violence


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!

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The last time I heard this much gun fire and intensity and felt this much anxiety over such hostility was when I was in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion 20 years ago. What am I talking about? The clashes between Hezbollah and Al Ahbash last night in Beirut of course. I was at home where I have no TV and I was trying to get my internet connection sorted out so the only source of news was my friend’s cell phone, she was getting regular updates from her mother and her friends. 20 minutes in we started to hear some crackling of bullets. News of a death had come to us. We decided to move to her place where there is a TV and an internet connection.

We called a cab and headed over to hers, what we didn’t think through was the proximity of her neighborhood to the fighting.  So we sat riveted to the TV and constantly monitoring the twitter feed (which was useless, who would tweet while there is a gun fight going on in their street!).  But the TV was constantly lowered as we tried to figure out where the gunshots were being fired and in between the fire there were the sounds of larger explosions some say it was RGPs other say it was a B7, what the hell is a B7? Or more importantly why do civilians have that kind of artillery?

The complexity of what happened and how it happened and why it happened and the various roles of different groups and sects is something I would find difficult to explain as it is multi-faceted. The idea that it flared up over a parking spot or a car passing by or something so trivial is an indication of something so deeply visceral that I can only begin to understand. So I wont even try, there are enough newspaper reports and other bloggers who I am sure are able to address the issue more eloquently and adequately.

I hate violence, I hate war, I hate guns. I hate how unnecessary it all is. Listening to various people talk about what happened and their reactions and how they all cope is very saddening. We all have our war scars and we are not allowed to forget them.  I am going to stop here, because I just can’t get over the “What the F*&$” in my head. Its not that I am scared of another flare up, it just revolts me at a visceral level. I have been through a war; I have seen invasion and occupation first had. I don’t want more war scars and I don’t want to reopen the ones I already have, I have struggled too hard with them already.

************

Pictures of the violence can be found here:
http://networkedblogs.com/7blry

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?

Mouthing off- Anita Kunz

Mouthing off- Anita Kunz

Yesterday I was in the elevator about to leave the office, I pressed GF to go down but instead it went up. It opened on the 5th floor and there a man was waiting. He was a construction worker and it was clear he thought that because of our varying class difference he should wait till I was done and call back the elevator. I thought that was silly, we both want to go down to the ground floor, and what a waste of time and energy. We are both human, what is this silliness of class and gender! But it seems the invitation to the ride the elevator meant that it was an invitation to harass. He looked me up and down, his pelvis made the slightest move closer and with a sly look on his face he winked. I shouted at him in the angriest and most assertive of my voices “NO”. His body crumbled and his demeanor became that of shame, he looked away and mumbled “Istagfur allah”, god forgive. We left the elevator.

This is the latest incident of a lifetime of incidents. I have normalized, and for too long, the harassment I endure at the hands of men. Growing up I have been stared at, touched, called out at and, and, and… but I learned to ignore, and become oblivious to it. I lived in a bubble where, in my mind, I was not objectified. Two years ago that changed. A friend of mine came to my house and started a conversation; she asked me “what do you do when you get harassed?” And I immediately said “I don’t get harassed.” What a farce, I get harassed on a regular basis, everyday is an assault of some sort, I just became very good at using defensive tactics that made me invisible, protected me, or just allowed me to disassociate from the stares, the following, the “accidental” brushing, the catcalling…etc.

Throughout the last two years I have worked with my dear friend on an initiative to combat this assault and take a more assertive stand on harassment. We are still working on it. While on this journey I have taken myself out of my bubble and taken notice of every transgression on my body, my being, my soul and I have reacted. I no longer disassociate but instead I engage by being more vocal, more aware and more assertive. Not just with the offenders but with other women too, learning from them and exchanging with them strategies, ideas and tools for dealing with the abuse. For example, last year I was walking down a street in downtown Amman. This man looks at my breasts lustfully and says in the sleaziest of tones “Shu hal ibizaz” (look at those tits). Had I been in my bubble I would have just kept walking without even hearing or acknowledging what he said. That is not what happened. I stopped in my tracks and turned around. I filled my lungs with air and started to tell him off in my loudest of voices, the point was to turn the shame towards him and attract attention to him (shaming the offender and exposing him was one the strategies we talked about and it worked). Being the coward that he was he quickly lowered his head and with a fearful and stricken look on his face he scuttled along quickly like the rat that he is, people were looking at him rather than at me and wondering what did he do, rather than what did I do. I walked away head held high knowing that I stood up for myself and countless other women. I knew that next time, as I am sure there will be a next time, this lowlife will think twice and maybe thrice before calling out at a woman.

