Action


I want to start collecting pictures of people telling me why they need Feminism in Arabic… if you want to participate then just write out this sentence and complete it and take a picuture and email it to me (shalabieh [@] gmail.com) or post it to the blog here 🙂

_______أحتاج النسوية

If you don’t know what I am talking about take a look at the previous post Who needs Feminism? 

 

 

 

I came across this post today (http://feministsindia.com/who-needs-feminism/) and I would love to do an Arabic version.
Here is the video from the post, anyone in? 

So its that time of the year again… SPRING CLEANING. And as you go through your closets and cupboards and boxes and bags you will have things you don’t use anymore, things you don’t like anymore, things that don’t fit anymore, things you don’t have places for anymore…

 

Don’t keep them… give me a call and drop them off at mine and I will recycle, reuse, redistribute them to those who may need them.

 

In return you can go through the growing pile of things and take whatever treasure you may find.

 

So its recycling swapping cleansing drive…

 

Things you can put into the pile:

Clothes,

books,

toys,

kitchenware,

appliances

gadgets,

knicknacks

Household items

 

The pile grows and shrinks so bring them any time… to my house or my office 🙂

 

 

And thanks in advance for the contributions.

I’ve been having a lot of different conversations or reading commentary on various things that have opinion and not fact as their argument.  Some of my comments have been heard and in others I am asked for the burden of proof, and other times people just dig their heels and stick to rumors and gossip. I am really tired of having arguments with people when there is no factual proof for them to argue from and they are using opinion as fact. Yes you have a right to your opinion but then make it clear that it is so… I will give an example of one such discussion I am having right now.

 

A couple of days ago Future DVD Store in Amman was attacked. A physical and violent assault on the owner, his son and their property (their new store) took place. On camera there is record of four men assaulting them with what looks like bats. A criminal investigation is still taking place. No official statement of who the attackers are and why this attack took place. Yet, boycott calls and allegations against one of their competition started immediately. It is are all over the social networks, on and offline.  I find this very disturbing. Gossiping and rumor spreading, and action to hurt another business are the first response when really there is nothing factual to back it up except broken glass.

 

I think that if you are going to make an allegation against any entity you have to have the proof to back it up. The burden of proof lies on you, not me. If it is opinion then say it is so and do not word is as fact. I like hard evidence- not opinion!

 

Going back to the Future DVD store. Boycotting the competition doesn’t help Future as much as supporting Future would. The owner is in need of both moral and financial support after the attack and so if you feel that you want to do something- do something positive. Go to the store, see Zaki, buy a DVD. And when the truth about the incident comes out… then take the appropriate action and back up what you say.

 

Yesterday I went to the solidarity demonstration in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Amman. It was a very interesting experience as the crowd was already large at the start and just kept growing. But what was more interesting was the atmosphere, the crowds and the chants. It was something that I don’t think anyone of us would have witnessed a few years back let alone a month ago.

The crowd was mixed in so many ways whether it was age, gender, class, and there was a sprinkling of varied nationalities too. Everyone chanted, mingled and well was in good spirits. The interesting thing for me was the chanting, people were not only saying things in solidarity of the Egyptian uprising but also anti government, anti peace treaty, anti Israeli in the most explicit of ways. They were even taunting the Mukhabart to record in their notebooks that the people are here to make change and are the decision makers.  Maybe I haven’t been to many Jordanian protests before, but I really felt this was different. There was boldness in how and what people were saying. It was as if a muzzle was somewhat removed. This is the second time I see something like this happen to Jordanians (the first being post Gaza Massacres in 2008). Jordanian’s are slowly and in small numbers waking up and finding their voice and it’s a beautiful thing. We need a political awakening and awareness. We need to get out of our comfort zones or fear zones and work towards a more just and equitable society for all. There is a lot of talk of reform and ways to address it from government change to electoral reform and educational reform. This discussion needs to step away from the few and be taken to the streets. This is slowly happening; it will not be the same approach as that of Tunisia or Egypt, not today at least. But these are interesting times and change is coming. We can either be ostriches and ignore what is happening around us or be proactive and actively participate in any which way we can for social and positive change in our society and in the arena where we are most affective.

