Five teenagers referred to Egyptian court over blackmailed girl's suicide

Investigators say the suspects fabricated pornographic images of the victim and spread them around their conservative town

A still from 'As I Want', a documentary that looks at how women resisted sexual harassment in Egypt following the revolution. Egypt’s prosecutor general has referred five teenage boys to court after they allegedly spread indecent doctored images of Bassant Khaled, 17,  leading to her death by suicide last month. Courtesy Berlinale

Egypt’s prosecutor general has referred five teenage boys to court after they allegedly spread indecent doctored images of Bassant Khaled, 17, in an attempt to blackmail her into performing "inappropriate sexual acts", leading to her death by suicide last month.

Though there were only two teenage boys implicated in the incident initially, further investigation found three others, all of whom hailed from the victim’s home town of Kafr El Zayat in Gharbiyah province, had been involved in the blackmail attempt. The accused have been in custody since their arrest late last month, police said.

Investigations determined that all five suspects, who are under 18, fabricated pornographic images of the victim and spread them around their small, conservative town, a prosecution statement said.

They have been charged with human trafficking because they used the images to coerce the victim into committing sexual acts, the prosecution said.

Fearing that her parents would never believe that it was not her in the circulated photos, Khaled took her own life on December 23.

Her suicide note begged her mother to believe that it was not her in the images. A photo of the handwritten note was widely circulated on social media, adding fuel to the public’s outrage, which spawned the hashtag calling for justice over the suicide.

The victim’s sister told Egyptian daily newspaper Youm7 that, in the days leading up to the suicide, Khaled had been subjected to a great deal of harassment from young men in the village who had seen the pictures online.

On December 30, one of her teachers was arrested for bullying her in front of a study group by telling her “you’ve become the number one trend on the internet”.

After the suicide, her father was interviewed by a number of popular local television shows. He said he knew the pictures were fake as soon as he saw them.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 10:58 AM