Harassment and Lack of Reporting in Egypt

Beginning with the introduction of the HarassMap: Using Crowdsourced Data to Map Sexual Harassment in Egypt by Chelsea Young, all I could keep being reminded of are the cyclical themes associated with sexual assault. Lots of assaults go unreported as “victims of sexual harassment continue to face a high degree of stigma and shame.” But what makes Egypt different from the Western world is the staggering UN report statistic that 99.3% of women in Egypt who report being sexually harassed. With the identification of these issues of shaming and a lack of reporting, Harrassmap allows the anonymous report of sexual harassment, attempting to overcome the barriers that are initially preventing women from reporting harassment or even accessing services and resources to deal with trauma from said harassment. This is where Digital Media can be liberating, through this anonymity and crowd-sourcing technology, creating a community of women with a voice, helping one another when their state or institutions won’t.

The implications of sexual harassment on the public sphere are direct, halting women’s participation and mobility. According to Ilahi, If women are fearful of harassment, whether verbal or physical, they inevitably change their actions, not traveling alone, avoiding eye contact, and even restricting where they go at certain times of the day. With these change in appearances and actions, women have been deemed, in Egypt, as “devoid of sexuality and absent from the public sphere, and it leaves women vulnerable to accusations of blame for the harassment that they do experience if they have not conformed to traditional feminine roles linked to their behaviour and attire,” (Ilahi, 2009).

With HarassMap, these challenges are limited with a more accessible and safer form of documentation of sexual harassment. One can use social media or even SMS to share experiences, of course anonymously, creating a community of victims who can not only share traumatic stories but empower one another and understand they are not alone.

 

 

Through the creation of communities, HarassMap looks to introduce conversations about violence into communities that perceive such actions as normal and acceptable. As this crowd fund technology started in Kenya and moved to Egypt, and is funded by grants from international development research center, the conversation isn’t limited to Egypt but rather is a Global one.

It is absurd, irrational and shocking to hear, even in America, and on the Case Study graphic for HarassMap, that people perceive the idea that victims of harassment are to blame. This is a global concept discussed a lot in regard to sexual assault on university campuses and is heightened when dealing with sexual assault in the Middle East. This stigma needs to change if the conversation on sexual assault will move in a progressive direction, to think that we still can’t identify a victim as a victim and are in denial, shaming them, saying they asked for it, is disgusting and can be changed via digital activism and crowd funding technologies, like HarassMap, where anonymity is sadly the way to make a change.

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Harassment and Lack of Reporting in Egypt

Beirut’s Space Disputes

Since the closing of Beirut’s biggest landfill there has been an immense trash crisis. Trash is being piled on each other, blocking streets and increasing the dangers of Cholera and other potential illnesses that come from the improper treatment of garbage.

Protestors are not only going into the streets, clashing with police, but also have turned to (as the youstink movement website states) “head(ing) early .. at 4:00am. to Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s house to awaken him from a deep sleep, demanding him to call for urgent government meetings to resolve the garbage crisis.”

The campaign revolving around these issues is titled #YouStink. What I found interesting was the photoessay article stated that this movement and the ineffectiveness of the government to take action and resolve this issue is almost symbolic of the governments inability to deal with other issues as well.

Another issue involving geographical space and the inability of the government to sufficiently provide its people with valid resources and problem solving capabilities, is the issue involving public and private spaces. Abir Saksouk-Sasso discusses this in Making Space for Communal Sovereignty: The Story of Beirut’s Dalieh. Saksouk-Sasso begins by discussing the unwarranted closing of the city’s only large park. His argument continues by describing that the World Health Organization advises that there by open green areas up to forty square meters per person and that in Beirut, the numbers are shockingly low at one square meter per person. He explains that privatization of public zones has become common and that “Beirut has undergone diverse forms of controlling public spaces”. This further proves that the government is not only unable to properly deal with trash but also insufficient in providing its people with public spaces for the them.

This also makes me curious about the recent protests in Beirut with the #YouStink Movement. Many protests are done in public places and squares. For example the protests and organization efforts during the Ukrainian Revolution and the Egyptian Revolution were done in public places, where people could meet in large numbers, discuss and take action. How does Beirut’s lack of this resource affects its ability to mobilize and protest effectively for the safe of the garbage crisis.

 

Beirut’s Space Disputes

After Tahrir Conference

I attended the Plenary Session titled “Morbid Symptoms of Rule: The Invincible State, the Vulnerable State”. The first speaker, Hesham Sallam, discussed Egypt in its position 5 years later and its ‘brief experiment with citizen elections’. He continued by explaining the fiaso with the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 who, as he states, used democratic means to advocate and push for non-democracy. He continues by explaining that consensus was difficult because of the A-symmetrical political environment after Mubarak.

