Why the SCAF & Their Speech are Completely Ridiculous

On February 1st 2011, Mubarak gave his second speech, that annoyed the hell out of most Egyptians but somehow managed to touch the heart of some (He spoke of dying in Egypt, his service to Egypt and how much he loves this country, and let’s face it, we are highly emotional people who often show symptoms of the Stockholm Syndrome).

I was one of those people highly annoyed by the speech. In fact I was so annoyed, that as soon as I woke up to find the internet back on Febuary 2nd, I sat and wrote this blog post answering every point in his speech with facts about the ridiculous breaches of our rights that his regime and himself committed.  After that thugs that were hired by the regime attacked the protestors in Tahrir for a continuous 14 hours, leaving Egyptians at home and the entire world in immense shock at the brutality of Mubarak and his minions.

Here we are almost half a year later, Mubarak is gone, and his minions in uniform have taken over ruling the country. On Tuesday July 12th, Lieutenant Mohsen El Fangary, a member of the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces and the same man who saluted the martyrs of our revolution the night Mubarak stepped down, gave a statement harshly accusing protestors of causing chaos in the country. It  sounded all-too-familiar to me. In fact, so little has changed in the past months, that here I am, angrily getting ready to write yet another answer to a statement by the ruler of Egypt with facts to show them that we are not idiots and we will not be silenced anymore.

The Statement:

 

Whether you speak Arabic or not, you hear the sharpness, challenging and accusatory tone of his speech. Later in the day the SCAF had a press conference which they attempted to tone it down saying they will do their best to end the sit-ins through non-violent manners by engaging in a conversation with the protestors.

My replies to this statement

He claims that the SCAF stood by the revolution and supported the peoples’ demands from the start

To this I say: Bullshit. They stood by the regime, never the people. If they stood by the people they wouldn’t have given ammunition to the police in Tahrir Square on January 28th, they wouldn’t have stood by and let the thugs attack Tahrir on Feb 2nd and they would have taken a stance any time before the 18 days.  Sure, as soon as Mubarak stepped down they dissolved the forged Parliament and Shura Council and suspended the constitution, which were part of the original demands.

But then they only took some ex-regime members (5 to be exact) into custody and treated them like scape-goats while letting the Mubarak family along with his office manager, the head of parliament and the many ministers and MPs who were responsible for the killing of protesters, the torture and theft to be free to organise their assets and cover their asses. In fact they only started issuing the arrest warrants on these people in April, after several million man marches.

He says that SCAF will not give up their role in ruling the country in this phase of Egypt’s history. He claims that this is what the people wanted and approved according to the March referendum.

Well, actually, our dear SCAF, no one asked you to be the rulers of the country during the transitional phase. In fact, when Omar Suliman, the short-lived Egyptian vice president, announced in 30 seconds that Mubarak would be stepping down he also announced that Mubarak would be leaving the country in your charge. Therefore, you were appointed by your ex-leader Mubarak, not the Egyptian people. The revolution was asking for a civil transitional government, not a military one. Your role as Egypt’s rulers is not, and has never been constitutional. You may run one of the biggest armies in the Middle East, but people are not soldiers, and you were just never raised to engage in conversation or be open to input.

In regards to the referendum, that was only used to trick us into thinking we are in a democracy now. I only have one thing to say: The referendum was not democratic. I’m not questioning the outcome. But in a true democracy, when citizens vote for something they should know what they are voting for. You ran a completely non-transparent, unfair process, in which you gave almost no information on what would happen if we voted No. Thus, leaving political powers the night before still battling on what each think what each vote would lead to. You didn’t give enough time for people to engage in conversation and when the first Sectarian clash broke out before, people focused on that and not the coming referendum.  This left no time to question or understand the process. And actually assuming that the 72% who voted Yes were voting “Yes to the Army” is merely an assumption because the reasons behind the Yes vote were numerous: Some voted yes because of religion thanks to a (false) campaign to keep article 2 of the old constitution. Others voted Yes to make sure your stay in power would be as short lived as possible. While some were just voting Yes because we got used to that (Yes Mubarak!).

Fun Fact: Before the results came out SCAF didn’t even issue a statement explaining that the results of the referendum would lead to these articles being added to a constitutional declaration of 40 articles that are copied from Mubarak’s dismissed, toppled and dismantled constitution.

