mercredi 8 mars 2017

Late Night Thoughts

I've been holding my words for a long time because everything I thought of was self-censored fearing to annoy the reader, to receive "stop complaining" reactions and "you're too sensitive ones". I've been trying so hard to understand fellow homo sapiens around me and why there is still such a lack of awareness of what sexism is. It seems this word just when you hear it you say "ah! here we go again" "this bullshit"!
I thought I might try to break it down here to all those who are really interested:
- always refering or identifying any woman up to her "beauty" level and how much she attracts you. Instead, nice alternatives could be her name, what she does, what she stands for.
- when privately notified to have offended a woman, not taking it seriously, joking about it or blaming the woman for expressing herself. Nice alternatives would to be to apologize and to try to understand why what you did hurt her. To seek more an answer instead of complete denial.
- making sexist jokes, joking NEVER makes sexism okay for a woman. This includes making any hand gestures or sexual suggestive sounds.
- when talking in a conversation about a woman you disagree with, calling her a "bitch" or any other synonyms. An alternative could be a description of the precise problem you have with this woman as a person.
- rejecting, denying and reversing any attempt from a woman to notify a sexist behaviour and reverse attacking her for expressing her opinion.

vendredi 19 décembre 2014

Sexual Harassment in Tunisia: The Daily Nightmare

(In Arabic: No to sexual harassment) 

While taking fast steps on my way back from university, I can feel distant music beats coming from somewhere. I close my eyes. I try to focus only on the music; and for a second I disappear. I am no longer here. I feel like the melody is coming from my inside and its beats are synchronized with my heart beats.

Loud screaming and cursing wakes me up as I pass by a street fight. I start to walk faster, my head down, as I desperately hope to get less sexually harassed (verbally) by the group of guys around the fight.

I try not to hear what they are saying to me. At that precise moment, as usual, I reflect on the benefits of being deaf in Tunisia or I imagine myself a superhero, as I used to do when I was a child, who can make bad guys disappear…

Then I smile and I tell myself ironically: “it’s a hopeless case!”
I find it surprising when having self-evaluating moments, that I’ve reached the point where I smile at this, even just ironically.
I don’t know if it’s a new level of despair or it’s just my I-wish-don’t-care-anymore-way of overcoming this.

I guess I’m tired, as a lot of Tunisian girls and women, of feeling hate, rage and disgust everyday as I walk the streets or use public transportation etc…

“Psssst” “You there, I want to **** you” “I want you to be my ****” “nice *****” “I want you to **** my ****” …

I am not a remarkably good-looking girl but it’s almost impossible to pass by a guy or a group of guys without hearing lousy disrespectful comments. Few guys would stop me and demand in the rudest way (like it’s their God-given right) to get my phone number or my Facebook id.
No matter how diplomatically I express that I’m not interested and that I should get going, they get really mad and find it legitimate at that point (after being rejected) to call me a “slut” and other highly sophisticated names (that I didn’t know they existed in the Tunisian dialect) which have the same meaning…

“Why “no”? You have a boyfriend right? I can do a lot better than him, just give it a try!”

It’s not only about being good-looking, it’s not only about the way the girl is dressed. Being a young female is all what it takes.

Few days ago, the world celebrated the 66th anniversary of human rights day. I came back home to read the shocking news about the 19-year-old Egyptian woman who jumped off a bridge into the Nile River as a reaction to being sexually harassed in public[1].

This is it; the ultimate response. It’s a shocking event but I could totally relate to her. Who wouldn’t sometimes wish we had the Nile River in Tunis as well? I know I’m not the only one. That’s why I decided to write about this. The day after, I asked girls on my social network to send me their testimonies.

“I’m going to tell you something that happened to me in 2008. I took the subway in Tunis at 10 a.m. The metro was full and a man put his hands on my bottom and as the metro was full, I couldn’t even move to avoid him. Later, I got off shocked and I told this to my girlfriends. They all confirmed to me that they were harassed in public transportation before.” A., 27 years old, was the first to share with me this arduous incident.

