HarassMap: Reporting sexual violence in the wake of the Arab Spring

This week’s Film and Media Studies readings, Case study: Harassmap–Changing Attitudes to Harassment and Assault in Egypt by Abir Ghattas @girleffect and HarassMap: Using Crowdsourced Data to Map Sexual Harassment in Egypt by Chelsea Young, were definitely inspirational and very informative. The fact that women in male dominated societies like Egypt, are treated as if their rights don’t matter, and that what happens to them is not as important as what happens to men is repulsive. It is also horrifying to know that both men and women would allow a woman to be sexually harassed and/or assaulted without helping or at least attempting to stop the violence against them. However, with campaigns like HarassMap, Egyptian society has a voice to communally stand against gender violence towards women allowing them to report women’s rights violations and begin to break the horrible cycle of attacks on a woman’s ability to live without fear. As an American citizen, I do not see how sexual violence in any form is “cool” or tolerable. Yet, it is acceptable by Egyptian men to be consider violations against women, as a form of being masculine or even worse being Egyptian. With the efforts of volunteers and community leadership, the enduring women of Egypt now have the ability to report attacks on their inherent human rights as women and still feel safe without being shamed and their names and information being released.

In a country that once gave birth to one of the most influential and well known women in power, Cleopatra, it is astonishing that Egypt now has a problem with the rights and well-being of its women. HarassMap aims to help women achieve an equality of rights and to hold those who harass and violate women, accountable for their actions. The campaign/movement is also very influential in its efforts to support those who help and volunteer with communities that are safeguarded by a company serious about its stance on violence and aggression towards women. The idea that building social accountability and social responsibility creates social consequences against perpetrators is extraordinary. I think having a reporting system that collects data on women’s rights violations is exceptionally important and will continue to be an important tool for the Egyptian society to both fight against and stop the unjust violent and non-violent attacks on women. HarassMap is not only an empowering and innovative technology, it also gives both men and women the support and anonymity they need to stand in response against gender violence and harassment in oppressive regime controlled societies.

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HarassMap: Reporting sexual violence in the wake of the Arab Spring

HarrassMap at Hand

HarrassMap has demonstrated to be a very constructive way of using digital technology. In my perspective, it comes to show how the evolution of technology embodies this generation nationally and globally. I’ve noticed in testimonial documentaries that focus on individuals from the Middle East, demonstrate how resourceful the usage of smartphones is to an individual. Some of the smartphone usage includes getting and delivering information as well as connecting with numerous amount of people.

I think HarrassMap exemplifies that same idea. It’s said that in Egypt “virtually” 100 percent of the population has access to a mobile phone, which  gives Egyptian individuals the opportunity to publicize their own experiences with sexual harassment.

Gathering that sort of data gives people the evidence of what kind of sexual harrassment is occurring in specific areas of Egypt. However, I do agree with Chelsea Young that since these claims of sexual harassment are anonymous, it is possible that what is being claim isn’t true. Personally, I don’t believe that their would be a huge amount of people who would lie about experiencing sexual harassment. However, I do explore the idea that maybe some people who are against this source of tool, want to defect it’s reliability and make it incompetent.This lead to question how reliable is HarrassMap’s method of  crowdsourcing?

At face value, crowdsourcing demonstrates to be a very efficient way to gather information, nevertheless, has it been essential to HarrassMap in gather statistics on when, who and how, individuals in Egypt are getting harassed. This type of digital technology has concluded even some of the most unexpected information that should be exposed to the Egyptian community. For instance, the instilled idea that most of the sexual harassment is performed by men was disproved.From what has been reported, majority is done by women and children. I think that discovering information like this is what can make HarrassMap a beginning point to reshape the misconceptions of sexual harassment and can bring awareness to the possibility of counting on new individuals, as oppose to officers or any authoritative figure, to take productive action and help eliminate such tragedies.

