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An old, but still relevant, Sexual Harassment Article #endSH

I graduated from university in June 2009, and since I was studying journalism we were asked to work on a magazine as our graduation project. Each student had to work on an investigative piece as well. This was my work (and I got an A by the way… then again my university isn’t exactly known for its high educational standards)

This article was aiming to look at sexual harassment as a societal issue, the background on it and what is being done to counter it. Many initatives have come up since then, but unfortunately even though this was written two years ago, the situation remains the same. This is my contribution to blogging against Sexual Harassment Day.

 

Sexual Harassment; End the Epidemic NOW!

As a woman, have you ever walked down Egyptian streets and felt many pairs of eyes undressing you? Have you ever heard obscene comments about what someone wanted to do with your body? Have you ever gotten touched or groped  simply for walking on the street? As a man, have you ever thought that this is something your friend, mother, wife, sister or daughter is subjected to almost on a daily basis? In Egypt women regularly find themselves in these situations where they feel oppressed, powerless and objectified. Along the years this problem has been growing in both numbers and severity. In Egypt, 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women have been sexually harassed, but only 2 percent have reported it.

 

Severity of harassment; the question why?

The severity of the cases grew from random men or a small group of friends harassing women to mass sexual harassment cases. In the Feast holiday after Ramadan in 2007 downtown Cairo saw its first case of mass harassment where hundreds of men walked around harassing, touching and undressing women in the streets. During the same holiday the following year in Gamaa’et El Dowal Street, one of the biggest and busiest streets in Mohandessin, the same incident happened with an even larger number of men.

The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR) conducted a research on Sexual Harassment called “Clouds in Egypt’s Sky” that included a sample of 2020 Egyptian men and women from Cairo, Giza and Qalubiya. The results showed there are many forms of harassment taking place daily including touching, inappropriate noises, ogling of women’s bodies, verbal harassment of sexually explicit nature, stalking or following, phone harassment and indecent exposure. The results also showed that 46.1 % of Egyptian women and 52.3% of foreign women are exposed to harassment on a daily basis.

A twenty-three year old woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, shared an incident that happens often: as she walked on a busy street in Dokki and man on a bike started masturbating as she walked past and called her to come over.

Roughly, 49 percent of Egyptian and 51 percent of foreign women showed in the study that women of all ages are subjected to harassment while a majority of the male sample indicated that women in age groups 19-25 years old are the most susceptible to sexual harassment. According to the ECWR, the difference in men and women’s answers are likely related to their personal experiences.

In the study, it was clear that sexual harassment is not class-based and that women of all socio-economic classes are subjected to sexual harassment.

Most Egyptian people surveyed thought that women dressed in short skirts and t-shirts with bare arms were more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment while 44 percent of foreign women thought that unveiled women dressed modestly and veiled women were also likely to be harassed.

However, many people still think that how a woman is dressed has nothing to do with why they are being harassed and they attribute the problem to socio-economic conditions, sexual frustration and a general lack of respect for women.

In January 2009, a group of female students studying at the American University in Cairo (AUC) decided to try a social experiment where they dressed in black Neqab (covering they bodies and faces in loose black cloaks) and walked around some main streets in Zamalek and the downtown area by the Nile. Areeje Hindi, one of the participants, confirmed they were still subjected to harassment. (This was when the idea to dress up in Niqab as an experiment came to me for the first time by the way, I didn’t do it until April 2011 though)

“They were harassing us mainly talking about our eyes ‘what are these pretty eyes’ [Some men said]. We couldn’t believe that even though we were completely covered they still managed to find the one thing that was not and comment about it” Hindi said. “In spite of our attire we were being harassed like everyone else.”

“Even though we felt more protected walking in Neqab than we do wearing our normal clothes, my friends and I found it very disappointing that we were still harassed… What more can we wear and do?” Hindi wondered.

In the ECWR’s study examining if what women wear determine whether or not they are harassed they found that most Egyptian people surveyed thought that un-veiled women were more likely to be harassed. Despite the fact that women’s testimony, like Hindi’s, showed that veiled and women wearing the Neqab were harassed as well.

These results illustrate the contradiction of the society’s belief that what women are wearing is related to them getting harassed and the reality of what happens.

