Saturday, 22 January 2011

Siqo Siqo

I am siqo siqo!

E7m … don’t get me wrong I... Ahh… so what if the entire population thinks that every single veiled woman in the country is sexually frustrated, powerless, helpless, and suffers from some mental deficiency syndrome? So what if everyone thinks that covering my hair hinders my mental capacities and affects the performance of my brain cells?! So what if every time I walk or talk I’m told “3eib 3ala 7egabek” and always expected to act like a ‘saint’, be self righteous? And, of course, defend the concept of the veil along with the actions of every passing veiled female!

As a child I was always the polite little girl who accepted the kisses and hugs of every ‘tant’ and ‘uncle’ and smiled back at every word, be it a compliment or a scold, till I decided one day that I have had enough with the red lipstick! Mesh 7atbas! Yes I refused to kiss the women who wore red lipstick. I was checking out a furniture exhibition with my dad a few years ago when we ran into a friend of his. “El amooora in what grade?" "She’s studying Mass communications” my dad told him "But you’re veiled! Why didn’t you consider zera3a or tarbeyaa? Mass com isn’t for you" "leih ya uncle??" (Along with the ‘no kisses for Mrs Lipstick’
came the ‘leih’ questions.) Of course my dad had to squeeze my arm and give me this classical look of “etlamee ya bent,” which meant that I had to silently listen to that man blabber on and on about how veiled girls should seek a quiet and secluded life and choose fields that didn’t require the appearance of their far from presentable selves. Plus of course fields that required a minimal amount of effort, whether physical or mental.

I let the situation pass and forgot all about it until something else happened. I was driving on a Friday morning somewhere close to Tahrir square, when some guy decided it was okay to squeeze in between me and another car, and knocked my sideview mirror down, breaking it into two pieces. I got out of the car, summoned all the self control I had, and quietly lectured the driver about the basic rules of proper driving and politely asked him for compensation just to be told: “It’s no big deal, only a mirror … plus you shouldn’t do that. You are veiled!” What this had to do with anything, I do not know. I politely asked him once more to pay for the damage he caused and reminded him of what could happen if I decided to take the matter into the public circle in my own way: “If you don’t pay me I’ll scream and say you molested me!” While waiting for him to go get the money I called two of my cousins (typical Egyptian male figures).

I knew that they would never let go of any of their rights and would stand up for what was theirs no matter what, just to be told again: “You’re veiled. You won’t be able to get anything out of the guy so just leave in silence” I hung up and refused to let go of what was clearly and fairly MY RIGHT. I waited for an hour and when the guy didn’t show up I walked up to his car, broke off his mirror and took it with me, leaving him a note saying that he can’t get away with that whether I was veiled, bold, or walking nude in the streets!

This brings me to the reactions I get from people at work who see me for the first time: “you’re too bold to be veiled” and “veiled girls get married and sit at home” and “veiled girls aren’t good at work”, etc. Every girl is fully aware that she is going to have to face all this if she takes the decision to wear the veil, and accepts to fight back the stereotypical line of thought that hangs a sign above any veiled head saying “brains out of service”. But we haven’t been prepared for this: Not only am I looked upon as powerless and helpless by default, but also both my actions and appearance are continuously and mercilessly scrutinized and judged. “Ohhh she’s wearing a toe ring she’s trying to draw attention to her toes!,” “Oh she’s wearing bright colors today, that doesn’t comply with the dress code of a veiled girl!” And of course the sudden evolution of the veil into a ‘nos’ veil: covering only the hair and leaving out the neck or any other part of the body, or wearing clothes that emphasize the body shape etc, gave our fellow scrutinizers more reason to do what they do.

All the above leaves me and a lot of other veiled girls going crazy; every time we do anything different or dress differently we’re questioned and met with pairs of doubtful eyes. While the behavior of unveiled girls is usually compared to that of other girls in their age, ours is compared to that of a nun! Here comes the worst part of all. I am sitting peacefully at home trying to indulge in any sort of mindless activity, when my younger sister shows up with a smile on her face and gives me a book mark, proudly saying that a friend of hers has made them and gives them out for free. I look at the bookmark with scattered pink flowers and diamonds, read what’s written on its back and feel like chopping off the heads of both my sister and her friend. The text on the bookmark tells the story of the flower and the pearl. The flower complains to the pearl about how she feels mistreated by people, while the pearl tells her about how she’s protected, buried at the bottom of the sea. The pearl lives in an “isolated thick shell,” in a “safe zone” far from what she describes as “wanton and mischievous hands” which, according to the pearl, makes her more valuable. At the end it is said that the flower symbolizes the unveiled woman who “reveals her charms” and the pearl symbolizes the veiled woman who “conceals her charms”. That’s it? That’s what the veil is all about??

