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Who is Marwa Elselehdar, Egypt's First Woman Ship Captain Falsely Blamed for Suez Blockage?

Marwa Elselehdar

Marwa Elselehdar

Marwa Elselehdar was on duty hundreds of miles away in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria when news of the container ship Ever Given wedged across the Suez Canal started making headlines.

Days after the giant container ship ‘Ever Given’ freed from the Suez Canal after a week-long blockage, an Egyptian woman ship captain who was on duty hundreds of miles seems to have been getting undue blame for it. Marwa Elselehdar, who is Egypt’s first woman ship captain, recently told the media that following the Suez debacle, her name was dragged into a fake news campaign that blamed her for the blockage.

Who is Marwa Elselehdar?

Marwa Elselehdar, 30, graduated from the regional Arab League university Arab Academy of Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AAST) in Alexandria as part of its 73rd batch. She is regarded as the first Egyptian woman to have studied marine navigation at the institute. Though at first, she was part of the International Transport and Logistics Department, she soon applied to the courses in the men-only Department of Maritime Transport and Technology where her brother was studying and got selected. She graduated in 2013, and applied to be part of the AIDA IV crew as the second officer. Elselehdar went on to become the first and youngest Egyptian woman ever to become a Shipmaster in Egypt. In 2015, she was part of the Suez Canal Opening celebrations that were broadcast worldwide.

Where was Marwa Elselehdar during the Seuz Canal blockage?

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Elselehdar was on duty hundreds of miles away in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria when news of the container ship Ever Given wedged across the Suez Canal was making headlines. She was working as First Officer and commanding the AIDA IV, a ship that is nationally owned by the maritime safety authority of Egypt. Itis used to run supply missions as well as a venue for training AAST cadets. According to a report in the BBC, Elselehdar was shocked to find that her name was being linked to the Suez mishap.

Why Was Marwa Elselehdar targeted by fake news?

As soon as news of the Suez Canal blockage broke, fake news factories across the world got to work. While the blockage led to several memes and became a viral phenomenon on social media, Elselehdar was struck by her name being linked to the incident. Fake screenshots of a news report, seemingly published in Arab News, which blamed her for the blockage went viral. “I felt that I might be targeted maybe because I’m a successful female in this field or because I’m Egyptian, but I’m not sure,” the BBC quoted the woman ship captain as saying. She added that she feared for her career after the fake news went viral.

Do women face discrimination at sea?

Women make up just 2 percent of the seafaring community and personnel as men continue to dominate the profession. Elselehdar herself told the BBC that people still regarded those who worked at sea with apprehension as it involved months of staying away from home on board a vessel. Not just in Egypt, women seafarers have faced discrimination across the world. Earlier in March, Officer Joanne Rawley drew attention to the issue after she shared her own experiences as a woman at sea. Rawley, who has previously served as part of the Royal Air Force in UK, said that it wasn’t just rude jokes or sexual comments but the “systematic and intentional violation of a crew member’s rights to be safe at work”.

first published:April 05, 2021, 15:47 IST