I have always been a victim of verbal harassment. It's about offensive remarks; either about my body, my looks or just because of my gender; only because I'm a woman” Emna, 22 years old, shares her experience. “
It really disgusts me. I always feel uncomfortable. My rage against this society is growing day after day. Sometimes, I have weird thoughts, and even violent ones. Sometimes I wish I was a superwoman so I can beat them up!” she adds. “I wish I could walk around with a gun and shoot down every guy who harasses me” Kods, 23 years old, expresses her ultimate frustration.

These violent impulses might sound funny and caricatured but one can easily understand how hurt and disgusted these girls feel. 
A man follows me with his car. He shamelessly keeps beeping his car horn. He drives by me and tries to get my attention: “hey you! Just a second!” “Where are you going?” “Do you want a ride?” “Come on: Hump in! I have something to show you”.  When I refuse to look, he gets mad and follows the calling names tradition… This happens during the daytime, with people moving across the street and nobody intervenes…
There is no point of trying to defend yourself. The harassers will just have the chance to harass you more and more. They want attention. So what I do is, I swallow the humiliation and carry on walking ignoring them.

Sometimes the harasser could be very persistent and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. He follows me till I get to my destination as he pollutes my ears with degrading expressions.
These incidents happen so frequently by different aggressors; I get harassed by guys my age, old men who are my father’s or my grandfather’s age and underage school-boys whom I can legally adopt! It is just unbelievable!
When you face this kind of phenomenon you wonder: “why?” “What’s wrong with this society?!”

I believe it's the effect of the huge sexual repression that our people suffer from.” Emna explains.

The psychologist Christopher Ryan[2] believes that if the expression of 
sexuality is thwarted, the human psyche tends to grow twisted into grotesque, enraged perversions of desire. “Unfortunately, the distorted rage resulting from sexual repression rarely takes the form of rebellion against the people and institutions behind the repression. Instead, the rage is generally directed at helpless victims.” This is the most agreed on psychological explanation.
This is the sexual harassment explained, but is it justified?

“Of course no!” Miriam, 21 years old, refuses the use of the sexual repression problem in Tunisia as an excuse for the aggressors. “We both women and men face the same repression, we both have sexual needs, you don’t see me harassing every guy passing by! These men should learn how to control themselves. There is no excuse!”

Faten, 22 years old, confided her hope to me: “I wish one day I’ll walk the streets in Tunisia and feel like a respected human being”.

I share the same frustration, the same anger, the same disgust and finally the same hopes as these girls. I also want to walk the street with my head up, not scared of making eye-contact with anyone. I want to be respected for who I am and not only when I am in the company of a guy. I want to have a normal daily life and walk to my university peacefully.


samedi 26 juillet 2014

Because you too, you wake up every morning hoping for a better future

This photo belongs to its original owner. No copyright infringement intended.

Lately, I've been trying to burry my head in my pillow as long as I can, as I'm desperately trying to escape the insane escalation of bloodshed surrounding us.
I'm sitting now and thinking that even basic things can't happen somewhere in the middle east.. that on the other side of the world, many people no longer have the comfort to sit on a sofa and think because they are too busy trying to survive.
I always wonder: what can I do to help? All forms of solidarity that come to my mind sound very pathetic. That's why I feel so small in front of a big reality determined by what it seems like invincible factors.
I am conscious that we are living in a situation which craves for a sustainable solution. However, I am just part of my entourage in real life and virtually.
As a matter of fact, I've been trying to avoid every kind of mainstream or social media, to disappear for a while because I'm sick of these protagonist and antagonist propagandas spreading everywhere cultivating nothing but  hate speech and laying the ground for a project of new generations doomed to live in war.
But I also see these angry people from the four corners of the world protesting, donating and praying. And I feel so overwhelmed with this parade of international compassion. I hear that third voice rising against all this hatred anarchy, all this moral insanity. A wave which is challenging the ongoing project of ever-lasting war and working on replacing it with a project of new generations that know the value of peace. It's the voice of those who love children independently of their nationality. It's the voice of life.
Because hundreds of children are dying every day in Gaza, Syria, Iraq...