Yehia Wahdan, Member of Parliament told British television show Every Woman “the internet is [now] in every home, each home has a satellite dish, the whole world is accessible to us. There are things you see such as video clips or films that are imbalanced and it can confuse someone who is not ready for it. When they see naked women they will want to release their frustration”

In a similar interview, Abier El Barbary, a psychology professor at AUC said, “I think it is a multi-fasted problem and I think that frustration definitely does play a part in it, but it is a much bigger picture and much more complex than that.”

El Barbary explained that it is not just computers, the media and video clips but it is more about the fact that Egypt is going through a transition from the old school of thought to the more globalised and westernized school of thought. As a result there is a lot of exposure all around that people are having a hard time dealing with.

Here is the video where these quotes are from for more info and analysis of the problem

When asked about the root of why she thinks men harass women, Noha Roushdy, the first woman to file a sexual harassment case against an Egyptian man in court and win, told Daily News Egypt, “Everyone [attributes] harassment to repression, but I think it is oppression,” she says. “In psychological analysis, repression leads to depression and passiveness. There is political and economic repression [here] and no one has started a revolution. It [just] turns into more passivity. But the idea of oppression is what brought harassment out in society. Oppression makes people aggressive. Each oppressed person has an ambition to oppress someone else to feel a balance, to not feel weak. So the regime oppresses the people and the people are split. So the man will oppress the woman [whom] he feels is less than him. So I believe people are passive because they are repressed, but they are harassing others because they are oppressed.”

 

Effects of Harassment on women

According to the ECWR’s study, sexual harassment has many negative psychological, physical and economic effects on people subjected to it. Many women confirmed they got headaches, difficulty sleeping and bad dreams as well as a constant deep sense of violation, anger, pain, embarrassment, inability to act and sometimes depression.

One girl who chose to remain anonymous expressed that after a few incidents with harassment her trust in strangers and men decreased greatly, “I have become very paranoid about everyone around me and checking that they are not looking at me in a sexual way or touching themselves or trying to touch me,” She said, adding that this led her to avoid walking on the streets and sometimes even getting in taxis alone.

The economic and social effects of harassment included that 9.5 percent of Egyptian women and 22.4 percent of foreign women found that sexual harassment affects their productivity at work and the productivity of students at school. These negative effects include their lack of concentration and not being able to recall things they study. It also gave them a sense of insecurity and lack of confidence with dealing with the opposite sex.

Another girl who chose to remain anonymous said that being constantly subjected to harassment did not necessarily have a direct impact on her productivity in her studies. However, the constant fear of being harassed and the frustration felt at the whole situation sometimes got to her while she was trying to study, making it very hard to concentrate.

 

Harassment and Tourism; Is there a connection?

“I would definitely say that sexual harassment changes my perception of the Egyptian culture,” Lizzie Walmsley, a twenty year-old British girl who has been living in Cairo for three months said.

“Women have been strong enough to take the Pharaoh throne thousands of years ago and yet in Cairo today, a woman is unable to walk around the streets shopping for more than 10 minutes without some comment from a man about the way she looks or the what he wants from her. From the varied ages of the men/boys who are responsible for my experiences I’d suggest it’s a fairly integrated part of the Egyptian male socialisation and yet I have not met all Egyptian men. I had an image of Egypt as one of the most civilised societies the world has ever seen; and it was, a long time ago. Knowing some men think so little of women makes me think Egyptian culture has uncivilised itself” she added.

Similarly, Nehal Saad, an established Egyptian English language Tour Guide, always warns the tourist groups she accompanies about sexual harassment. She advises women to dress modestly but makes them aware that they will probably get subjected to it no matter what they decide to wear.

“Often tourists get offended from the common mentality that just because a woman is a foreigner she is easy and they also get in situations where they get groped. At the start usually they find it funny and flattering that they have that attention but most of the time it turns into harassment and they get a very negative perception of how Egyptian culture is.” Saad explained.

Egypt offers many historical, cultural and recreational touristic attractions to people worldwide. Around 15 percent of Egypt’s national income comes through tourism. Unfortunately, even though Egypt was once known as one of the safest and most hospitable tourist destinations now the Egyptian reputation of sexual harassment is starting to affect the industry and the way foreigners view Egyptian culture.

In the ECWR study, the sample included 109 foreign women who were living or travelling in Egypt for different purposes. The study showed that 66 percent of these women confirmed that their encounters with sexual harassment left a negative impact on how they viewed Egyptian society. Also, 7.3 percent said they would not return to Egypt because of it and 4.6 percent declared they would not advise their friends to visit Egypt.

