My views, observations, questions about everything in this world ....and that country they call Egypt.

31 October 2006

Paint It Black

The criminal crowds are now long gone from the streets of downtown Cairo and we are left with the consequences to deal with. Some women are left with pretty tough physical and psychological consequences that we could never grasp. Harassed by dozens of men right in the street, treated like an object specifically made to satisfy your rapist. Listening to the men's vulgarities and being called the dirtiest of names just because you happen to be there at the time. Some of us will forget this incident, but for me, I know I'll never feel the same again walking the streets with a female friend or family.

I read the comments to my post and two of them I couldn't get out of my head:
Anonymous said...
Of course, when I read the eyewitness accounts, I was horrified, shocked, angry, nauseous, many other things.

I have seen people discuss rhetorically, "What can be done," but not any specific calls to action. Okay, I admit, I don't have any grand ideas of my own, witness that I am too stupid to figure out how to log in as a blogger, and had to do it anonymously...

Does anyone know of specific calls to action? A plan for next year? For tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, the day after the day after?
Good point! What is the call to action? I think the problem is not simple. It is not one single factor as is the case with most real issues. And as you can suspect, each factor will not be a superficial one. Forsoothsayer has put it solely on the shoulders of law enforcement who turn a blind eye to these offenses. And if you think about the thousands of plain clothed policemen that stand side by side for hours on the streets and along the 12.5km long 6th Of October bridge when the president has plans to use that route, you'll know she has a point. Couldn't the same organized & disciplined policemen be used to protect our women? However, I feel like this is not the root of the problem. And though I have some ideas of what the problem is, I feel unqualified to diagnose it or claim to do so. I am not a sociologist or a psychologist. And If the causes have to do with education, ethics, freedoms, and sexual suppression then solving this from the roots up will take years and years.

However, that doesn't mean that there is nothing we can do. Forsoothsayer has mentioned Egyptian Center for Women's Rights and some of their work. If you want to help with that, check their site.

I think the best thing we can do is get this out there and let women's voices be heard. Let the stories be heard. I just read a post by Pinky where she said that 'every nation passes through that', 'it is okay' and 'it is no big deal'. Well, Pinky I know I might be taking your words out of context but it's not okay! I am sure your attitude would have been different had one of your friends been a victim. The worst thing we can do is to blatantly deny what happened like the government seems to do when asked about this. The second worst thing is to admit it but say that 'it's ok, it happened to everyone else.'

Update: Pinky has advised that she was referring to the culture of sex being a taboo and not the sexual harassment incident.

The more exposure this issue gets, the more people will think about it, the more brain power we will have, the more solutions on the table, and the more the people that will stand behind solving this dilemma. The truth needs to be exposed, even if ugly as it is now. The infamous Egyptian hypocrisy needs to be exposed. Are they mutually exclusive the crowds that flock the mosques on Friday prayers and the ones that harass women on Eid? Or are they one and the same?

When Egyptian men read about what happens to normal women on the street they will feel ashamed, especially the ones that committed the crimes. That night they were drunk by desire, blinded by animal instincts. If they ponder about it when they're 'sobre' they will feel the shame. And If they have any decency, which I believe they do, they will think twice before bothering any girl on the street the next time around. I hope they connect the dots and figure out that whatever they do to these women, a stranger will to their mothers and sisters.

a girl who has been there said...
Well, I am not surprised reading this. We all know this has been always happening in Egypt. Don’t tell me you are living in Cairo and you just don’t! Egyptian men are perverts. Horny perverts, that’s what they are. They masturbate in garages, in front of schools, while they are driving theirs cabs, in stores and even in public transportation. Some bully their cousins and sisters to sleep with them and threaten to tell everyone if they utter a word. They harass women while driving they may even reach to get them killed in a car accident they do not give a damn as long as they are having fun! Police even assault women when they stop them claiming to ask for driving license day or night and treat them as whores! Bosses molest women in offices! They do not cease a chance to molest a female in every street in this corrupt piece of Earth called the F**ked up Republic of Egypt. I am telling you this out of me personal experience. I am not paranoid, but I am assuring you that there is NOT ONE woman in Cairo who has not been visually or physically harassed before in her entire life. Ask any of your girlfriends in Cairo yourself! Ask them if they have not been touched by a moron in the street before! I dare any woman who would say I HAVE NOT been abused in the streets in Cairo! I dare any of them to say they have been left alone in this filthy country. Egyptian men just make me want to puke!

