Women’s March Planner Says A Report That She Ignored Sex Harassment Is “Character Assassination”


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Girls’s March organizer Linda Sarsour is rejecting a report that claims she didn’t act on sexual harassment claims on the nonprofit she led, producing affidavits that solid doubt on parts of the story printed late Sunday by right-wing outlet the Day by day Caller.

Sarsour on Monday supplied BuzzFeed Information with witness statements and e mail correspondence that supply a markedly completely different model of what occurred after then-staff member Asmi Fathelbab accused an workplace volunteer of harassing her in 2009.

Fathelbab described assaults that included the volunteer, Majed Seif, sneaking up behind her “with a full erection,” pinning her towards a wall to rub his crotch towards her, and following her to and from work.

“You can hear me scream on the high of my lungs,” Fathelbab advised the Day by day Caller. When Fathelbab took her claims to Sarsour, she stated, she was body-shamed and dismissed as an attention-seeker. Seif and others who labored on the nonprofit have denied the allegations.

Fathelbab is the most recent girl in latest months to allege that her office mishandled her harassment grievance. She stated she had “no purpose or angle for this aside from my story be heard,” when requested if she had any considerations concerning the story getting used on-line in a partisan solution to assault Muslim People.

Sarsour, essentially the most seen Muslim girl activist within the nation and a vocal critic of the Trump administration, is continuously focused by right-leaning critics who attempt to discredit her by choosing aside her political stances and her typically combative social media posts. Sarsour stated the Day by day Caller report is one other smear, however this another alarming due to the attain of the claims. The story went viral inside hours of its publication, undoubtedly helped by a tweet and retweet from Donald Trump, Jr., the president’s son whose Twitter account has greater than 2 million followers.

Sarsour stated her first intuition was to dismiss the report as a success piece, however Trump Jr.’s function in amplifying the claims made her fearful for the private security of her and her household.

“Anti-Semitic, terrorist sympathizer, supporter of feminine genital mutilation — each week they provide you with some new stuff about me,” Sarsour stated of her detractors. “However when the president’s son is tweeting about me, that’s severe stuff.”

This a lot will not be in dispute: In 2009, Fathelbab was a part of an AmeriCorps program that positioned members in Arab-American organizations throughout the nation. It was funded by the Michigan-based Arab Group Middle for Financial and Social Companies, or ACCESS.

Fathelbab was despatched to coordinate a youth training program for the Arab American Affiliation of New York, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit the place Sarsour was govt director on the time. Three different ACCESS hires labored there; Sarsour stated the affiliation oversaw their work however was not chargeable for their salaries or advantages.

Volunteers typically helped workers members on the busy workplace, the place Arab People sought assist navigating immigration points and social providers. Among the many volunteers was Seif, a person who lived in the identical constructing because the workplace and who usually stopped by to assist with Arabic translation or occasion planning. His day job was at a global highschool, and he taught calligraphy on the United Nations.

That is the place the tales diverge.

Fathelbab advised Day by day Caller reporter Benny Johnson that Seif repeatedly menaced her on the workplace “when nobody was round.” Emails present that Johnson reached out to Sarsour for remark, however she didn’t reply. (Johnson is a former author at BuzzFeed Information who was fired in 2014 after greater than 40 incidents of plagiarism and inadequate attribution have been present in his writings.)

The Day by day Caller story is predicated on the account supplied by Fathelbab and knowledge from “two individuals who knew Fathelbab throughout her time on the Arab American Affiliation,” and one other nameless individual recognized as a “New York political operative.” These three different sources, in accordance with the Day by day Caller, independently confirmed her account. As a result of they weren’t named, BuzzFeed couldn’t confirm their tales.

“She known as me a liar as a result of ‘One thing like this didn’t occur to girls who appeared like me,’” Fathelbab was quoted as saying about Sarsour’s response. She added that followers who put Sarsour “on a pedestal for ladies’s proper and empowerment should understand how she actually treats us.”

Sarsour stated she’s “dumbfounded” by Fathelbab’s model of what occurred. As referenced within the paperwork Sarsour supplied, she gave ACCESS an affidavit dated Aug. 13, 2009. Sarsour defended Seif within the assertion and wrote that it was Fathelbab who was making a hostile setting by telling co-workers tales of alleged harassment.