Back to the demonstration and Egypt, I do want to say that some of the chants were calling for armed resistance and guns and violence. I was very saddened and upset when I heard these chants. The Egyptians out in Tahrir Square are not carrying guns, are not calling for violent resistance and are not building militias. They started and continue to hold up with peaceful resistance. Violence perpetuated in the uprising is initiated and perpetuated by the State and State actors. And if anything  they are perhaps the most conscientious and humorous revolutionaries in history!  We have a lot to learn from the Egyptian protestors, they are not only inspiring, they have started a process of liberation for all of us and to that we must all be grateful.

This morning, I decided I would take pictures of the waves crashing on the shores of Alexandria since the winds were high and that usually means dramatic waves.  Innocent enough, no?

However, this morning, and as I started my walk on the cornish the first encounter was lets just say expected. Having been in Egypt before I was no stranger to the harrassment on the streets of Cairo or Alexandria. Add to that, I had just seen the Egyptian film 678 last night in the cinema and, yes, you guessed it, it was about harrassment.

You may be thinking “What happened?” Well, let me tell you. An older man with white in his hair was standing behind a bus stop bench, and he had his penis exposed and he was massaging it and looking at me.  I stop and I tell him in my best Egyptian Arabic and sternest angriest voice something along the lines that this is ridiculous, put your shit away, what is this stupidity, besides there is barely anything there. And sure enough a second later as I look back (having walked away) he had zipped himself up again. I see a man in uniform a couple of steps away and I shout out to him and tell him there is a man playing with his dick and point him out to him. I keep walking.

Later and after some reflection and talking to my friend about this I made the following observations:

a- I was expecting this to happen.
b- Seeing an exposed man did not faze me in the least.
c- I was not upset by what happened but rather that I didnt have my camera out to take his picture.
d- I have learned to normalize and deal with sexual harrasment as a daily occurance.

My observatoins upset me because I believe that:

a- I have a right to go out into the world with the expectation of no violence.
b- I have seen so many unwanted exposed penises in the streets that it no longer shocks me when a man exposes himself to me in public.
c- The idea that I missed an opportunity to document such an occurance is upseting because I missed it. But also because the idea that I wanted to document it disturbing one and I am not sure why, I will mull that one over for a bit longer.
d- It upsets me that the normal state of my world and that of many women around me is one of sexual violence and harrassment.  And that it is so normal that I have with me an arsenal of tools and skills I use to combat it and not a day goes by with out the use of at least one of those strategies.

I have written about harrassment many times before and I will continue to write about it. The silence needs to be broken. Our bodies are not public property, they need to and should be respected. If you too have been harrassed you can have a voice too. There are many initatives around the world about this issue one that is in the making (and I work with) is objecDEFY, you can tell your story there too!

I was very disturbed about a month ago when I saw in my Facebook feed the following:

“Don’t ya just LUV when you’re walking in BROAD DAYLIGHT & some GUY runs up behind you, CHOKES you, RAMS his hand UP YOUR ASS, DIGS his fingers in SO HARD you’re STILL SORE hours later, DRAGS you to the ground so you CUT YOUR LEG & PULL a TENDON & he RUNS AWAY like the fucking COWARD that he is & you (think you) CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT BECAUSE WE DON’T LIVE IN THAT KIND OF WORLD… don’t ya luv when that happens?”

The first thought in my mind when I read this was this must be a story she came across when doing research for OD. This can’t be real, this can’t have happened to her. But it was real, it did happen to her and this is her story.

I am angry, I am tired and I am frustrated of how unsafe and unforgiving this world is for anybody who dares to claim her or his space, her or his rightful space in this discriminatory world. Especially when that space is one outside the “norm”. I am tired of walking out into the street in a bubble that is prickly and made of steel, ready to burst at the simplest provocation. I am tired of the friendly neighbor that had become a threat, the grocer that crossed the line with snears and lustful good mornings, the man on the scooter that thinks it’s OK to ogle you. And if you let your guard down, or forget your bubble and they get too close, they touch you emotionally, psychologically, and physically and scar you.

I have a right to my integrity as a being, to be here un-harassed, unharmed, to walk in the sunlight and enjoy the moonlight without worry of being followed, grabbed, pinched, catcalled or worse. I want to be able to walk down the street without my smile interpreted as an invitation. I want my rightful space and freedom.