Lina Attalah’s talk during the Plenary Session was much more poetic, using phrases like, “diagnosis of the state” which she stated as close to “critical” or near “dead”. Then she went into an engaging discussion involving the relationship between the Regime and the State and how her and the majority thought they were separate. But also who’s state was it? According to Attalah, people discussed the State as if it were a palpable good, a good that could be shared and also stolen. Then she asked if you can own the state without ruling it or even rule the state without owning it. Then she explained that some explained the “police were under pressure because they were fighting terrorism”. I found this to be a compelling quote. I feel as if a lot in America also gets excused because we are “fighting terrorism”. For example, Drone Strikes and the amount of civilian causalities we can conceive of are excused because we need to “fight ISIS”. Where do we draw the line? In this case the terrorism was domestic but can’t we think of that domestically as well with state surveillance? We need to fight terrorists in and out of our country and therefore we are aloud to be watched for the sake of safety but isn’t this just an excuse or a way to point fingers?

After Tahrir Conference

Egyptian Insurgency Short Film Festival

Egyptian Insurgency Short Film Festival were different than any documentary shorts conference i’ve been too. The shorts were all different and yet were cohesive in their thematic sharing. It was engaging to see visuals of the Revolution but then interviews in the Democracy Dialogue. The two men speaking discussed the Egyptian Revolution in terms of Indian Decolonization.

What shocked me was how little I saw of the Egyptian Revolution. In this course we read a lot about mobilizing populations, the events that led to the revolution. We were reading words and as much knowledge as they provide I never visualized the Revolution. Watching army trucks run people over and army officials shooting and suppressing the majority helped me to empathize a lot more. To feel more and more emotion than I did when I was reading about the revolution.

This can connect to social media as well. I cant say this for sure but definitely video activism is a major part of digital activism that can spark more in people than a headline. This was seen in many cases involving the Egyptian Revolution. So while it is making me empathize, sympathize and feel emotions, it did the same for people watching videos of police brutality in 2011, helping them to mobilize themselves for the sake of Revolution.

Egyptian Insurgency Short Film Festival

Feminist Insurrections and Feminist Movements(Proposal for project at the bottom)

The Egyptian Revolution was a revolution marked and scarred by purposeful and directed sexual harassment on women activists. The manner by which Western News formed and modeled this discourse proved, according to Easley that “in the contemporary US, it is socially acceptable to vilify Arabs and/or Muslims, just as it is OK to be outspokenly racists against this group of people”(2011). Western media highlighted these sexual assaults as examples of how Egypt wasn’t ready for democracy and modernity and failed to keep in mind that the perpetrators could have been plain clothed paramilitaries or thugs. Around 2003 till 2010 many international feminist campaigns began. A key factor in this narrative is in 2000 the UN passed a resolution, “Women, Peace and Security” that among many things, “legalized international armed interventions in response to rape, femicide, and sexual violence in situations of armed conflict…”(204). International feminism moved towards a social deviance model. This model focuses on allowing access to public space, making reforms of public masculinity and desexualizing the urban life. The argument in this essay gets even more interesting though also complicated under the subheading Dynamics of Securitization. It begins with describing the state justification for transforming everyday social and economic life into police enforced military occupations. Then extends that into a discussion of parahumans, subjects of this occupation who are disabled by racism and or war. I kept on track until the discussion and redefining or analysis of “queering”. From what I understand, this is specifically state governance of subjects connected to state sexualization.

Connecting these concepts back to the Egypt, the response by the state during protests in the 90’s was to delegitimize and taint the movements and messages by dropping off plain clothed thugs into the mix, pawns recruited by the Interior Ministry and tools for the police. This to me is an example of disguised state security, protecting their government by infiltrating and repainting their society as ‘not yet ready for such liberties’. With this comes the Western Media and their inability to see or understand the complexities of the situation and further convolute this discourse.

