Monday, October 13

Harassment Season in Egypt

Well, what can I say? It seems like we still have to deal with this shit for some time to come. Again, I talk about sexual harassment.. and this time the return of a new phenomenon which takes place during Eid El-fitr.. which is a Muslim feast, following Ramadan. It seems that Egyptian sexual harassers have chosen this time of the year (what a choice!) to unleash their savageness as a group.. instead of the individual assaults they practice on daily basis!

During the Eid of 2006, incidents of mass sexual harassment took place in Down Town Cairo. This was the first time for such a thing to happen in Egypt (as far as I know). Hundreds of young men went about attacking women down the streets, grabbing them, touching them, and even tearing up their clothes! Back then, the Egyptian police refused to admit the occurrence of these incidents, even after actual footage were released over the internet and were being sent via mobile phones. Still police maintained that all this was not enough proof, and that all these were mere rumors!.. according to them, as long as there was no single complaint officially filed to certify the occurrence of such incidents, then this means that nothing has happened!

How hilarious our government becomes when it acts stupid! The problem is that, as citizens, we've seen enough to be assured that our security system is so damn knowledgeable. It can be loose at times, but it has got all the power and the tools it needs to gather information. They can not even pretend to be stupid. Anyway, what happened then reminded me of the well-known Egyptian movie "Al Noom Fi Al Assal" [Fast Asleep] (and a better translation would be "Sweet Obliviousness"), a comedy that mocks this fact about our government (that is, their habit of denying things, refusing to admit the presence of problems in order to escape responsibility of having to work on solving them). In this regard, the film was so realistic; yet in order to avoid problems with censorship (yes, we do have censorship on movies, books...etc) its makers resorted to an imaginary plot: aka, a mysterious disease is spreading rapidly throughout Egypt, causing men to lose their sexual ability. And because in a conservative society like ours such a thing is considered to be so scandalous and a horrible insult to a man's manhood, nobody dares confess being infected with the disease. The issue is discovered accidentally, when a young man commits suicide on his wedding night, a poor plumber slays his wife, and disputes between spouses reach police stations. The government discovered what was wrong, yet refrained from admitting it to the public, being sure that nobody would be brave enough to confess that they became impotent. However, the film ends on a very strong note when the police chief investigator who was on the case (played by superstar Adel Emam) loses his job because of taking those facts he found to parliament. He gathers people from all over Cairo in a huge march to the Egyptian parliament while screaming "Ahh".. a declaration of their suffering and a demand for action.

It seems that this movie predicted 10 years earlier (1996) how our government would handle the the mass sexual harassment of 2006. And it seems that Egyptian girls have learned the lesson. Here is what happened as published on Al-Arabiya Net:

The independent al-Masry al-Youm reported that 150 young men assaulted female passers-by on Gamaat al-Duwal al-Arabiya street in the upper-class neighborhood of Mohandeseen. One woman’s clothes were ripped off her body and another had her veil torn, the newspaper reported.

Police arrested 38 suspects, between 15 and 22, and questioned three of the female victims.

One of the female victims, who wore the 'niqab' (an Islamic dress covering the body from head to toe, except for the eyes), said that a number of young men assaulted her and her friends.

"They tore our clothes and snatched the 'hijab' (veil) worn by one of us," she was quoted as saying. She added that there were many other groups of young men along the street.

So, as expected and as usual this lollipop myth has proven to be useless. As I said earlier, "wrapped on unwrapped, you'll be consumed one way or another". This time harassers were actually arrested because their victims spoke up and testified. Nobody could deny it. But there remains the problem of "SO WHAT?"..

The arrests were random, some of the suspects complained. "Yes, I was there, but I did nothing. No one could prove that I touched any of these girls." On the other hand, imagine being trapped inside a circle of 150 harassers! Would you be able to recognize any faces? The trauma itself is enough to waste your chances in proving anything. The result? Yes, they were arrested.. but they were also released shortly after! It's that simple.

As previously mentioned , we are waiting for a law against sexual harassment. Now, if you are in a position like that, nothing will help you, even in the presence of such a law. But, what encouraged those guys in first place and made them unite in attacking those girls is their confidence that each of them was successful in his previous individual assaults. Therefore, the importance of this law cannot be ignored or marginalized. Still, as a woman you must be able to defend yourself. This time, I mean being able to defend yourself in case of being subjected to a physical sexual assault that may involve violence. Of course, until police regains control over the streets, DO NOT TAKE A WALK NEAR A CROWD OF YOUNG MEN, especially during feasts.