I have spoken about this before and will continue to do so, Jackie and I have worked on ObjecDEFY (OD) for over a year now and we encourage you to break the silence as well and defy our daily objectification, let your voice be heard, share with us your stories and here is the starting point:  www.objecdefy.com. And if you can tweet the story, repost it on your blog, and tell everyone Jackie’s story because we need to break the silence.

It’s that time again in Jordan when the streets are littered with those photoshoped pictures of middle aged men with mustaches peppered with the occasional female face and salted with the younger faces of men who have inherited the desire to run for a parliamentary seat. But what they all share are the tired old slogans that include nationalism, Palestine, freedom and some sort of economic mumbo jumbo.  What irks me the most is the complete lack of respect for the voters’ intellect and our ability to see right through these slogans.

 

 

For example you have a slogan that reads “نعم, الوطن لجميع’ this translates into “Yes, the homeland is for all”. So what does that really mean? Does that mean as a Jordanian woman I can pass on my nationality to anyone even my Palestinian kids? Does that mean a Jordanian with Palestinian ID no longer has to worry about the arbitrary withdrawal of Jordanian nationality and citizenship? Does that mean a migrant that has been in Jordan for over 20 years, has paid taxes and become part of the Jordanian fabric they can now become a Jordanian citizen and actually vote? What does a homeland for all mean, really mean, on practical terms?

 

 

 

OK let’s move on to another slogan that is about إصلاح or in English reform. Hmmm this guy among others does not say much else on the issue of reform. So my question is with the government already reforming and privatizing so much of its institutions what reform is he talking about? Political reform? I mean some of our biggest problems stem from the fact that as people we do not have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and don’t get me started on the freedom to associate and the new Associations’ Law. Does he want to tackle these issues or is this not reform worth working for?

 
What about the one that calls for a “فلسطين حرة” a free Palestine. Seriously, how will you as an MP work to free Palestine? Will you call for a state boycott on Israeli goods? Will you work to revoke and amend the “negotiated” Peace treaty and create more just and more equitable terms for Jordanians and Palestinians? Or will we wage war? What will you do as an elected MP to Free Palestine?

 

 

 

Another slogan that is interesting and at some level honest “بلا شعارات”  translates into “Without Slogans”. At least this candidate had the decency not to insult us with empty slogans and lofty statements. But even a no slogans campaign is condescending and arrogant for it doesn’t convey the true essence of this candidate’s campaign. When discussing her background it turns out this candidate is a hard core capitalist with a history and track record of working for the Jordan Investment Board and the Chamber Of Commerce which to me are red flags. What agenda will the person who is promising no slogans be pushing and will it be one of social justice and engagement or an elitist, capitalist agenda that will be pushing Jordan further towards a “global economy” whatever that may be?

 

 

 

And don’t get me started on the slogan that drips with religiosity and how it is our religious duty to vote and vote for the right man otherwise condemnation and eternal hell await us!

 

 

 

We as voters need to look critically at these slogans and read, question, and critic the agendas and manifestos of these candidates if we truly want change. Voting for the same mustache, same slogan, and same tired old parliament will bring us nothing but the status quo.  And it is this status quo that got us to disband the parliament we last elected and has us come back to this same place again where we as a nation get to “choose” our representatives.

 

 

 

I would really like to find a candidate that has engaged with the street, the public, on a grassroots level. Someone who has not just intellectually masturbated in political salons about what this country “needs”. I would love to see the day come when I don’t have to try and sift through names I don’t know and read through empty slogans and agendas but engage with an MP that shares my politics, values and beliefs and is able to represent the people and what they desire rather than the will of the government masked as the “voice of the people”. I would love to find a candidate that has started working on issues for the people, is from the people way before election campaigns start. I want a candidate that has tried to instigate positive change within our communities and societies because it’s the right thing to do, and is a way of life for them, not because they aspire to be and Member of Parliament or Cabinet one day.

