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.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE and ACTION ALERT

30 June 2009

ISRAEL ATTACKS JUSTICE BOAT; KIDNAPS HUMAN RIGHTS WORKERS; CONFISCATES MEDICINE, TOYS AND OLIVE TREES

(http://www.paltelegraph.com/palestine/gaza-strip/1228-israel-attacks-peace-actvists-and-humantarians-on-board-of-justice-boat-near-gaza)

For more information contact (in Cyprus):
Greta Berlin (English)
tel: +357 99 081 767 / friends@freegaza.org

Caoimhe Butterly (Arabic/English/Spanish):
tel: +357 99 077 820 / sahara78@hotmail.co.uk
http://www.FreeGaza.org

and in England:

Hilary Smith
tel: +447818040982

[23 miles off the coast of Gaza, 15:30pm] – Today Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (see below for a complete list of passengers). The passengers and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel.

There are six British citizens on board the boat, including the captain, Dennis Healey.

“This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip,” said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate. “President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that’s exactly what we tried to do. We’re asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey.”

According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are “trapped in despair.” Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel’s December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel’s disruption of medical supplies.

“The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza, hope that the sea route would open for them, and they would be able to transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the schools, hospitals and thousands of homes destroyed during the onslaught of “Cast Lead”. Our mission is a gesture to the people of Gaza that we stand by them and that they are not alone” said fellow passenger Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland.

Just before being kidnapped by Israel, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: “No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children’s toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters.”

Arraf continued, “Israel’s deliberate and premeditated attack on our unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand our immediate and unconditional release.”

###

WHAT YOU CAN DO!

CONTACT the International Committee of the Red Cross to ask for their assistance in establishing the wellbeing of the kidnapped human rights workers and help in securing their immediate release!

Red Cross Israel
tel: +972 3524 5286
fax: +972 3527 0370
tel_aviv.tel@icrc.org

Red Cross Switzerland:
tel: +41 22 730 3443
fax: +41 22 734 8280

Red Cross USA:
tel: +1 212 599 6021
fax: +1 212 599 6009

###

Kidnapped Passengers from the Spirit of Humanity include:

Denis Healey, UK
Denis is Captain of the Spirit of Humanity. This will be his fifth voyage to Gaza.

Alex Harrison, UK
Alex is a solidarity worker from Britain. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Fathi Jaouadi, UK
Fathi is a British journalist, Free Gaza organizer, and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.

Adnan Mormesh, UK
Adnan is a solidarity worker from Britain. He is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Ishmahil Blagrove, UK
Ishmahil is a Jamaican-born journalist, documentary film maker and founder of the Rice & Peas film production company. His documentaries focus on international struggles for social justice.

Theresa McDermott, Scotland
Theresa is a solidarity worker from Scotland. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Khalad Abdelkader, Bahrain
Khalad is an engineer representing the Islamic Charitable Association of Bahrain.

Othman Abufalah, Jordan
Othman is a world-renowned journalist with al-Jazeera TV.

Khaled Al-Shenoo, Bahrain
Khaled is a lecturer with the University of Bahrain.

Mansour Al-Abi, Yemen
Mansour is a cameraman with Al-Jazeera TV.

Fatima Al-Attawi, Bahrain
Fatima is a relief worker and community activist from Bahrain.
Juhaina Alqaed, Bahrain
Juhaina is a journalist & human rights activist.

Huwaida Arraf, US
Huwaida is the Chair of the Free Gaza Movement and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.

Kaltham Ghloom, Bahrain
Kaltham is a community activist.

Derek Graham, Ireland
Derek Graham is an electrician, Free Gaza organizer, and first mate aboard the Spirit of Humanity.

Mairead Maguire, Ireland
Mairead is a Nobel laureate and renowned peace activist.

Lubna Masarwa, Palestine/Israel
Lubna is a Palestinian human rights activist and Free Gaza organizer.
Cynthia McKinney, US
Cynthia McKinney is an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice issues, as well as a former U.S. congressperson and presidential candidate.

Adam Qvist, Denmark
Adam is a solidarity worker from Denmark. He is traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.

Adam Shapiro, US
Adam is an American documentary film maker and human rights activist.

Kathy Sheetz, US
Kathy is a nurse and film maker, traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.

EMERGENCY PROTEST AGAINST MASSACRES IN GAZA!

TIME: MONDAY 29th, 4PM

LET US SHOW OUR OUTRAGE TOGETHER!

PLEASE TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY

LOCATION: SHARE3 AL-THAQAFA, SHMESANI

(This protest has been approved by the Governor of Amman and is organised by concerned Jordanian citizens).

Contact:

Mary (079 55 22 702) (English/French)
Ruba (079 55 07 479) (Arabic)
Mohammad (079 9207 056 (Arabic/Spanish)

Note: We will be gathering at the Radisson SAS hotel at 11am tomorrow (Monday) to prepare posters and banners. We need help. Please join us. Please call numbers above for information.

اعتصام إحتجاجاً على المجازر في غزة

الوقت: غداً الإثنين 29/12 الساعة الرابعة مساءاً

المكان: شارع الثقافة – الشميساني

لنظهر غضبنا معا!

من فضلكم أخبروا أصدقائكم وأقاربكم

(يلاقي هذا الإحتجاج موافقة من محافظة عمان وينظم من قبل مواطنين أردنيين مهتمين)

للاتصال

ماري 0795522702 انجليزي/فرنسي
ربا 0795507479 عربي
محمد 0799207056 عربي/إسباني

ملاحظة: سنتجمع في فندق الراديسون ساس غداً (الإثنين) الساعة 11 صباحاً لتجهيز اليافطات. نحتاج للمساعدة. نرجوا أن تنضموا إلينا. للمزيد من المعلومات يرجى الاتصال في الأرقام أعلاه.

 

I feel impotent. I feel angry and frustrated. Gaza is being leveled people are being exterminated like they are vermin, rodents to be snuffed out easily and quickly. And we watch doing nothing. You can go out and demonstrate in front of government offices, embassies, unions. You can donate time, money, resources and blood. You can send thoughts, prayers and all of that. But it is all futile; The killing will not stop.

Aid is all good and necessary to support the Palestinians. The opening of borders for humanitarian cases is also good. Solidarity is good. Our anger and frustration is all good. But to me it is all a farce. All of this should never have to happen! There should be freedom of movement. There should be food, water, medicine, electricity and dignity. And there is no way we can give any of that to the people in Gaza.

Nothing justifies the killing of humans in this way. This genocide, this cleansing is an extermination of a peoples unwanted by the Israelis. It is horrific and the international community condemns these acts with one hand and with the other continues to support Israel with justifications, sympathy, money, and weapons.

I feel impotent because whatever I do here may help the situation but will not stop it and that is what needs to happen. I have been racking my brains since I heard and my anger and frustration levels have just been escalating. If I demonstrate will politicians or diplomats here be able to pressure Israel into stopping? If I donate blood will it erase the trauma and the pain inflicted in the psyches of the wounded and the maimed? If I send aid in any form or shape or size will it bring back the dead?

Who can make this stop? How can we make it stop? I am at a loss! As an individual sitting here in the comfort of my home, in the warmth of my office, behind a screen what can I do? Singularly or collectively not just to help ease the suffering but to stop this atrocity WHAT CAN I DO?