Here are some self-defense techniques that are a must-know, especially if you live in Cairo. You'd better be prepared. If nobody's willing to defend us, then we'd better be prepared. It seems that when men fail to go back to the jungle, they go ahead to establish their own.


Rain_Drops said...

Nice blog (f)
thank u for ur efforts and ur time
i just have 1 request ; i couldn't finish reading the whole articles nor understanding them deeply because they r not in my mother tongue ; why don't u write in Arabic or even Egyptian dialect if u'r bad at grammer! ; since most of ur posts r concerning internal egyptian issues ; and it's supposed that egyptians r ur target and not all of them r pretty good in english as u know

thank u again

An Egyptian said...

i really wonder what the government is waiting for to allow girls to carry stuff like piper spray?

it's really sad how Egyptian men act to their own sisters, wives and mothers, such a shame.

micheal said...

ya, fanta
i always reme,ber tht movie in any crisis tht happens in egypt
i watched a part of the 1st video and ll complete it and the other 2
hope every girl can learn something from these caz now they have no other choice since the damned government isnt allowing self defence tools 2 be sold in public+ policemen became busy wz political demonstrations only
also, it would be better 2 practise any self defense sport as i told before
best regards, fanta

Anonymous said...

Nice post!
I makes me feel sick when I read similar news, and you know what makes feel sicker, is when I read or listen to some men and even women justifying this type of behavior blaming the victims for their dress!! I always argue that other countries, even not far from us like Tunisia, or Lebanon, where women wear much exposing cloths, you don't see males turning into animals going for their pray! And even in Egypt in the sixties and seventies, women wore micro-skirts, yet, we never heard of a single mass harassment incident…
Today, my unveiled wife, and unveiled daughters don't feel secure walking in the street after hearing everybody blaming women, -even veiled.
The society has some chronic diseases, and I dare say it's caused by the islamization trend that gripped the country in the last two decades, for before that trend, we never had this sickness.


Free Thinker

Nahdetmasr.blogspot .com

ألِف said...

"It seems that Egyptian sexual harassers have chosen this time of the year[...]"

I guess they couldn't have chosen a better timing! It's as if unconsciously they're protesting the hypocrisy they were all born into. If I were to plan a protest to social-schizophrenia I would have chosen this timing to stage a street act imitating the street harassment women have to go through daily. Reality is again more dramatic than the stage.

The same day on which AlMasry Alyoum published these news, someone had asserted in a comment on a post of Iblis' that "there's no way a monaqqaba could be harassed", presumably because she was the only modest woman on the street. Not that everyone else was wearing cleavage-pouring, bottom-shaking, skimpy clothes in the streets of Cairo!

On the other hand, "harassment" has found its way to the vocabulary of journalists, even the protozoa of state newspapers after only one year! Hip hip..mother nature always finds a way.

What pisses me though is how Machiavellian the government tackled this in its quick-response TV ad. The message was "Foreigner tourist chicks really hate it when you grope them, guys. So take it easy on the *itches or they won't be coming back with they're fat wallets, and you know who's going out of business then! And if it's not you it's your cousin the shopkeeper or your relative the waiter"!!

They've become so fast in producing those ads, haven't they! Why couldn't it be so when there still 40 millions of us all-in-all!

"[...] I mean being able to defend yourself in case of being subjected to a physical sexual assault that may involve violence."

Dear, this is pure, old, righteous self-defence legal in all legislations, from Utopia to fang-and-claw!!

Here are some other women's experiences from around the world: Chile, India and New York. I just hope no official will see this and come up later saying that "it is a global phenomena we needn't worry about"

Shimaa Gamal said...