 

Egyptian criminal law and sexual harassment

Within the current Egyptian Criminal Law there are three articles that can be applied in the cases of sexual harassment.

One of the laws is “Insulting” which is article 306 of the penal code. This law covers all types of insults including cat-calling and verbal harassments on the streets. It is considered a minor crime and tried in a partial court which has only one judge. The sentences of breaking that law range from a fine of LE 100 to one month in prison.

Another law deals with “Indecent Behaviour”, which is article 278 of the penal code. This is covered by one article in the section on sexual crimes and can be applied in cases of indecent exposure, following someone and stalking. It is considered a serious crime and is tired in the larger criminal court with three judges. The sentences of breaking this law range from a fine to three years in prison.

Another law that can be applied is “Sexual Assault”, which is article 268 of the penal code. It is considered a sexual crime and applies in the cases of touching and other physical harassment. Like the latter, it is tried in the large criminal court with three judges. When this law is broken sentences range from three to fifteen years in prison.

Such laws are not void of criticism, however. Problems and criticisms of these laws include the fact that it is difficult to prove harassment unless the harasser is taken to the police station on the spot and witnesses are willing to testify with the victim harassed: otherwise a case cannot be filed.

Other criticisms include that there is no direct law in the penal code specifically related to sexual harassment. According to ECWR’s research and analysis, the lack of direct mentioning of sexual harassment in the law results in a lack of awareness of its existence, as well as a lack of recognition of the problem, which makes it almost impossible to enforce.

The ECWR, media outlets and other groups have been pushing the parliament to discuss the problem openly and add a penal code directly relating to sexual harassment to the penal code.

 

Noha Roushdy: The social pioneer

Noha in the trial, Taken From Zeinobia's Blog

On June26th 2008 at 5:30 pm, Noha Roushdy, a twenty-seven year-old woman, and her friend were walking down a main street in Heliopolis when a man driving a car stretched out his arm, grabbed Roushdy and dragged her along with him before he let her go. Both girls, in spite of shock, chased the car and Roushdy jumped on the boot of the car to stop him while her friend went to get the police.

Even though many people on the street urged Roushdy to let the man go asking her to have some sympathy, judging her for being harassed, she insisted on taking the man, Sherif Gomaa Gibrial, to the police station to file an official complaint. A man on the street helped her take him to the station where the police at first were not helpful and refused to file a complaint without Roushdy’s father present.

Later in October 2008, Roushdy won the case she filed against Gibrial where he was sentenced to three years of imprisonment and fined LE 5,001 on Sexual Assault charges, surprisingly enough during the first hearing of the case. Roushdy refused to accept the civil damages of LE 5,001, saying that she was not looking for the money, and it was not her goal to give the aggressor’s family a hard time.

From that point Roushdy’s case attracted a lot of media attention with some people condemning Roushdy’s actions to take the case to court and sympathising with the man, while others were idolising Roushdy for standing up for her rights and defying the norms. This case stirred public opinion and made it easier for sexual harassment to be discussed as an issue giving the space to women and movements to act against it.

“ECWR believes that this sentence will restore confidence in the legal system’s ability to defend women subjected to such crimes, in every step of the process — from filing police reports, to investigation, to sentencing. Women can now rest assured that their rights will be protected,” a statement from the ECWR said.

 

Spreading awareness to make a difference

Ali Azmy (azmy.me) at the IWD Protest March 2011

Many different movements have recently started discussing the problem of sexual harassment in the media even though it has been considered a taboo to even talk about it in social circles in the past.

The ECWR, established in 1996, with a goal to work on developing women’s legal and political rights, is one of the leading organizations actively working on the problem of sexual harassment. The ECWR organizes a campaign against sexual harassment through increasing public awareness in the media to apply pressure on the Ministry of Interior to enforce laws protecting women and adopting a new law specifically for protection against sexual harassment.

The ECWR conducted various researches on the effects of sexual harassment on victims, tourism and on women’s participation in the society. Their most recent research “Clouds in Egypt’s Sky” proved to be a success providing people with accurate results of how the problem is escalating day by day.

According to Rebecca Chiao from ECWR there has been a lot of development in the problem, “We have been running our campaign since 2005. When we started, we couldn’t even say the words ‘sexual harassment’.”

