Thursday, November 4, 2010

Letters from Egypt: Diminishing Hope

Before I moved to Egypt, I was so naïve and hopeful. Maybe naivety breeds hope, who knows, but what I can say now is that although I have a lot more to learn, my hope for Egypt and Africa in general is fading.

Sometimes I still wonder how certain things make national and international news. For instance, how does a certain murder like that of Natalee Holloway make international media outlets as opposed to the other murders that happened around that time frame? What makes her story so special?

And then you think that because you don’t hear such stories come out of Egypt, that everything is easy breezy. Well, I do understand that aspect: the government keeps such a lid on the bad things that happen so as not to tarnish its reputation.

Previously, I wrote a blog about the book Princess: The True Story of Life behind the Veil which detailed a young Egyptian girl being sold to a Saudi prince and repeatedly raped and then just thrown out on the street. I’ve heard this is common even in current times, but never have I heard of a story personally involving someone I knew – that was, until now.

Raymond* owns a factory in the middle of nowhere that employees people from a lower class. While weddings occur all the time, one of his younger staff members makes this one particularly special. News of the wedding spread and the next thing you know, the factory foreman gets a phone call from the girl crying. She said that her father was selling her for 10,000LE (approximately $1,739) to someone from the Gulf that only planned on marrying her for a week – in order to take her virginity – and then would leave her in Egypt while he went back to the Gulf. The girl begged for Raymond and his father to help her and contact the police.

What did Raymond do? He told the foreman to ignore her pleas and not to mention it to his father because he didn’t want his father involved. I wonder how Raymond sleeps at night. I know after hearing this, I didn’t sleep.

It brings me to my hopeless thoughts for this country and society. Raymond would, of course, be up in arms had this happened to his sister. Others have said, “Well, this happens all the time.” It’s that complacent attitude that hinders this society from progressing. Complacency is never a positive term, and you should always strive for better. With elections coming up, many young Egyptians want change. Change doesn’t start with the government, change starts with you. Oprah Winfrey didn’t wait around for the US government to approve her aid work. She worked hard and gave back, and not necessarily for public attribution.

So what if this happens all the time? When someone begs for your help and has nowhere else to go, I find it unfathomable that you can turn your back to her. Everyone wants change, but they negate that change doesn’t happen over night. Change starts with one person. So even if these things happen all the time, helping that one person could have in turn led to her helping two people and so on and so forth. Yet, this society doesn’t think like that and it’s heartbreaking.

I can’t stress enough how enchanting of a place Egypt can be, but I also don’t think I can properly convey how much I want to see Egypt – a place that I hold close to my heart – grow and be the leader that I know it has the potential to be. Although I don’t want to sound too much like an after-school special (“The More You Know…”), something has to change here. It has to start on the ground and move up. I’m not saying that you should get involved in matters that aren’t your concern, but if someone asks for your help – hey Egypt, why don’t you do it out of the goodness of your heart and not to gain more points or so others will see you? Or even because it’s not someone close to you – do it because it’s the right thing to do.

You shouldn’t do things just to get a pat on your back, but you should want to build up your country. You should want to change this mentality that selling off YOUR young girls to disrespectful, trashy people like the one that paid 10,000LE (which is nothing to a Gulfie). You should want to protect your women, children, and even the man who sweeps your street religiously. You should take pride in your country because as it stands now, there’s very little to be proud of when you dig beneath the face-value surface that the government allows in the media.

*Name changed  


  1. Wow Leanne- Thank you for sharing this information. People with freedom do not realize how lucky and blessed we are sometimes. Please be safe. I always think of how brave you are to be so far away from home. I will keep you and Egypt in my prayers. I love you

  2. A heartfelt post, thanks. Is this "Raymond" and Egyptian or a foreigner? In either case, it's perfectly believable that he'd turn his back. Egyptians are quite inured to suffering - they pretty much ignore it. But then again, so do we in the West.

  3. Raymond** is Egyptian, but I didn't want to use a common name from here for fear that others would just assume they knew to whom I was referring.

  4. What a absolute shame.
    It's so hard to imagine things like this really go on over there.
    I can't even imagine how that poor girl felt...I only wish she would have asked for my help..i would have bent over backwards to help her and anyone in that situation.
    I may not live to tell it..but i would certainly help.
    This story is very disturbing.

  5. Lianne- Unfortunately there are hundreds of stories just like that here in Egypt. The problem with a place like this change doesn't come easy. But I don't think it means we should give up hope.

    Something unrelated... loved your "Basic Rules" in the lefthand column. But you may want to add "Don't make eye contact with males in the street." Unless I am dealing directly with a man (buying something from him), the men in the street do not exist. Even with a taxi driver I talk at him, but I don't look at him in his rearview mirror.

    Glad to see you're back at the blog. I found you a couple of months ago and thought you had moved home because you weren't posting regularly.