Trapped In The Eyes Of A Stranger
The following is my translation of From Zaqaziq To Cairo.
I am from Zaqaziq, and until recently I thought that I was one of the few people who went through unusual personal experiences of sexual harassment, which I suffered from since I was little…. No, since I was very little.
I will not forget the first time this happened when I was walking on the street on Eid as well. I was about 15 at the time. I was walking with my cousin, who is 3 years my elder, and with my aunt in the middle. A group of at least 15 young men blocked our way in a busy main road that was well lit. Suddenly they divided into 2 groups and approached us from the both sides. We found ourselves encircled in fury of holding, touching, groping, and probing accompanied by dirty words and vulgar language describing what each one of them was doing or wanted to do to us.
I never forgot, and never will, my feelings at the time. It was the first time I was touched in those parts of my body, and the first time I heard the words that were spoken, which I never imagined would ever be said to me. The strange thing is that there were a lot of people on the street that saw the act but walked on minding their own business. What is this? Where is honor? Where is the Egyptian manliness, dignity, and altruism that we’ve been hearing about since the day we were born? My only experience of this is weak and superficial gentlemanliness that was mostly closer to flirting than anything else. So it wasn’t just for the sake of it, and it might have been all because I am not ugly. (is that a crime???)
Anyways, I never thought I would ever see a day worse than this, or get harassed any more awful than this. After a short time, these harassments started repeating again: an animal on a bike would touch me from behind and sometimes the front as he quickly goes by, very dirty looks from shopkeepers, taxi drivers, and neighbors. Oh and what do you know about neighbors? I grew older and body changed, but I always thought that it was a good thing not something to be ashamed of ,or a source of harassment that my young mind and life-loving heart did not comprehend. I got scared of walking on the streets and started making rules on what I should and shouldn’t do to protect myself from their hungry eyes and hungry hands.
No going out on the street with tight jeans or a shorter shirt. No going out at all in the streets where the youth hang out for hours, which are well known in my small town. No need to put make-up or do my hair or pay too much attention to my looks. Why would I do that and for whom? Even my girlfriends’ thoughts became dominated by the stinky, radical, male-inspired ideas of the necessity of covering (hijab) the woman because she is a source of temptation that must be hidden. Maybe that’s from what they experienced too and maybe it’s from their ignorance and stupidity. I hated their disapproving looks at me when I wore something elegant that suits my age, personality, and taste and maybe even drew attention moderately and with modesty (what’s wrong with that?). I hated their silly remarks as if I was wearing what the belly dancers wore and not a normal jeans and shirt.
I changed the way I dress, and I neglected the way I look, yet I started to be experience a new type of harassment. What was strange was that some of it was worse than before, but I didn’t give up. I came up with a theory, which at the time I thought was brilliant. I lived in a small town that was surrounded by small villages. So I shouldn’t really take my liberty in wearing what I want as every place has it’s stature. I don’t even need to go on the street, as it’s no longer the place for people who want to maintain their self-respect. It’s enough that I used taxis to go to my friends’ houses or any other closed place. I hated the street, the people, and my looks, and I was on the verge of real depression until I decided to change my life and move to my uncle’s place in Cairo.
Yes, Cairo is bigger and the peasants are less and the harassments are less. No, sorry, they’re different but not less. I won’t be touched in every street but I can buy a 150LE ticket for live western band, meaning the people are mostly well-off and educated, and still get harassed by large numbers as if there was an implied agreement between the youth to do so. I would feel a touch in a sensitive area and turn to that direction to shout and fight but find a very cool and innocent response from the man. All the men around him would have the same reaction as if I was crazy and nothing happened. And when I look ahead someone else would touche me and the same thing repeats over and over again. I change my spot but another animal or animals would harass me in the same way as if it’s a group sex party not a concert.
Now I want a response to my question. What should I do? Should I not go out? Should I not go to live shows? Should I not walk on the street? Should I not swim when I go to Alexandria? What do I do? Hide? The stray dogs and cats walk go on the streets with no trouble! Are the women in Egypt now lower than cats and dogs?
Forget that, someone tell me what happened to the people? Did religion and morals become just superficial facades that have no base, importance, or meaning? Do men in Egypt really believe that sexual harassment and rape are earned rights? And is this a retarded male ideology or sexual suppression, or anger or what exactly?
Someone tell me, what happened to Egypt?