In Cairo, women do not try to avoid being just violated, they try to avoid getting raped. I am sorry for this comment, but this is the ugly truth.
The image you paint is quite dark. No it's not just dark, it's thick black with no other color, just black. If you don't mind Girl, I want to take apart what you said. You stated a lot of points and I don't want them grouped together.

The men that abuse their cousins and sisters are truly 'perverts' and sexual deviants and should be treated separately by specialists & psychologists that can analyze these cases. Men that do that, in my opinion, are in a different class than those who committed the public harassments.

I will not contest the visual harassment as every Egyptian knows it's a reality. When a women walks the street, men's eyes travel every inch of her body with no shame and maybe even a smile on their face. As bad as that is, it is not a crime. However, there are incidents that, in my humble opinion, you are overstating:
  • masturbation in garages, in front of schools, in cabs, stores, public transportation
  • Police assaulting women as they check their licenses
  • bosses molesting women in the office
If any one out there, male or female, has experiences to support Girl's view that these incidents are prevalent please speak out! I don't want to commit the exact thing I've preached not to do, which is deny what's happening.

And for the sake of my sanity and their feelings, I will not ask women that I know if they've been touched by strangers or not. What if they say yes? Yep, I will turn a blind eye on that one.

We need your help as a woman. We need you to help us understand how deep the problem goes. We need you to confirm that your comment really paints the correct image and is not exaggerated. How much sexual harassment do you experience in Cairo? Day to day? Once a year? How serious? I invite you Girl, and others, to anonymously blog your experiences (or send it to me and I'll post it). Please do not feel guilty as some victims do. It's not your fault, whatever you were wearing. It can't be your fault. If we are to get the exposure necessary to fight this, then we need you and others to step up and tell us the truth with no veils or make up!

27 October 2006

When The Crowds Are Gone

For some reason there is very little English language coverage of this. It's not exactly the best image of Egypt, but pretending it did not happen will not lead to progress. And by not letting this out to the world we are pretending it did not happen.

I have to be honest, this is one of those times when I find myself left with no choice but to feel ashamed of being Egyptian. It is one of those times when I feel like I don't want to be in Egypt. When I feel like I want protect all the women that I care about (relatives, friends... etc) from this dark side of Egypt.

All my factual information is from Arabic language Egyptian blogs reporting eyewitness accounts. Non-factual information is from other Arabic language blogs that I've read about this. I am going to summarize this issue without stating my opinion for now. References are at the bottom.

The incident:
On October 23rd and 24th, large crowds of men sexually harassed women in the streets of downtown Cairo. Some pictures can be found at the bottom of this Post.

The facts:
  • The crowds seem to have initially gather at a movie theatre where some actors were present for a movie premier. Tickets to the movie ran out and people started breaking glass and stealing posters.
  • The first day involved more unconcentrated/disorganized harrassments. the second day involved larger crowds approaching girls at a time before surrounding them/her and groping them/her.
  • There was no police involvement though Egyptian State Security were no more than 5 minutes away, stationed at Gam3et El Dowal and the American Embassy.
  • The crowds did not spare women that were with their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, relatives.
  • The second day harrassments lasted for more than 4 hours.
  • The men's ages ranged from 10 to 40.
  • Fights between the men sometimes ensued over who gets to assault the victim.
  • Some bloggers report police officers receiving bribes to leave the area.

