Like many marriage proposals in Egypt, everything seemed perfect at first for Sara Ibrahim*. She accepted the proposal of the witty, well-mannered groom who came to ask for her hand in marriage. His promising future as an engineer in a petroleum company also made her family enthusiastic about accepting the marriage proposal, foreseeing a life of prosperity and stability for their daughter. However, as soon as the wedding took place, and the door was closed between the bride and her family, and she gave birth to her first child, the usual scenario seen in 90s melodrama movies began to unfold: abuse and coercion in everything, even seizing her savings and gold jewelry as well as selling the furniture of the marital apartment twice. Finally, her family realized that this marriage was a catastrophe for their daughter after the disputes and conflicts escalated to the point where the husband caused the dismissal of one of her brothers from his job by filing a malicious complaint against him out of spite and to hurt her, so they agreed with her on having a divorce.
"My husband took advantage of my absence when I'd go to work to steal all the valuables and appliances that I had purchased with my own money, especially since part of it is my wedding dowry. He didn't leave anything, not even the bed sheets or prayer rugs"
Sara recounts her story to Raseef22, confirming that she realized after they got married that the reason her husband's family chose her was the high salary she received for her executive work in a successful private sector company. Ibrahim says, "After our marriage and the birth of our two children, I took a three-year maternity leave. During that period, my husband barely spent any money on us despite his high salary and stable job. This led me to spend part of my savings on the household. When he insisted on not providing for us, I returned to work. I was surprised to find out that he was saving his salary to buy apartments in upscale neighborhoods and renting them out for large amounts, leaving the full responsibility of taking care of the children entirely on me. In 2016, he asked me to sell my car, and he used the money to buy a new car for the family. He registered the car in his name, even though he bought it with my money. When I confronted him, he tricked me into a bank loan that I had to repay with my own money to buy a new car for myself instead of the one he took the money for."
When she couldn't find a way to live with him and insisted on separation, "He stipulated that in order for us to separate, I had to forgo all my rights and money, and this was done in 2018."
The saga of abuse did not stop there. When Sara asked to stay with her children in the marital apartment registered under her name, she was forced to leave through a brand new trick. "He took advantage of my absence when I'd go to work to seize all the appliances and valuable belongings that I had purchased with my own money, including my wedding ring. My ex-husband did not even leave behind the bed sheets or prayer rugs. Unfortunately, after my family intervened, I went back to my husband hoping that he would improve his behavior and take care of our children. In the first week of my return, I was shocked to find that all my gold jewelry, weighing 310 grams, and the receipts for their purchase were stolen. When I confronted him, he confessed to taking them because he was facing financial difficulties. Three days later, I discovered receipts for a diamond ring worth 35,000 Egyptian pounds, purchased as an engagement gift for his new wife. I ended up paying for her dowry with my own money. He also took possession of the apartment's sales contract and official authorization, and his father issued an official report to evict me."
"He stole my all my gold jewelry and its receipts. When confronted, he confessed he was facing financial difficulties, but I found receipts for a diamond ring, purchased as an engagement gift for his new wife. I ended up paying for her dowry with my own money"
Ibrahim resorted to the law and filed an official report against her husband for theft and squandering of property. The case was registered under number 637 for the year 2021 in the New Cairo Misdemeanor Court. The court issued a one-year prison sentence and a fine of one thousand pounds as bail. Another report was filed against him under number 7200 for the year 2022 to prove his seizure of her belongings and his prevention of her entry into her own house. She also filed for an empowerment request to proceed with the second divorce between them. She adds, "My ex-husband's malice and harm did not stop at me and our children. It reached the point where he and his family filed malicious complaints against members of my family's workplace and caused one of them to be fired."
One out of millions
Egyptian women suffer from an increasing rate of physical and psychological violence, sometimes leading to murder. The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics issued a statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 24, 2022, revealing indicators of violence against women during the year 2021. The statistics showed that 31% of married or previously-married women experienced some form of physical, psychological, or sexual violence from their husbands in 2021. It also highlighted that 22.2% of currently-married women and previously-married women suffered psychological violence from their husbands in 2021, while around 25.5% of currently-married women and previously-married women experienced physical violence from their husbands during the same year.
Violence, according to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, is defined as the use of physical or moral force to cause harm to another person unlawfully and without legal justification. Violence resulting from attacks within family and social relationships is referred to as domestic and familial violence.
Egyptian women suffer from an increasing rate of physical and psychological violence at the hands of their husbands, sometimes leading to murder
Sara is not the only victim of a husband who seized her money and belongings. There are many more, including one Engy El-Gendy, a 46-year-old bank employee.
Seventeen years ago, Engy married her now ex-husband, who worked as a commercial manager in a major company. She gave birth to two children during their marriage and was keen to assist her husband with household expenses. Engy tells Raseef22, "Life was peaceful until my ex-husband quit his job two years ago. During that period, I was surprised to find that he had taken control of a bank deposit under our daughter's name, which I have created from my personal savings. Additionally, he seized the gold and diamond jewelry I purchased for savings purposes, bringing the total value of the theft to about 150,000 Egyptian pounds. Despite taking legal action against my ex-husband, from whom I divorced in March of last year, I was unable to prove the theft. The law does not often recognize such cases involving spouses because the deposit of 30,000 pounds I made in my daughter's name falls under his financial guardianship. Despite official documents proving that I made the deposits and the lack of evidence of him stealing my jewelry, I recently obtained a one-month prison sentence against him for physically assaulting me after filing a report against him for theft and assault. The investigations confirmed the validity of the physical assault incident."
