Monday, July 1, 2013

Letters from Egypt: June 30, Like Tailgating before the Big Game

If I’m honest, I’ll tell you that preparing for the “festivities” on June 30 was a bit daunting. Those of us that were present for the revolution, we still have fresh memories of looting, supplies being scarce and everyone rushing to the markets to find empty shelves creating panic. Not to mention watching our friends leave en masse.

It was different back then. You heard rumors of demonstrations, but if you’d lived here under Mubarak for awhile, you didn’t anticipate a large turnout. The events that occurred on January 25 and later took us all by surprise unlike June 30 when we prepared for the worst, yet hoped for the best.

And finally the day arrived. As I walked to the expat hangout in the afternoon, exactly where the Maadi protestors were gathering, it reminded me of a high school pep rally against your rival school. Everyone was hanging out of their cars chanting and waving Egyptian flags. The girls were all dressed to the nines, hoping to meet their future partners. In essence, instead of looking for a mate at weddings which is the usual here, people are now taking to the demonstration areas for much of the same. There was music and dancing with car horns blaring to the tune of the wedding calls (beep ba beep beep, beep beep).

When I met up with my friends, I told them the only thing I was worried about in Maadi was the likelihood to get groped. Everyone agreed except for one older woman that joined our table. She’d been living in Egypt over a decade and said, “What? Why would you ever say that? I’ve lived here for over 10 years and have never had that happen to me.” I really dislike it when people make remarks as such. It’s as though saying that just because you have never been raped, that rape does not exist. I told the woman that she was very fortunate if she had not incurred such a thing and then she looked at me and said, “Maybe it’s the way you’re dressed” pointing to the tank top that I was wearing. I told her that I had my sweater in my bag, but had taken it off as I entered the expat place and regardless of how I dress, it gives no one the right to touch me without my permission. Since when did we become so programmed to say, “That’s just Egypt. It’s what you’re wearing”? When did we become so “Egyptianized” that we began blaming ourselves for wrongs that happen against us?

Then she asked if I spoke any Arabic as that was probably another one of my problems. I assured her that I spoke just as much, if not more, than most of the expats in Maadi sans those that are half Arab. Again with the excuses. I have only had this happen to me once before where another woman insisted that she could wear whatever she wanted and nothing ever happened, mind you that woman didn’t speak one word of Arabic so she would have no idea if someone was being disrespectful or not. Both women are very mature in age and suffer from a syndrome that another friend calls “Lifers.” These “lifers” have lived in the country for onwards of over 10 years and think they know everything, and if anything happens to you then it must be your own fault. Wow, it must be so nice to live in a world where you are so omnipotent.

In fact, this was just circulated on Facebook from an Egyptian female:
Beware of this Tahrir harasser
This man followed me and planned to sexually harass me in Tahrir square. When I noticed him he pretended not to look, but I knew he was, and I kept changing where I stood on purpose and made sure I can see him, he would always circulate 2 stand behind me, of course I made sure I didn't give him a chance. And I gave my back to a group of strangers that I could trust, he stood beside my dad for a very long time! That's when I took the clip. (The orange/red shirt is my dad! the guy has no shame!) He eventually left, walking behind a girl he apparently "liked". They were too far when I noticed that he followed her. I hope she is safe. That man also talked to two other guys as If making plans, whispering as the other men passed by as though they don't know each other. I'm almost sure that these are the group of harassers responsible for attacks in Tahrir. At the very least they are responsible for individual harassment.

For those who think I was alone: I was not alone. I was with my dad; he did not notice the man at the beginning. He noticed him after he stood beside him for a long time and didn't tell me in case i wasn't noticing he would bother me, but if the man had done anything he would have intervened. After the man left we joined a group of family members deeper inside Tahrir square.
The demonstrations that I personally witnessed seemed more like a major street party. I have photos from friends in Tahrir and Etihadeya, and although I was not present in those areas, they echoed about the same sentiments.

But it’s really just the same thing over and over. You don’t give someone a chance to see what they can do, so you just take to the streets. What happens if Morsi steps down? Is there a viable replacement? Of course not. Because it’s the same modus operandi in this country – long-term thinking is simply nonexistent. Protest today, complain tomorrow but never with a solution in mind. If you live here, I challenge you to ask your Egyptian friends one question: “If not Morsi, who would you ideally want running your country?” And try not to fall asleep at the long-winded, yet inconclusive explanation that will eventually make you forget the original question.

1 comment:

  1. I think the Egyptians could benefit from some sort of frequently scheduled block party, or Mardi Gras, or something that gives them a reason to gather in the streets for non-political or religious reasons and have a good time. Seems like the Egyptian culture is all about some street partying. (And I hope this does not offend anyone, its just an observation and humble opinion.)