I can't believe that's really happening in Egypt. In the 29 yrs I lived in this country I have experienced the change from the safe streets, to the still safe streets because you can always find someone to help, to the group sexual attacks. 3amar ya Masr

The best defense in such cases is to run away. When a woman find herself in such a sitiuation she should run away and scream as loud as she can. Out of personal experience screaming really scares the attacker and the results of a face to face fight will be to the attacker's benefit because unfortunately nature is on his side. So a woman should always know that whatever moves she learns to defend herself are only to buy her a way to run. And a sincere advice to those women who walks around with weapons and the likes. A weapon is a weapon regardless the hand using it. Unless you really know how not to lose this weapon to ur attacker you are better off without it.

sorry for being so long :)

Egypt Rose said...

وحشتيني جداً..

عيزة اعرف رايك في اخر كتاباتي .. رايك يهمني جدا يا فانتا.. ولو عجبك ممكن اكتبه في مصر الجديدة بس بتعمق اكثر .. يا قمر ردي عليا

Nessim said...

I wonder when are we going to pull our heads up from the ground, acknowledge that the Egyptian youth is having a huge problem, mainly caused by taboo-ing sex education, and start working on a cure. How would a harasser feel if he found his sister or maybe *mozza* being exploited in the mayhem? /sigh

Mostafa Nessim - The British University In Egypt.

Fantasia said...

dear rain_drops,

thank you so much for your comment. glad you could follow and appreciate what's written on this blog in spite of the difficulty you experienced in reading it.

i actually have 2 other blogs in Arabic.. one of them is dedicated to women rights issues in Egypt and contains translations of older posts on Fantasia's World:

hope that answers your request.

Fantasia said...

hi an egyptian,

it's understandable why the government is so keen on the safety of harassers, they even refused for a long time that harassers existed at all.

we need more women in the government if we want girls to be able to carry pepper spray and other self-defense weapons.

Fantasia said...

dear michael,

as i said in my previous comment, that is what is expected from our government.

i am also amazed at women organizations in egypt and the way they dealt with this issue! why don't they offer training for women on self-defense techniques instead of wailing and begging the government to take action? they always seem so powerless and helpless.. how are they supposed to help women then?

it's time that egyptian women wake up and take things into their own hands.. especially now that they realized that a masculine society could never offer them protection or support.

Fantasia said...

dear free thinker,

you are so right in your observation.. as i said in an earlier post titled "retards make it to the Atlantic", islamist fundamentalism and the ethical deterioration of the patriarchal society go hand in hand. the influence of islamist groups, especially the muslim brotherhood, on the social scene has led to massive corruption. they like the idea that women rights are being compromised and they encourage men to direct their violence against women in order to have more control over them.. imagine exploiting the spread of sexual harassment as a means for hijab/niqab propaganda! what kind of religious folks are those??

if women felt safe and human, they won't be as vulnerable as they are today in front of this islamization storm. women are an easy catch, and hence they are the primary target of those fundamentalist groups who won't waste a chance in weakening and victimizing them more and more.

thanks for introducing me to your blog, and looking forward to more interaction.

Fantasia said...

dear alif,

yeah u bet that's what they're gonna say :) they so much like to come up with the pathetic excuse of "see? we're not alone. it's everywhere"! as if the existence of a crisis elsewhere makes your problems at home feel any better!

it's like what they did after the Shura assembly was in flames.. they quickly searched for fire breakouts everywhere on earth to show them on the news! what's this for God's sake?

and this fellow who is obsessed with the idea they fed him about niqab is so pathetic. he posted this comment just to prove it to himself! he can't take the idea that what they fed him about women's islamic dress are lies. so he goes ahead and puts this stupid comment on a website, as if this will change the fact that niqab did not defend the woman who wore it.

i've written about this tv ad you mentioned in the post "It's time to say back off".. it's hilarious! don't harass the blond foreign chicks because we need their money.. hehehe.. what a message!

we'd better figure out a way to convince those guys that we hate harassment too.. maybe we could raise a fund and pay money to the government to protect us against harassment.

Fantasia said...

dear shaimaa,

like you, we've all witnessed the very fast deterioration taking place in egypt.. maybe it was faster than anyone would have imagined, that's why we kept watching until we reached this horrible tragedy we're facing today.. but it is never too late to take action. and i believe women have got a major role to play now, especially when their safety is being jeopardized in such a way.

what you said about limitations which would face a woman trying to defend herself is so true. still, you'd better be equipped for such assaults. you have to be able to run and not panic or let the harasser overpower you. at this point, i believe women need training courses on how to deal with harassment. besides, there have to be volunteer support groups to assist victims of harassment in overcoming their trauma. up till now we don't have a single organization which offers either of those! what are those guys waiting for? we are considered the second worst country worldwide for harassment on the street.. second only to afghanistan!

let's hope women organizations start doing their job in this country before we top the list! that's the highest rank we've achieved in anything! 3ala ra2yek.. 3amar ya masr!

