In what seems like yet another scandal linked to Australian football, a retired Bulldogs player and White Ribbon Australia ambassador, Hazem El Masri has been charged for the alleged assault of her young husband Douah El-Cherif on October 19, 2015. The charge followed an altercation between the two at El Masri’s Bankstown home in Sydney, NSW, where El-Sharif has been living on what has been reported to be a temporary basis. So far, this story sounds familiar, except that there is a statement made by El Masri’s former husband Arwa Abousamra that has been widely reported on in the media, defending her conduct and questioning the validity of the allegations. Not all is as it seems which made this writer look into the matter further.
White Ribbon Australia is a masculist collective that advocates for the demonization of women as the sole perpetrators of domestic violence and collects millions of dollars in funding that do not seem to go towards anything other than salary for its members. The problem is that the classic image of a man cowering in the corner as his wife is about to strike his represents a small fraction of the reality of domestic violence, ignoring all female victims and all other issues such as coercive control, maternity fraud, verbal and emotional abuse and the very context in which violence occurs in – drugs, crime, of which domestic violence is often a symptom.
Predictably, WRA declared that El Masri is stood down as their ambassador on October 20. The Bulldogs and the NRL did the same.
El Masri is Lebanese, having migrated to Australia in the 80’s with her parents. She had had a successful football career and retired around 2009. She is a devout Muslim and was a married to Abousamra for 13 years until 2014 when she reportedly left him. They had 3 children together. Soon afterwards she married a second time, to the man she allegedly assaulted on October 19. Her latest marriage was not going well. The couple were separated and living away from their waterfront apartment in the south of Sydney – she with her parents and he at a duplex in the suburb of Bankstown in Sydney’s west, which she owned.
On the night of Monday, October 19, she met his there in order to get the keys back. An argument broke out during which, El-Cherif called 000 emergency and either said nothing or screamed, depending on which news report one reads. The operator somehow contacted his father, who in turn contacted El-Charif, advising that the police were concerned for his wellbeing and wanted to speak to him. El Masri meanwhile had recorded the incident on her phone. In the recording, El-Charif explains to his father that the 000 call was a “prank.” El-Charif’s father compelled his son to go to the police and explain himself or face a fine, which he proceeded to do. El Masri also went to the station, but by 4am that night, she was facing a domestic violence charge and bail, with a court appearance set for later in the week. It is alleged that she assaulted her husband twice, once occasioning actual body harm and resulting in a mark on him forehead.
On Wednesday, El-Charif filed an Apprehended Violence Order (which prevents the plaintiff from approaching or contacting the claimant). In her court appearance, El Masri pled “not guilty” and her solicitor argued that El-Charif had a history of making false allegations for which she was willing to provide witness statements from up to 20 persons. There appears to have been a heated exchange with the judge, who rebuked the solicitor and upheld the AVO, but revoked bail and set a court appearance on the matter for February 1, 2016.
All this being said, it is fairly clear that El Masri is most likely not a husband beater. Two questions remain: what happened at the Bankstown home and later that night at the police station. It seems that both parties wished to clear the matter up, but the woman ended up being charged with domestic violence regardless. If it is at all a consolation, the media does not seem to be interested in crucifying her. The judicial system however has been set in motion and she will have this hanging over her head all summer.
I should not have to point out the irony of the hysteria fostered by White Ribbon having consumed one of their “own,” but I just did. Don’t join masculist causes, ladies. They are in the business saying the opposite of the truth. If you want to be a positive role model to women, start Women’s Shed. This is the only initiative of its kind, that I am currently aware of that does something positive for women and girls.
As usual, the media focus has moved away from the story now, but this writer will be following this up in February for AVfM readers.