Tuesday 18 December 2018

Egyptian actress appeals for support after furore over her revealing dress

Controversy: Rania Youssef wears the dress at the Cairo International Film Festival last Thursday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Controversy: Rania Youssef wears the dress at the Cairo International Film Festival last Thursday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Hamza Hendawi in Cairo

An Egyptian actress facing trial on public obscenity charges for wearing a revealing dress says she didn't mean to offend anyone and appealed to her detractors to believe in her good intentions.

In a Facebook post at the weekend, Rania Youssef said she might have misjudged how people would react to the dress she wore at the closing ceremony of this year's Cairo International Film Festival, which revealed her legs through embroidered gauze.

In choosing that dress, she said, she had referred to fashion designers that may have been influenced by the tastes and standards at international film festivals.

"I want to repeat my commitment to the values and ethics we have been raised by in Egyptian society," said Youssef.

Images of Youssef at the event were widely shared on social media, prompting a group of lawyers to file a complaint to the chief prosecutor, who quickly sent the actress to trial. Many complaints languish for months or longer before any action is taken, so the swift action betrays the urgency of the desire to appease those that took offence. Youssef is due in court on January 12.

The case is the latest instance of ostensibly secular authorities embracing religious conservatism in Muslim-majority Egypt, where the military in 2013 - then led by current President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi - overthrew a freely elected, but divisive Islamist president.

Egypt's Actors Guild said it intended to investigate and discipline actors who wore "inappropriate" attire during the opening and closing ceremonies of the week-long film festival, arguing that they clashed with "the traditions, values and ethics of society".

"Although we absolutely believe in the personal freedom of artists, we appeal to everyone to shoulder their responsibilities toward the fans who appreciate their art and view them as role models," it said.

Irish Independent

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