The first female ship captain in Egypt has come under fire from a horde of online trolls who are blaming her for the Suez Canal crisis, despite being hundreds of miles away on an entirely different ship.
Marwa Elselehdar, 29, has received top honors in the North African nation for her groundbreaking role as a helming ships, including being the youngest and first female Egyptian captain to cross the Suez Canal in 2015.
When the massive Ever Given container ship became wedged in the waterway on March 23, rocking shipping markets worldwide and delaying over 400 ships, she was working as a first mate in command of the Aida IV ship far away in Alexandria.
However, rumors began spreading that placed the blame for the costly crisis on the young woman.
“I was shocked,” Elselehdar told the BBC.
“I felt that I might be targeted maybe because I’m a successful female in this field or because I’m Egyptian, but I’m not sure,” she added.
As it turned out, doctored images and outright fake news headlines spread by anti-feminist online users were turning regional opinion against her. Google searches for the real captain of the cargo ship still turn her name up in search results due to coverage of the false article.
“This fake article was in English so it spread in other countries,” she explained. “I tried so hard to negate what was in the article because it was affecting my reputation and all the efforts I exerted to be where I am now.”
However, she is hoping to move past the whipped up controversy and is “focusing on the love and support” she has received in the wake of the furor.
“The comments on the article were very negative and harsh but there were so many other supportive comments from ordinary people and people I work with,” she said.
“Also, it is worth mentioning that I became even more famous than before.”
Elselehdar is now working to finish her studies to attain full captain rank next month and continue serving as a role model for women in her trade.
“My message to females who want to be in the maritime field is fight for what you love and not let any negativity to affect you,” she said.
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