Female Captain Was Nowhere Near Suez. She Still Got Blamed

Egypt's Marwa Elselehdar battles sexist fake news over stuck ship
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2021 9:20 AM CDT
A Female Captain Is Falsely Blamed for Suez Fiasco
In this photo released by Suez Canal Authority, the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship is pulled by one of the Suez Canal tugboats on March 29.   (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

Last month, Arab News ran a profile of 29-year-old Marwa Elselehdar, who just happens to be Egypt's first female sea captain. The attention might have backfired. Days later, when a ship became stuck in the Suez Canal, fake stories began circulating online accusing Elselehdar of being the captain involved, reports the BBC. They often were doctored versions of the Arab News profile. "I was shocked," says Elselehdar, who was nowhere near the canal when the Ever Given got hopelessly stuck. Instead, she was commanding a ship hundreds of miles away in Alexandria. The bogus news stories often were in English, and they spread far and wide.

"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," she tells the BBC. "I tried so hard to negate what was in the article because it was affecting my reputation and all the efforts I exerted to be where I am now." The sexist slams, however, also were mixed with expressions of support from around the world for Elselehdar's feat of achieving success in a field dominated by men. The International Maritime Organization estimates that 98% of those working at sea are males. Elselehdar, who was honored on Women's Day in 2017 by Egypt's president, plans to pursue her master's degree and a doctorate next. (Read more Suez canal stories.)

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