SCAF affirms the following: (I will answer these one by one)

1. Freedom of expression is in everyone’s rights withing legal boundaries

Legal boundaries for freedom? According to whose standards? Egyptian people have been suppressed for generations. We all have a voice now and we all wish to speak.  Only when we all let out what is in us that we will be able to form bodies to help us move forward with our development. Also, reality check, our revolution is far from over in both the political sense and the economic sense. Politically you have failed to reach many of the revolution’s demands such as: a) trying ex-regime officials (and Mubarak) for their crimes in a fast, fair and public manner. b) Starting a real restructing process of the security apparatus that the regime used to torture and silence people so they could stay in power c) Allowing people the freedom to protest without being beaten up, arrested, questioned and subjected to military trials and virginity testing.

As for the media, nothing has changed. Egyptian state TV and newspapers have become your voice to the people instead of Mubarak’s. There is still lies, false facts and propaganda from your side forced upon us. Not to mention calling in for questioning journalists and TV personalities for challenging your leadership.

Freedom of speech, yeah right.

2. SCAF is committed to its action plan of running the country during the transitional phase of having parliament, Shura council then a constitution & a president thus handing the country to an elected civil authority

Not nearly enough. That is a political action plan. But where is the social aspect of it? One of the main demands of the revolution was social justice. You, nor Essam Sharaf’s cabinet, have not taken any steps in ensuring that. Which is why the so called “side protests” have been going on by workers in factories, teachers, doctors, students…etc to try to achieve social justice and overthrow the workplace Mubaraks. People also demand a proper minimum wage, or at least an action plan that is timely to ensure that. Another failure from your side. What’s more, you have taken no steps (without pressure) to take the demands of the revolution that impact people’s lives and jobs.

3. Supporting the Prime Minister Essam Sharaf in his rights & responsibilities according to the constitutional declaration & the law

Supporting Esaam Sharaf or chaining & silencing him? I believe Carlos Latuff’s cartoon below speaks for itself.

SCAF's relationship with Egyptian PM Essam Sharaf

4. Working within legal frame works when dealing with criminals & with laws for the transitional phase

The word “Thug” has been used sporadically lately. Of course there is an increase in crime on Egypt’s streets. After all, you just more slyly have continued keeping police off the streets. You and the police force try to blame the Egyptian people & the revolution for the security problem (very clever, I’ll give you that). But actually, if the police force are not functioning, it is your responsibility as the rulers to bring security to the streets. If you take measures in restructuring the police force, changing its leadership, and training the officers there wouldn’t be issues between people and the police. You are using the absence in security to scare us into halting our revolution. But actually Mubarak used the same tactic and failed. I suggest you try and learn from his mistakes.

Also, when you start using this “Thug Law” (which is the same as Emergency Law which removing was an original demand) you are abusing it to take protesters into military custody. My friend Tarek Shalaby was one of those you decided to take in, and actually he has a one year suspended sentence for protesting and destroying public property (a false claim on your side with zero evidence to support it). Military trials of civilians are completely unacceptable. They are even more so when you use them against protesters. The same way you kept the curfew till June 15th to have an excuse when you attack protests (like you did on April 9th in Tahrir, see video below)

5. Continuing with the conversational & open policy with all political powers & the revolution’s youth to achieve the demands

I seem to recall political powers saying widely that you simply do not engage in open policy conversation with them. Except for the Muslim Brotherhood of course, but you guys have had an on-off relationship for decades. Most political powers are pissed off because you still have not given any real information about when and how Parliamentary elections will take place.

As for the revolution youth, I have a question, who the hell are these revolution youth you engage with? You started with talking to the Youth Coalition, then they realised this was leading no where so they stopped engaging with you and went back to the square. I remember the night after the CNN story about the virginity checks came out and you invited these “revolution youth” in your 60 & 61 statements on Facebook to come 48 hours later to have a discussion with you the current situation. Most of the established youth coalitions signed a statement refusing to meet with you because of the short notice, the box of revolution youth you put them in, the fact that it is a two hour meeting with 1,000 people so they knew it would be a lecture from your side. You still had the meeting with random youth you found somewhere while we had a protest outside against the virginity testing and military trials.

6. Drafting a document establishing the principles of the committee that will be in charge to draft the new Egyptian constitution (this will be added to the constitutional declaration after all political parties agree to it).

