Arrests made after Egyptian girl dies by suicide following online blackmail

The 17-year-old left a heart-wrenching suicide note for her mother

FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2012 file photo, an Egyptian youth, trailed by his friends, gropes a woman crossing the street with her friends in Cairo, Egypt. In the summer of 2020, more than a hundred allegations of sexual harassment, assault and rape against a former student at a top university have roiled Egypt, sparking a renewed #MeToo campaign in a country where sexual assault and harassment are rampant. The case has prompted the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution, to speak out on sexual harassment and assault, and voice support for victims. Authorities have arrested the accused man pending investigations, and are working to amend the country's laws to protect the identities of victims of sexual crimes. (AP Photo/Ahmed Abd El Latif, El Shorouk Newspaper, File)
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Authorities in Egypt arrested two men on Tuesday on suspicion of blackmailing a girl by posting altered images of her online, which resulted in her taking her life, police officials said.

The two men allegedly doctored social media photos of 17-year-old Bassant Khaled to make them appear as if she were naked after she rejected the advances of one of the two, according to police officials.

They said the pair had gone into hiding before they were located and arrested by the police. They are currently being questioned.

The incident in the Nile Delta province of Gharbuyah has triggered uproar on social media, with users in Egypt calling for the two men to be brought to justice.

The hashtag “Bassant Khaled’s right must be restored” has trended on Twitter in Egypt since Monday.

Blackmail and misuse of social media platforms are crimes in Egypt, punishable by prison for up to five years.

The girl had left a note for her mother, pleading with her not to believe the online images were of her, according to a copy of the note published by local news outlets.

“Mom, please understand, the girl in those pictures is not me. I swear, they are photo-shopped … Mom, I am a young girl and I don’t deserve all that’s happening to me,” it read.

“I am suffering from depression and I feel like I am suffocating. I am really tired. It’s not me. Show me mercy. You raised me well.”

Al Azhar, Egypt's highest Islamic authority and the world's foremost seat of learning for Sunni Muslims, expressed outrage over the incident in a statement issued on Monday.

It said Islam offered protection for people's reputation and prescribes a "grim fate and punishment" for those who seek to stain the reputation of others. "To falsely level accusations and lies against people is among the capital sins and mean crimes whose damage goes beyond individuals and societies," it said.

Officials said the young woman's family did not report the blackmail to authorities. The search for and arrest of the two men was carried out on the initiative of the Interior Ministry after reports of the suicide surfaced on social media.

Updated: June 12, 2023, 8:08 AM