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#MeToo: Arab silence breakers reveal rampant sexual harassment in local entertainment industry Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

#MeToo: Arab silence breakers reveal rampant sexual harassment in local entertainment industry

A wave of scandals has ended the careers of some high-profile men [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 December, 2017

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Arab women have revealed that sexual harassment is rife in the local entertainment industry, according to over a dozen women working in the field.

Arab women face regular sexual harassment working in the local entertainment industries, over a dozen journalists, pop stars and actors have told The New Arab.

The silence breakers spoke anonymously to The New Arab for fear of repercussions, amid a firestorm of sexual misconduct scandals that have ended the careers of powerful figures in Hollywood, US politics and journalism.

"He paced around the room, coming closer then moving away from me," Aya, an Egyptian journalist said, recounting an interview with a well-known Arab actor.

"When it ended I got up to leave but he told me to stay longer to spend some time together. He then approached me suddenly and pressed his body up against mine," said Aya.

"When I screamed he threw open the door and threatened that he would tell my newspaper's editorial team that I was bad at my job."

The #MeToo campaign exposed alleged sexual misconduct in the US and elsewhere, which began with a series of claims against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

The high-profile cases have received widespread media coverage in the Middle East.

The hashtag prompted hundreds of women in the region take to social media and speak up against harassment they have experienced.

Hanadi - an aspiring Syrian actress - said that the entertainment scene in Damascus was entrenched with a culture of sexual harassment, which has forced many women to abandon their dreams of pursuing a career in film.

"I have seen many examples of women receiving angry reactions after they have made formal complaints about harassment," she said.

"The only way to open the door to stardom in Syria is to give in to the advances," she added.

Rana, a Lebanese actress, had similar stories of workplace abuse.

"I once met with a play director several times in public to look over a new script. When it came time for rehearsals he invited me to his home," she said.

"When I went he began inappropriately touching my body under the guise of directing my movements on stage. At first I was upset but I convinced myself it was normal. When it continued I confronted him and left the production," Rana added.

This week, the UN rights chief hailed the ongoing "seismic shift" in public discourse about sexual harassment and abuse following a barrage of revelations about misconduct in Hollywood, Washington and beyond.

A wave of scandals in North America and Europe has in recent weeks ended the careers of some of the most high-profile figures in the entertainment and media industries.

Since the start of the campaign, several leading Arab actresses have also revealed that sexual harassment is rampant in the region.

Tunisian actress Hend Sabry last month said that men in the entertainment industry regularly "abuse their power".

Egyptian singer and bellydancer Sama al-Masry said that producers often demand sexual favours from actresses in exchange for roles in films.

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