If we are drafting this document and it will be binding for the future parliament. Then why aren’t we just putting together the committee and drafting the constitution now? The idea behind having the constitution after the parliament is formed is so they can pick the committee. But if we are agreeing on the basis on which the committee will be chosen, then why not start the process now and have a solid constitution before we start electing any new bodies to represent us?

SCAF is aware of the dangers & the plan to harm the country:

1. Protests & strikes that are not peaceful that affect the citizens negatively & are stopping the wheel of production

2. Spreading rumors which lead to splits & destabalization

3. Prioritising private interests over public ones

The danger to the country and the revolution is no one but yourself. You have attacked peaceful protests. Do not pretend otherwise. Starting Feb 25th, March 9th, April 9th, May 15th and most recently your beloved left arm the police attacked protesters continuously on June 28th. Every single month this year. Not to mention that the protests that stop production are well deserved because workers are getting nothing. The government’s concession to make minimum wage at 700 LE (less than 100 Euros) is just ridiculous in comparison to the prices and inflation rates.

SCAF calls on honourable citizens to stand up to all things that stop normal life from returning to the country & stand up to the rumors. SCAF supported by the people will not allow anyone to jump onto power and will take measures to stand up to the threats that affect national security.

So SCAF is trying to turn the public against the people still protesting. What they don’t get, is that this revolution happened because “normal life” was horrible. People are in revolt now. Yes there are those who are still skeptical of the revolution, and those who believe we should aim for stability and economic reform at this stage. But there is certain consensus on the current demands. As for the rumors, Egyptian television Ch1 on Tuesday after your statement was accepting callers who were saying that the people in Tahrir were not the true revolutionaries, not the youth of the revolution and that they were planet there by Israel. These statements were said by Vice President of the Ghad Party El-Dessouki. As usual the presenter accepted this and did not question it. However, when someone was revealing the truth about Tahrir and about the virginity testing, they not only questioned their input but also the facts they shared.

A little History on the SCAF & Egyptian Army

In 1952, the army led by the Free Officers’ movement had a C’oup D’etat that overthrew the king of Egypt, which was supported by the Egyptian people. This movement was promising free and fair elections and a civil democratic state for Egypt in an attempt to rid Egypt of its corrupt king and elites.

However, that is not how the story went. According to Middle East Analyst Omar Ashour on BBC, in December 1952 Gamal AbdelNasser, one of the leaders of the movement and who later became president of Egypt, said in a meeting of army officers and Muslim Brotherhood leaders”If I held elections today, al-Nahas would win, not us. Then our achievement would be nothing,” He was referring to Mostafa El-Nahas, of the secular Wafd Party, the most popular in Egypt at the time. Nasser and the free-officers banned political parties, restricted freedom of expression and made sure even their allies, the Muslim Brotherhood, were banned from taking leadership of the country. They put forward Nasser as president in 1954, and later when he was followed by Sadat then Mubarak, it was all army men.

The NDP and the army are not so far from each other. In fact they are more allies than they like to show. If we say the NDP is the counter revolution then the army is the one facilitating its existence. That is why we have to continue what we started, and the SCAF will just have to make certain concessions to meet our demands.

So here I am, writing a very similar blog post to the one I wrote on Feburary 2nd while there has been a revolution and supposedly a “successful” one.

SCAF say they stand by the revolution, well this is their chance to prove it.

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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?

Tarek Shalaby: Citizen Journalist, Activist and in Military Custody for That

Most people know the micro-celebrity Tarek Shalaby as the blogger, and activist who was among the first to camp out in Tarir as early as Jan 30th vowing to leave when Mubarak was ousted. His tent, named Bansyon El Horeyya, became a meeting point for some revolutionaries, and soon enough emerged versions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the tent. For me, I mostly know him as my very good friend who always calls me by my full-name, has a special laugh whenever he talks to me on the phone and feels the need to share his love for me with his 12,000 followers on twitter.

When Libya was in its first days of the revolution before the foreign intervention, Tarek and a group of friends raised 40,000 Egyptian pounds and took a convoy to Benghazi and Tubruk to not only deliver aid but show solidarity with the Libyans.

Tarek, always an advocate of the Palestinian cause, volunteered in refugee camps in Shatila, Lebanon helping guide Palestinian refugees on using the internet as a means to get their message through. He is a strong believer in citizen journalism and used his own technical and experiential expertise to help the Palestinians spread awareness about their cause since most western media focuses more on the pro-Israeli side of the story.

