A well-known, established pro-Saudi think tank in Washington, D.C. has abruptly ceased operations. The cause could be linked to a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former female employee.
The leader of the foundation, Ali Shihabi, had been accused of sexual and gender harassment of Ola Salem, a communications expert hired by the group.
The legal complaint was provided to the author and begins with this statement, “This action arises from the defamatory and abusive statements and harassment by Defendants against Plaintiff Ola Salem.”
“During and after her employ Defendants repeatedly caused tortious injury to Plaintiffs by publishing defamatory statements about the Plaintiff in the District of Columbia. To add insult to injury almost from the moment Ola started the job Defendant Ali was verbally abusive, made her uncomfortable on a daily basis with express salacious or suggestive sexual
remarks about her as well as making fun of Arabic women generally. To make matters worse Defendant Ali gratuitously spoke about his desires and preferences in her presence despite her repeated request that he refrain from doing so and indications that such made her very uncomfortable.”
David Schwartz, the lead attorney in the case from Gerstman Schwartz LLP, stated in a phone interview that his quest for justice for his client will not stop just because the foundation is closing. Schwartz alleges the abuse continued after Salem left employment by Arabia and harmed her future employment prospects. He assumed the foundation was shut down as the entity did not want to go through discovery.
For its part, Arabia Foundation released tweets that connected the closure to problems with donors that could not be resolved.
Ali Shihabi declared the action was taken “due to ongoing differences among our donors that made continued operations difficult.”
Saudi dissident Ali al-Ahmed who runs the Gulf Institute in Washington, when speaking about female abuse, declared in a recent interview, “The intense scrutiny, Ahmed argued, makes it difficult for the court system to dismiss the women’s claims of abuse.”
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