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!