In April of this year when people started mobilizing for the third Palestinian intifada, we had the first protest in front of the Israeli embassy this year. Tarek was there for most of the day (even though it was my birthday and he was kind of obsessed with going partying…) reporting what was happening on twitter and live streaming on Bambuzer.

Power to the people

We had been making plans for a few weeks with some friends to make it to Rafah to peacefully protest on the border with Gaza in solidarity with the intifada. The original plan was to join the convoy of 30 buses that were taking activists to the border. However, the SCAF directly ordered touristic operators not to rent out buses going to Rafah. So that plan didn’t go through. As a group of 14 people, we managed to get three cars and took a trip to attempt reaching the border. We knew chances were slim to get there, but we decided to try anyway. Tarek’s car managed to reach Arish (very close to Rafah) and was denied entry at the last checkpoint before Arish. Our cars only managed to get to Port Foad just at the start of North Sinai (after taking a ferry up north from Port Said).

Map showing route from Cairo to Rafah (bordering Gaza)

After a long day and night of trying to coordinate ourselves and spending a lot of time in check-points, we had a nice day in Port Said on May 15th, and headed back to Cairo. On our way back, we were reading on twitter that the protest in front of the embassy was being attacked by tear gas (the same expired tear gas they used on us at the start of the protests) as well as rubber bullets. While most of us decided to go home, Tarek and the crew in his car decided to go check out what was happening.

Tarek was tweeting and broadcasting videos on Bambuzer from the night. He’s always been an active blogger and social media enthusiast. He believes everyone has a role and a passion, and he likes to place himself as a citizen journalist and reporter from events and protest as he upholds a high degree of journalistic integrity (even if he’s not technically a journalist as we define them traditionally…) and is committed to reporting facts.  Below are a series of tweets from the night of is arrest. And here is a link to the Bambuser video he broadcasted during his arrest.

Tarek has been released on Thursday the 19th of May, after standing before a military court and getting a 1 year suspended sentance. His accusations were: – Public Gathering and – Destruction of Public Property (not even true). The rest of the detainees from the Israeli embassy were also released by most of them got 6 months to a year with similar accsuations.

Every since the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (commonly known as SCAF) took over Egypt after Mubarak’s ousting, we have seen a number of human rights violations such as:

– Criminalizing protesting with economic disruptions

Military trials to civilians

Torture of activists and violently  dispersing protests

Testing virginity of female protesters

Media censorship on anyone criticizing SCAF.

#Come2Egypt: A Successful First Trial at a Social Media Grassroots Initiative

If you were on Twitter on Friday May 6th, you might have noticed that starting 4 pm your timeline was pretty much spammed with people using #Come2Egypt hashtag with photos, videos and tweets on why people should, well, come to Egypt!

In case you are a curious person, wondering how this whole thing started, then this post might be of interest to you.

One day a group of Egyptians on twitter that run in somewhat similar circles got an email from common friend Adel Abdel-Ghaffar which said the following:

“Just came back from Khan al Khalili and it was really depressing to see how empty it is these days. A few shops had closed, and allot of the shop owners were complaining that if the conditions stay like this, they might have to lay off more people and close shops themselves. This is just one area, I am getting alot of similar stories from across Egypt. 

While I was there, I was tweeting some pics, and found out they were retweeted widely around the world, even with the small number of followers I have (500 + ) , nonetheless people were fascinated.”