Nehad Abu El Omsan, the chair of the ECWR told Women News Network, “Now [women] are freer to talk and every one of them knows she is not alone and it is not her fault. This encourages the society to understand the situation and think about how to solve it.”

With facebook’s growing popularity as a social networking site, various groups started using it as a platform to channel their message across reaching various groups of people.

One of the first emerging groups is “Stop Sexual Harassment in Egypt” which was part of the “Bussi Project” (Look (to female) Project) established in the American University in Cairo (AUC). They started the group to provide women with the space to share their stories and encourage people to not only speak up but act on the issue. They organized different lectures, seminars and events at AUC and outside to bring people together and help find solutions to the problem. They also keep people updated with the ECWR’s research and movements on the issue.

“We also create a voice for those who feel voiceless through our annual play in which we collect true stories from women in our community,” said Yasmine Khalifa, a member of the Bussy Project Club.

“[The play] educates the audience about the issues women go through but at the same time it is entertaining, which makes the audience more receptive to hearing some of the stories they normally would not.” She added.

From there also came many other groups encouraging women to act on sexual harassment, in an attempt to change women’s perception of their situation as victims who do not have the power to do anything about it to citizens who have the power to use the law to protect their rights. There is an Arabic group called “H’atta law El Bent Ala’aa Malt” (Even if the Girl is Naked) which advocates that women have the right to wear what they want and that gives no one the right to harass them. The group uses a sarcastic tone in addressing the issue of sexual harassment on the street and in the work place.

Other groups have taken a hands-on approach to the issue, like “Ma’an le Qanoun Yah’my El Mara’ men Khatar El Tah’arosh Al Gensy” (Together for a law to protect the woman from the danger of Sexual Harassment). This group is working alongside the ECWR with a goal to produce a petition with a million signatures to the government demanding a new law to protect women from Sexual Harassment.

Another project being worked on by the ECWR and NiJel, a movement started by three American people who saw that we can use maps to tell facts and stories of communities, is the “HarassMap”. This project is a blog with a map where women can report where they have been harassed via SMS and it is uploaded on the blog, showing how severely harassment takes place all over the city and the need of a new law to protect women. It will also help demonstrate to officials where further protection is needed. [Update: This project was later taken on by a group of volunteers and outside the ECWR umbrealla]

Sawi Culture Wheel Anti Sexual Harassment Poster 2009

Sawy Culture Wheel also participated in spreading awareness on sexual harassment by placing signs in the Egyptian streets warning men that if they failed to take action to prevent harassment, their mother, sister or daughter could be the next victim. May 18, 2007, was declared “The Sexual Harassment Awareness Day” by Sawy Cultural Wheel in cooperation with the ECWR. Almost 1000 people showed up at the event where they invited the media and bands to perform to attract youth.

Media outlets have also taken part of the trend of calling upon women to stand up to sexual harassment. Community Times, Egypt’s number one information magazine in English, in April 2009 started dedicating a section each month publishing stories from readers to highlight the epidemic of sexual harassment in Egypt. Following Community Times’ initiative What Women Want magazine decided to participate in that too.

Kelmetna, Egyptian teen magazine, also launched a campaign aiming to spread awareness on sexual harassment with the male readers especially with a slogan of “Respect Yourself: Egypt still has real men”.

A group of advertising and public relations students at Modern Sciences and Arts University (MSA) decided to launch a campaign promoting the establishment of a law protecting women from sexual harassment as their graduation project. They also organized an event promoting the new law protecting women against sexual harassment in the Sawy Cultural Wheel in June 2009 featuring bands and guest speakers. “We believe in the cause and are personally affected by it. Another thing that made us want to run this campaign was that more than 60% of people did not know their rights and did not know that they can report harassment. We wish to empower women through it.” Said Amina Basiouny one of the members of the group.

It is obvious that this problem is not going unnoticed by the public and that many diverse bodies are doing a lot of work to make the problem noticed as well as getting the government to deal with it. Social change is not an impossible task, but it is up to people to make it happen and take initiative because if we do not, then who will?

What Women Want in New Egypt

Over the past weeks we have seen mass protests by people across all segments of society calling for political change and reform, in hope that this change would reflect on economical and social issues in the future. As the days progressed we saw workers striking and protesting for their rights, journalists protesting for free and honest media, artists and film makers against censorship, people with disabilities protesting for an inclusive society and infrastructure, and many others according to their fields or backgrounds. Women are 50% of the society, and they face marginalization, unfairness politically, socially and under Egyptian law. It’s about time we do something about it. Dr. Nawal El Saadawi, long time acivist psychologist and especially concerned with women’s rights said “The cause to libirate women [in Egypt] who are half the population, is not separated from liberating the nation” .

