Yesterday, I read about a brave girl from upper Egypt called Bikhyta, who was attacked by a wolf and kept struggling with it for 3 hours, during which she lost 2 of her fingers.. yet in the end, Bikhyta was able to slay the wolf.. all on her own.
Today, all the Egyptian newspapers feature another female hero of a very special kind on their headlines.. She is Noha Roshdy, a young director of documentaries who had been harassed by a truck driver while walking home with her friend Hend about 6 months ago. The human-wolf stretched his arm out of the truck while slowing beside Noha and grabbed her breasts so violently that she almost fainted out of pain and fell onto the sidewalk while screaming hysterically. He then simply smiled at her and drove off!
Thanks to the traffic in Cairo, that animal couldn't go any far. And of course, he took it for granted that Noha will be lucky if she just managed to escape a nervous breakdown. He assumed that the best she could do is rise up and continue her walk home, carrying all the shame and pain, and probably going to the first pillow to weep. It never crossed his mind that Noha is not that kind of girl. To his amazement, he found Noha rising up like a tigress, chasing his truck, and jumping over the driver's cabin to force him to pull off and get out. She succeeded! And she held him by the collar determined to take him to the police station to charge him of sexually harassing her.
The reactions that Noha got were just unbelievable, and I highly recommend that this would be the subject of serious studies by Egyptian sociologists and psychiatrics.
Imagine that the harasser himself, the truck driver, thought Noha was crazy! He couldn't understand why a girl would jeopardize her life in such a way just to get hold of someone who grabbed her breasts! See? That's what we were talking about girls.. your passiveness in dealing with harassment caused you to be taken for granted in such a humiliating way! The good old wisdom of laissez-passer proved to be not good, huh. That's the way you are viewed by harassers out there.. for them, you are not the polite girl who couldn't get herself to face her attacker because she is a shy cute virgin! You are just a whore who has to shut up after being sexually assaulted. That's who you are.
Noha's shock did not stop there.. For, of course a crowd quickly gathered out of curiosity to see what all the screaming was about. Some of them had witnessed the incident from the start. Yet, Noha says: "Some of them tried helping the driver get back into his truck to flee.. Some tried calming me down by saying that they will make him apologize, and when I refused taking an apology, trying in vain to get them to see the crime he committed, they didn't understand why I was so determined to take to the police station and called me crazy. One of them even told me 'I don't understand what a girl like you is doing, standing her with men!' While others kept watching from their balconies without even caring to offer any help."
You may wonder, were there not any women on the street at the time?.. Well, according to Noha, only one woman volunteered to help her.. and her way of help was as follows: She said to Noha, "Never mind my girl, let him go, just don't humiliate yourself like that!"
What kind of society are we living in?! Are those normal people? Or were they all subjected to some kind of mysterious gas that caused them to lose their minds? Seriously, it seems that our society is suffering from mass hysteria! People are sick in a disgusting way! Have they lost any trace of common sense! Do they stand there blaming the victim for wanting to claim her rights?.. Seriously??.. Are they helping the criminal to get away with his crime??.. Seriously??.. Is that the presumably Religious, Pious, Conservative society of ours?? Damn it!
I'm sorry to shock you all, but it just keeps getting worse and worse. For those of you who love horror movies I recommend reading the full story as told by Noha in an interview with Al Youm Al Sabe3.. Unfortunately, it is not available in English.
For 2 whole hours after the assault, Noha stood there in the middle of a crowd, merely trying to convince them that this man she was holding is a criminal!! According to Noha, she was unable to find anyone in this very busy commercial road who was willing to help her, except for one young man who sympathized and bravely took all the criticism because he volunteered to help her get to the station with this harasser!
Now, we are going to see a totally different episode of how those things are handled by our heroic patriarchal security forces!
Noha's friend who was with her when she got attacked went off to the nearest community police station, which we call no2tah, to get help. But the constable there said that it was none of their business (I wonder whose business it is!) and told her to call 911! There was nothing to do other than holding this harasser all the way to this community station.
When Noha got there and told the story to the constable, he did not hide being so disinterested and warned her that she will suffer a lot if she insists on placing legal charges against the guy who harassed her! When she insisted, he called the police officer, who didn't bother to come. He then wrote down her complaint and said that they won't be able to take the suspect to the main police station!!.. and that if she wanted this complaint to take its legal course, she had to drive him by herself there!!.. Which she did.. She then had to go to the prosecutor's office on the same day, and there, according to Noha, the prosecutor was the only one who thought she did the right thing and saluted her courage. That's how the Noha's case found its way to court.. any other girl could have given up after facing all those obstacles. Does our honorable ministry of interior now understand why girls do not complain when they get harassed??? Or don't they?
Yesterday, 21 October 2008, Noha's harasser, Sherif Gabriel was sentenced to 3 years behind bars. A great victory to all the women in Egypt.. and a badge of honor to the Egyptian court. I am so happy that Noha's effort and courage in fighting for her civil rights were not wasted in vain. I am also so glad that although we still don't have a law under which harassers could be tried, Gabriel could not escape punishment. It is good to find some sanity and justice when all we could see around us is pure madness, and when violence against women has somehow become the norm.
Yes, justice was served. But not all is well that ends well. In fact, this good ending is just a beginning which opened a tiny window unto a world of evil and ethical rot. For example.. I couldn't help boiling with anger at some of the comments posted by the readers on Al Masry Al Youm this morning. Some of them still blame women for being the cause of harassment!!.. Some of them refuse to admit that Noha is a human being and a citizen that has the right in a safe street!! Some of them can't see beyond Noha's hair!! As if this is what tempted the harasser to grab her breast, and not the fact that she is a female! They haven't learned anything.. They insist on compromising their humanity and degrading themselves to the level of animals. But even animals do not do this to one another!
The image as it says that we have a serious problem in Egypt. A problem with the people, their minds, their psyche, their values, and the way they see matters. Something is very wrong with this country. We have to face it. Noha's case is only the beginning.. It gave us a peek into the darkness inside our souls as a society. Now, we have to see the disease that is eating up our moral system and causing us to fail miserably as human beings.