Ramadan TV show sparks #MeToo solidarity, conservative backlash in Egypt with 'shocking' rape scene

Ramadan TV show sparks #MeToo solidarity, conservative backlash in Egypt with 'shocking' rape scene
A TV show in Egypt has sparked controversy with a scene depicting the gang-rape of a young women, similar to the real life events during the Fairmont Hotel attack.
3 min read
20 April, 2021
The problem of sexual assault in Egypt has recently become more widely discuss [Getty]

A controversial Ramadan TV series that features scenes of rape has sparked outrage among some conservative Egyptian viewers, but has won praise from others for confronting a taboo subject in Egyptian society

The volume of complaints made about MBC's "The Peacock" has prompted the show to be suspended.

The Supreme Council for Media Regulation to open an investigation into the series to determine whether it is "upholding values and not prejudicing Egyptian families or showing them in a way that offends", according to its own guidelines.

Some viewers have accused the show of using "language inconsistent with the council’s instructions".

In a statement announcing their investigation, the council highlighted their belief in the "freedom of art, unleashing the energies of creativity, singularity and aesthetic values", but said it also works to prevent work that offends the public.

The premise of "The Peacock" centres on a woman, played by Egyptian actress Sahar Al-Sayegh, who is drugged and then gang-raped by a number of rich and influential young men at a hotel during a wedding party. 

Many Egyptians have been quick to point out the similarities between the events depicted in "The Peacock" and a real life rape case at the Fairmont Hotel, which happened in 2014. 

A young woman was alleged that she was gang-raped by several young men in a room at the Fairmont Hotel.

Since the case was reported, Egyptian authorities have come under intense criticism for failing to adequately investigate the case, and unfairly pursuing the witnesses.

The show's director has denied that the series is a depiction of that event.  

While the Supreme Council for Media Regulation conducts their investigation, Egyptians have taken to social media to voice their views on the show.

Although many support the show's makers for tackling such a difficult subject others believe such a sensitive topic should not be screened on television. 

"This comes under the heading of awareness, what are you afraid of? Thank you, I don't want anyone who fears for our values if this fear means that you are depriving us of works whose primary purpose is to educate the viewer and shed light on an issue that happens every day and every hour," wrote one Twitter user.

"This series is about the issue of the rape of girls at the height of arrogance, decadence and the destruction of values and morals in homes that will happen after this series. I wish the state stopped the series because this it is really going to spoil all Egyptians," countered another. 

Others highlighted the ongoing problems that women in Egypt face. 

"I don't understand where the problem is in a series that shows a case that girls are exposed to every day... It is discussing the issue of rape," explained a social media commentator.  

Read more: Weaponised censorship: The final demise of free expression in Egypt's media

Some Egyptians posted images of the men accused of the Fairmont Hotel attack. 

"Don't worry we won't let this slide, we won't forget, we won't let u [sic] win…" tweeted one, adding a photo of the accused men.

Actor Jamal Suleiman, who plays a lawyer in the show, responded to people’s comments. 

"The series narrates an issue that affects every family and concerns public opinion in various countries of the world," he told BBC Arabic.

He went on to urge people to "watch the series and then discuss it before asking to ban it".

Like many other countries around the world, Egypt has experienced its own #MeToo movement, with women sharing their testimonies of sexual assault and harassment. 

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