That is why next Tuesday, to celebrate the International Day for Women, everyone in Egypt who believes women should be equal members of society on every level, need to take the streets. A group of women’s rights activists are organising a “Million Women March” in Tahrir at 3 pm.

My favourite slogan from the event on Facebook is: “I have a mother and father, I want a female or male president”.

In Egypt, no one can deny that women are not treated equally in society. That includes on a legal, political and most importantly cultural level. Here is a few main issues women face, not all issues I might add, that I would like to highlight that should be worked on in the new Egypt.

Politically:

  • We were left out in the constitutional revision committee
  • The clause on the Egyptian president’s origin assumes that the Egyptian president needs to be a man
  • Women’s quota is not helping women find seats but rather limiting them
  • Women always have minimal representation in the cabinet

Socially/Culturally:

  • A large percentage of women suffer domestic violence and never report it
  • Female Genital Mutilation is practices heavily in Egypt even though it is no longer legal
  • 85% of Egyptian women suffer sexual harassment in big cities
  • A woman’s role in society is often confined to being a wife and mother

Legally:

  • Sharia law discriminates against women in both inheritance and divorce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tunisia might have started this wave of revolutions in the Arab world, but we took it to the next level as a global movement. Our country has a responsibility now, towards the Arab world, and the whole world, to show that revolutions can succeed and bring about real change, and active participation of all members of society. Gender is a factor. We need to be the model on how women are just as important to men on all levels of society, as we’ve seen, the snowball effect in the region is unreal.

So join the movement on Tuesday, which is a continuation of the revolution that called for social justice and real change. Not just on a political level, but a cultural one as well. It not only aims to call on the government to take concrete actions, but on our collective society to change their perspective on a woman’s role in society. It’s not a march by women, it is for women, by women and men.

Egyptian army shows its true colours

Egyptian soldier in Tahrir early February

On January 25th, various Egyptians across different spectrums took the streets in peaceful protest demanding the removal of the regime, bread, freedom and human dignity. The 18 days of protests that inspired people around the world caused many changes, the most notable of them was the resignation of Mubarak. Egypt’s streets spent the night of his departure in endless celebrations since he handed over the country to the army. If you thought the revolution was over then, think again.

At midnight at the end of Feburary 25th, exactly one month since the revolution started, the Egyptian army cordoned then attacked people in Tahrir with sticks, electric shocks and by detaining people. Not to mention the thugs that were fighting the protesters. The army was chasing people down the street and beating them up, claiming that they were doing this because they were out after curfew.

Human rights activist Ramy Raoof, was there during the attacks and he streamed a few minutes live on bambuzer here.

Here is a collection of tweets from people there during the attacks:

2:30 am – Ramy Raoof tweeted: army soldiers are runing behind us and attacking. #Egypt #Jan25

2:55 am – Jano Charbel tweeted: Army forcefully dispersed protest outside parliament. Soldiers punched, kicked & slapped me. Then clubbed me w/ an electric prod in my face.

3:00 am – Gigi Ibrahim tweeted: Revolution phase 3 begun tonight, I heard the taser guns, witnessed the beatings and arrests carried BY THE ARMY.

And my personal favourite: Hosni Mubarak Everything that’s happening in #Libya is all part of the plan to divert your focus while i quietly return to power. #Egypt (Parody, obviously.)

A thought: Why were we still under curfew two weeks after Mubarak stepped down and the ongoing protest in Tahrir was dispersed? Is it maybe so the army can use it as an excuse for this violence? Or maybe to remind us exactly of who is in charge?

Egyptian media is acting exactly the same as in Mubarak days. Between midnight and 2 am no reports on the attacks. At 2:30 am they anounced that the Egyptian military told protesters at midnight they had half an hour to leave, whereas actually by 12:02 am they were attacking them. As for the Egyptian independent channels, ON TV tweeted: The army does not allow journalists and channels to enter the square.

At the end of the day we have to remember, the army  follows orders. Who’s orders? The Generals of the High Council of Armed Forces. Who was their leader 2 weeks ago? Mubarak. Let’s not forget that these people were a huge part of the regime and benefited greatly from it. That means that protests can’t stop now until we have a civil transitional government with the participation of the army in it. The revolution will continue, in the form of protests, strikes until we actually get people involved with the old regime out of powerful positions and replace them with people who actually want Egypt to develop into a democracy.

