Former UN official who drugged and raped unconscious women on work trips to Middle East over two decades sentenced to 15 years

A former United Nations official who drugged and raped unconscious women over two decades during humanitarian missions in the Middle East was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Thursday.

Karim Elkorany, 38, sexually assaulted at least 13 of 20 women he drugged — many of them close friends — during work trips to Iraq, Egypt, and while home in the United States.

Journalists, Fulbright scholars, and UN employees Elkorany brutalized were among nine women who spoke at his Manhattan Federal Court sentencing. They described being haunted by not knowing details of their assaults or what drugs Elkorany used to knock them out, while noting his habitual abuse was an open secret.

A reporter, identified as Victim 1, said she was 31 years old and happily married when Elkorany raped her while on assignment in Kurdistan in November 2016. She described the life-shattering trauma that followed as being like a cancer.

She described her memories of that night as “snapshots suspended in darkness.”

“For the first, I’m in the passenger seat of Elkorany’s UN-marked vehicle. My body is comatose. My head is flopped against the headrest, my arms limp at my sides,” she recalled.

“In the second memory fragment, Elkorany parks the vehicle in the garage of an apartment building — a place I never agreed to visit. The next memories I have are of being sexually assaulted. In the most excruciating one, I am being raped. I feel pain. I want to say no, but I can’t speak. I can’t move. I’m unable to escape.”

Elkorany pleaded guilty in May to sexual assault charges and lying to the FBI.

Manhattan Federal Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald imposed the stiffest sentence she could for those charges under the terms of the plea. The jurist noted that had he been convicted in New Jersey or Washington D.C., where some of the assaults occurred, he could have gotten life in prison.

“The drugging of victims was totally reckless. Mr. Elkorany made no effort to learn whether the drugs he used on his victims would cause permanent harm,” Buchwald said. “I doubt that he did an analysis of the quantity versus the weight of the victim, and we know from all the letters how clearly they got more of these drugs than was necessary for his purpose, given how out of it they were for a very long period of time.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz said Elkorany photographed his unconscious victims and infected some with sexually transmitted diseases because he didn’t wear condoms. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams described Elkorany’s crimes as “monstrous” and expressed gratitude to the women who came forward.

The West Orange, N.J., man began working in international aid, development, and foreign relations in 2005. He was with UNICEF in Iraq from 2013 to 2016 before his promotion to communications specialist. A spokesman for the organization, Stéphane Dujarric, said it saluted the women who came forward and was trying to improve its approach to preventing abuse.

Elkorany apologized to his victims in court.

“I realize that words of apology will only ring hollow here today and that words of apology cannot undo the damage that I have so clearly caused,” he said. “And yet I am deeply, deeply sorry.”

Victim No. 5 turned to Elkorany and addressed him directly as she ended her statement.

“We will go on and do great things. We will create and be a part of so many joyous stories,” she said.

“But today, Karim, is the day your story ends, and it’s the day ours begins again.”