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On Egypt’s cancer 24, February 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt.
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I suppose that everyone has a few topics on which they find it difficult to be balanced and polite. For me, I simply can’t help referring to Libya’s delinquent despot as the idiot Gaddafi. I also find it challenging to be civil about Italy’s joke of a leader. Yet one topic which angers me more than anything is undoubtedly the treatment of women in Egypt.

An odd topic you may think. Clearly I have never personally been affected by the legions of gropers and harassers that throng Cairo. Do I exaggerate? Well, ask any – and when I say any, I really do mean more or less any – woman who has, say, studied Arabic in Cairo for any length of time and you will get a litany of tales; most minor, some serious.

Within 6 hours of arriving in Cairo, one woman in my group of Arabic students had been harassed and groped on the street. She was walking by herself, well covered up, incidentally. Harassment of one form or other is a practically daily hourly occurrence. Actual physical assaults are, of course, rarer but will come eventually.

My wife, to take another example*, went the national museum in Cairo by herself. Having lived in Kuwait for a few years and travelled extensively thought the region, she was covered up in a basically shapeless outfit with her hair somewhat covered by a scarf. At the museum she was followed continuously by the security guards who worked there. They ignored the American tourists bussed in from Sharm in hot pants and skimpy tops, and, instead, decided to pursue her throughout the museum. How this cannot be seen as a predatory trait – going after the woman on her own not skimpliy clad women in groups – I just do not know. She was also physically assaulted on the way back from the museum by a random man in the street.

It is also important to point out that it is most certainly not just foreign women that suffer in this way. Egyptian women suffer day in day out, as I have noted before.

I write this now having just read another report of the attack on CBS’s correspondent last week. I did not write at the time fearing that it would just descend into a rant that looks essentially exactly like this… It turns out that as well as being stripped naked, punched, kicked and nearly raped, she was beaten with flag-poles.

This attack is, of course, of a different order to the attacks that I was referring to earlier. Its motivations are largely from a different place but still there is an underlying evil pathology of epic misogyny at play in Egypt that I have not come close to seeing anywhere else on earth. Were I to have a daughter one day, Egypt is – quite literally – the only place on earth where I would not want her to grow up. I’d take Kim Jong Ill and the lecherous Berlusconi’s rule before subjecting her to living in Cairo.

*For what it’s worth, I had a healthy ire for this topic well before this incident.

 

 

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Comments»

1. Paul - 24, February 2011

I don’t want to comment on it for the same reason; my sister faced something similar to your wife while on a trip there 3 years ago.

Also, great admiration for the Egyptian women who dove into the mob to rescue Logan and shielded her with their bodies.

I read (only on one web page mind) that the mob shouted ‘Jew’ at her during the assault. Any truth to it?

2. Withheld By Me - 24, February 2011

Could it be that the “shapeless outfit” your wife was wearing would make it easy to hide tiny artifacts, and perhaps that raised a red flag for the security guard?

Yes, there’s an awful amount of harassment going on. But I don’t think this particular “case study” has much merit. C’mon – think about it: if a security guy was feeling frisky and/or had an uncontrollable urge to act “predatory”, you think he’d do it on the job? And in a public place like a museum? LOL

All your wife would have had to do is let out a tiny scream. The guy’s career and his life would be ruined. Not to mention that the hot-pants brigade would undoubtedly come to the rescue, and the security guards would have themselves a nice little orgy. Cover your eyes, King Tut.

thegulfblog.com - 24, February 2011

I meant to say that actually: that it was Egyptian women that saved her. As for the other thing…no idea.

thegulfblog.com - 24, February 2011

Mmm…yes, they followed her because of their concern that she would have somehow opened a locked cabinet and stole stuff. Come on.

What do you mean it doesn’t have much merit? Do you think that I simply made it up? It’s a fact; that’s all there is to it. Now, we can discuss whether we think their behavior was predatory or not. I think so. The fact that they did do it on the job in the National Museum IS EXACTLY MY POINT!!!

3. Mohammad - 24, February 2011

Its really shameful. I was told by a lady friend in Cairo that she also frequently hears leud remarks from roadside guys, and this when she wears proper unrevealing clothings and headscarf.

I do not understand reasons behind this sick mentality.

4. Blake - 25, February 2011

@Withheld By Me- you might want to get some experience in Egypt before sounding utterly ignorant about it.

I agree with the blogger, I lived in Egypt for a year with my gf and everytime I was not with her something happened. Either she was followed or otherwise harassed.

A few days before we left, she went with a couple friends to a non tourist market and I was too hungover to go and some assclown had ran up and grabbed her breast and she came home crying.

It is completely terrible how the majority of males treat females there.

5. Carmen - 25, February 2011

One of the reasons for this behavior, which I was subjected to on a daily basis, is because of the corruption of the “former” regime. Desperate economic conditions meant that many young men were unable to marry, unable to feel dignity as provider and this manifested itself in this terrible cancer of harassment. This is not an attempt to excuse them – but rather an attempt to contextualize the phenomenon within the socio-economic reality. As for misogyny in Egypt. Not a believer. I’m married to an Egyptian, have citizenship and have lived there many years. Misogyny is not the label, but rateher ignorance and frustration due to years of repression.