He suggested we start going to places that might be interesting for tourists each week and tweet from there, whether photos, videos, or thoughts while we visit these cool places. The group got excited about the idea. We were all regularly tweeting anyway, so why not do it to try and improve the tourism sector after it took such a fall following the massive protests in Feburary (and the mass arrests of foreigners didn’t help as well…).
We started doing that, and we especially did it during easter weekend as many of us were out of Cairo so we got to share media from other gorgeous places in Egypt as well like Sinai, Alexandria, and Hurghada.
We had been toying with the idea of making #Come2Egypt a globally trending topic on Twitter to get the maximum exposure from this tool. So we decided to give it a try last Friday. We created a Facebook event through the fan page we had previously set up and from there it went totally viral reaching a 0.07% of all tweets made worldwide. (a topic can be trending on twitter starting as low as 0.84% depending on the traffic at a given time.)
What was also great, was that not only were there individuals taking part in these tweets, but institutions as well. ONTV, an Egyptian liberal TV channel was also tweeting and re-tweeting with everyone, which was great since they have many followers.
So even though we didn’t manage to get the topic trending this time, we hope to do it again soon. Some thoughts we are considering for next time:
Media coverage beforehand; Among the group we have many bloggers, journalists, a radio presenter and media contacts so for next time we definitely want to create a bit of a hype to get more people on board.
Get more foreigners who visited and loved Egypt involved; as the people who follow them would probably be non-Egyptian
Tweet on a day where there are no mass protests in our neighboring countries; On Friday there were major protests in Syria and outrageous killing and arrests from the Syrian regime, so we’d rather be helping spread news about these uprisings than diverting attention from them.
All in all, I’d say the first trial was a huge success. If anyone has any thoughts, ideas, or would like to help organise leave a comment below. Let’s get tourism not back, but better than ever before. This is the New Egypt after all.

Labour Day Protests For Social Justice – مظاهرة عيد العمال للعدالة الإجتماعية

I got this through the Al Masry Al Hurr movement, and I think it’s essential we all take part of this process. Our    revolution has had a lot of success so far but we still need to call on the government to put minimum wage as a top priority and put an end to the anti-strike law

!Please share


عيد العمال 2011  –  معاً من أجل العدالة الاجتماعية

الساعة الواحدة ظهراً بميدان التحرير

Minimum Wage Protest 2010 - Photo by Hossam El-Hamalawy


في 25 يناير 2011 نجح الشعب المصري في القيام بثورته الشعبية الباسلة التي أطاحت بنظام مبارك وسياساته التي أفقرت الشعب المصري، وبددت العديد من ثرواته، وهمشت دور مصر الدولي والاقليمى.

وهاهو الشعب المصري يخوض معركته من أجل التحول الديمقراطي والاجتماعي، وفى الوقت الذي تتسابق فيه القوى الوطنية من أجل تنظيم نفسها في أحزاب ونقابات وجمعيات يأتي عيد العمال ليقرر شعب مصر وفى القلب منه العمال الاحتفال به في ميدان التحرير تأكيدا لثورته التي رفعت شعار:

( كرامة….حرية…عدالة اجتماعية).

 لقد تمكن الشعب المصري بعد الإطاحة بمبارك من الحصول على قدر كبير من حريته، ومازال يناضل من اجل استعادتها كاملة، ويخوض معركته أيضا من أجل الكرامة والعدالة الاجتماعية باعتبارهما مرتكزين رئيسيين للتحول الاجتماعي المنشود، وإذ تدعوا القوى الوطنية والعمالية الموقعة على هذا البيان كافة جموع الشعب المصري للاحتفال بعيد العمال بميدان التحرير بداية من الساعة الواحدة ظهر يوم 1 مايو 2011 فإنها تؤكد دعمها للمطالب العمالية والاجتماعية التالية:

–        إسقاط قانون تجريم الاضرابات.

–        إطلاق الحريات النقابية.

–        تنفيذ الاحكام القضائية بحل مجالس إدارات الاتحاد الرسمى ونقاباته.

–        وضع حدين أدنى وأقصى للأجور بما يكفل حياه كريمة للعمال والموظفين ويكفل تقريب الفروق بين الدخول.

–        تثبيت كافة العمالة المؤقتة.

–        تعديل قانون العمل 12 لسنة 2003 بما يضمن استقرار وأمان علاقات العمل والحد من سلطات صاحب العمل في شأن قرارات الفصل.

–        عزل رؤساء وأعضاء مجالس إدارات الشركات والهيئات التي بددت المال العام وسهلت الاستيلاء عليه.

–        إلغاء كافة القرارات التعسفية التي صدرت ضد القيادات العمالية التي كانت تناهض الفساد.

–        إقرار برامج رعاية صحية واجتماعية للعمالة غير المنتظمة والمتعطلين عن العمل.

–        إقرار معاش بطالة لكافة المتعطلين عن العمل.

–        رد الدولة لكافة أموال التأمينات التي اقترضتها ولم تقوم بإرجاعها دون وجه حق.

–        استقلال موازنة التأمينات عن الموازنة العامة للدولة.

