Uber Driver's Kidnapping Attempt in Egypt Sparks Outrage and Raises Safety Concerns

Uber Driver's Kidnapping Attempt in Egypt Sparks Outrage and Raises Safety Concerns

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The kidnapping attempt and subsequent death of a young woman in Cairo, Egypt at the hands of an Uber driver, sparks outrage and raises concerns about harassment while using ride-hailing apps.

An Uber driver was referred to criminal court for the kidnapping of 24-year-old, Habiba El-Shamaa, who died after jumping from the car mid-journey. According to an eyewitness who tried to assist El-Shamaa, the 24-year-old said she was being harassed and that the driver tried to kidnap her. She suffered seizures while on the ground and was taken to a hospital.

Authorities later uncovered the driver closed the car's windows and sprayed an air perfume which concerned El-Shamaa and led her to call her mother. El-Shamaa's mother couldn't hear her daughter over the phone, however, due to the car's loud music. When she called back, she was surprised to hear a stranger pick up the phone to say her daughter threw herself outside of the car.

The Uber driver was charged with manslaughter, kidnapping, and driving under the influence after tests showed hard drugs in his system, according to local media reports. Later, he told authorities he was afraid to stop so he fled the scene and canceled the ride.

The charges caused an uproar in Egypt for charging him with manslaughter verses premeditated murder. El-Shamaa was hospitalized February 21st and was in a coma for 22 days before succumbing to her injuries. She suffered broken bones, internal bleeding, and brain hemorrhage.

The case received more attention after Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, intervened by offering to fly El-Shamaa abroad for medical treatment before her death. It prompted users to share their stories on social media about ride-hailing apps and raised ongoing concerns about the safety of female passengers. From 2019 to 2020, Uber received 3,824 reports of sexual assault and misconduct - including 141 rape reports in 2020. In Egypt, Uber released an official statement condemning the crime and offering condolences.

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