During the year 2022, news sources documented 249 women that have been exposed to domestic violence in 235 incidents, and they were abused at the hands of one or more family members, bringing the total number of assaults against wives to 51.8%
The law permits "legalized marital theft"
Regarding proving theft crimes involving guardian and charge, such as a husband and wife, or a father and daughter, Heba Adel, the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Egyptian Female Lawyers Initiative for Women's Rights, says, "In order for the investigation authorities to separate those involved in the crime, it is necessary for the person to have control and physical possession of the place in order to be accused of the incident and to prove the complete transfer of possession to the other accused party (the husband in Sara's case). Therefore, it is not permissible to claim that the theft occurred between two cohabiting individuals, as there is a well-established judicial principle among judges that gold is a possession of women, and they do not accept the claim of a husband taking it." She adds, "Of course, there are crimes that occur between spouses, but the law provides an exception for them, which is the possibility of waiving the lawsuit at any stage of the litigation process as a form of family protection."
The team of the "Hunna" campaign, affiliated with the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, documented during the year 2022 the exposure of 249 women to domestic violence in 235 incidents that were identified from news sources, and that they were abused at the hands of one or more family members. It should be noted that there are several incidents involving the assault of more than one woman in the same incident, bringing the total number of assaults against wives to 129, at 51.8%
Running away to the other side of the sea
As for Nermine Salah*, she found no escape from her husband's violence and continuous seizure of her money except by deceiving him to take her children and leave Egypt altogether for Saudi Arabia, where the laws are stricter regarding punishing those who abuse women. Additionally, the Saudi judiciary is known for expediting women's rights cases, unlike the Egyptian judiciary.
Her escape to the other side of the Red Sea was not only due to the continuous physical abuse and assaults but also because things had reached the point of death threats, especially since wives in Egypt often face accusations of adultery and fornication as a way for their husbands to obtain acquittal or lenient sentences in cases of so-called "honor killings."
The beginning of Nermine's ordeal came when she achieved great success in her work as a fire protection systems designer. However, her husband insisted that she quit her job in Egypt and that he would find her another job in Saudi Arabia where he worked. However, he did not fulfill his promise. Salah continues her story, saying, "After standing by his side and staying without work for 5 years, he refused to fulfill his promise, which led me to search for another field of work in teaching at international schools. After succeeding in this field, my husband continued to seize my entire income for 6 years, and my income amounted to 200,000 riyals per year. After that, he seized my jewelry and insisted that I leave my job there. He demanded that I withdraw the remaining money in my bank account and my son's account, which amounted to $13,000, promising to buy a car in my name. However, he took the money, bought a car in his name, and gave it to his brother to work as an Uber driver in Egypt. He also bought an apartment in the Fifth Settlement area (an upscale neighborhood in the Egyptian capital). Despite our agreement to have it registered in both our names to share the cost, he refused and gave it to his sister while I lived for 6 years in a room above the roof. He and his family took everything I had and the fruits of my labor without leaving me anything."
When Nermine sought the intervention of her family to get her money back, she was surprised by her husband traveling alone two days before the scheduled date, canceling the travel tickets for her and her son. He only returned to Egypt to divorce her and seize whatever she had left after beating her and throwing her out into the street in her pajamas, if it weren't for her call for police assistance. She says, "The police detained both of us, and if it weren't for my son's testimony about what happened, I wouldn't have been released and the report, which included his assault on me and his death threats, wouldn't have been filed." She adds, "My brother continued to send me money to help me, while my ex-husband continued to file malicious complaints against me. Despite demands from some of his relatives and acquaintances to return my money and stop the complaints, he refused. Our relationship ended with the divorce in 2022 after he verbally promised to reconcile after the first declaration of divorce. A judgment was issued for divorce, custody, and child support, including school expenses, from the Saudi courts, where the cases were quickly resolved," in clear contrast to the litigation conditions for women under Egyptian law.
Azza Hassan, a 31 year old doctor, is also a victim of domestic violence and financial exploitation. Her story gained media attention after she found no way to escape the repeated assaults and her family's insistence on forcing her to stay with her abusive husband, except by attempting to escape using sheets from the balcony of her house, while suffering from multiple fractures from her husband beating her.
The young doctor who married a doctor like herself, tells Raseef22, "From the very first month, he demanded that I give him my salary and took control of my bank card. When I objected to paying for household expenses from my own money, he physically assaulted me, and kept relying on my income throughout our years of marriage while he saved his salary even after having three children."
Azza didn't know that her husband would attempt to murder her after she filed for divorce and requested rights to the apartment following a heated argument. She says, "Last March, my mother-in-law threatened to throw me out into the street when I had nowhere else to go, especially since my family refused to accommodate me and my children. So I filed these lawsuits after it became impossible for us to continue our relationship alongside the continuous abuse and sudden attacks. My husband then brutally assaulted me again in April after imprisoning and beating me. He also tried to force me to sign a blank paper, saying at the time, 'I will accuse you of adultery, and I will bring someone to strip your clothes off and take pictures with you.' When I refused to sign, he mercilessly continued to beat me from Thursday, April 6, until Friday, April 7."
Hospital paperwork documenting Azza's injuries at the hands of her husband
That was the last straw that led her to attempt to escape, which ended in her fall when the sheets she used for the escape slipped.
According to Azza, the assaults by her husband in the latest incident caused her to suffer various fractures in her legs and spine, internal bleeding in the abdomen, rib fractures, cardiac rupture in the heart, and fractures in the pelvic bones. She underwent multiple surgical operations as a result, then "I filed an official police report against him, numbered 10350, at Bab Sharq Police Station for the incident that occurred in 2023."
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