Cairo Drive

“Traffic equalizes the plain field; everyone is at the same stage”

After seeing Cairo Drive I have to say now I consider myself somewhat more knowledgeably towards the driving in Cairo.

The direction Sherief Elkatsha took in the movie was different but at the same time one of the best ways to do it. As he mentioned on the Q&A after the film, doing the film from the car was much easier because people would talk about everything behind a wheel. They were hesitant to begin with and only wanted to talk about driving, but once they were on the road, the stress and anger got them talking about all different topics. In my opinion this is a very tactical way to do it which allowed Sherief Elkatsha to obtain much more information than if he would have just placed a camera in front of the interviewees.

When you see the way people drove before and after the Revolution you can notice a big change, especially because before the driving in Cairo was ruled by corruption; as the government prohibited trucks in certain areas during some hours, but the truck drivers would bribe the police to let them in. Another common action was using bribe to get the driving license.

This all kind of changed when the revolution came as a great amount of regulation was enforced and the driving license were checked at every corner. However, as I mentioned, it only kind of changes because not all rules where adapted to this new way of living and if you don’t change the rules from the top of the hierarchy then the change won’t be successful throughout the society.

Now I understand why the film was made in Cairo, as Sherief Elkatsha said; “there is no bubble”, everyone shares everything, it is a very communal environment and collectivistic culture where everyone passes everything around. In the film there are a few shots which show this, as you can see how two people are on the motorbike riding side by side talking and how people pass things from one car to another. In the Q&A he also mentioned how he had filmed how a man passed a cup of tea to another man in a different car.

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Cairo Drive

Cairo Drive

Caro Drive was a very entertaining documentary about driving in the streets of Cairo. The movie was followed by a discussion with filmmaker Sherief Elkatsha, who also visited the class earlier that day. Sherief Elkatsha repeatedly said that his film was not about the revolution, but that the revolution just happened while he was making the movie, a documentary that took him five years to produce. It is true that the revolution is not the focus of the story, but its impact on the city can still be felt while watching.

It was invigorating to see how openly Sherief Elkatsha discussed the process of making the movie and that he openly admitted that a lot of lucky coincidence was involved instead of trying to be the mysterious filmmaker with a masterplan. I think that gave a lot of the film students in the audience hope and the strength to try to go along with their own projects.

Cairo Drive

Urgency for Change in Saudi Arabia

“No Spring in Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s Seemingly Impossible Revolution”

by Stéphane Lacroix

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“Revolutions happen when deep and serious reform is absent… People don’t provoke revolutions, only repression, oppression, corruption, backwardness and poverty provoke revolutions”

“People here, like people around the world, have demands, longings and rights, and they will not remain silent forever when they are denied all or some of them”

“When one becomes hopeless, you can expect anything from them”

-Salman al-‘Awda

#Women2Drive

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Stéphane Lacroix’s “No Spring in Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s Seemingly Impossible Revolution,” touched on a lot of important topics regarding Saudi Islamist and the Arab Spring. Even though the reading did not touch on the #Women2Drive campaign in Saudi Arabia, I wanted the focus of my blog post to be on this topic.

So why can’t women drive in Saudi Arabia? In all actuality, there is no written law that states that women cannot drive. There is literally no reason and no law that says that women should drive. The absurdity and ideals of this ban is demonstrated by a conservative Saudi Arabian judicial advisor, Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan, who commented, “If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards. That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees.” Obviously, there is no medical studies to support his argument or we would all have clinical problems, assuming all our mothers drive.

All in all, I feel this is an extremely important campaign in Saudi Arabia because it is opening a discussion on the problems in Saudi Arabia, specifically to basic human rights for women. The fact that women cannot drive in Saudi Arabian is absolutely bizarre. Women can’t drive, even though they want to. But this restriction goes deeper than just driving, it touches on basic rights that affect women’s ability to work, travel and live a normal and free life. It’s evident that there needs to be change in Saudi Arabia, especially because of the fact that women are not real and full participants of society.

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Urgency for Change in Saudi Arabia

The rise of activism: Women2Drive

“Sunni Islamist is the force with the biggest mobilizing potential in the Kingdom and the only force theoretically able to threaten the system”

Although people had been arrested the activist wanted to keep doing their work, but the ideas of how to do that varied. There were various groups; one which thought the priority was to focus on the society to stop the growing trend of the social liberalization. What they wanted is to give equality to the women, an issue that was growing in the wrong direction. However, the other group thought that the most important thing to talk about was the political change, as some thought that Saudi Arabia was being converted into a “True Islamic state”. Finally there is a third group which tried to advocate a “civil jihad” using peaceful means aiming to transform Saudi Arabia into an Islamic constitutional monarchy.

However they were all in favor of the revolution and they got together which alarmed the outside countries and culminated by receiving donations, which they still are through Sahwa networks. The revolutions that happened were peaceful and they only reclaimed freedom and dignity, but with this revolution social media also increased in Saudi and people began to communicate their ideas this way.

Personally I think that having the opportunity for young people and women, along with everyone else, to reclaim and speak their minds throughout the social media is a very good decision, as no one should be banned to speak their mind and everyone should have the right to ask for whatever they want, without giving importance if afterwards that’s actually going to happen or not.