So after all the revolutionary women’s movements and all the talk about women being capable of exceling in places other than the bed comes a bookmark to tell you to save your bedroom charms because that’s all you’ve got! And look who’s actually promoting this line of thought: the veiled girls themselves! Moreover, the opening of several cafés “for girls only” further promotes the idea of secluding the veiled ones just to make sure that they lead a happy and “safe” life. Please add to the stereotypical package the term “sexually frustrated”.

I am not a pearl! I repeat I am not a pearl
… I am human

As far as I know I’m veiled and I probably mix with the “unsafe” crowd much more than most of the unveiled girls. I never for a second even considered that this by any means contradicts the concept of the veil; if anything I always believed that the veil gave me more freedom to go even further than I thought. Back at school I liked joining activities that most of the veiled girls avoided in order to save themselves the attitude of “we can’t accept veiled girls”, not for the love of it nor for any religious reasons, but merely to show that a woman with brains could exist under the head cover and could be just as presentable as the unveiled one. To me the veil was and will always be a feminist movement by itself. I chose to wear the veil but that doesn’t mean that I chose to be an object for public display, nor a rare expensive item in a window shop or subject for people’s frequent looks of praise and admiration but one that is ultimately unapproachable. I am human and the veil doesn’t put me on any form of pedestal. I hate being told ‘mo7tarama’ just as I hate being told ‘3’albana’ … the veil doesn’t prevent the devil from getting to me nor does it make me any better than other unveiled girls.

Accordingly I willingly decided to declare myself a ‘siqo siqo’, a lame and pretentious veiled girl who wears the head scarf as a camouflage for another hidden, immoral and far from righteous b*%$@#! This way I don’t have to counter-argue every criticism I get about anything new or different I do or say. I don’t have to exhaust my nerves to explain myself. This way I don’t have to suffer for my sanity every single time I walk or talk in this country.

Thank you and Goodnight!


Thursday, 20 January 2011

January 25th: The National Day of Ay Kalam

About 8 months ago, a young Egyptian man called Khaled Said was beaten to death by the police. We raged and grieved and there were those of us who genuinely mourned his death. A Facebook page – “Kollona Khaled Said” – was created, and its fans have now reached over 300,000. 

There is no denying that the activities initiated by the creator of this page – who to this day remains anonymous – have indeed made an impression on people and the government alike. One of the initiatives was dedicating January 25th – officially ‘3eed el shorta’ – to the remembrance of torture victims and to taking a stand against acts of abuse by the police. Which is a respectable move. Fueled by an incident that enraged the whole country, devoting a day to revolt against similar acts of torture committed by the police didn’t at all seem like a bad idea. 

However, it is now ‘Yom El Thawra Al Masreyya’ (the Egyptian Revolution) in general. It is now a day for rebellion against everything that is wrong with this country; not just violence and torture by the police. It is now ‘Revolution Day’ instead of ‘Police Day’.  They have taken a ridiculous occasion and actually turned it into something even more absurd. 

Why do I say this? Let me tell you. 

Needless to say, the name  ‘Al Thawra Al Masreyya’ was inspired by none other than recent events in Tunisia, because – let’s be honest - we can’t stand it that another Arab country has stepped up and achieved what we Egyptians couldn’t. Moreover, If you check out the poster for the event on the Facebook page, you will see the Egyptian flag with the Tunisian star and crescent entwined together at the top.  Another poster says “Tunisia did it on the 15th…On the 25th, Egypt will”. To the right the description of the event begins like this: “E7na msh a2al men Tunis…”

Seriously? So after years of waiting in silence and fear – the day we finally decide to speak up, the day THE EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION in all its glory arrives, happens to be driven by events that took place in another country? This is the one thing it took to finally make us budge, after all this time? If this is indeed a movement behind which thousands of Egyptians stand united, do we want to make another country’s flag a part of it? I say this with the deepest admiration for fellow Arab citizens in Tunisia in their fight for freedom; I share their triumph and their pride. But with all due respect, this is Egypt. This is OUR fight. It is OUR own freedom we seek; OUR own citizens who suffer everyday in poverty and oppression.  

And if what we aim for now is a full-fledged “revolution” that targets getting rid of the corruption that plagues this country in all its forms, why is it schedueled to take place on January 25th in particular? Have we decided that the countless problems this country faces – stagnant education that numbs minds instead of feeding them, girls sexually harassed on the streets on a daily basis, long lines of people fighting for a loaf of bread, skyrocketing prices with no matching rise in income, to name a few – are all represented in the police and symbolized by 3eed el shorta? I’m sorry, but no! The idea of making a statement on January 25th was acceptable when our rage was caused by a particular tragedy and that is the death of Khaled Said. But the motives behind this so-called revolution against everything cannot be confined to the Police or January 25th in particular.