The stories:
  • One eyewitness recounts a large crowd of youth (shabab) that run after a woman in her early twenties when she trips and falls. The men then start groping her and take off her clothes. The woman gets up, runs, and hides inside a restaurant. The men surround the restaurant until someone shouts, "there is another one at ....". The crowds then run to that location to find another woman completely surrounded by hundreds of men trying to feel her and take off her clothes. A taxi driver takes that woman in his car but the men surround the car and shout for the girl to come out. A Security Officer (appears to be non-government) tries to fend the people off by hitting them with his baton. The crowds do not easily disperse until they see two women wearing the overall Saudi/Gulf veil & abaya walking alone. The crowds then completely surround them, before touching them and taking off their veils. They attempt to take their clothes off while 10/11 year old boys get in their abayas.
  • A well known actress, Ola Ghanem, was seen surrounded by her bodyguards fending off the crowds but were unable to completely protect the actress.
  • A woman in a veil and abaya is harassed by men who take off her abaya before two building Security guys took her into the building and locked the door to protect her.
  • A woman in tighter pants and a normal shirt is harassed and men take off her shirt and bra. A security person takes her into a shop fending off people with a stick.
  • Much worse assaults are reported by the word of mouth but are not witnessed. One in which a woman was sexually assaulted against a wall after taking off all her clothes.
  • Men cheered this before attacking a victim, "yaay, we will f***, we will f***". (yaay is my rough translation for 'heyeh').
  • And when they find another victim, "another woman, another woman".
  • And when they see women in veil & abaya, "go Saudi, go Saudi". (go is my rough translation for 'beep beep').
  • And when surrounding a taxi and calling for a victim to get out of the car, "get out you sl*t, we will show you". The woman was later forced out like they wanted!
  • Some bloggers warned women against entering the troubled areas, and most listened. Some women sought protection with the bloggers as they had cameras. The men did not assault these women fearing that they might be journalists.
  • Some men were observed to use their belts to ward off the crowds and then take the victim in a taxi and flee.
  • Some shop owners sprayed water to disperse the crowds and hailed for the women to come inside.

The possible causes:
The overwhelming response from Egyptian blogosphere is obviously outrage. Though the response is emotional and angry, I was able to identify some possible causes of this incident that were suggested. They might overlap and contradict, but here they are anyway:
  • People were under the added pressure of the fast during Ramadan abstaining from 'sin'. On Eid El Fetr, ending Ramadan, the men could finally go back to the routine and all the energy was released at once.
  • Marriage in Egypt is not cheap. Poverty has caused men to marry later in life rather than in their 20's.
  • The lack of sexual freedom in Egypt. Premarital sex is a taboo; two consenting adults cannot very easily have sex.
  • The lack of brothels or sexual outlets, even for money.
  • Education in Egypt is inadequate and insufficient. In other words, people that are educated were not educated properly in addition to the large number of uneducated people.
  • Religious education/awareness is insufficient.
  • Lack of law enforcement.
  • Inequality between men and women as women are viewed as second rate citizens and have a lower status among men.
  • The presence of some freedoms and lack of others. In other words, men can fairly easily find porn, and semi-nude singers are featured in the media yet a man cannot easily find a sexual partner.
Yet, after all this, a cleric claims that Rape Is Women's Fault in a recent post by Freedom For Egyptians.

Eyewitness reports are from Malcolm X and Speaks Freely.
Opinions are from Takhareef, Wa7da_Masreya, Charkawy, GreenData, Johnny Bravo, and ElHaweya, among others.

26 October 2006

How To Leave A Message

I played around with some code and added a feature called 'shoutbox' which you can find on the right panel of this blog. You can use it if you'd like to leave a note that everyone can see. Private stuff you should send by email of course. I can think of a few instances where you would use this 'shoutbox':

-to comment about the blog
-to say hello
-to ask general question
-to suggest something
-general (short) discussions
-whatever else that is
non-post related

24 October 2006

Let's Call Him R

He's a cousin/friend of mine that just came to town with his newly-wed wife. He is a few years older than me and we've been somewhat close. He is a smart, very ambitious, successful guy. Not only that, he's quite handsome and has got a great personality. He's got the whole package pretty much.

Growing up, I always listened very carefully to what my parents said about what him. R did that, R did this. R got a girlfriend. R got a car. R got a summer job at a remote place. R finished university and got a job. He traveled the world through his job, from China to Sweden. He was the one I always looked up to. “When I grow up, I’m gonna do that” I said many times. And I’ve measured my accomplishments with his. I can't deny that I have sometimes felt jealous of him. How am I gonna match what he did?

I have since come to realize that me and him are somewhat different. Though our logic, morals are similar, we have our own ways of doing things. I take bigger risks where he wouldn't and he takes bigger risks where I wouldn't. So I am ok with not filling his shoes. I will find my own way of getting through life. I don't need a roadmap.

