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.

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

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

The Media Effect in Egypt

While reading Herrera’s article, I cannot help to compare the amount of exposure the youth in America has to information on the internet in comparison to those in Egypt. Not necessarily do we know everything that goes on in the world but we do practice the ideology of freedom of speech and in many cases, have the ability to share our believes and ideas on the web without being arrested or brutality punished. Within the media, including the internet, we learn about other cultures. We aren’t necessarily limited to this information. It’s easy for us to gain access to international news, foreign films and have less restriction on what we can watch or listen to. I can see why an Egyptian, after knowing we have this type of freedom, chooses to question his or her country’s regime. Now having access to this information gives the exposed Egyptian something to compare his life to and leads that individual to gain desire to a similar right.

Herrera describes this exposure as “greater awareness of their place in the world and experimenting with the ways of challenging the status quo”. Medians like Facebook, Twitter, etc. has assisted Egyptian youth to express the concerns of  Egypt’s regime making easy for such individuals to meet people who correspond to these questions and concerns. The anonymity just makes it a plus and becomes encouragement for the Egyptian youth to publicly expose their individual belief. It gives the Egyptians a place to be ” Muslim orientated, educational, participatory, and subversive”. (Herrera, 347)

The media has became a place of opportunity in where the youth can create movements such as  antitorture campaigns like the”April 6 Youth Movement”. Ultimately, in Egypt the media has become an essential tool to survive. As Ahmed described it, depriving him from media is like “blocking the air to my lungs”.  The question is if the Egyptian is capable to create a use their accessibility to the media and impact their native land permanently.



* Aiding the Refugees from the Middle East:

•Educate others about what’s going on in many areas of the Middle East; on potential reasons why people are migrating to Europe; on the dynamics of what kind of people are migrating, including religion and determining the difference

•Raise funds for refugees

•aiding them in their region as well as Europe and the U.S.

*State protection for women in Egypt:

• including sexual harassment & human rights

• emphasize on their right to be educated


The Media Effect in Egypt

Digital Organization under Authoritarian Regimes

Throughout both Faris and Ali & El-Sharnouby’s articles, it’s clear that the internet, and specifically social media sites, provide a platform for repressed people to quickly, cheaply, and efficiently organize under a specific issue rather than resorting to traditional activist efforts of organizing in a physical space. Faris talks about the formation of Kefaya in Egypt and the struggles they originally faced in opposition to an authoritarian regime. Attendance rates were low, and due to gender-based violence, many women activists refrained from protesting.

Social media sites are widely accessible and provide a platform for anonymity, but it is also important to note that although social media activism in these environments can be extremely effective, campaigns can be easily skewed. Faris accentuates the point that in these online campaigns, there are many leaders. Perhaps with many leaders comes a wider chance for a movement’s main focus to shift in order to fit the group’s agenda. In the case of We Are All Khaled Said, Ali & El-Sharnouby comment that WAAKS struggles between the true testimony of Said’s beating and the mythic portrayal of a martyr of police brutality that had been associated with Said both on Facebook and in conversation surrounding the campaign.

Ali & El-Sharnouby appear very concerned with this disconnect and make the point that regardless of whether Said was or was not the martyr that WAAKS claims him to be, digital campaigns such as WAAKS are simply unable to fully grasp the social and cultural context of these events. They suggest that Egyptian youth culture and activism does not tackle the uncomfortable, underlying social issues of alienation, substance abuse, religious extremism, unemployment, poor education, etc. and are instead idealizing social change through “heroic stories of martyrdom and sacrifice” (Ali & El-Sharnouby, 90).

Digital Organization under Authoritarian Regimes