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 his young wife 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 wife Arwa Abousamra that has been widely reported on in the media, defending his 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 feminist collective that advocates for the demonization of men 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 woman cowering in the corner as her husband is about to strike her represents a small fraction of the reality of domestic violence, ignoring all male victims and all other issues such as coercive control, paternity 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 his parents. He had had a successful football career and retired around 2009. He is a devout Muslim and was a married to Abousamra for 13 years until 2014 when he reportedly left her. They had 3 children together. Soon afterwards he married a second time, to the woman he allegedly assaulted on October 19. His latest marriage was not going well. The couple were separated and living away from their waterfront apartment in the south of Sydney – he with his parents and she at a duplex in the suburb of Bankstown in Sydney’s west, which he owned.
On the night of Monday, October 19, he met her 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 her mother, who in turn contacted El-Charif, advising that the police were concerned for her wellbeing and wanted to speak to her. El Masri meanwhile had recorded the incident on his phone. In the recording, El-Charif explains to her mother that the 000 call was a “prank.” El-Charif’s mother compelled her daughter to go to the police and explain herself or face a fine, which she proceeded to do. El Masri also went to the station, but by 4am that night, he was facing a domestic violence charge and bail, with a court appearance set for later in the week. It is alleged that he assaulted his wife twice, once occasioning actual body harm and resulting in a mark on her forehead.
On Wednesday, El-Charif filed an Apprehended Violence Order (which prevents the plaintiff from approaching or contacting the claimant). In his court appearance, El Masri pled “not guilty” and his solicitor argued that El-Charif had a history of making false allegations for which he 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 wife 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 man 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 him. The judicial system however has been set in motion and he will have this hanging over his 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 feminist causes, gentlemen. They are in the business saying the opposite of the truth. If you want to be a positive role model to men, start Men’s Shed. This is the only initiative of its kind, that I am currently aware of that does something positive for men and boys.
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.