Two Egyptian young men arrested for allegedly blackmailing teenage girl who committed suicide

Zeinab El-Gundy , Tuesday 4 Jan 2022

The prosecution in Egypt’s Gharbiya governorate started questioning on Tuesday two young men arrested for allegedly blackmailing a 16-year-old girl with images that had been doctored to make her appear naked, leading the teenager to take her own life in late December.

General Prosecution office (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Passant Khaled, a high school student, committed suicide by swallowing pesticide after the forged images circulated in her village.

According to family and friends, the images were created and distributed by the two defendants after Passant rejected sexual advances from one of them.

The case has created an uproar on social media after the suicide note left by Passant to her mother went viral.

In the suicide note, Passant pleads with her mother to believe that the images were fake and that she was not the girl in the photos.  

On Tuesday, the Gharbiya Security Directorate announced that it had arrested two suspects who had fled their homes for fear of arrest after news of the suicide spread in the media.

According to news reports, one of the defendants was a classmate of the victim, and the other one was a university student.

Passant’s family said she was a victim of relentless bullying in her small Nile Delta village after the images were circulated, with even one of her teachers mocking her for being “top trending” on social media.

On Tuesday, for the second day in a row, it was Passant’s suicide that has been trending on social media, especially on Twitter.

The hashtag #Passant's_rights_must_be ensured_ in Arabic was top trending in the country with more than 6,000 tweets from Egypt and other Arab countries.

Many tweeters expressed sympathy and solidarity with the girl, demanding the arrest of the men who blackmailed her.

In TV interviews, Passant's father expressed anger and sadness over his daughter’s suicide, demanding justice for her.

However, many social media users have blamed the parents for not standing by their daughter, pointing to the suicide note as proof her parents did not support her.

In a statement that did not mention the incident specifically, the International Fatwa Centre of Al-Azhar, the world's leading Sunni Islamic institution, condemned the defamation of innocent people as a “malicious, inhumane crime.”

“Blackmailing people with fake accusations through forged images using modern applications or other means... defaming people's reputations... is extreme, hateful abuse and forbidden slander which God Almighty warned against,” Al-Azhar's fatwa centre said, citing verses from the Holy Quran that condemn such behaviour.

The National Council for Women (NCW) also issued a statement condemning the incident.

"The chairwoman of the council Maya Morsi asserts the necessity of issuing more laws that penalise this sort of blackmail as well as launching awareness campaigns for women and girls so they know their rights and how to protect themselves from these crimes," the NCW statement said, adding that families should believe their girls and stand by them.

The statement stressed that the NCW provides support and assistance to women and girls in similar circumstances, whether through in-person meetings, its hotline (15115), or Whatsapp number (01007525600).

* If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a crisis, please reach out immediately to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24/7 at 08008880700 & 0220816831.

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