–        وقف العمل بقانون التأمينات الاجتماعية الذي أقر في عهد مبارك.

–        إيقاف سياسة الخصخصة التي بددت ثروات الشعب المصري.

–        كفالة حقوق الشعب المصري في السكن والعمل والتعليم والعلاج.

–        إيقاف المحاكمات العسكرية للمدنيين.

–        محاكمة كافة المتورطين في جرائم تعذيب الشعب المصري.

–        إلغاء حالة الطوارىء.

–        إعادة تشغيل كافة المصانع المتوقفة عن العمل والتي هرب رجال أعمالها.

كما تؤكد كافة القوى على أن التحول الاجتماعي والسياسي المنشود لا يعنى تغيير الأشخاص بقدر ما يعنى تغيير السياسات لضمان حقوق الفقراء والمهمشين في العيش بكرامة وحرية.

الموقعون:

* الاتحاد المصرى للنقابات المستقلة.

* نقابة الضرائب العقارية المستقلة

* اللجنة النقابية مطار القاهرة
* نقابة النقل الجوي
* نقابة العاملين بمستشفى منشية البكري
*النقابة العامة للعلوم الصحية
* النقابة العامة لعمال هيئة النقل العام

* نقابة أصحاب المعاشات
* نقابة عمال مراكز المعلومات (تحت التأسيس)
*عمال غزل شبين.

*عمال غزل المحلة.

*عمال الحديد والصلب بحلوان.

* نقابة العاملين بصناعة الأفلام (أول نقابة فنية مستقلة)

* اللجنة المصرية لحماية حقوق العمل.

* حملة معاً من أجل استقلال الحريات النقابية.

* اللجنة التنسيقية للحقوق والحريات النقابية والعمالية.
* المركز المصري للحقوق الاقتصادية والاجتماعية.

*المبادرة المصرية للحقوق الشخصية.

* مؤسسة أولاد الأرض لحقوق الإنسان.
* مركز هشام مبارك للقانون.

* مركز النديم.
* جمعية النهوض بالمشاركة المجتمعية.

* مركز القاهرة لدراسات حقوق الإنسان.

* الشبكة العربية لمعلومات حقوق الإنسان.

* مؤسسة المرأة الجديدة.

* مؤسسة حرية الفكر والتعبير.

* الاشتراكيون الثوريون.
* حزب العمال الديمقراطي.
* تيار التجديد الاشتراكي.
* حزب التحالف الشعبي الاشتراكي.
* حزب الغد

* الحزب الشيوعي المصري.
* ائتلاف شباب الثورة
* الحزب المصري الديمقراطي الاجتماعي.

* الحزب الاشتراكي المصري (تحت التأسيس).

* الحركة الشعبية الديمقراطية (حشد).
* رابطة شباب الثورة التقدمي.
* اتحاد الشباب الديمقراطي.
* اتحاد شباب الثورة.
* حركة شباب من أجل العدالة والحرية.
* حركة ٦ ابريل.
* الجبهة القومية للعدالة والديمقراطية.
* حركة المصري الحر

* تحالف المنظمات النسوية
* اللجان الشعبية للدفاع عن الثورة

A day in Niqab in the midst of the Cairo Salafi movement [Part 2]

The day started as any other. It was a Friday, and I headed down to Tahrir Square in Cairo to participate in the protest to “Save the Revolution”. I bumped into my friend from university, Amina Ismail, there who told me she was going to dress in Niqab and attend a Salafi conference and asked if I wanted to join. I ended up having one of the most interesting days of my life.

There is a lot to write about it, so this post will be divided into several parts.

Part 1: A day in Niqab

Part 2: The Salafis are taking over Egypt (omg!)

As we drove through the city, three girls in Niqab, listening to hip hop music on the way (music that neither of us normally actually listen to) we were headed to Amr Ibn El-Aas Mosque on Friday April 1st to attend the Salafi Conference.

Driving through Masr El Adima neighbourhood, we stopped by a local Cafe (or Ahwa) to make sure we were headed down the right path, as soon as I lowered the window the man said “Yes, yes, you’re on the right track, keep on driving”. Apparently it was evident to the man where we were headed.