IMG_6768-1024x383                                                                             Volunteers of HarrassMap assisting women in Egypt
HarrassMap at Hand

Arab Bloggers and the Marginalization of Free Speech on the Internet

In response to the online article by Jessica Dheere, Arab Bloggers Meet to Discuss Free Speech, Reject ‘Journalist’ Label, her intuitive ideas on the state of blogging in the Middle East and North Africa, were inspiring and an exemplar of how influential the contributions of foreign based activists are to the empowerment of peripheral perspectives. In countries like Egypt, where bloggers are becoming the voice of a highly impulsive media revolution, social media activists are just beginning to temper the persecution of peaceful social movement and the suppression of internet technology. Dheere (2008), finds that within the open source environment of the internet, the influx of information exchange, has both realized political engagement and expanded the communicative capabilities of the Arab World. However, the imprisonment of bloggers is causing activists to consider journalistic expression as an outlet for their online identities (mediashift.org). While blogging is constructively a way for activists to inform revolutions and empower the work of their peers, their scholarly contributions to freedom of speech and human rights, are being criminalized by regimes that make internet activism illegal. Essentially by controlling the communicative capacity of Arab people, these commanding and authoritative regimes are functioning to subjugate the extent of influence blogging activist have over the resolve of their social revolutions and the meditation of their followers.

In the online article Bassel Khartabil: Fears for Man Who Brought Open Internet to the Arab World, by Zoe Corbyn the author expounds upon the Syrian Assad’s incarceration of Bassel Khartabil. As a human rights activist and social media developer, Khartabil’s open-source internet technology (Aiki Lab) has not only improved communication between regions of oppressive Middle Eastern cultures, but also advanced the capabilities of information exchange around the world. Corbyn (2015), sees the imprisonment of Khartabil in 2012, as an attempt by the Syrian government to strike the technologists, journalistic activists, and human rights specialists of the social media movements in Syria (theguardian.com). Her subjective position on Khartabil’s contributions as an innovative developer, who has been wrongfully accused and detained by a controlling regime of corrupt officials, is quite inquisitive and imploring for justice and the safe return of the activist. Khartabil’s development of new language to communicate openly with outside members of the free software community, has actively expanded the range of voices, in support of the Arab movements. While his modernism is quite obvious, it is Khartabil’s influence over the internet and communication technology that has caused him to be unjustly condemned by an unaccountable regime of injudicious oppressors.

Arab Bloggers and the Marginalization of Free Speech on the Internet

Revolutions are becoming socially mediated, but is there a hidden agenda behind the technology?

The class readings regarding social media revolutions and the distortion of digital citizenship, really opened my eyes to the harsh reality of Egyptian youth and the expansiveness of media technology. For instance, the way that the youths of Egypt used social medias like Facebook to both reach and inform people, who would never know of or truly understand the atrocities that young people face, in countries that lack human rights for its citizens, is amazing and would probably never occur without the expansive capabilities of the internet. However, I do feel that the youth movement that started “We Are All Khalid Said” (WAAKS) was wrong for their portrayal of Said, as a martyr, to support their politically driven agenda. From my understanding, Said was not an activist of any social movement to overturn Mubarak or to thwart the Emergency Law that plagued the youths of Egypt. He was just a youth, that’s it. A young man who lived in a country that treated its youths, as if they were a burden to society. In some way, WAAKS portrayal of Khaled Said, as a saint who could do no wrong, is similar to how the youths of Egypt are portrayed as a problem to society.

While the youth movements of Egypt gain attention for their means, the reality of what is truly epidemic, that is the marginalization of Egyptian society economically and the current disadvantaged state of both the middle- and lower-classes, are not being addressed. I think that in order for the youth movements to have a greater impact on not only the Egyptian society, but also on societies from around the world, it is important that these digitalized movements address the more rooted problems that have affected the country of Egyptian for centuries, not just recently. It seems as if those who are using digital media to gain attention and inform others, are simply using predominant problems that effect both themselves and a more specified grouping of society. However, my question is if the youth movements in Egypt were to expand their agendas to address the whole of society and the human rights brutalities they all face collectively, would those involved in such movements eventually lose their anonymity and become more susceptible to brutalities against their livelihood, both individually and socially? With this said, one could conclude that the reasoning behind the specificity of the digitalized youth movements, is to the extent to which they can begin to address the many problems that face their society, without feeling personally susceptible to the atrocities their people endure, due to the exploitation of power by the hierarchy.

Revolutions are becoming socially mediated, but is there a hidden agenda behind the technology?

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