And now the anticipated day is upon us; and all the devoted, profile-picture-changing patriots of the country are getting ready to ‘yenzelo’ w ‘yghayyaro’, like the Facebook page urges them too. The question is, tenzelo fein w tghayyaro eih? Last time I checked, the concept of change for us Egyptians stopped at changing your status and profile picture, never beyond that. I mean, I can no longer understand what this movement calls for. Is it in memory of Khaled Said? Is it to raise minimum wage and change the constitution as it says in the demands stated on Facebook? Or is it just Tunisian fever spreading in the air? What does the date signify? What does the Tunisian flag on the poster say? What do YOU want to say? What are you fighting for? What are you fighting against? I am not against this because I believe it won’t work; as responsible citizens we have a responsibility to act and keep acting regardless the results. I am against this because it was started for the wrong reasons; it is founded on nothing. 

In fact, there is only one thing I can call the January 25th event – and that is definitely not a ‘revolution’; but in fact plain ‘zeita’. Just like a mob of people shouting without knowing what they are shouting for can barely be called a protest, some Facebook page where people in fact RSVP as “Maybe attending” and post jokes like “Law el thawra 7asalet El Ahly haya7’od el dawry” cannot be called a revolution. 

Revolutions are rebellious movements that alter the course of history. We cannot use such a term so lightly. How do we equate this to ACTUAL revolutions? To the French Revolution whose principles of liberty, equality and fraternity live on to this very day? To Lenin and his revolution that paved the way for the establishment of the Soviet Union and changed world history forever? To real revolutionists like Che Guevara whose picture we stick around everywhere? Sa7ee7, I forgot that Guevara is just ‘moda’; half of us don’t even know why he’s so well-known yet his face is plastered on micro-buses on the streets. Just like the cross and crescent that were scattered around everywhere, only to be replaced by the Tunisian flag two weeks later.

Oh and in case you haven’t heard, the new trend around town is carrying a box of matches around with you all the time; perhaps a bottle of gas too. You never know when they might come in handy. 


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

On Tunisia, here's what you have to say...

- Menna Tarek:

Phase 1:
My profile picture didn't change in the light of the horrific event of the church in Alexandria. The reason: I never really believed in this whole facebook-activism thing plus, I have always went to church on the 6th of January despite a church being bombed on new year's eve or not. This shouldn't indicate my religious beliefs, it merely indicates that I am a person who celebrates all holidays and like to share others' happiness and sorrow. I heard about the bombing when I was away for New Year's and it started getting into me once I reached Cairo and saw how horrified everyone was both Christians and Muslims. To each their own reasons of course. I went on facebook from my office on the 2nd of January. EVERYONE had a picture of a Crescent hugging a Cross. To tell you the truth I thought to myself, "And the Agnostics and the Atheists don't get a slice of that pie". I had the intention of changing my profile picture to a Cross, just a Cross, in solidarity of the Christians that feel threatened in their own country among their own people, however, I didn't as I thought I would initiate a lot of questions and argument that would leave me hopeless of the current mind set of fellow Egyptians.

But I went to church. I went despite the fact that it took me 4 and a half hours to get to Heliopolis from downtown (where I work).

Heavy security was everywhere; they refused to let me enter the church but agreed to let a significant number of people gather and light candle infront of the church to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Let's talk about the kind of people I was surrounded by in this "mini-mozahra". Journalists, leftist activists and leaders, actors, writers, small kids, 3 veiled women, and a significant number of people between the ages of 20-25, mostly middle to upper middle class, educated, properly dressed and showered, not the kind of people who would be targeted by Islamic Movements to bomb themselves to revenge from the infidel, godless Christians who are fighting Islam.

I went. I lit a candle in memory of all those who went to pray but were bombed away, I lit a candle for those wanting to go to church to practice their faith but are afraid, I lit a candle so that light might replace fear and ignorance.

No bombing of further churches occurred on the 6th of January and no further angry Christians demonstrated to declare their refusal of the current situation.
I felt good about myself, I felt happy that other people felt it was a significant gesture to be there under the current circumstances.

Again, this social class shouldn't be the one practicing this discrimination thus, shouldn't be the one responsible for making it sound like there is no systematic and chaotic discrimination against Egyptian Christians.

It is worth mentioning here that it was my first time taking part in any demonstration in the street despite the fact that I am not quite ignorant with politics both locally and internationally.

