Updated Dec. 19, 2017: After a former employee of Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour accused her of covering up sexual assault claims, Sarsour isn’t just denying it, she’s providing proof that the claims are false.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Sarsour provided documents that paint a different picture of how the then-executive director of the Arab American Association handled the alleged harassment claims.
Sarsour said that she wasn’t going to speak up on the issue, but the fact that Donald Trump Jr. retweeted the post — which she pointed out came from a right-wing publication whose reporter was fired from BuzzFeed News for more than 40 incidents of plagiarism in 2014 — made her fear for her and her daughters’ personal safety.
Sarsour said that the alleged abuser and “stalker” of Asmi Fathelbab, Majed Seif, was not only a resident in their office building, but also a volunteer who often helped with Arabic translation and event planning. His day job, BuzzFeed News reports, is at an international high school, and the man also taught calligraphy at the U.N.
In 2009 when the alleged harassment occurred, Fathelbab was a contractor under an AmeriCorps program funded by the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS). She was placed at the Arab American Association to coordinate a youth education program for the nonprofit. Sarsour told BuzzFeed News that she gave ACCESS an affidavit dated August 13, 2009, in which she defended Seif, who said he had never been alone with Fathelbab and that the claims against him were “offensive and hurtful.”
As reported, Sarsour said she found “no substantial evidence or any testimonies from anyone about the alleged accusations,” and she claims that none of Fathelbab’s accounts in The Daily Caller article matched what the woman had told Sarsour back in 2009.
“The exact words were, ‘He makes me feel uncomfortable,'” Sarsour said. “There was nothing about touching or groping. There’s no evidence, no email she can pull out where she ever gave those claims to us.”
Even still, Sarsour had told Seif to stay “as far away as possible” from Fathelbab to avoid conflict.
Sarsour also provided BuzzFeed News with a signed statement dated August 14, 2009, in which two employees who had worked alongside Fathelbab told ACCESS that her claims were not credible. BuzzFeed News then interviewed both of these past coworkers, Jihad Kifayeh, a “good friend” of Fathelbab’s, and another who spoke under anonymity.
They both said that there was no evidence to back up Fathelbab’s claims. Kifayeh said that he had never heard her describe accounts of sexual assault. “It was always, ‘He’s stalking me, he’s following me,’ but never anything about touching,” he said.
You can read their full accounts here.
Sarsour went on to deny that she ever body-shamed Fathelbab — something that the woman detailed to The Daily Caller — declaring it “character assassination.”
Fathelbab is sticking to her claims. “I told her everything that was going on,” she said. “And half of the time she could actually hear me screaming from the other side.”
She further told Metro in a statement: “Like I said to others within the past day it’s not a right wing left wing argument, but she has turned it into that. If you read her version of things, she clearly states that I was written up by her for stating I was being harassed and assaulted.”
Social media responds
People were quick to post on social media in Sarsour’s defense, a few using the hashtag #IStandWithLinda.
One woman wrote: “As a recent survivor of sexual assault, @lsarsour was one of the first people to reach out to me once she got word. This attack on her is a new low that is truly putting her and her family in danger. This administration can’t divide us! #stayfocused #istandwithlinda.”
As a recent survivor of sexual assault, @lsarsour was the one of the first people to reach out to me once she got word. This attack on her is a new low that is truly putting her and her family in danger. This administration can’t divide us! #stayfocused #istandwithlinda
— Breanne (@bybreanne) December 19, 2017
One man tweeted: “The attacks on @lsarsour won’t deter us from standing with her, because she’s stood for all of us. This is a cheap smear campaign, and she will persevere. Stay strong Linda, and remember we got your back.”
The attacks on @lsarsour won’t deter us from standing with her, because she’s stood for all of us. This is a cheap smear campaign, and she will persevere. Stay strong Linda, and remember we got your back. https://t.co/ByS2EK2dAF
— Abed A. Ayoub (@aayoub) December 19, 2017
But others are calling out those who were so quick to defend Sarsour and voiced skepticism:
Liberals: We should believe victims of sexual harassment
Also liberals: Linda Sarsour is a feminist icon, we shouldn’t believe the charges against her cause they were uncovered by conservative media outlets
— Cabot Phillips (@cabot_phillips) December 19, 2017
— Peter J. Hasson (@peterjhasson) December 19, 2017
Sarsour posted her own statement on Twitter with a link to the BuzzFeed News interview along with a direct quote from the article.
