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EXCLUSIVE: Egyptian FGM Lawyer Tells of Death Threats

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Reda el-Danbouki is a women's rights lawyer in Egypt who recently led the legal team which secured Egypt’s first ever conviction for female genital mutilation (FGM). Doctor Raslan Fadl performed the procedure on 13-year old Sohair el-Batea, who later died from injuries sustained as a result.

Although the intial verdict exonerated Dr. Fadl, el-Danbouki won the case on appeal. Raslan Fadl has been sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labor for manslaughter with an additional three months for performing FGM.

What follows is an exclusive account given to the Clarion Project by Reda el-Danbouki detailing the death threats and harassment he has faced since taking on the case.

"The harassment started at an early stage, when our center held a conference to raise awareness against FGM in the town of Aja, the same city in which Sohair el-Batea was killed. One of those attending stood up and said, “'You are an infidel and you’re calling for a new religion!' Then he threatened to put an end to the conference and to harass us, before he disappeared.

"A week after that I went to Aja again, to see if the people understood the dangers of circumcision and what their opinion on the subject was. One woman asked me, 'Do you want all the girls to become sluts and not get married?' We couldn’t hold a meeting with the residents there. Later on I found out that this woman was herself performing circumcision on the women and girls of the town.

"A month later I went there again, together with reporters from news agencies. The people threw dirty water on me, but I completed my work. I photographed the grave of Sohair, and I tried to raise the people’s awareness of the dangers of circumcision.

"One day, when the prosecution called the court, and I put in a request to hasten the verdict, I got a phone call from the doctor, Raslan Fadl (the accused) who advised me to stay away from this case and to go back to the way of Allah, because I (according to his opinion) was violating the hadith, and I was calling for corruption. I paid him no heed, and I continued my work with renewed vigour.

"Recently, and before the last trial, he cursed me and said that I was a dog, and I was looking for dog's rights. I published this curse in an essay for the British newspaper, The Guardian. After a long struggle with the people of the District Attorney’s office, the Sharia Medicine community and the judges, the case went to court. But after the first court found the defendant innocent, the doctor, Raslan Fadl, mocked me and showed me disrespect.

"I didn’t give up. I appealed, and I put the case back together with the District Attorney’s office. After the appelate court found Raslan Fadl guilty, I got on that same day more than six phone calls from unlisted numbers threatening to kill me and to kidnap my family.

"The day after that, I got a phone call from a man who said that I should walk on the straight path, obey Allah and come back from this rebellion and stop fighting circumcision. I managed to recognize the dialect as being from Saudi Arabia, because I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, and I know their dialect very well.

"Yesterday I noticed that somebody was following me. One of my neighbors told me that one of the sheikhs, a man with a very full beard, was following me, asking questions about me and gathering information. Today, when I got back to the house, I discovered that the entrance to the house was burned and the door was been removed. I found a note saying, "This is the beginning, to be continued.' I filed a report about it with the police.

"Today I got a phone call that offered me a sum of money to help the doctor, Raslan Fadl, and to reconcile with him during his appeal. If I refused, the man said, he would kidnap me, rape me, photograph the rape and put the pictures on social media sites so that I woudn’t be devasted and not able to live my life.

"This is a very strange thing to hear from a man who claims to be religious and who opened the conversation with peaceful greetings."

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David Harris

David Harris is the editor in chief of Clarion Project.