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!


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I cannot but consider your words as a straight insult to me. I urge you to read my comment once more. Do not take bits and pieces. I was referring to the sexual restrains in our culture considering sex as a taboo when I said it is _okay_ because I know for fact that this what has happened in Europe along the last century, for instance, as i have said, and that is what sociology studies, the change of communities from an extreme to the other until they reach moderatism.

I was not referring to this chaotic disgusting act when I said that it is _okay_ this is crystal clear.

Anyways, I do not think you you are really aware of what happens in Egypt. That Girl is not overstating anything, you just do know how it is to be a girl and live in Cairo.

Almost Red Pinky! :D

11:45 AM

Anonymous ha ana za said...

I almost entirely agree with everything you say. As someone who lives outside Egypt but comes back fairly regularly I never cease to be surprised by the kind of behaviour one witnesses in the streets. I don't think it can just be repression as many societies are repressed but more of an inbuilt attitude to women- are we dirty, pieces of meat for the cats, toilets for men to relieve themselves in (all quotes from egyptian men)?
In order for women to move forward the attitude needs to be reveiwed first and problems tackled at the root.
I've travelled alot throughout the Middle East and can honestly say I've never seen harrassment anywhere on the same scale as one finds in Egypt! We can't blame Islamic values or repression- only ourselves!

11:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

well,it's true,yes,men do masturbate everywhere, we once did a semi survey in college that included 400 girls from different enviroments and social classes and 92% of them have either seen a man masturbate or been flashed on the street
80% have been groped at by the breasts or u know where else
and mind u 95% were wearing the veil so it has nothing to do with the whole "she was asking for it"
this is the community we live in
we try hard not to be raped
we are way beyond molesting and harrassment

1:50 PM

Blogger Joey said...

I agree with Pink on what she said. It seems that you are not really aware of the environment in Egypt. You are way too surprised and shocked for an Egyptian. Yes, it was terrible disgusting incident but it happens everyday on smaller scale.

It's sad and I agree with almost everything you sad BUT it's not surprising at all! and BTW, in my opinion, no police can protect any woman if the streets are that dangerous.

5:17 PM

Blogger La Gitana said...

As shocking as the downtown incident was (because it was on a very large scale) it happens SO often it's ridiculous. I don't mean to be rude wallah, so please don't take this the wrong way, but most Egyptians do share your point of view. Most think it's so overly exaggerated and rare. It isn't exaggerated and it IS a big deal. The mob downtown was just shockingly large and went on for way longer than most do, but things like this happen in Mohandeseen, they happen in al Hussain and they happen everywhere. I've seen it happen in gam3et in dewal AND in al Hussain myself.

I've seen guys masturbate in cabs. I've seen cab drivers masturbating while looking at me in the mirror. I've seen guys honk and me, show me their dicks, masturbate and ask me to get in the car. I've seen a guy literally follow me around with his dick hanging out. I've been followed and groped from the behind. Hell I was groped by the breasts so many times I can honestly tell you I would hardly even feel it if it happened again.

I was driving once and a police officer stopped me to ask for my license. I gave it to him and he didn't even look at it, just started to flirt with me and when I didn't respond and asked for my license back he made an offhand remark like, "eh il manga dee bas? kol dah? mish bayin fil rokhsa"

It happens and in my circle of friends I’m considered to be the one with the LEAST experience in street harassment.

6:20 PM

Blogger MechanicalCrowds said...

Pinky pink pinky,
How is disagreement a personal insult? We still have to speak our objections no matter how much we like the person stating their point, right? Well, I read that part of the your post a few times and I see now that by ‘it’ you were referring to sex being a taboo and not the incident. I must apologize for misreading your post. I’m sorry. I have put a note on my post as well.

I will respond to your comment about Girl not overstating when I answer La Gitana. Go back to being pink now!

When did I express too much shock & surprise? I am more dismayed and ashamed than anything else. Plus, the vast majority of bloggers have expressed shock including La Gitana and Pinky when she said “I have tried to convince myself that these posts are just rumours, well fabricated stories but just no true, with no credible proof, because this just cannot happen, not here not that way.” Trust me, I am not as naïve as you believe I am.

La Gitana,
My opinion is NOT that “it’s exaggerated and rare”. My opinion is “I personally have not seen/heard of incidents to the extent that Girl describes, but aware that a woman’s point of view will be different so please let your voice be heard.” You should read the last paragraph of my post. Thanks for letting your voice be heard here.

Your experiences are truly disturbing and I don’t know how you are able to handle all of this. And judging from what Pinky and strawberry have said, it looks like Girl might not overstating. But we have no way of knowing for sure if more women don’t come out and complain!!! I will try to get your experiences more attention, Gitana.

