Lebanon News

Lawyer files suit against alleged serial harasser

Activists carry banners during a protest against rape near the interior ministry in Beirut, Jan. 14, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohamad Azakir)

BEIRUT: A lawyer Tuesday filed a lawsuit against a Lebanese man accused of harassing and sexually assaulting dozens of women in Beirut over a period of more than four years.

Kareem Majbour filed the suit against Marwan Habib, a Lebanese personal trainer, for the “verbal and physical harassment of numerous women.”

Dozens of women have shared testimonies implicating Habib since Independence Day on Nov. 22, when he was participating in the civilian parade in Downtown Beirut.

His photo was published on Twitter following the event as journalists and protesters published pictures of the parade. One young woman replied to a tweet of his photo saying Habib had harassed her and attempted to pressure her into having sexual relations with him, while she was eating at the Hamra branch of Zaatar w Zeit a day earlier.

After she shared her story, dozens of women shared their accounts of Habib harassing, assaulting and following them or their friends. Harasstracker and BeirutbyDyke published these testimonies on their feeds.

Many of the reported incidents took place in Hamra, near the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University.

Screenshots of messages between the women and Habib were also shared, showing him persistently sending suggestive or inappropriate messages, despite the women clearly rejecting or totally ignoring him.

On Monday night, Habib appeared alongside Majbour on local TV channel MTV, where he attempted to deny all accusations against him with the words “that’s not accurate.” One accusation came from the owner of SkyBar nightclub, who called in to the show and said Habib was “known” among staff for his treatment of women.

The lawyer, Majbour, showed a CCTV clip from the popular Mar Mikhael bar Radio Beirut that appears to show Habib harassing three separate women in one night, in one case forcing an ice cube down her pants.

Following the interview, Habib updated his social media status to read, “bad marketing is always a good marketing.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Majbour tweeted a copy of the lawsuit he had filed against Habib. “I need girls to start testifying more and provide us with proof so we can bring him to justice ... We have a solid case against him. We need to put an end to his acts,” Majbour tweeted.

Habib did not respond to The Daily Star’s request for comment on the lawsuit.

Harasstracker has collected many of the women’s testimonials, some of which date back as far as 2015. They posted on their social media Monday night also encouraging women to come forward and report.

“To all powerful survivors, have no fear. We are ready for justice to be served. And we got you,” the post read.

As the scale of Habib’s harassment became apparent last week, The Daily Star spoke with Nay El Rahi, a Harasstracker co-founder.

“When one woman talks, others come out too,” she said. “Even if they have no intention of going through the legal process, they still feel there is a value in speaking up.”

There have been many responses to the women’s testimonies questioning why they didn’t go to the police or judiciary.

Rahi blames this on what she calls a “shortcoming of the legal system.”

“The government and the police do not take these complaints seriously ... you need to prove that you are assaulted and gather evidence, which can be exhausting,” she said.

Multiple women testifying about Habib said they had reported incidents to the police, but had been turned away.

Nevertheless, Rahi said that the “degree of solidarity” emerging in the Habib case was both “tremendous” and “surprising.”

“People are coming together in the streets ... this is a period of revolution,” Rahi said.

 

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