 

 

 

 

Until that day comes I will vote because it is my political right to vote. As engaged responsible citizens it is our duty to go and vote. Because I count, you count and you count and you count… we all count and when we are counted our voices can be heard. Members of Parliament are our representatives in government. They are the voice of the people. Today we have a choice to make, remain silent and take the day off come Election Day, or go to a polling station and vote. And when we vote we also make a choice we can either choose to make a difference and keep the status quo by voting for someone, anyone even if they don’t carry our message or ideals or desires for a society, a better Jordan, because they are the lesser of all evils present or we can choose change.  But how if we don’t choose a candidate you ask? By voting blank.

 

 
If change doesn’t manifest it’s self in the form of a candidate then you can choose change by voting blank. Write in NO CONFIDENCE, I DON’T WANT ANY OF YOU, Captain Majed from Abtal Al Mala3eb or your own name even, just make sure you have a ballot and you use it. That ballot may or may not be counted in the results but you as voter will be counted towards voter turnout and THAT is a significant message rather than the one of apathy sent by sipping a coffee from the comfort of your home or favorite café. It is a strong message of a politically engaged and aware citizenship that is tired of the same old crap over and over and over again. Because voting for the lesser of all evils is voting for the status quo, and the status quo just won’t do anymore.

 

Last night I was coming home from Hamra and passed through the Bshara Khoury intersection. What I saw was very disturbing. A police car was smashed up so badly, and not from a car accident. The proliferation of soldiers and police throughout the intersection was jarring to say the least and the smoke from burning tires was dissipating. What was more disturbing was past the intersection and before there was no such signs of violence or dissent.  Chatting with the service driver I found out it was a very strong objection by the people to the continued, arbitrary and chaotic electricity cuts in the city of Beirut.

I’ve been in Beirut on and off for 9 months now and one thing that has been constant was the electricity rationing. In central Beirut we are lucky we only get one cut a day and it last 3 hours. There is a schedule, a cycle you can chart and follow. But what has been happening in the summer and due to the excessive heat additional rationing has been introduced; only it has no rhyme or reason. But, even with this erratic additional cutting we are still privileged. If you are not living in central Beirut this means you have electricity for four hours at a time and then it is cut for four hours and back again for four and off again.  GO farther afield and you get less and less electricity with longer periods of cuts that can go up to 12 hours.

Tourists don’t really have to deal with any of this, they may not even notice it, but for the people living here it can be a nightmare. You can’t store anything in a fridge. You can’t turn on a fan let alone an A/C, you sometimes have to deal with total darkness, electrical appliances sometime just frizz out and die, if you live or work in a tall building you are screwed. I am sure you can think of further horrors related to being without electricity.

A lot of people have found solutions around the electricity cuts, but not everyone can afford them and so, even though I was disturbed I was not surprised by the public display of anger. What did happen though, was that in my mind I thought of the water rationing and the shortages in Jordan and how if you don’t consume carefully your water ration will run out and you won’t be able to go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, bathe or more importantly drink and eat. Yet, Jordanians don’t go out and demand more water, burn tires and make very visible their dissatisfaction with the state of affairs. And I wonder why is that?

We keep saying the next war in the region will be over water, yet we wait patiently for it. I wonder if it is because we are all aware that this resource is not “generated” but rather dependent on forces of nature (over simplification and totally ignoring water treaties here). Is it because even in the winter we are constantly told how much water we have in our dams, what our consumption is and we are all collectively responsible for the water (just think of all the complaints the water company gets if there is a burst pipe in a street)? Or is it because we take it lying down and are not used to vocalizing our displeasures in such visible and violent ways because a- we aren’t used to it, b- we are afraid of the consequences.

I don’t really have any answers here and it might be I am comparing apples to oranges. But the question in my mind is would I rather have water or electricity rationed and cut? I don’t know. I do many things that I normally wouldn’t when there is no electricity, but I don’t know how long I can handle it in this unbearable humid heat. I’ve also have learned to conserve water, take bucket showers and value water like the scarce commodity it is, but I like flushing toilets and running facets. So where do draw the line on tolerable and intolerable things we can live with and without?