Because you too, you wake up every morning hoping for a better future, stand up and say: ENOUGH!

mercredi 12 mars 2014


11/03/2014 People in Tunisia ,and I guess in many other countries on this planet, are obviously tired of doing nothing.You will find many people complaining about the stress which, let me explain, is having many things to do at a very short period of time because you didn't do any of them when you had plenty of time...

No wonder people kill all their deadlines before even starting to do the job "don't worry", they say. "It's called being an Arab", "haven't you heard about the Arab hour?" and all the Tunisian expressions used to make postponement and procrastination seem totally acceptable "Inshallah", "Yaamel Rabee", "Amenaach"...

I mean, living in this country my whole life (minus 13 days), it's quite fair to ask: what's with the constant delay thing? Furthermore, what's with this culture of all kinds of mediocrity? 

I genuinely wonder how many people in this country are REALLY working, are REALLY studying, are really making efforts to make an achievement, to honor an commitment, to fulfill a given mission...How many?

Today, 07:50 a.m, Me waiting a Taxi, I need to be in class at 08:15 a.m., maximum estimated time to arrive: 15 minutes. The first taxi I stopped wouldn't let me get in the car before telling him where I'm heading. When I told him, he nodded, lifted-up the car window, and without a word, he left.The second taxi, didn't ask me where I'm going till I was already in. We got stuck in an insane traffic at the level of a gas station.the taxi was nice to explain to me that yesterday, there were rumors (means news) about truck drivers strike (the ones who drive gas to stations). People were coming from both sides, creating huge lines to get a full fill of gas. We were totally blocked, couldn't move an inch.. The taxi started to lose his temper...A hundred "beeps" and curses teared-off the beautiful morning silence.

08:35 a.m. I finally hit my destination, automatically missed the first class. I went to the cafeteria to grab a coffee."Not to my surprise", all the administration staff (male ones, I don't know why!) were in front of the cafeteria chitchatting...

Friday 07/03/2014, 03.35 p.m, I went to a police office to do some urgent paperwork: "come back tomorrow morning" I've been told.

Saturday, 08/03/2014, 10:30 a.m, same police office: "come back on Monday".

Saturday, 08/03/2014, 08:45 p.m., Municipal Theater of Tunis, Words Marathon, Carole Bouquet's lecture.More than 20 people had their cell phones on, about 3 of them actually answered. More that half of my neighbors were chitchatting... sometimes loudly. I actually heard about 1/4 of what Carole Bouquet said. Maybe a bit less, lucky me!!

Today, 08:40 a.m, in the university's library there were 6 students already in. More than 15 coffee paper cups were left from yesterday on the empty tables. The trash can is sitting next to the library's door...

Monday, 10/03/2014, 05:20 p.m, waiting for a friend at a commercial center. I had a coffee and found by miracle where to sit. The whole floor was boiling with people. There were literally no spare tables. Many of these people are workers who finish their service at 6 p.m. How would I know? They were telling their friends on the phone they left early "as usual"..

The noise was unbelievable, it was like falling into a bees nest.. But wait, most of these people are not much like bees (not as hardworking as them), except for the noise.

It's the world of the non-working bees.

Ps: This text is for description aims. All critics to extract are left to the reader's discretion. I don't pretend to be better than any person described up here. I am part of those people...

mercredi 12 février 2014

Are Tunisians "Happy"?

(photo belongs to its original owner)

I woke-up that morning after a similar one where those news were all over the country: terrorists are being chased, surrounded, shot and arrested at different locations.
“God bless the police!” shout old people. “They are finally doing their real job” say younger people. “The assumed murderer of Chokri Belaid has been killed only 2 days before his one year memorial funeral”. “What a coincidence!” noticed nearly everybody.

“Coincidence? It’s all my eye! This is one failed governmental play in order to calm down the opponents” said a colleague of mine at the university.

Where am I in this chaos of opinions, doubts and accusations?
I’ve always been skeptic.That’s why now I feel totally lost.
What/who shall I believe?? I am unable to judge; there is no trusted evidence. Everyone is accusing everyone and everybody hates everybody…
Well, not everyone.

There are still some young people at this confusing period of our history who are still enjoying life, who are sure of what they want, who inspite of all odds, of all the mess going on, of the ambiguity and threatening insecurity, are unapologetically “happy”.