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In Egypt, “Every joke is a tiny revolution”

Egyptians have always been known for their sense of humor across the Arab world. From our movies to our witty theatre, to the new emerging stand up comedians, to the ongoing jokes that are circulated all over Egypt, we are known for managing to turn pretty much everything, including our revolution, into a witty joke.

Some could see jokes coming up during a time of crisis like the January 25th revolution as disrespectful, or even shallow, but actually humor is so stemmed in our culture as Egyptians, that we use it as a way to express our feelings, raise awareness, disseminate information and have a giggle on current events. Even if consciously this is not necessarily the objective when one comes up with a joke or shares it.

Walking through Tahrir Square, one can’t help but smile and even occasionally laugh out loud at the signs many Egyptians would make. It would be challenging to translate these jokes here, since most of them stem from our culture and sayings. I can tell you however, that the night Mubarak stepped down the first text message I got said “After the ‘Friday of Victory’ in Tunisia, and the ‘Friday of departure’ in Egypt, Gaddafi decided to cancel Fridays in Libya”. You get the gist I guess.

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Another joke that became quite popular was “The man behind Omar Suleiman” since when Mubarak stepped down, his newly appointed vice president was the one who delivered the news in a thirty second speech, and for some reason a man was standing behind him. Jokes related to this man was all Egyptians could talk about for a few days after that, most jokes relating to the current events. As an example, Egyptian state media, was very biased towards the government in its reporting. They were hardly reporting about the protests. On January 26ht, El Ahram Newspaper, the state newspaper had its main story of the struggles in Lebanon, and when discussing what happened on ‘National Police Day’ which was chosen as the day of protests because the Egyptian Police are famous for their corruption, brutality and torture of people they detain, showed a photo of kids giving flowers to Police and thanking them for their efforts. Egyptian TV was failing to deliver accurate information about the protests taking place all over the country, and was focusing on how there are theives and looters attacking businesses and houses, how former president Mubarak hired a new government and the initiatives they were taking and about how if the protests don’t stop we will hit economical crisis and live in danger and chaos. When the pro-Mubarak protests started, even though they were a few hundred people (and most of them paid or hired) state media was portraying it as if they were as many as the people demonstrating to bring down the regime. When the thugs were attacking protesters in Tahrir Square, Egyptian state media made it seem like there was a civil war going on to give the impression to the people watching from their homes that the country was breaking into a war and that only the government could save it. The state media has been criticised endlessly, and were even forced to change their agenda and start reporting on the protests happening. Till now most average Egyptians, even after Mubarak stepping down, are having a hard time trusting any media coming from the government. One of the jokes that came up about the man behind Omar Suleiman was “Egyptian TV denies that there is a man standing behind Omar Suleiman”.

Ever since the “Friday of Anger” which was on January 28th, when the Egyptian government shut down the internet and mobile phone lines, the Egyptians took the streets all over the country. As the protesters took the streets yelling they wanted the regime to be dissolved and saying over and over again that this was a peaceful protest, they were attacked with expired tear gas, illegal rubber bullets, and live ammunition. Hundreds died and thousands were wounded, some of them with deadly injuries up till now. At the end of this day, there was a presidential decree, that the Central Security Forces, the ones responsible for “calming down” protests to retreat and the Army to take the streets. That night the entire police force was off the streets for the next two days. This led to many lootings of businesses, burning of official buildings and police stations, and most famously the Egyptian museum. There is still a trust issue between the Police force and the public up till now, which the ministry of interior is trying to fix, but so far the public does not seem to be responding since they are not seeing many actions of prosecuting the people responsible for all this violence besides the ex-minister. Every friday after this one had a name, and there was an ongoing joke by the third Friday (the one Mubarak actually stepped down in) that it would be called “**** don’t you get it? Friday”.

Egyptians will continue to make jokes, and if anything this revolution sparked inspiration for political comedy that had been less mainstream in the past due to immense fear from the government. One of the many barriers that were broken when we took the streets on January 25th and changed our country and the world forever.

As George Orwell once said, “Every joke is a tiny revolution”.