Below: Proposal for Project

I want to make an illustrated black and white simplistic comic strip that takes a satirical perspective on a couple of feminist oriented movements as well as surveillance movements. I think simplistic images along side brief sarcastic lines will combine humor and attention grabbing art to create awareness and comprehension of what these different movements are fighting for the the ridiculousness associated with the fact that they haven’t attained such freedoms and liberties. One movement I would potentially focus on is the Women To Drive Movement in Saudi Arabia. It is almost unfathomable that this absurd restriction on women exists in general let alone in the 21st century. An example of a satirical line that I saw on the bumper of a car that would fit the attitude of my comic perfectly is “feminism is the radical notion that women are people”

 

 

Feminist Insurrections and Feminist Movements(Proposal for project at the bottom)

R-Shief: January 12, 2016 Event Blog Post

The event, unveiling R-Shief 4.0 was immensely interesting and relatively easy to process for someone who has little to no familiarity with the discourse of data analytic. Initially, I noticed phrases/ terms used by Professor Sakr regarding data and the analysis of data that were human and compelling. This included “bringing people together”, “meeting new people”, “archive”, “bridge”, “provide humanities based vision into condition of human beings” and “text as primary source”.

The thought that the internet was a text itself, one that is audible as well as visual, is engaging and has lasting implications. R-Shief’s capacity to gather lots and lots of data and arrange that data into visualizers is remarkable and historically crucial. In the context of modern day technology, people learn through visuals, online visuals, graphs, statistics, etc. Depicting trends and correlations with data from real people in real time can give academics and average people more to understand about the world and one another.

Professor Sakr’s declaring that they are not doing predictive analysis, despite the 18-36 hour declaration regarding Tripoli, is important. As she continues to explain, that is a dangerous path to go down. Another dangerous path to go down is studying and following certain individuals. In a modern state of mass surveillance this is not what we need and as Sakr states, people are not “lab rats”. Its important to protect people as this potential to collect data from individuals to study individuals can and has been used against individuals, especially activists.

One of the goals, understandably, of R-Shief is to balance scale-ability and user-ability. This democratizing data analytic source can and will continue to be used by average people, but also needs to be able to process more and more information and in different ways. This is an amazing project and especially for someone who is a visual learner, these data visualizers have an impact on me. I personally can’t wait to see where this resource goes in the future, around the world and even locally at UCSB.

R-Shief: January 12, 2016 Event Blog Post

Youth and Digital Technology in Egypt

According to Ali and El-Sharnouby, Youth in Egypt has increased in population but during the era of Hosni Mubarak, this majority populous was marginalized. At first, in 1981, the youth were seen as productive forces but due to the NDP’s failure to implement any policies, significant amounts of this youth group could not get steady employment causing them to continue living dependent upon their parents. With this frustration and other factors, Egyptian youth were the catalyst and heart behind the fall of Mubarak, mobilizing the populous. Post revolution, these young people failed to recognize that they had to focus on the realism of their situation, “realities of drug abuse, religious extremism, poor-quality education, unemployment, sexual frustration…”(Ali and El-Sharnouby, 90). Ali and El-Sharnouby argue that the “We are all Khaled Said” movement is responsible for driving the Revolution in on the 25th of January. But the movement failed to identify and even discuss other socio-economic youth issues prevalent during the context of that period.

Not only did these youth’s serve as a tool for these revolutions and social movements, but so did the emergence and continued development of digital technology, specifically social media. This can cause digital co-option which is getting followers to gravitate towards one particular argument, discussion, discourse, aim, etc, while alienating others in the community by using “slogans, incidents, and cultural symbolism in their mobilization strategies”(Ali and El-Sharnouby, 92).

The Facebook page for WAAKS is a good example of this digital co-option, using Khaled Said is a martyr and unifying figure, to shift awareness towards other victims of Emergency Law. Khaled Said was not only part of the youth but a man of middle-class background whose death transformed him into the ultimate saint.

What I find immensely intriguing was Khaled Said’s influence by black American subculture including language, clothing and anti-police views. While this didn’t affect his activism its important to recognize these marginalized groups and how culture can thread them together.

Black American subculture and Egypt’s youth have perceptions painted onto them with judgement and disdain and yet they can help to empower one another through culture, language and style. I recognize, in the implications of this movement, various aspects that connect back to the United States and our social movements.

Ali and El-Sharnouby state on page 98 “This form of denial about ‘ourselves; as a society reinforces the syndrome of victim blaming. A woman is blamed if she is harassed; she is accused of wearing ‘unsuitable clothing’…just as a youth who takes drugs is perceived to deserve what he gets from the police.”

I can’t help but thing of Black Lives Matter and the perpetual, systemic and undeserved violence against Blacks in America. Police brutality over no crime or perceived petty-theft crime has become extremely common and life-threatening.

In conclusion, digital activism by specifically the  youth, assisted by the saint-figure of Khaled Said on Facebook, helped to mobilize efforts on January 25. The construction of Facebook pages, digital technology in general, and its connection to activism and ability to mobilize efforts is not only outstanding but proven to be successful, as studied in the WAAKS movement.

 

KhaledSaidcartoon

Youth and Digital Technology in Egypt