Omar Samra, Global Board Member, celebrates Nadeen Ashraf as part of Equality Now’s 30 for 30, featuring 30 women and changemakers who have played a key role in making equality reality as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations.
The power of young people to create change never ceases to amaze me, and that is especially true with Nadeen Ashraf. I first learned about Nadeen through her viral Instagram account Assault Police. At that point, Nadeen’s identity was still anonymous, but the boldness and bravery of the campaign’s mission struck me.
Assault Police began when Nadeen was studying at my alma mater, the American University in Cairo, in July of 2020. One evening, she noticed a Facebook post a friend had made warning others about a young man harassing women on campus had disappeared without explanation. Frustrated and furious, Nadeen created Assault Police, posting a picture of the young man and a list of the accusations against him beneath it. Hours later, she woke up to dozens of messages and hundreds of likes on the account. Within a week, Assault Police garnered thousands of followers, and the young man who was the subject of Nadeen’s initial post had been arrested.
Sexual assault is a major problem in Egypt. In 2013, a survey conducted by the UN found that 99.3% of women in Egypt have experienced some form of sexual harassment, including rape. Cases of sexual violence are not often prosecuted when they are brought to the attention of authorities. Coupled with a lax penal code, poorly enforced sexual harassment laws, and harsh morality laws, this often allows perpetrators to act with impunity.
I was surprised and impressed when I learned that the voice behind Assault Police belonged to a young student. Although posting a picture and a caption to Instagram may seem simple, the way Nadeen approached the issue of sexual violence was done with great care for the survivors she fought to advocate for. The account’s posts were precise in handling cases, careful not to name names or share any details that might derail the judicial process.
As the account grew, Assault Police became a place not just to share the names and faces of predatory men but to share insights about the reality of being a woman in Egypt. As a man, Assault Police was another opportunity for me to see the great need for all of us to speak out against sexual violence with passion and vigor.
While Nadeen’s efforts may have held certain transgressors responsible, it’s vital for all of us, as allies, to claim responsibility and to hold ourselves accountable for toxic, dangerous behavior and the cultural and social expectations that contribute to it. At the end of the day, we all know it is men who are responsible for the vast majority of cases of sexual assault around the world, and we should do our part to stop it.
I am grateful every day for the example of women like Nadeen and for her leadership and courage in this work. Her purpose and passion in advocating for Egypt’s women and girls are an inspiration to all of us to be the change we want to see in this world.