I love taxi rides and taxi drivers. Every time I get into a taxi it is an opportunity to learn more, interact more and get a pulse for what people are thinking, or even how they are thinking (some may argue it’s the other way round). But the thing I notice the most when in cabs, and this is symptomatic of a the majority of our society, is how we are always willing to shift responsibility and of course blame on the anonymous and magnanimous OTHER. The other can be the system, the government, women, men, youth and children, drivers, families, society…etc. The other depends on the topic of the conversation, and who we can blame for it. I will give you examples:

  • Littering: its bad, its dirty, “They should clean up the streets!”, as a tissue paper, cigarette butt, can, bag of junk food is being thrown out of the window of a car, even as we walk down the street.
  • Traffic: A sign that says do not turn, one way street, a place in which turning would be dangerous, etc… “Well they do it all the time!”
  • Price hikes: “They should do something about it”
  • Rainbow Street: “They ruined the street, they should complain and get it changed.”
  • Taxi driver status, benefits, needs: “They should give us health insurance/ social secutiry/ protect us…etc.”

The list goes on and on, what is common in all of them though is that there is never a language of “us”.

My response to most of these gripes is to ask “who are they?” or “where are you in the equation? Where is your voice?” or “ Why don’t you do anything about it?”. When I look back at my mother’s generation or the one after it there seems to have been a more vocal youth and a more vibrant society, but something (well many things) happened along the way which killed that voice, quelled that energy and just muted us. I don’t want to go into all those things right now because in a way it is irrelevant. We have inherited a muzzle. It’s up to us now how we choose to use that muzzle. How we give ourselves the excuses and convince ourselves of our impotence or NOT.

Each one of us is responsible for our lives, our community, our society and there is power in one as much as there is power in many. If we continue to toss the task on the infamous other, and expect things to be bright, and perfect then we deserve what we get. If I throw garbage out of my window, I shouldn’t expect a clean street or complain about it.  Extrapolate that to a larger bigger scale and even think government. If I don’t participate in elections, and then don’t hold my elected official accountable, why should I then expect this system to work for me?

I think it’s time we owned up to responsibilities as citizens since clearly leaving it to the other hasn’t worked for us. If we are unhappy at how we collectively behave towards something, about an attitude, about our street’s cleanliness then do something about it. There are many many many initiatives, programs, organization and even individuals out there doing this work. If you cant find them then start something yourself. I truly  believe that we have the power and the keys to  instigate positive change that starts at a small and local and scale. And slowly, it takes hold, it becomes the norm, and a few years later you turn around and something has changed. I am not saying its easy, I am saying is doable! If you are wondering what I am talking about then take a look a these initiatives and programs: Zikra, Ruwwad, Hamzet Wasel, Action Committee, Palestinian Action Network (PAN), Jabal Amman Residents’ Association (JARA), Gender Equality Movement, Urdun Mubdi3… and the list goes on. They all started as ideas and they have all become catalysts for change and voices for the communities and peoples they represent.  They are all very diverse in their ideas, approaches and goals, but they all share something, someone took responsibility and carried that frustration to the next level!

We continuously complain about issues, policies from government, and I want to flip that back at us, the people. There is a system, it may be defunct, but that is because we have made it so. When we elected our parliamentarians, there was a frenzy of slogans, rallies, and mustaches on the street what’s happened after that? We see the occasionally media frenzy, the storm in the tea cup, yet what do we do about it? Well, since we elected these MPs and we gave them the power to be our representatives, we also have the power to hold them accountable. Some of you are probably snickering at me right now, which I understand. However, let me ask you to do two things at this point: 1- Read this report that was issued by Al Quds Research Center, to understand how our current parliament works and what makes them tick. 2-Use their monitoring website Jordan Parliament Monitor (www.jpm.jo) that not only tells you who the MPs are and what committees they are on, but their voting track record even. From there you can get your representative to take on the issues you find important and need attention. If they don’t listen- well they don’t get your vote next time round, its that simple and that complicated at the same time.  When we use these tools, we become active participants in the debate, not just some frustrated ranting taxi drivers, and therein lies the difference.

I was at an Earth day festival in Washington DC this April, and there was a group, Zendik That were selling T-shirts with a slogan that I immediately fell in love with and adopted “Stop bitching start a revolution”. Pick up your trash, lobby your taxi driver friends or our parliamentarians, follow safety rules and start your revolutions, what are you waiting for?

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