The Salafi Movement Conference

Upon arrival at the mosque, the first thing we saw was a huge sign at the entrance “Egypt is an Islamic country, not a civil one nor a military one” along with another that read “There is no separation between the state and religion”. Red flags went up in my head. We walked into the mosque, took off our shoes and made our way into the women’s section. As we sat there, all we could do was listen to the speeches being made by the sheikhs. We couldn’t hear half of what was being said due to the fact that the speakers used were terrible and the amount of children running around and playing did not help. That is why some of the information I will share from what was said at the conference is first hand information I heard there, while some will be gathered from news reports about the conference and attributed.

This conference was called “The Salafi Movement Conference” and hosted some of Egypt’s most prominent sheikhs in support of the Salafi movement including Mohamed Ismail El Mokadem, Said Abdelazim, Yasser El Borhami and Ahmed Farid.

Abdelazim mentioned that Egypt should be run according to the Sharia law, he went on to say that not only Egypt but the whole Arab world should be run by Sharia and should not be split into different states. He discussed that the way the Arab world is divided is due to European colonization and is not based on more than that. He said that we should all live according to Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) way of life. According to Ahram Online, Abdelazim also mentioned that the media had a huge attack on the Salafis in the past weeks and mentioned that they need to get their sources and information straight before they publish any information about the movement. Sheikh Berhamy also mentioned that there were rumors that the Salafis were to attack unvieled women and destroy moslaeums built in mosques and called them lies. He said the Salafi movement strives to change people’s attitudes through preaching and not violence.

Sheikh Abdelazim discussed the vote on the constitutional amendments and made a statement that the result turning to “yes” proves how strong the Islamic movement is. Even though it has been argued that most people who votes yes did so for the sake of “stability” or for their own valid political reasons rather than anything to do with article 2 of the constitution which states that Egypt is an Islamic country and that the Sharia law is a main point of reference. An article that was not even up for referendum. He labeled possible presidential candidates Mohamed El Baradei and Amr Moussa along with prominent business man Naguib Sawiris as “Liberals” who were campaigning for the “No” vote.

What now?

A Sheikh and Priest walk through Tahrir on Friday as a symbol of National Unity. Photo by Deena Adel

This information is not new in anyway. We all knew that the Islamic movements in Egypt want Egypt to become an Islamic state, governed by Sharia law. Just like the liberals want Egypt to become a secular state, just like the socialists want Egypt to become a socialist state. With the January 25th revolution, all these different groups that were previously suppressed by the government started appearing in the media and going public with their message. Then again, isn’t that what we were fighting for? Freedom of expression and liberation? We all knew these groups existed, and they have a voice. Some of them are extreme, yes, and any violence should be punishable by law. Then again its up to us to form groups, movements and parties to represent us in the political arena. The brotherhood, the Salafis and other movements should have a voice, as they do represent a certain amount of the population. Other ways of thinking should be represented and be part of legislation and decision making as well. As long as we will hopefully have a constitution that protects our freedoms and rights as citizens of this country, no matter our gender, religion or beliefs, then there is no fear of the “Isamic Monster” the old regime used to keep convincing us that their oppression would be better than these extreme Islamic movements.

I leave you with this video from the Bassem Youssef Show  (Arabic) Egypt’s very own Jon Stewart. In this episode he disucsses the Constitutional Referrendum that took place last month. This somehow was one of the main events that shed a lot of light on the Salafis in Egypt, and made it seem that 77% of Egyptians voted yes because the Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood pushed them to do so. Whereas as I mentioned above many people voting yes, were voting yes for political and economic reasons. He satirically shows that we have many different, and mostly opposing opinions and political ideologies in Egypt, and of course we’re at a phase where they are clashing because for the first time in decades they have the freedom to speak and act somewhat freely. However, we will find a common ground between the islamists, liberals, conservatives…etc where we can all co-exist freely, just like we did in Tahrir square just a few months back.

A day in Niqab in the midst of the Cairo Salafi movement [Part 1]

The day started as any other. It was a Friday, and I headed down to Tahrir Square in Cairo to participate in the protest to “Save the Revolution”. I bumped into my friend from university, Amina Ismail, there who told me she was going to dress in Niqab and attend a Salafi conference and asked if I wanted to join. I ended up having one of the most interesting days of my life.

There is a lot to write about it, so this post will be divided into several parts.