We have great respect for each other's ideas. I've taken his opinion many times and he's asked me for mine as well. You know when you're immersed in situation and can't imagine what it looks like from the outside? That's when I go to him. I know he's gonna understand my view and I know he's gonna be reasonable. He's done the same with me and shared some of his intimate issues. I can tell by the way he looks up and pauses to think about what I said before responding, that he values what I have to say.

When we talk, it usually ends up being a big talk. It's not big arguments where the other sides fiercely defends their point of view regardless of what you say. It's a very reasonable exchange, where both sides give ground and arrive at a common answer. I can remember a few of these big talks that spanned a few hours. Oh we've talked about many things including life, religion, women, marriage, friendship… etc.

He called me yesterday and said he wanted to get together today. I know there is something that he wants to say and it sounded serious. Just what is it? I asked him if I should get other people too but he said he just wanted to talk to me. Has something come up? What could it be? I don't think he wants to talk about his wife! If I had to guess I'd say maybe about an investment or a project that he’s thinking about. Maybe he found this blog and wants to talk to me about it. Maybe it's just casual get together. I have no idea!!

23 October 2006

How To Make Enemies

Someone sent me this, check it out. Her name is Wafa Sultan. Am I the only one that hasn't seen this before?


21 October 2006

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

My friend calls me up at work... He tells me... Can I use swear words? I haven't used any so far... What the hell? What is this? How did this happen? Ever feel like you're in a lose-lose situation? And that if you try to explain yourself you'll end up worse than where you are now? Do I pretend I never heard it? Or do I face it and go for a confrontation? Which is the right thing to do? Which one does the least damage?

Was it a joke? Was it serious? How literal do I take it? At least now I know that I'm definitely missunderstood. There's an image of me that has formed that's not very accurate. I swear I'm not like that. Do I try to clear things up now? Or do I wait till that image becomes the real me. I meant all that said to you before. I explained myself didn't I? Why do you assume that I have other intentions, that I'm hiding behind feelings that I don't have? Maybe because you don't know me well. I can't blame you. I think I'll wait and pretend... but I've never been able to do that!

17 October 2006

I Can't Get No Relief

14 October 2006

A Splinter In Your Mind

"Why is it when we talk to God we're said to be praying — but when God talks to us, we're said to be schizophrenic?" ~Lily Tomlin

13 October 2006

Said The Joker To The Thief

"There must be some kind of way out of here,"

Said the joker to the thief.

You and I have always known.

But why did we never go?

Must be a reason, I wouldn't grieve.

Are you always this naive?

You know me better than I myself.

Can't help but doubt that.

Put your doubts aside,
Sit down, and enjoy the silence.

What the hell am I doin' here?
I don't belong here.

Is it so? Then you better leave.
But where you go, I will be.

There's too much confusion,
I can't get nooooooo relief.

"No reason to get excited,"
The thief he kindly spoke.

So many years've gone by,
Oh men start, dig my earth,
None of them along the line,
Know what any of it's worth.

"No reason to get excited,"
The thief he kindly spoke.

Excitment is faaar from what I feel,
can't you tell my dear thief?

Just cherish this, the air you breath,
can't we just live and be?

There are many among us,
Who feel that life is but a joke.

Ha-ha ha-ha.

But you and I, we've been through all that,
And this is not our fate.
So let us not talk falsly now,
The hour is getting late.

The image is from this site and the story is based on All Along The Watchtower.

09 October 2006

Blue Skies From Pain

Dear Gandhi,

Every time I read about what you did, it seems to me like you did not live in this world. Like you were not born of flesh & blood like the rest of us. Your story is so different from any other in our history. But It's not myth; it's not a legend. Your story is not from times very different than ours. It was not in the time of chariots and castles. Yet, it seems like it does not belong.

It does not belong because it's the opposite of what came before and what came after. Before you, people killed each other. From the Mongols to WWI, we found reasons to kill our fellow human. And after you, we still killed each other. We committed ethnic genocide and we nuked cities. We have killed each other in the name of everything you can imagine. We've had massacres in the name of religion, political interest, self defense, money, land, race, and believe it or not, sometimes pleasure! And we used a lot of weapons to do so, from suicide bombs to nuclear ones. Gandhi, you do not belong to us.