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About the campaign Women2Drive, women should have the right to drive because nothing makes them less able to do it than men, and having the ability to use the social media to express themselves and prove to the society they are wrong and the women are able to drive or do many other things which they are prohibited throughout their lives is a very good start. We are in the 21st Century and I don’t think we should be still dealing with these type of problems, as men are no better than women or vice versa. Everyone has their own ability and everyone should be able to practice it.

The rise of activism: Women2Drive

Bassel Khartabil: Imprisoned Unjustly or Not?

How far would you go to do the right thing, even if it meant going to prison for it? That was one of many questions I asked myself if I was in same position as him. As I read a couple articles about this guy and was truly amazed once I learned more about him. Through reading these articles I learned some basic information. I learned he was born and raised in Syria, was an only child, gained an interest in computers and coding from his uncle. Furthermore I learned is he got a bachelors and a master’s degree. But I was truly surprised once I found about one of his major accomplishments to that region of the world. He helped bring more open-source programs and access to an area of the world where the internet is heavily censored and monitored. As well as help a popular open-source site he was working at called Creative Commons to translate the text and other information into Arabic. This in turn make this site more accessible and spanned countries instead of certain regions of one country. But when I was reading more about his history I learned more about the tragic turn about his eventual arrest and detainment. I felt some empathy for this individual, he went to great lengths to make peoples live better, but did it regardless if he was praised or unfortunately in this case imprisoned for it. That is very admirable of him and few people in this world have the convictions to do something right regardless of the number of obstacles in his way. So I was happy to learn he found someone to share his life with during his imprisonment and got married. But I also found out his troubles were not over, I learned shortly after he was moved to an undisclosed location for another special court hearing and no has heard from him since. So in conclusion this is another real life application of how far activists will go for social change, even if they have to pay the ultimate price for that change.

Bassel Khartabil: Imprisoned Unjustly or Not?

After Tahir Film Festival

The After Tahir film festival was, I thought, a good glimpse inside a country undergoing a revolution. The film that had the heaviest impact on me was the longer video in the middle, the one where the military trucks were shown running over civilians. Previous films that day had shown the revolutionaries throwing rocks and having rocks or flaming objects thrown at them but really didn’t convey any sense of danger. Seeing the army fighting and sometimes mowing down, running over, or even shooting the protesters showed the true urgency and danger of the situation in a better way. After seeing the first videos I wasn’t overly impressed with the Egyptian citizens. Their assembly was something to be proud of but it didn’t look like they had suffered the resistance one would expect. Seeing them continue to stay out on the streets even while fighting for their lives was nothing short of heroic.

I also enjoyed the discussions with Gandhi’s grandson. Although Gandhi wasn’t really active in Egypt his ideals of freedom, religious coexistence, and peaceful civil disobedience clearly informed some of the ideals of the Egyptian revolution. It was interesting to have a relative discuss a man who truly changed the world but isn’t known or discussed at length in the United States.

After Tahir Film Festival

After Tahrir Conference

After I left the Tahir conference, I felt as if I had stepped into a new world. The world I have heard of many times but never really got to hear about it first hand. I was so moved by all the of powerful energy I felt projected throughout the room, by people who had a close relationship to Egypt or lived there at some point. There was pride, pain, hope, and memories spoken by people in the conference. I was given the privilege to attend two panels one titled, Morbid Symptoms of Rule:the Invincible State, the Vulnerable State and another titled Bodies and Spaces: Moral Panics, Revolution, and Counterrevolution. 

My favorite speakers from the first panel I listened to was Lina Attalah and Omar Robert Hamiltons. Lina really emphasized on how the Regime and State were different and if they could truly be seen as separate. Separate meaning if you could rule the state without owning it or own the state without ruling it. She also mentioned how Muslim Brothers failed to be guardians of the State. Omar Robert focused more on the economic aspect within Egypt. He brings up the importance the oil trade between Italy and Egypt and how it helped sustain their economy. This trade enabled the use of being able to make crude, petroleum, and refined oils. Robert also mentions how it was not just Italy that traded resources with them but Israel had a great influence as throughout many years. Recently there was an oil discovery in Egypt with the net cost of around 50 billion euro dollars which can help Egypt come to a stable state. The talks were both very intricate and detailed within the Regime and knowing the economical stance Egypt is in.

The second panel I heard from was Yahia Mohammad and Magda Boutrous both spoke about different issues in Egypt. Yahia Mohammad talked about queerness, skin color, and ethnicity affected him in Egypt. He addresses how difficult it is for him to be able to identify where people wanted him to belong. Mohammad was an activist in the queer movement and brought about issues in the political field. Even though these ethnicity and queer issues were an ongoing problem it was hard to talk about them because there were bigger issues like the revolution with the State. A great example he uses to explain his speech was, “Do I define identity? or Does identity define me?” This was a continuous thought he had and something that really got me thinking as well. Magda Boutrous was by far one of the most interesting and deep talks I heard from the two panels. She explains the research field study she was conducting which he ultimately decided to stop doing. Boutrous talks about her personal experience working in an physically and mentally draining environment with people who are prisoners. She wanted to get a firsthand experience and comments from people who were in captivity and know what lead them to be prisoners. People explained doing nothing, some defied the rules, and others were activists. The main reason which lead her to stop her field study was really moving and she was able to explain to others that it is okay to stop doing a research study when it is putting you messing with your sanity.

After Tahrir Conference