It has started about 2 months ago I guess; many amazing young people have been shaking both my YouTube home page and my soul with beautiful video covers of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

They are Youth, from many Tunisian cities, who still radiate hope and create work of art that brings smile and warmth.

This cyber phenomenon which had started earlier at famous capitals such as Paris and Berlin, accrues now in Tunisia to surprise you at the time when many Tunisians feel really depressed.

Those people make you feel better, see life in this country differently, treasure what you have and especially make it work.

No matter how simple it may seem, this artistic gesture has a real psychological impact on web surfers. It is, indeed, the kind of spirit we need to build a country.

Today, youth challenge extremists and prove that terrorist attacks failed to break their spirit or disfigure the country’s image.
They smile, dance, have fun and share their love of this country which I thought no youth did…

I think that these young people reminded me of a basic though crucial lesson of life: if you want to defeat the hands of death, then be a soldier of life.

Enjoy the positive vibes!

lundi 25 novembre 2013

Apocalypse of humanity “Let’s humanize”!

As I walk the streets of Tunis and watch the frowning faces passing by, I feel so desperate and bitter.

It was last week; a salafist-looking man (Beard, Kamees…) appeared in the crowd. He was holding a medium-sized sports bag, walking super-fast and looking nervously left and right.

A few months ago, nobody would have cared about him or have given such a scene a second thought. People were too secure to notice him.

But that day, I watched all the people, who were walking on the same sidewalk as the salafist-looking man, move to the other side and give him confused looks as they were trying to get away from him as fast as they could.

I never saw that coming, at least not until two years ago; this unfortunate day when I saw Tunisian people walking the street and feeling insecure.

I am sure that many political opponents of the old or even the current regime felt/feel unsafe at a certain point. But when it turns out that today all Tunisians feel like they are walking on thin ice, you know that the terrorist wave which hit Tunisia lately has left real traces.

It went from targeting opposition politicians to targeting army and police forces. Lately it targeted tourists (hotels), political symbols (Bourguiba’s tomb) and even civilians (artificial bombs).

Despite the failure of the last attempts, Tunisians seem to not recognize their country anymore. Many of them cannot accept the fact that terrorist activities (including the finding of fake bombs) became a typical part of the national daily news.

As far as I am concerned, living as a normal Tunisian has become a psychological war. I only hope that there will be no trivialization of the human losses. I hope we will not get used to watch bloody news because it breaks my heart when I see people watching the news of Syria or Iraq (and other conflict zones) and not reacting anymore.

When 200 people dying daily in the MENA region doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t move any soul, doesn’t disturb any mind, doesn’t generate any reaction, this is what I call the apocalypse of humanity. This is the progressive disappearance of any empathy or humanly feeling towards fellow human beings.

This is an urgent matter. Before it is too late, let’s re-humanize our relationships through education. Before corrupting the future generation with the inhuman “values” of our shameful history, let’s show them that we have learned that extremism is stupid and that we don’t want them to have the same life we had. We must do this simply because “there is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds for children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that children’s rights are respected, that their lives are free from fear and that they grow up in peace.” (Kofi Annan)

samedi 28 septembre 2013

The Tunisian Woman: Another Arab Woman?