Newest waves of attacks. Every woman has a right to her story and I have a right to defend myself, my character and my commitment to women. This was a new low. https://t.co/JtoEtYfvEy pic.twitter.com/gtql5Xpw2v
— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) December 19, 2017
She closes her statement:
“Every woman has a right to her story. I also have the right to defend myself, my character and my commitment to women. This is an unfortunate situation that has been weaponized by the right wing including the son of the president of the United States as part of a longstanding smear campaign against me. Don’t allow them to use women against each other. This is an important time of reckoning and I hope women continue to be courageous in sharing their stories.”
Fathelbab took to Twitter as well to express her stance, writing, “For the record, I did not get paid for my story, I am neither right wing nor left wing, I am a real person, I am a woman, I am Muslim. This all actually happened to me, whether you believe it or not based on politics is not how humans should come to a conclusion on any topic.”
For the record, I did not get paid for my story, I am neither right wing nor left wing, I am a real person, I am a woman, I am Muslim. This all actually happened to me, whether you believe it or not based on politics is not how humans should come to a conclusion on any topic
— Asmi Fathelbab (@Asmi1121) December 19, 2017
Original Story Dec. 18, 2017: Over the weekend, a report was released accusing Women’s March national co-chair and civil rights activist Linda Sarsour of trying to cover up a former female employee’s sexual assault allegations against someone who lived in their office building. Donald Trump Jr. retweeted the report, and in a matter of hours it got national attention.
Linda Sarsour Accused Of Enabling Sexual Assault Against Woman Who Worked For Her https://t.co/sa0rxkDOBS
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) December 18, 2017
The alleged victim, Asmi Fathelbab, told The Daily Caller that she went to Sarsour, the then-executive director of the Arab American Association, about a male resident groping her and engaging in inappropriate behavior. The man, who Fathelbab describes as her “stalker,” was identified as Majed Seif. Sarsour reportedly turned a blind eye to the account and so ensued a pattern of dismissal and, according to Fathelbab, body-shaming.
Fathelbab began working at the Arab American Association of New York as a contractor in 2009 and claimed that the accused “would sneak up on me during times when no one was around, he would touch me, you could hear me scream at the top of my lungs.”
“He would pin me against the wall and rub his crotch on me,” the 37-year-old continued. “It was disgusting… It left me shaking.”
According to Fathelbab, when she told Sarsour about the assault, the Pro-Palestinian advocate and proclaimed feminist called her a liar because “‘something like this didn’t happen to women who looked like me.'”
Fathelbab clarified to Twitter that this had in fact been a shot at her weight.
Thanks for the correction and retweets. And yes, some women BELIEVE that just because you have a big butt you are no longer a woman and do not run into women issues as they do. As some men see you should be grateful that they even considered assaulting you
— Asmi Fathelbab (@Asmi1121) December 18, 2017
Fathelbab also claims that Sarsour threatened legal action if she went public with the sexual assault allegations, reportedly warning her that she’d sue for “false claims.”
Fathelbab next went to the president of the board of directors, Ahmed Jaber, but he allegedly dismissed the assault claims because Seif was a “God-fearing man” who was “always at the Mosque.”
When Sarsour found out that Fathelbab spoke with Jaber, she reportedly threatened to keep her from getting another job in New York once her contract was up. And according to Fathelbab, Sarsour has kept her word. “She had me fired from other jobs when she found out where I worked,” Fathelbab said. “She has kept me from obtaining any sort of steady employment for almost a decade.”
Two sources who knew Fathelbab during her time working for Sarsour, backed her claims saying that the woman would return from work “emotionally distressed and in a panic” and would describe the environment as “unsafe.”
Another source who worked with the Arab American Association for over 12 years claimed they witnessed Asmi getting harassed and that Sarsour was “militant against other women” in the office. The source also identified Fathelbab’s alleged assaulter as Majed Seif.
“[Sarsour] oversaw an environment unsafe and abusive to women,” Fethelbab said. “Women who put [Sarsour] on a pedestal for women’s rights and empowerment deserve to know how she really treats us.”
Metro has contacted the Arab American Association of New York and Linda Sarsour for comments.
To read Fathelbab’s full account entitled, “Linda Sarsour supervised my sexual assault,” click here.