Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Letters from Cairo: HarassMap

Mapping harassment so you don’t have to.

A new tool is being introduced to Egypt that’s very similar to the US’ Hollaback site which has branches in major cities across the country. Now Egypt is introducing HarassMap in which women can report incidents via texts/SMS.

Credit should be given to the creators of HarassMap because the more tools available for women to combat these actions, the higher probability that change can be implemented.

And listen up women, many men will tell you to be careful for fighting back because you never know if the aggressor has a blade or worse. This is a case of the famed “Egyptian Turnaround” that I’ve mentioned on my blog several times. They will continue to say that they’re just worried for us, etc. Just another feeble attempt at keeping us quiet.

I say fight until you can’t fight anymore. Knock them to the ground, kick them in their groin, punch their nose off their face, scream and attract as much attention as possible. God did not create us to be a tool of convenience for a man contrary to popular male belief. Stay safe but be strong. Change takes time.

Before I left for vacation, I had an incident occur. I used to be one of those girls that said harassment happens when you’re not being aware of your surroundings, wearing inappropriate attire, etc. Yes it’s true, you can take certain measures to keep at bay unwanted harassment (isn’t that an oxymoron because let’s be honest, who ever really wants to be harassed? And if you do, seek help...immediately), but things seem to be getting worse. You must cross the streets when possible if a man is walking in your direction or safe guard yourself from a grab if unable to cross. You could wear the niqab, but even niqabbis incur harassment on a daily basis so it isn't so simple.

I happened to come back to my apartment after souvenir shopping on the last day of Ramadan. I was in the best mood possible. I’d gotten good deals on all the items I wanted to give to family and friends and I was chatting with a friend on the phone while holding a coffee. I had my back turned to my apartment building and two boys, ages approximately 13/14, came out and grabbed me.

Immediately yelling and hanging up on my friend, I chased them (never once dropping my bags or phone which I think is rather impressive). I cornered one of the boys at a car while the guys from a nearby café ran out. Do you know what upset me the most? There was a grown man standing nearby that watched everything and never once came to help me.

While I didn’t get to punch the guy in the nose like I wanted (because although he would never have told his parents the real reason he had a bloody nose, he would’ve had to have explained something), it’s highly improbable that the same boys will dare touch me again.

Now it’s also worth noting that in the two years that I’ve lived here, I have only had two grab incidents (although I’ve had a slew of chest hits). I know sometimes you may be shocked that someone would do it, but even when I’m walking down the street, I go ahead and mentally prepare to knock the *&^% out of someone. It’s sad that you always have to think like this, but you MUST be prepared. The last thing you want on top of feeling violated is having a delayed reaction and thinking, “I should’ve done something.”

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