facility in the city of Zagazig in Sharqiya province.

Moustafa appeared at the end of the footage, narrating her ordeal and accusing her colleagues of persecution and bullying because she is "Muslim, but unveiled".

"My [boss] frequently threatened to fire me, saying her daughter had the right to have my job instead of me," she said in the video.

A police investigation and eyewitnesses accounts revealed that the pharmacist had been subjected to repeated bullying by her female colleagues for not wearing the hijab and for feeding stray dogs and cats, according to local reports.

Rights groups have condemned the assault on the pharmacist.

"This is a dangerous precedent that reflects a discriminative community, stereotyping and stigmatising women," prominent lawyer and women's rights advocate Entissar El-Saeid told The New Arab.

"To make sure such an act is not repeated, we need to carry out both social and legislative changes already enacted in the Egyptian constitution that protect women against discrimination."

"If proven guilty, the perpetrators in this incident will likely be sentenced to prison on charges of bullying, public defamation, and physical assault," El-Saeid noted.  

On Tuesday afternoon, Sharqiya Governor Mamdouh Ghorab received Moustafa at his office to apologise to her in person, ordering a full investigation into the incident, according to local media reports

Last year, a well-known unveiled TV presenter sparked a heated debate by saying that "women who did not wear hijab had the devil inside them".

Her remarks were greeted with outrage by women's rights advocates at that time.  

Women who do not wear the hijab are often subject to criticism in conservative Egyptian society. Some women find themselves compelled to wear the hijab outside their homes due to social pressure, while others abide by it out of belief.

Conservative dress became more common in Egypt at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, when many Egyptians migrated to Gulf countries - especially Saudi Arabia - to find work with some being influenced by Wahhabism.

Whether hijab is obligatory in Islam or not has been a subject of debate for many years among Islamic scholars and intellectuals.