On Saturday evening, local political activist and previous manager of Barzakh Fatima Fouad released a statement on social media platforms in which she explained how she suffered rape and sexual assault at the hands of Bashar Suleiman and Aya Metwalli.
Suleiman and Metwalli are both regional musicians extremely active in the regional music scene. In her post, Fouad narrates how on December 31, 2019, she suffered multiple counts of sexual assault by Suleiman and Metwalli, including rape, drugging, and physical assault while working a shift as the previous manager of Barzakh, a coffeeshop and bookstore in Hamra.
At the time, Fouad was working the New Year’s Eve party, organized in collaboration with Ma3azef and Ballroom Blitz. She first encountered Suleiman when she was talking to another one of the performers at the party, with Suleiman urging the performer to finish his conversation with Fouad saying “we have work, you can fuck her later.”
Fouad clapped back by stating that Suleiman would soon be out of work if he continued to behave as such.
Fouad then avoided Suleiman for most of the party, up until he approached her to presumably “apologize” for his actions, whereby he grabbed her waist nonconsensually. Fouad pushed him away, accusing him of harassment.
Later on, Metwalli requested Suleiman to introduce her to Fouad after she saw her dancing along to her performance. She and Fouad exchanged a kiss after Metwalli “asked her,” and would continue to exchange kisses and small bits of conversation throughout the party.
At 4 AM, Metwalli forcibly drugged Fouad by pushing a pill of what is presumed to be MDMA into her mouth, which she then followed with aggressive kissing in an attempt to get Fouad to swallow the pill. Fouad, terrified and confused, complied. She would then go on to ask Metwalli what she gave her, since she did not want to consume any drugs after having consumed alcohol. Fouad then rushed to inform one of her friends of the matter, since MDMA is known to have disastrous consequences on the body once consumed with alcohol.
Later on, Metwalli and Fouad were sitting on a nearby staircase when Suleiman came up to them again. Fouad expressed her discontent and anger for encountering him every time she is near Metwalli, prompting Metwalli to calm her down due to the fact that Suleiman has “good cocaine,” and they would then go on to his friend’s house for the after party.
Fouad adamantly refused, saying she did not want to engage with him any longer. The two then took Fouad to the empty third floor of the building. Metwalli laid down, and Suleiman proceeded to push Fouad on top of her before raising her dress, and violently slapping her from behind. Fouad says she felt detached from her body, but remembers crying and kissing Metwalli’s body while Metwalli got more excited.
Amidst her crying, Fouad yelled at Suleiman to “fuck her and get it over with.” He responded by saying “I’m not hard you slut, I want to fuck you up,” while Metwalli said “Fuck her Bashar, come on, fuck her.”
In the days following the incident, a meeting was organized between Fouad, Metwalli, and a few other organizers of the party on behalf of Ma3azef. Fouad distinctly recalls Metwalli’s attempts to paint herself as a victim of Suleiman’s violence rather than as a perpetrator and enabler. When Fouad fought back and accused her of forcibly drugging her, Metwalli brushed off the accusations claiming Fouad is a lesbian while she is straight.
The Ma3azef manager of the time, Maen Abou Taleb, refused to listen to Fouad’s accusations and instead chose to table the issue, claiming this is Suleiman’s “work ethic.” Fouad has gone on to suffer multiple psychological repercussions as a result of this incident.
Outrage and Calls for Action
Following the release of Fouad’s statement, multiple individuals and organizations came forth to express support for her under the banner of “We believe the survivors.”
In turn, Barzakh, Ma3azef and Ballroom Blitz all released statements expressing their support for the victim and the condemnation of these acts of violence, in addition to cutting ties with the mentioned artists.
It is important to mention that Ma3azef’s statement attempted to deflect the blame, saying the current team was unaware of these accusations, accusing the previous manager of the platform of the cover-up.
Some employees on behalf of Ma3azef have also come forth, saying that they witnessed Suleiman’s violent behaviour and were aware of these accusations but were thwarted from taking action.
Other spaces in Beirut, such as Riwaq, followed suit by cutting ties and banning the artists from entering the premises. Many local musicians and collectives have remained silent and therefore complacent in the light of these recent events.
For decades, cultural and “alternative” scenes have protected rapists, harassers and assaulters out of fear of damaging the safety of such spaces. In reality, these “safe spaces” go on to become much more dangerous than the reality many escape from, as they continue to harbour criminals under the pretense of sexual fluidity, progressive thinking, and popular discourse.
As of yet, no legal action has been taken against Metwalli and Suleiman. Metwalli’s Instagram account remains up, with comments limited, while Suleiman’s has been deleted.
In accordance with our zero tolerance policy against all forms of sexual violence and hate crimes, Beirut Today stands in complete solidarity with Fatima Fouad. We unconditionally believe all survivors, and condemn the perpetrators.