 

* This post was published in Argentinian newspaper Reporte Global on Feburary 23rd 2011

* To illustrate on Egyptian sense of humor in the revolution here is a great report on BBC Arabic



Best of Egyptian Media Propaganda

One the many failures of the Egyptian regime has been its state media. Never mind that we have press laws that restrict the freedom of the independent (or rather striving to be independent) media. The state owned media, and it’s private extentions such as the Mehwar Channel, were completely used as propaganda machines telling lies to the Egyptian public. As this was just the norm, only the very extreme cases of ridiculousness stood out. Here are the awards for the most “creative” ones the government tried to pass in my opinion:

– The “Kollohom beyetkalemo English language” Crying Tamer on Nile News

This was the hilarious guy who allegedly just escaped from the vicious place of Tahrir Square where everyone speaks English and get them to make flyers. He cries that the people in Tahrir are not “us”. He has a fear of slogans, and suffers from some sort of breathing disorder. The anchor is pretending to be really concerned and can’t believe the ordeal this kid went through.

 

– The “They are all gay and humping” guy on Masriya TV

This guy is one of the protesters who was inside. Claims there are tents, blankets and meals for everyone. He refers to the fact that there are religious preachers inside brainwashing people and that the opposition groups and Muslim Brotherhood are riding the wave of the 25 of Jan youth. Apparently all the people in Tahrir Square still fighting for our rights are cowards and he’s the hero. He starts by saying people are gay there. The presenter pretends to try to stop him from making judgements, then talks about how Suleiman is awesome and is meeting with the Jan 25 youth. Oh yeah, the regular favourites of course: Foreigners are trying to cause chaos, protests are causing the country to be at a hault and the government is changing everything over night into a full on democracy because life is pink.

 

– The “Aljazeera, the Jews and Pandas are training Egyptian youth to cause chaos” on Mehwer TV

Who can forget the beautiful Shaimaa, who we couldn’t really see for her own safety of course, who told us about her paid trips to the US where she was trained on “How to overthrow dictators”. Apparently she also recieved a second training in Qatar, delivered by Israelis (Aljazeera and the Jews in one combo, nice ha?). She insists (by saying it 5 times) that she was trained along side the Muslim Brotherhood Youth movement. Blame the foreigners! All the foreigners are conspiring against us, because we’re well, awesome.

Who is prosecuting those two journalists and everyone involved in Mehwer TV? I’d like to know.

 

– The “Mubarak is our father and Foreigners are conspiring against us” on Mehwar TV

This one is a political activist who apparently received training all over the world with an organisation that is American-Israeli-Zionist working with the CIA and Mosaad (who else?). According to this one they were training them on how to peacefully bring down a regime by burning government buildings and scaring the police force. Of course she now changed her mind and joined the three million pro-Mubarak protesters (haha) telling Mubarak “We are sorry ya Baba”. Oh yeah, and all the Egyptian youth political movements are working with Hamas.

Favourite quote by the presenters “Egypt is not Tunisia, and Mubarak is not Ben Ali”

 

So the Egyptian government attempted to blame: The Muslim Brotherhood, political opposition parties, Mosaad, The US, Iran, Hamas, Qatar, Aljazeera and according to Egypt’s most trusted news source El Koshary Today: Koala bears. But themselves and their corruption, brutality and inhumane detentions for causing the first grassroots revolution in the history of the country, no way.

Then suddenly, with a magic wand, Egyptian TV suddenly calls the protesters “heroes” not zionist brainwashed crazy people and reports on the millions in Tahrir. They had to do that after Wael Ghoneim, one of the people who started a grass-roots initative on January 25th was released and appeared on Dream TV telling the story of his 12 day detention along with how him and a few youth raising awareness about the Khaled Said case called for the protests on January 25th. Also, when two Senior reporters from Nile TV quit and went on air with inside information about the “Propaganda Machine”. When the public that they were trying to hide the truth from understood their lies, they needed to change their tone, agenda and content to attempt to prove they are credible. Too late though.

Let’s not forget, that the media is still under the Ministry of Media, which is part of the regime. Even if Mubarak is not there, even if Anas El Fekki, the minister of Media, resigned, this institution is full of so much corruption and personal agendas that even if they changed their stance, it does not mean we should trust them. We will not trust our media until it is cleaned of the corruption of many of those inside it and till it is an independent institution not bound by press laws or under any governmental supervision. We are at a crucial point where we need to question everything, until we live in a democratic, just country with honest media.

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