Sarsour advised ACCESS she’d appeared into the claims and located “no substantial proof or any testimonies from anybody concerning the alleged accusations.” Even so, Sarsour continued, she talked with Seif concerning the claims and requested him to remain “as distant as doable” from Fathelbab to keep away from worsening the problem. Seif denied Fathelbab’s claims on the time, and he does to to this present day. Sarsour stated she’d thought of the matter settled — till listening to 5 months later that Fathelbab had advised ACCESS concerning the claims.

Sarsour advised BuzzFeed that none of Fathelbab’s claims to the Day by day Caller matched the account she dropped at Sarsour almost 9 years in the past.

“The precise phrases have been, ‘He makes me really feel uncomfortable,’” Sarsour stated. “There was nothing about touching or groping. There’s no proof, no e mail, she will be able to pull out the place she ever gave these claims to us.”

As for the claims about body-shaming, Sarsour stated, that “by no means, ever” occurred.

“That is character assassination,” she stated. “That is the place now we have to attract the road. I’ve two daughters. This isn’t the kind of conduct I interact in.”

Sarsour stated she has no downside calling out fellow Arabs or Muslims for sexual harassment, noting a Fb put up she wrote in June 2013 amid allegations by a dozen girls towards a senior official with the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, or ADC. Sarsour threatened to cancel her speech on the ADC conference except the group made a dedication to “investigating this to the fullest extent of the legislation.”

BuzzFeed Information spoke to Fathelbab on Monday afternoon. She stated she was unaware that Sarsour, on behalf of the Arab American Affiliation, filed affidavits. Fathelbab additionally maintains that she was vocal concerning the alleged sexual bodily contact. “I advised her all the things that was occurring. And half of the time she may truly hear me screaming from the opposite aspect,” Fathelbab advised BuzzFeed Information. (Sarsour stated this “by no means occurred.”)

Requested why she determined to return ahead publicly, Fathelbab stated it was hypocritical that Sarsour was for ladies’s rights, given her expertise. “Apparently I did not depend as a lady to her, to have a proper,” Fathelbab stated.

Sarsour supplied BuzzFeed Information a number of supplies supporting her model of occasions, together with:

  • An August 13, 2009, assertion to ACCESS by Seif, the accused volunteer, who stated he’d by no means been round Fathelbab with out one other workers member current and that the claims towards him have been “offensive and hurtful.”
  • Signed statements dated August 14, 2009, by which two workers members who labored intently with Fathelbab advised ACCESS that they had no motive to consider the claims had benefit.

BuzzFeed Information interviewed each of the previous co-workers who supplied statements in 2009, and each stated they stood by their accounts.

One, Jihad Kifayeh, stated Fathelbab was good friend of his within the workplace — they typically ate lunch collectively and she or he let him use her automobile a few instances. He stated he took her claims critically when she advised him and different co-workers that Seif was harassing her, even monitoring Seif’s conduct round her for any signal of misconduct.

“If this was my sister, I might anticipate the identical,” Kifayeh stated. “I wished to resolve it. We watched Majed earlier than we even let him know.”

Seif didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark from BuzzFeed Information on Monday.

He and colleagues saved digging, Kifayeh stated, however discovered nothing to corroborate Fathelbab’s claims. He stated a few of her tales sounded logistically unimaginable in a bustling, tightly knit workplace the place staffers have been hardly ever, if ever, alone. He additionally stated she by no means described bodily harassment or groping. “It is a new side to the story I’ve by no means heard earlier than. It was at all times, ‘He’s stalking me, he’s following me,’ however by no means something about touching,” he stated.

“We have been like, ‘How? When?’” Kifayeh stated. “It’s not like all of us disappear. All of us are available on the similar time and we go away on the similar time.”

The opposite former co-worker, a person who shared an workplace with Fathelbab for a yr, agreed to talk on situation of anonymity as a result of he wished to guard his household from the social media firestorm that’s erupted across the story.

The previous colleague stated he by no means heard her scream on the high of her lungs as she advised the Day by day Caller. He stated Seif would enter and exit a room silently on his typical enterprise and she or he’d insist he was following her. The previous colleague stated it was clear to him and others within the workplace that her claims have been baseless.

“Linda did what she was purported to do. She had a gathering, bought our perspective, bought our witness accounts. What else may she do?” he stated. “I believed this was over and accomplished with 9 years in the past.”

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