6. Withheld By Me - 25, February 2011

@Blake – I promise to try, and hopefully one day the utterly ignorant me will be as infinitely knowledgeable as you. Maybe then I’ll be able to throw around such highly-informed blanket statements as the one you closed with:

QUOTE:
“It is completely terrible how THE MAJORITY OF MALES treat females there”.
:END QUOTE

So you’re positive that the MAJORITY of us are into harassing, molesting and groping “females”? Have you asked a good number of average Egyptians what they think of such a repulsive act? You asked a baker? A dentist? A banker? A garbage collector?

And they all condoned harassment?

I doubt it. In fact, I think if you ask the “majority” what should be done to perpetrators of sexual harassment, the answer would probably be too violent for your liking.

I’d come across the link to this post on Twitter, and I came here thinking I’d read about this beautifully benign cancer that’s spreading throughout the Arab World: THE REVOLUTION.

The fact that the blogger speaks Arabic, has lived in the region, and is into politics amplified my hopes for an interesting read.

Instead, I found (the post itself, and then Blake’s response) nothing but a condescending extension of the stereotypical coverage Lara Logan’s plight received (By the way, turns out she wasn’t raped; but that’s not “newsworthy” so let’s keep a lid on it).

You guys make it sound like you’ve uncovered a heinous secret. You haven’t. The issue exists, but is NOT practiced, NOR condoned, by the majority of us. The delectable Bushra recently made a movie about this (called Bus 789 or something. She plays a mohaggaba (covered) girl who gets harassed.

So no one is denying the problem exists, but you can’t go around suggesting that we condone it, to the extent that even “officials” tasked with security would act predatory, and in a a museum full of people (and probably security cameras).

Sorry, blogger, but I still think the museum anecdote doesn’t hold water. I think Blake’s girlfriend’s case was more compelling. At least to an ignorant soul like me.

Blogger – you still owe me a blog post like the one I was hoping to read :)

7. artappraiser - 26, February 2011

I would just like to add a copy of an eloguent comment I read on Arabist.net:

Great piece. The comments regarding Logan’s responsibility in her ordeal are despicable.

This type collective sexual assault in Egypt have always puzzled me because they are collective and in public settings where you would think social norms would prevent them from happening. They tend to happened in settings where young men feel norms do not apply. When there is an atmosphere of anonymity and permissiveness. The festive character of the Cairo gathering probably contributed to this.

The two time I have witnessed group sexual assault were at mouleds settings whose festive characters probably let peple to believe social norms don’t apply. In that sense they are similar to what Carnivals are in northern Europe. Historically mouleds have been places of sexual promiscuity. Not so long ago the tradition of the batania el-kebira (giant blanket) still existed. At night some tents were taken down and people would slip underneath the cloth and have anonymous sex (including gay sex).

One of the occurrence I witnessed at at Sayeda Zeynab’s mouled, a popular neighborhood, a young well dressed Egyptian couple was walking down the street. They kind of stood out in the crowd. A group of young men, some of them probably no older than 13 or 14, starting cat calling the woman and then one went to grope her and everything went berserk. It seems that once the groping had started other felt it was fair game and more gathered trying to grope the woman. When the man realized that they could not just walk (well run) away it took his belt out and starting whipping the crowd away that allowed policemen to get closer (earlier they could not because the crowd was so tight) and whisk the couple away. No meninvolve in this must have been more than 25 years old.

The other occurrence was at Tanta’s mouled. The minute we arrived the Egyptian female friend I was with started to be verbally harassed. We were just ignoring the cat calls but that somehow embolded the crowd of may be 15 young men that had started following us. Again, one tried to grope my friend as we were trying to get away and then the group went crazy. I had to throw a couple of punches to keep the crowd away until we reached the safety of a shop. After that we changed strategy, instead of walking casually next to each other. We held arms in the very proper way Egyptian couple do. It somehow sent the message she was spoken for and we did not get harassed anymore.

After both incident, including the one I was not involved in, older Egyptian came to me (I don’t blend in) and apologize for their fellow countrymen’s behavior.

Feb 18, 2011 at 1:21 AM | Commenter Ragab El-Khawaga

The thread url is

http://www.arabist.net/blog/2011/2/17/on-lara-logan-and-egypt.html

I don’t see a way to link directly to the comments there.

8. Paul - 1, March 2011

Here’s an eyewitness account of the incident. It seems a lot of what’s being reported, such as being hit flagpoles as well as the rescue by women, may not be true:

http://temorisblog.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/rape-women-stripped-what-really-happened-to-lara-logan/

And it wasn’t Jew they were shouting, but ‘agent’.

thegulfblog.com - 2, March 2011

I am sure she was “asking for it” in any case…


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