Game Changers The Identity Issue

Ehki: Let’s talk about sexual harassment in the Arab World

Meet the Saudi who's getting people to open up about their experiences.

By Sekka Editorial

“Ehki” means “tell [me]” in Arabic. Photo taken from the Ehki platform.

This story contains graphic details that some may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.

This story is brought to you by Dr. Rocco’s Specialized Dental Center in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Many people in the Arab World find it difficult to talk about the traumatic incidents that they have been through, especially when they involve sexual harassment or domestic abuse.

Generally, people still do not publicly discuss these matters, and this silence can affect the psychological state of the abused, especially when they can’t find someone to talk to. But these issues and perceptions towards them are starting to change due to awareness efforts such as the one led by young Saudi Khaled Al Qahtani.

Khaled, an 18-year-old molecular biology student and the founder of Warde Magazine, established the “Ehki” in 2017. Ehki is a bilingual online platform that allows people to share their experiences with abuse, either anonymously or publicly with the world. The word “ehki” translates to “tell [me]” in Arabic.

We speak to Khaled to find out more about his platform:

Tell us about Ehki

I created the platform to serve as a shoulder for people who feel suffocated by their past or present, or fear the future, to lean on and share their stories with the world either anonymously or publicly. The stories posted play a cathartic role, and serve as a reminder to people that they are not alone, and that there are others out there who are going through the same experiences as they are.

What motivated you to establish this platform?

In society, we don’t generally hear stories of domestic abuse and sexual harassment directly from the victims. It’s always from someone who has heard it from someone else. Ehki serves as a reminder to people that they own their stories, and that they should narrate their own stories in the way that they see fit. In addition, I use the platform to raise awareness about topics that should be discussed.

The reason behind the name

I was watching a movie called “Ehki ya Shaharazad” and I was inspired by the name then.

How did people react when they heard about your platform and visited your site?

The responses were quite similar, about  the impact owning one’s stories has had on them.

A story on your platform that has impacted you

All of the submissions leave a special mark on my heart, but one of the first submissions received was about a child who got raped, and the story continues to ring in my head whenever I visit my platform.

Khaled Al Qahtani is the force behind Ehki. Photo courtesy of Khaled Al Qahtani.

We’ve noticed that many of the submissions center on sexual harassment. How big is this issue and crime in the Arab World, in your opinion?

The size of those crimes isn’t really clear, as many of those cases aren’t reported. However, the public statistics indicate that we do have a widespread problem in the Arab World.

Why do you think that victims of domestic abuse don’t publicly talk about their experiences? And do you think that this is changing now?

I believe that there’s a noticeable increase in the ability of victims of sexual harassment to talk about their experiences, especially after the “Me Too” global movement. I believe that this goes back to people’s realisation that they are not alone, and so a cathartic collective movement started.

In your opinion, what’s the best way to raise awareness about sexual harassment in the Arab World?

To publicly address the problem, and to acknowledge it instead of deny it, because this is the first step to encourage victims to report those crimes, and to assure them that it’s not their fault.

Your future goals and aspirations for Ehki

That the platform’s message gets across to those who need it, and for the platform to be a shoulder they could lean on in their journey of healing.

We share with you a submission made on Ehki (exactly as it was published):

“I am a girl and I was 5 but I remember it clearly. My uncle has 3 boys, the older was about 14 and the younger were 9 (twins). One of the twins molested me and I wasn’t aware of what’s going on, it was nothing serious only touches but still!!! It felt so wrong but i don’t know why I kept quiet about it, after the 3rd time I told my mom that he’s touching me and i feel that it’s wrog , a cry for help, nothing happened though she said just don’t tell your father(I think she was afraid he might not let her see her brother again because of that) so I didn’t. I once was playing video games laying on a bed at their house and the older son tried to do the same thing his bro did to me, pushed him away and tried to act cool then run to the crowded room so he can’t do anything to me.

I grew up feeling the need to get the same pleasure I had before, thoughts changed from pure to sexually active, I even tried to do things to my lil siblings!!!! Not proud of it now, I did nothing though but the thought that I actually was thinking of it really upset me every day.

Now I’m aware of what was happening to me and what I’ve done before I feel so sick and depressed, really depressed that I wish I could die.

Trying to act like nothing happened, smiling, having an optimistic mindset and getting the negative vibes by doing art and studying hard yet every time I’m alone that’s the only thing I can think of. I hate myself and ashamed of myself. Nothing more horrible than that. I’m now 23 by the way.”

To find out more about the Ehki platform click here.

This interview was translated from Arabic.

The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees, and affiliates.

Sekka Editorial