These daily acts of violence and aggression, whether physical or not, mean that I have to change how I deal with the world and I hate it. I hate that men like the two I mention leave within me a bad feeling of distrust, anger, and aggression towards mankind. I hate that every time I try to be nice to a man he takes it as invitation to assault my being or body in some way or form. I hate that I have to always be on alert, on guard, suspicious of acts of kindness and withholding acts of kindness. But I have decided to turn that hate, anger and mistrust in to an act of empowerment.

I have experienced firsthand what the power of sharing, talking and exposing these acts of harassment can do, and so I am going to write, talk and expose these acts every time they happen. I will not be silenced, I am not a victim. It is my right to walk down the street with the respect and rights due to me and my body. And when those rights are taken away I will not wait for someone to “rescue” me or fight on my behalf. I can do it myself.

This is being circulated around the web and came into my inbox. We need to be vocal we need to be visible we need to use logical rhetoric. I am reposting their email that calls all of us to action. View their work so far and see how you can help!

 

Thanks.

S.

 

Dear friends,


We are a group of Arab women from Jordan who have come together in
response to the vicious attacks by Israel on Gaza. Our aim is to spread awareness across the globe on the atrocities and encourage all responsible citizens to act in the name of humanity. Help us give voice to those who have been silenced by doing the following: 

 1. Visit our YouTube links and rate us positively!

We need your views so we can become the first Arab youtube clip to get onto the most viewed page
The YouTube clips address the following:
On the Humanitarian Situation

On Israel’s Violations of Humanitarian Law
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxZoiYvNuqw&NR=1

On the Media Spin
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-8GqHL2J-I&feature=related

Our Call to Action
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAonLJHEuak

 

2. Forward this message to all your friends and encourage them to do the same! Make sure everyone you know watches these videos!

 3. Join our Facebook group and share our videos with your friends!

4.  Add our links on your website and/or blogs.

5.  View our Call to Action episode on You Tube on the 30th of January 2009 so that we may reach our goal of becoming the most viewed clip on YouTube so as to give the crisis in Gaza the exposure it desperately needs.

 

We need your support! Please help us! For more information, please
email at
voicesforpalestine@gmail.com

In solidarity,
Voices for Palestine
www.voicesforpalestine.com

 

My body aches for Gaza and in a good way. Last night I was one of the lucky few who went to the ARAMEX warehouse in Qastal to help with the donations campaign for Gaza. There were nearly a hundred volunteers working last night. We prepared packages of food for our brethren in Gaza.

What amazes me is how tirelessly everyone worked pitching in with a smile working as a team. Many of us came as strangers and we left as strangers, but throughout we worked as one family… a team. Helping each other, working together, knowing that at the end of this day we have helped many.

Last night when I spoke to organizers of the group we had unloaded between 12-15 truckloads of donations and packed upwards of 900 boxes of aid, and yet we were a handful of volunteers.

The warehouse is massive to say the least, it is full with donations ranging from medical supplies, food, hygiene products, clothing, blankets and tents and every other random item you can think of. Children, youth and adults, men and women were all there. No one is too young or too old to help. Everyone can make a difference. There is so much work to do that I am calling out again to each and every one I know and don’t know.

If you have to go to the gym, this is defiantly a work out. If you want meet friends, then bring them here for an hour or two. If you have a family engagement then ask them to donate too. That argileh can wait, that meal, that coffee wont miss you as much as the children will miss warmth, and food.

Each one of us makes choices everyday on what to do, where to go, what to eat… we are privileged. Use that privilege; make that choice come help us sort out donations today, tomorrow, and everyday until we are done. Does Palestine, does Gaza not deserve two or three hours of your time? Come and let your body ache too and in a good way!

For more information go to 7iber.com where you can see pictures, videos and get directions of all the good work we are doing.

If media isn’t your thing then you can still donate time and money to the 7iber campaign. Volunteers are needed to sort through donations and money is needed for medical supplies. The details are here:

http://www.7iber.com/blog/2009/01/10/new-7iber-campaigns-how-to-help-gaza/

http://www.black-iris.com/2009/01/10/how-to-help-gaza-now/

Make a difference and help get aid to Gaza!

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