7:59 PM

Blogger Joey said...

I think you are naive? how did you come up with that? Trust me, If I think you are naive, I wouldn't be wasting my time reading your blog. I know enough naive people in real live to come and look for one on the internet.

Also, I didn't read Gitana's and Pinky's blogs, I read yours and others. Most of the blogs I read, if any were shocked, they were shocked from how huge this incident was or how terrible the police reaction was not that people could actually do this. I got the impression from your 2 posts that you think this was just one time incident like here: "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."
So you felt safe before and now you don't because of this? that's what I meant by "surprised". Hope you get my point ;)

9:35 PM

Blogger dick said...

In an attempt to be positive about the aftermath, two suggestions.

1. Those taxi drivers, shopkeepers, etc. need to be lionized. Let's take heros wherever we can find them. For a start: how about getting their pictures out on the blogosphere, with citations for what they did.

2. You egyptian women need to get organized. How about beginning with some places where rape victims can get together for mutual support.

Small steps, maybe. But something needs to be done to change attitudes.

11:04 PM

Anonymous ME said...

oh.. let me tell u how it feels to be touched, groped everywhere... i feel humilated, isulted.. i feel am prostitute, lecher u might say.. when i was younger and passed through this... i go home crying hysterically and scream in my daddy's face and my brother's as well.. i hate u.. i hate all men in this world.. i hate u to the extnet that i was afraid of marriage idea.. i thought all men r just like those animals.. i never felt safe at this time that i ran to my room and stayed there for a week not even trying to speak... i had this idea that i'm the bad one in this story.. thank god that later i just understand it's those animals fault not me.. but until now and till Judgment Day there will be animals living with us.. i remember that i was terrified that i used to have selfdefence spray with me everywhere as if i'm standby for any 7awayan who even just look to me.. oh my god.. i hate to recall such feelings.. bs i never want any girl to pass through such feelings... i believe we should collect such grabage and n7ra2hom fy midan 3am!!

that's a female's feeling MC:S

11:36 PM

Blogger halalhippie said...

Here's an idea for u girls: if a man flashes his property b4 you, grab your cell and take a pic. Then make a poster and hang it up at the local mosque. Some of the men there might know him.

12:29 AM

Blogger Forsoothsayer said...

same things as happened to la gitana happened to me, and lots of girls i know.

2:06 AM

Blogger Tiny said...

HalalHippie, as much as I appreciate your genuine concern, but that doesn't sound like a feasible plan to me, simply because u don't have the luxury of brain function at that moment when someone flashes u.U get numb.The adrenaline released in your circulation signals one thing: run!

MC,yes,flashing,masturbation,molestation,dirty remarks..etc happens to every female on regular basis.Noone is safe anymore,not in ur car,cabs,public transportation (the so-called mokayaf is a shithole),streets,hell even inside campus!!I expect anything to happen when I am not inside my home, and it doesn't hurt me anymore.Treat them like the dirt they are,that's my motto. I have found some tricks useful like wearing sunglasses (makes u look less approachable), always keep something around ur chest area like a handbag or a book and hold on to it firmly, and the thing that has changed my life to the better is my mp3 player...I just don't take off the headphones,it's a perfect way to shut out the street.
And please girls, report to the driver if a passenger on public transportation is molesting u,don't just passively change seats!!The driver will probably stop the bus and unload the jerk.

3:32 AM

Blogger MechanicalCrowds said...

I said 'as naive as you believe' and I got that from "you are not really aware of the environment in Egypt". You don't see me as naive so it's ok.

I am shocked for the same reasons others are: the scale, the chaos. And yes I will not feel as safe as before when walking with a female. The reason is this incident as well as the experiences that the girls have described above. Don't tell me you feel just as safe after this. I used to think that girls are safer when there is a lot of people walking around, but that might not be true anymore.

Me, Forsoothsayer, & Tiny,
Thanks for sharing & confirming what Girl said. Please continue to speak out about this. I know it's hard but I know you are strong. And we will stand up for you when we can as Blacklander suggested.

9:43 AM

Blogger ألِف said...

I'm sure that someone out there can attest for the three points that you argue are being exaggerated by Girl, but there is a testimony by a blogger about a cab driver wanking while she was sitting in the backseat. (paragraph 8)

11:27 PM

Blogger shlemazl said...

A few of these people on photos taken by bloggers are clearly recognizable. The photos made their way into mass media.

Do you think these people will be investigated? Will there be a stigma attached to them at work and at home? Surely their colleagues, mothers, friends and sisters will not ignore this?

3:17 AM


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