#I’m With Sarah

CW: sexual violence, power dynamics

This is an open letter that has been circulating on social media as of June 2018, with the encouragement to share in solidarity.

A McGill student, Sarah Abdelshamy, is being sued by her former professor, Ahmed Fekry Ibrahim, for allegedly accusing him of sexual misconduct. Whether Sarah did so or not is beside the point. This is a blatant attempt to censor, intimidate, and silence a student through legal action, and it must not stand. I refuse to stand by while a student who actively works to uphold students’ rights and safety on campus is attacked.

I will not hide behind a collective “we” in an attempt to avoid retaliation. Instead, I will accept risk by engaging in direct action as an individual. I WILL NOT tolerate the use of the law as a means to silence students who defend victims of sexual harassment. I WILL NOT tolerate the unethical and unprofessional conduct of faculty members who engage in sexual relationships with their students. I WILL NOT tolerate McGill’s continued refusal to acknowledge the endemic problem of predatory faculty members and to handle unacceptable behaviour from staff thoroughly and proactively. Most importantly, I WILL NOT be frightened into silence.

Ahmed Ibrahim’s sexually predatory behaviour has been an open secret for many years now. Ibrahim himself claims to have maintained a consensual sexual relationship with a student, but rejects the premise of this assertion. Article 4.1 of McGill’s Policy Against Sexual Violence states that a person is incapable of consenting to sexual activity that has been induced by conduct that constitutes an abuse of a relationship of trust, power or authority, such as the relationship between a professor and their student. Under McGill’s own policies, Ahmed Ibrahim has violated clear-cut boundaries of consent.

The failure of traditional legal mechanisms in protecting survivors, coupled with McGill’s consistent inaction vis-a-vis sexual violence, makes it necessary for perpetrators of gendered and sexual violence to be publicly outed through informal networks. When institutions fail students, we will take matters into our own hands. Today, I am asserting that community accountability is NOT defamation. I stand with Sarah Abdelshamy and Professor Pasha Khan, and condemn the legal action that they are facing.