Phase 2:
My profile picture changed to the Tunisian flag as soon as I heard the glorious news. I was with my boyfriend and we decided it was too cold to stay in the streets of Cairo that night thus, the decision to go to his place. As soon as we went in, his mom, who has been a leftist activist ever since the 70's, told us the news. We rushed to the TV. All I could see was red. All I could hear was "Mabrook". I was very proud. And even though I wouldn't normally do that, I did it. I changed my profile picture to the Tunisian flag and quoted Ahmed Shawki on my status. I was extremely hopeful and the atmosphere around me was very encouraging and supportive of my feelings.

Witnessing something happen to region for the first time is something. Mere 8 Million people throwing out an oppressive, abusive, unjust and unelected government is something. The Tunisians streets moved and planned and wouldn't give up and that is definitely something.

We weren't lucky enough to live in the 60's when every few months or years occurred and event that meant something to the masses.

The July Revolution was something, so was the 1 Million Martyr Revolution in Algeria, so was the Evacuation of the French Troops from Tunisia, so was the Cuban Revolution and so on and so forth.

If facebook was existent in the 60's I would've changed profile picture to every single event of these. Seeing people DO what we have always DREAMED of is inspiring, fueling and most of all it gives a real and material sense to your dreams.

Witnessing something as big as this and not being moved is inhumane.

Now, picture this. I am a Tunisian. For weeks I have stayed in the streets of my city, without sleep or rest, I got beaten by the riot police, I held on until I could realize my goal of living in a free country, I was somehow successful.

I log on to facebook (where the Tunisian people planned their demonstrations) only to find out that all Egyptians, Jordanians, Algerians, French, Cubans, Colombians and Russians have my flag as their profile picture and are in total support of my just fight. Wouldn't that mean something? Does it make sense that all those for the Tunisian fight fly to Tunisia and show their support in person? No. Which leaves you with choosing not to show support (bad) and showing the minimum of support through facebook because simply, it is fast, free, EFFICIENT and will definitely get your voice heard in Tunisia (they proved to be very good with facebook).

Phase 3:
It doesn't end here. Having changed my profile picture, I went to celebrate the glory on the Journalists' Union stairs. I cheered for the new revolution (hope) and cursed the current system.

It was a weekend, I didn't tell my family for fear of being choked to death by any of them before I become a "political activist", I had people with me (I didn't go alone). To cut it short, it is not always easy or accessible to demonstrate in the street unless you : (1) Are born to a family of activists who will appreciate you doing that, (2) You live alone and no one really cares if you burn yourself to death, (3) Have a very understanding family who accepts your choices and lifestyle (We know how easy is that in our society) Or, (4) Your profession requires you to do that.

For the rest of us, you will ALWAYS have something keeping you from being in a "Mozahra". Work, family, important previous engagements, even the weather being too hot, not to mention your own reluctance, fears or skeptical motives.

Phase 4:
From my own humble experience I have this to report:
1.      Change your profile picture when you feel like it, show support, show solidarity, have a voice.

You shouldn't fear being mocked at for doing something "unfashionable".


You posting something creates questions and arguments and conversation. Engage, listen, form and opinion then change it, then go back to it. It is only part of the learning experience. You shouldn't consider yourself intellectual unless you have formed a certain opinion and at the same time are willing to listen to others and not stick to it if you find another to be more convincing.

2.      Engage in real live demonstrations if you can. I can't really explain the feeling it gives you.

3.      Pick your battles. It is really not worth it arguing with a 56-year-old Salafi father of 5 about the possibility of Islam not being "El7al".

4.      You are the young empowered member of the society, you have the upper hand. Use it well.

5.      عاشت تونس

- Sara El-Sayeh:

Being the first post-colonial revolution in North Africa, the revolution in Tunisia made me feel so proud, and hopeful at first. Maybe it was how it all started with a reaction, a simple person's reaction. And it mattered to everyone, it mattered to the 10 million work aged Tunisians. I am usually the optimist when it comes to things, especially when it comes to Egypt, but I cannot compare situations when it comes to the possibility of a revolution in Egypt, because, well  in terms of population (working age) Egyptians are five times as many, Egyptians tend to brush things off, too...people were killed on several occasions, and nothing happened. Comparison aside, Tunisia gave me hope.

Keep 'em coming!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Supporting a Cause VS. Causing Support

We came across this brilliant illustration by the brilliant Amal Ziad Kaawash and we believe that it is worth sharing.


In other news...

CAMPUS brings you a number of diverse and entertaining bits and pieces of international and occasionally local news, for your very own morning feasting!