I’ve just got back from a Human Rights Summer Camp with Amnesty International in my hometown Chebba (Tunisia) and I can’t say that I am the same person anymore. Have you ever posed to yourself,  “how much do I really know about my country and is my way of seeing things realistic?”    
 I had pondered this question many times before, but the answers I got hit me like a tornado!
I genuinely thought that I knew the situation of women rights in Tunisia and the “level” of gender inequality quite well. But, as I exchanged my thoughts with a group of young people and trainers from all corners of the country, it dawned on me that I had missed the ‘bigger picture’.
It wasn’t about things I never heard of, but about social common phenomenon which I didn’t know were so common. I am not your overly optimistic kind of person about the rights of women in Tunisia. In fact, if asked to comment, I almost never answer that “the Tunisian woman is the luckiest among Arab women!” Instead I used to be apologetic, fidgeting with the phrase: “This is how she is usually seen by an outsider but I think there are SOME drawbacks you should probably know.” I only knew of SOME, in fact, I thought of SOME but I realized I was way off track. I had veered off the grid and I will tell you why. The answer is based on two broad phenomena: Domestic Violence and Rape/Sexual Harassment
Domestic Violence:
The fact that I was born in a family (including my extended family) where I never saw or heard about violence between spouses (lucky me!), blinded me concerning the fact that 1 in 5 Tunisian women is a victim of domestic violence (according to The National Survey on Violence towards Women in Tunisia).
Beyond the shock that such numbers can cause. I was even more shocked when I learnt more about the social acceptance and contribution to such a phenomenon. Domestic violence is seen in many regions as a sign of manhood. In some rural regions, they believe that a husband must beat his wife to educate her. Those who speak for violence quip that “domestic violence is not a crime; things happen between a man and his wife, it’s not such a big deal!” Even in Islam it is legitimate to beat one’s wife, it’s for her good! and wives are said to provoke their husbands into beating them It Is fondly referred to as chastisement. A little for the good manners they say. Barbaric and inhumane! It’s violence not some sort of tease play!
Ever wondered what the Tunisian masculine society think about domestic violence and not the minority civil rights activists? Yes, those were some very “common” answers.
I think my shock almost reached its edge when I heard several testimonies about the complicity of police officers and doctors (who are supposed to be educated people) in many cases of domestic violence: a police officer would ignore the victim trying to pursue her offending husband, a doctor who would give a victim a sick note of only 3 days because the offender was the husband. The doctor would easily get a sick note for a much longer period if she claims that the assault was conducted by an unknown aggressor.
As a result, and as a mitigating factor, some women rights NGOs in Tunisia ask women to not mention that the offender is the husband so they can get real attention. This kind of complicity unfortunately also confronted many victims of rape and sexual harassment.
Rape/Sexual Harassment:
Many Tunisian readers would possibly relate to the much talked about “rape of Mariem”. A Tunisian young woman who was raped by the police in April 2013and then got accused of indecency! This is what I knew about rape in Tunisia besides the fact that it was a phase of the torturing procedure within Ben Ali’s regime. Plus, I would read about some cases in the newspaper from time to time. But I was in some naïve way convinced that we are fine. At least we didn’t have daily gang rapes like in some areas in Egypt .Rape is not phenomenon daily occurrence in Tunisia, it is a crime which happens I’d tell myself.
After a conversation with a woman rights activist and a psychologist, I had many beliefs fall apart and I came to a new conclusion: rape is a phenomenon in Tunisia. It happens but it is UNSEEN and it is UNSPOKEN. The Tunisian woman is yet another Arab woman who suffers from a suppressed sexually-frustrated society; “the more it bans sex the more it’s obsessed with it” (Michel Foucault).
Moreover, as in many Arab countries, statistically, the assaulter (rape or sexual harassment) is often a family member. Also, statistically, most victims don’t take any steps in order to file a claim against the offender or get help (a psychological treatment) and it’s even more complicated when it is about spousal rape.
On the contrary, most of the unmarried victims who lose their virginity to rape seek repairing surgery because of the stigma and the trauma that rape brings and their prospective exclusion if even by any works of the devil they dare not have their hymen intact! They opt for plastic, not for themselves but for the society. This society that is so bent on virginity and not justice. This society that glorifies fathers at the expense of mothers. This society that for a long time, I was apologetic for. This society that I now see quite clearly. Yes, the victim doesn’t have the time to be a victim; she has to do as much as she possibly can to satisfy the society as her virginity is the equivalent of her family’s honor not her own.
Spousal rape, it is not illegal neither is it shunned by society. For many people this kind of rape cannot exist because for them, sex in marriage (even if it is forced) is sex. The chosen right of the spouse. The undeniable privilege. Regardless of how unsatisfying or demeaning, nothing more nothing less!

Women rights NGO’s are still fighting to have it penalized and to raise awareness about it within the Tunisian society. Sadly, even some female Tunisian members of the National Constituent Assembly, who are now writing the Tunisian constitution, don’t acknowledge it!