29-year-old Marwa Elselehdar gets some attention in Egypt: she is the first female captain in her home country. But shortly after the blockade of the Suez Canal, she was very interested online – and not in a positive way. In a photoshopped news report, she was held responsible for the jamming of the ship Ever Given in one of the most important sailing routes in the world.
Elselehdar has nothing to do with the blockade of the canal. When the Ever Given got stuck, she was the first mate at work on another ship, a few hundred kilometres away from the Egyptian city of Alexandria.
“ I was scared,” the captain says to the BBC. “I felt they should have me because I‘m a successful woman in this sector, or maybe because I’m Egyptian, but I‘m not sure.”
The news story spreading the rumor about Elselehdar was a photoshopped version of an article about her in the English-language newspaper Arab News. On Twitter, the erroneous story was spread by fake accounts pretending to be Elselehdar.
“ The fake article was in English, so it quickly ended up in other countries. I‘ve tried so hard ever since to deny it, because the rumor is damaging my reputation and everything I’ve done to get where I am now.”
Elselehdar followed her maritime education at a specialized university in Egypt. She was given permission from the then President Mubarak, because at that time the university only allowed men.
thousands of followers
In recent days, the Egyptian has received a lot of support from maritime media, colleagues and politicians in the Middle East. Her Instagram account got thousands of followers.
“ My message to women who want to work in shipping is that they must fight for what they love, and not be influenced by negativity,” said the captain.