How did you do it? How did you achieve goals so great. How you did it in a time like ours, without violence, is something that I cannot comprehend. You freed millions of people from an occupying force. And you freed them to a democracy non the less. A democracy that is the largest in the world today. You never advocated the killing of anyone. Do you realize how outlandish this is to us now? When the British troops opened fire on civilian crowds you did not take up arms and fight. When some of your people retaliated with acts of violence, you condemned them!

Gandhi, if your soul is out there, please know that I have the greatest respect for you. Though I do not comprehend your Hindu beliefs, I fully understand your message of compassion, nonviolence, and truth. There is nothing I can do but bow down in respect for any belief that can lead to such achievements.

Gandhi, I don't understand why we don't site you in every debate. I don't understand why we can't repeat what you did. I don't understand why we still don't get your message. I don't understand why I don't recall learning about you in school. What is the Nobel Peace Prize made for if we didn't give you one?

We all know your story, yet we can't help but load our weapons. We can't help but doubt your message. I myself cannot help but doubt whether your ideas can fight the current ideas of hate and intolerance though I know your task was nothing less. But I also doubt the ideas of violence.

Gandhi, your page in history is like no other. Your achievement is like no other. The means of your achievement is like no other. Gandhi, don't get me wrong, I know you are one of a kind, but I just hope your uniqueness does not hold for long.


"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." ~Mahatma Gandhi

05 October 2006

The Sweeping Insensitivity Of This Still Life

I had to make a certain decision. There was a lot of factors involved, but among them was happiness and money. I found it very difficult to make the decision as I was not able to compare money and happiness on the same basis. It was like comparing distance to temperature for example. What is worth more, 1km or 10 degrees C? (I know, a little geeky)

Money can't buy you happiness.
So what if you think money can't buy you happiness. It can sure make your misery a lot more comfortable!

So can money buy happiness? Well, I can think of a few instances where the lack of money can cause me
serious misery:

Not enough money...
-to eat or find a place to live
-to be with someone I like
-for proper for health care

There are also instances where a lack of money can cause me
mild but not serious misery:

Not enough money...
-for a car and would have to use public transportation and waste more time
-to take courses that improves my career
-to be able to listen to music
-to be able to pursue my hobbies

Now I want to make it very clear that I don't consider myself as a materialistic person at all. I don't care if ride a BMW or a Lada. I don't care if wear Tommy or not. In fact, I hate owning anything expensive. But I will care if I was somehow unable to listen to my music for example!

I am sure you can think of a lot of instances where money cannot buy happiness:

-when you have a broken heart
-when you've lost someone
-when you're feeling lonely
-when you feel guilty

Obviously money is useless in the above cases. So what is the answer? How do I decide? Well, I thought about it and came to a rough conclusion. The initial amount of money pretty much translates to happiness. And the rate at which money can translate to happiness decreases as the amount you have increases. So if you have 1 Million, the first 10,000 for example should mean a lot to you. The next 10,000 mean less... and so on. This is because the initial amounts are for the basic needs, which if not satisfied, will cause misery.

A few months ago someone told me a fascinating story about a woman and her kids in Kenya that lived on nothing. They had no money but somehow they were truly happy and the mother always had a smile on her face. I see this as the exception though. I think the vast majority of people that cannot afford their basic necessities are unhappy.

So if you can afford your basic needs, don't be a slave to money. Enjoy your life now; cause youth will not be around when you have a big bank account.

02 October 2006

The Great Gig In The Sky

And on the seventh day he relaxed and went out with his girlfriend, and he came back on the eighth day and he made them.

And he stood in front of them and said:
You are the man and the woman, and this garden is your garden.

They thanked him and asked:
Who are you?

He said:
I am the maker... I made all of this and I made you. I am the one that grants life and death.

The woman asked him:
What does death mean?

He told her:
Death is being away from all of this. Death is the darkness and the absence of thought, forever.

She said:
Oh it sounds so bad. Do you have to give us death?

He said:
I will not give you death if you fulfill my only demand.
Don't kneel to anyone, don't worship anything, not even me!!.
Do you understand?

The said quickly and eagerly:
Yes, Maker, we understand.

He said:
Good luck. Enjoy this garden, there is 'almost' no place like it!
I translated this from an older post by Alaa called The Morningstar Adventure. He said it's taken from a comic book, but I'm not sure which one. If you know, please shout it out.