Part 1: A day in Niqab

Part 2: The Salafis are taking over Egypt

I have always struggled with where I stand on Niqab. On one hand, I consider myself quite a liberal individual and a supporter of women’s rights and equality, so the idea of Niqab always made me uncomfortable. Why would a woman choose to be invisible, not to have a presence, and confine herself in this role? I would ask myself. However, I’m also a supporter of freedom of choice, and the freedom to live one’s own life as they please. So if a woman chooses this, then shouldn’t I be the first to respect that choice and let go of my prejudice? A constant struggle in my mind.

As I started to put on the Abbaya (the black loose curve free dress), the veil and the mask, I was already confused. My veil kept falling apart since I lack the skills to keep it on as I’ve never put on a veil in my life. The Burqa’, which is made up for four layers, two meant to be pulled back, and when in the front they show your forehead and completely cover your eyes. While the other two, are the ones below the eyes meant to cover the rest of the face. Every time I would bend down, or whenever some wind came along, the top two layers would cover my face and in the midst of confusion I’d tell my friends “I can’t see a thing, HELP!”, which they found hilarious every time.

Wearing the Niqab in Tahrir Square

As I walked through Tahrir, a place I’ve been frequently visiting since January 25th and a place where I’ve always felt the most free, all of a sudden a whole new set of feelings washed over me, none of them associated with freedom. I felt hot and uncomfortable. I couldn’t really see properly, and could only smell cloth. I bumped into people I knew, and my initial reaction was to go say hi when I caught their eye. But wait, they had no idea who I was. It was like my entire identity was erased. I was no longer Rowan as I’ve always known her. I was another person. A person who is ultra-religious. A person who chose to hide her identity in public. A person who chose to only be seen by family or another woman. I was someone who always dressed the same. It felt strange knowing that I had on my everyday clothes underneath, knowing that I’m still me, but no one sees it but myself. I don’t think I’ve ever felt less special. Even when I went home later dressed like this, my mother didn’t recognise me, not even when I spoke.

As sexual harassment (including groping, cat calling and stares from men) is so common in Egypt. And since I experience  it a lot in the kind of clothes I wear (that are not inappropriate or anything, really) I had heard that women in Niqab still experience harassment, less than us, but it was still there. I was very curious to see peoples’ reactions to me, particularly men’s. In all fairness I didn’t get harassed.  People’s reactions however, were another story. Some completely avoided looking at me or catching my eye, almost as if in fear of me. While others would just blatantly stare right at me in disbelief. There were some who just reacted to me in the same way they probably would have if I was myself though.

What struck me also, was the expectations that are put on a woman in Niqab. My friend Deena, also in Niqab, had her professional camera as we walked around, and was taking photos of the small protest in solidarity with the third Palestinian Intifada. I thought she looked so weird, and so did people around us, who would just pass by and stare. A feeling of guilt swept over me for feeling that way though. I mean, just because a woman chose to wear Niqab, does that mean she has no passions, no interests and no hobbies but praying, reading Quraan or getting married and having babies? I hated myself a little for feeling awkward to her taking photos with that camera. At the same time, I questioned whether it was a fair prejudice to make since the Niqab is not just about what you wear, but rather a series of life choices that come with it. Like when my other friend, Amina decided to put up the Niqab in the middle of Tahrir because she felt too hot and suffocated. A woman and a man sitting next to us on the curb started arguing with her on how she’s misrepresenting Niqab and that she has no right to do this. As we walked away from them, with Amina complaining that they had no right to butt in and tell her what to do, I found myself questioning out loud whether I agreed or disagreed with them. Another mind-boggle.

An intriguing situation happened to us while we were at the Amr Ibn El Aas mosuqe listening to the Salafi sheikhs (of course listening, not seeing, as we were sitting in the women’s section of the mosque where we had speakers that had horrible quality, not to mention the insane amount of kids running around and playing). As we sat there, a woman approached us and asked the three of us “How old are you girls?” and we answered “23”. She explained that she wanted to find a bride for her 38 year old brother, and asked if we knew a “pretty bride” (aka 3arousa Amoura) like us but a bit older. I found this peculiar. She knew nothing about us. All she could tell was that we were religious. And that was apparently all she was looking for in a bride for her brother. I was struck with how different people can be. I cannot imagine anyone looking for my life partner on my behalf. Not to mention that the search would be based on only one aspect I might add.

At the end of the day, I don’t know if I can extract lessons learned from this experience to share. All I can really say is that walking in another persons’ shoes has never felt so real.

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