Fantasia said...

dearest egypt rose,

يا ستي من عينيا الاتنين.. حصل يا فندم.. مقال رائع فعلا ويا ريت بجد تقدري تجهزيه للعدد الجاي من المجلة

ما تطوليش الغيبة تاني لو سمحتي

خالص تحياتي ومودتي

Fantasia said...

dear mostafa,

welcome to the blog and thanks a lot for your comment.

well, first of all, a harasser never puts himself in the shoes of his victim or her family. he does not deal with the female body as belonging to a human being.. that's why one of the successful techniques in avoiding harassment is to make strong eye contact with the harasser.

i've seen an interview made with a pedophile who had a young daughter himself.. the interviewer asked him what he would do if someone did the same things to his daughter, and his answer was quick and firm: " i would kill him". when asked why he hadn't thought of that while abusing those kids, he said that this was something that never crossed his mind.. it's like "i am the bad guy.. so there is nobody there to harm my kid?" it doesn't occur to him that he ain't the only bad guy out there. most harassers hold the same mentality, and they keep confiding themselves that their sisters, daughters ...etc, are safe because he is the one doing this to other people.

i've also talked with some harassers who always sounded so confident that their sisters have never been touched.. when i dared them to ask their sisters whether they have been harassed or not, they totally refused to do it. those guys are a psychological mess.. and the pop culture is just increasing this mess. they have mixed feelings towards women, because they are taught to despise them and care for them at the same time! they are taught that honor is to be sought for in the bodies of females inside their families, while as men, their manhood has to be manifested through sexual adventures with female strangers.

it is not just sex education that they need.. this whole culture has to be revised.

raaasa said...

Another timely commentary, Fanta. How sad.

The other day I wrote a long-winded rant to post here and it disappeared without a trace. I hadn't backed it up--I just don't learn--and the moment of inspiration hasn't yet returned.

My rant was partially triggered by three guys at the corner of my street making prolonged kissing, slurping, and sucking noises at me when I walked by on my way home at 8pm. Pigs.

This kind of behaviour is quite rare in my world here, but then guys wearing feminist slogans across their chests aren't all that common either.
Still, the streets, most of the time, are safe and comfortable for women.

The situation in Egypt has over the years become intolerable. In my experience a few years ago, it was already bad, but now, unbelievable.

I salute you and the others who are bringing attention to this miserable state of affairs.

Where to even begin unravelling this mess? I say complain, loudly, clearly, repeatedly.

The situation is gaining more publicity within and outside of Egypt. I am running into this highlighted frequently.

The other day I came across this article in another paper:

Personally, I think the most important thing is that finally Egyptian women are speaking up in public about this. Silence regarding such daily abuse of women destroys souls.

Fantasia said...

dearest raaasa,

so sorry you lost your first comment. this thing just keeps happening, you know. i got used to saving my comments before posting them.. started doing it automatically. yet, if i forget to do this just once i end up losing my comment! my god, it makes me go mad. sometimes i get too frustrated to write a new one.
but thank god you don't give up the way i do :)
well, try writing your comments in a word document.. this way you are sure they won't vanish if publishing failed.

of course sexual harassers exist everywhere. but as you said, they are rare. no society, not even one which has the weakest grip on its sanity, would allow harassment to be a common daily practice! but here, they somehow came up with the ingenious idea of "women who leave their homes have to put up with it"!! even victims of harassment expect this to happen by default! each woman on the street keeps looking around her wondering where her attacker would come from this time! it's just crazy!

we definitely have to keep complaining repeatedly, otherwise nothing will happen. i also suggest that girls be taught the art of self-defense at schools.. like, integrating it into PE classes or something. won't that be a good idea?

Wild at Heart said...

Well-said, dear. If being vicious is the only way to defend ourselves, so be it. I am now going around with my body spray, since I don't have access to a pepper spray. Let's take them all down :)

"When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid" - Audre Lorde