  • Rafael –the biceps– Nadal, sets eyes on the Australian open due to start on Jan 17th. If the left armed fiend manages to win, he shall be the first male to win all the four major titles in a row since 1969 when Rod Laver claimed victory in all four titles. Having recovered from a career-threatening knee injury, Nadal comes back with a vengeance. His English is crap though, just saying.
  • Lebanon delays talks on new government: well, if you haven’t heard, the bird is the word. No, really, Saad Hariri (Prime Minister) was on a trip to the U.S. to discuss politics (no, really?!) with Obama, when people from Hezbullah thought: “you know what, let’s withdraw from the cabinet of ministers and bring the government’s roof d-hooooown”. So, now they’re having talks to form a government, again. Check this out to know more about why Hezbullah decided to bring the roof down.   
  • BIG NEWS, Tamer has made a wonderful and inspiring, not, song about the Tunisian popular movement. He even gives a semi-speech at the end. What. The. Hell.      
  • At the Golden Globes, the show “Glee” and “The Social Network” (best motion picture of the year) almost owned all the…Globes? Yes, the Globes. However, Natalie Portman won the award for best actress in a leading role for Black Swan. Actresses were hot too.
  • Remember the douche that killed seven people in Naga’a Hammadi back in January 2010? Well he got a death sentence, and it serves him right. Why did the decision take so long? Well maybe, cause the victims were of diverse religious affiliations. Shalal. People killed, killer dies right away, why does religion have to be part of the equation?
Cheers mates!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A Wave Of Awareness

In the world of surfing, picking a wave is crucial. You see, it has to be big enough to carry you and sustain your ride for as long as possible for you to pull off a good amount of stunts. Even more important, you need to ride your own wave, in other words, a surfer needs to claim the wave as his own and ride it first, hence clearing the way for his acrobatic scheme. 

Rarely does more than one surfer ride the same wave, and when it happens one is left in the trail of the other, either mimicking the path or ends up crashing as a result of the lack of creative solutions. Only a gigantic wave can encompass more than one surfer successfully. And he, who rides in the trail of others incessantly, forgets how to improvise and innovate.

Tunisia may not be the right answer. It is not our wave.

The grandeur of the event is by all means a breakthrough of epic proportions, one that can hardly be described, let alone comprehended. Is it inspiring? God, yes. Is it the solution to Egypt’s problems? Not directly.

We’ve seen the Tunisians assume a wave, ride it with excellence and pull off a number of acrobatic stunts along the way. And while it is only fair that we give them a hefty round of applause, many, just sufficed with a clap or two, others even thought possible to jump on the already crashing Tunisian wave. 

The Tunisian experience is far beyond that, and so are we.

Hearing a man scream his country’s name alongside the word “Freedom” is beyond touching, I’m actually envious, and I’d want nothing more than to be able to do the same. But it doesn’t have to be in the same fashion, because Egypt differs than others. We can pull off our own revolution on our own terms, inspired by others perhaps, but we should ride our own wave. We can ride the next wave, the next big one, following the Tunisian one and instigated by it.

Let’s not only support Tunisia, the moral Arab solidarity is nothing but welcome, but we can do more than change our profile pictures, or write statuses. Furthermore, we should know precisely why we’re supporting a cause, rather than following the general peer-pressure.

If you’ve consciously chosen to support El Baradei, victims of the Turkish flotilla, victims of Doueiqa, Khaled Sa’eed, Christian Muslim Unity, The Tunisian popular revolution and many other causes, based on reasoning and understanding, then hats off to you, if you’ve even supported the Facebook campaign against child abuse out of conviction, then kudos as well. If you have, however, followed the general peer pressure, and supported a number of issues just because they were the new “online fad”, then why not question what you support, and see whether or not your choices would change? 

While on one hand, the illusion of a Christian Muslim feud has created anguish among us, Egyptians, Tunisian notions of “change” have provided hope. They have showed us that authority can bleed; the Tunisians have given us awareness. And for that I am very thankful, and that is precisely why it is recommended that we seek awareness, and perhaps through it we can pull off our very own change-driven stunt.

Express yourself, and support what you will, just do it out of awareness. Do everything knowingly. More often than not, causes have been born only to be shot dead a few weeks later, due to lack of awareness and reasoning.

We need to question, reach conviction and act as we may. We just need to know.

“Practice what you preach”
And that is precisely what CAMPUS will try to do. This blog will not be confined to editors and contributors only, it is for everyone, it will be our way of voicing what this generation really has to say. This blog is our way of creating one big wave of awareness. So, please, send us whatever you have to say, and we’ll publish it in one of our sections. This blog will be one big discussion forum, and through it, each will be able to choose his wave, and perhaps even teach others.