All Posts By Florence

Story Eight: Maghaly from Lebanon

Once I was walking home, it was about 7 or 8 at night during summer time, and I just took the first alley that leads to my house, when I felt that someone was laughing right behind me. When I turned to look, 2 guys on a motorcycle jumped on me and started touching me in inappropriate places and I started to scream my lungs out! I cursed at them when suddenly and out of nowhere people started screaming and shouting : “take your hands off of her you filthy pigs !”


It was a miracle that there were people out on the balcony of one of the buildings. I was so afraid and shaking, I even hit one guy on the head so hard that he fell. Then before I knew it they hopped back on their motorcycle and fled the scene. It turned out they had turned off off their motorcycle s engine so I wouldn’t hear them behind me and they were rolling the motorcycle.


It was horrific and I started to think that if there was no one around I could have been raped. Since then I don’t feel secure at all, I feel scared walking alone or even taking a cab alone.

After 2 weeks of that horrible incident, I was walking again back home with my friend (a girl) and it was also about 7 pm summer time and it wasn’t even night fall yet. So as we were walking, I felt someone following us, its an instinct I picked up after what happened to me last time, and so I turned around to check it out, and there he was ! A guy with an undone zipper masturbating behind us on the street ! I couldn’t believe my eyes, I told my friend what I saw but also told her not to make any expressions or freak out. Instead, I turned to him and started yelling at him, so he started running in the opposite direction. when I saw a man from the army standing, I told him the story and I pointed my finger in the direction the filthy guy was heading to, but what he said was: ” you shouldn’t have been dressed like that”.

I was wearing a t-shirt and a jeans, I was so shocked from what he said so I told him :”tfou 3lek” and just continued my way back home.

Because of this horrific experience and many other experineces that me and other women have been through, I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world…

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Story Sixteen: Rahma from Tunisia

I am a 22 years old woman and here is my story.

I was sexually molested at the age of 9 by a 30 years old man. He touched and kissed my thighs and ejaculated on top of them. At that time i did not understand what had happened. However, when i did understand at the age of twelve, I knew that I lost my innocence from that moment .

Till now i still feel rage and anger and I couldn’t recover from that incident. I had told my story to a few friends and non of them understand what I’m going through. I even went to a therapist and that did not work either.

The molester still lives normally. I see him from time to time and I can only feel hate, anger, and frustration because he is free whereas I’m here trapped in my own psycho disturbed life.

I am with the Uprising of Women in the Arab World because children and females still can not speak out and stand up for their rights when it comes to sexual molesting and violent crimes committed against them.

For in our culture, these issues are taboos and it is better to suppress them for the sake of the family’s “honor”! what an absurd honor…

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Story Ten: Ghada from Palestine

It happened…

Everything hurts, still.

I could breathe easier than I did a year and six months ago. Sure, I still fall to pieces when no one is looking but I am able to pick them up quicker with the hope my friends gave me and continue to give me.

I now live with my younger sisters for the first time in years and when I look at them I know I cannot protect them from everything. It would be wrong of me to promise something to them my parents couldn’t keep. My mom and dad and even my partner at the time broke their promise to me that night. It wasn’t their fault, I know this but I had wished she was there to save me.

I was laying there, bleeding, scared and alone in the middle of the night. I wasn’t in any physical pain, I think I was just numb all over. An estranged man sat by the water smoking a cigarette as soon as he was done with me. As if my soul had not been crushed, as if this man earned his cigarette by raping me. He did not just sexually abuse me but he beat my unconscious while doing so. I haven’t told anyone the entirety of that night only because I don’t remember all of it. Unwanted bits and pieces of that night come to me as time goes by. It hurts but I am still here. He crept behind me. We fought. He violently raped me. I woke up and he was smoking a damn cigarette, with not a care in the world he looked straight at me and smiled. I had no idea who he was I just knew that he was a lot older, Hispanic and a “he”. I picked myself off the grass after a while, I’m not really sure how long it took me to finally get up, but I did and I walked to my apartment barefooted and my house-mate was not home. I was alone but I was also numb.

This will help…

“Read the Quran and say a little prayer.”  “Talk to your friends, it helps.”  “Go to therapy because it is always easier to talk to a stranger.”  “Just wait it out and the pain will lessen.” “Come with me to a yoga class.” “Come with me to kick boxing class.” I love my friends and they love me  so much but I’ve come to realize that only I can make me feel better about my traumas but of course with their help. I cannot count on anyone to make the pain completely go away. It happened. I will forever deal with it. I’m not sure of this quite yet but it feels like the rest of my life will be a “process”. Most of the time I think “curse the process, I have to live with the memory till the day I die.” But it does get easier.

Two strikes would just put me on pause…

Sure, I fear that it’ll happen again and again and again. That some man will just abuse my body whenever he feels like it because HE can. Usually when I close my eyes or when I’m alone, I think for a second, the longest second of my life, that it will happen again. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded with very optimistic and happy people. Palestinians have always been occupied and this time we are being killed in front of the international world, the UN and the USA allow it…

if the Palestinian children can get up in the morning and surpass the shootings and the apartheid wall then I could surpass this horrible event that happened to my body. I hated men for a very long time but eventually I learned to hate people’s actions rather than the people themselves, this for my sake and not theirs. Secretly, I dislike it most of them time when my friends say “you’re strong.” “You’re the strongest and bravest woman I have yet to meet.” “Stay strong.” What does it mean to be weak if I am not strong? Being raped should not be measured by strength versus weakness. Sometimes during different state of minds I think “right now I feel scared therefore I am weak” but of course this is NOT the equation of how it goes. Being raped is a kind of trauma that some people do not survive from but I did.

“Normal” does not exist, it never did so I stopped wishing for everything to go back to being “normal”.

It happened to her too…

One of my best friends called me less than two months ago and as soon as she said “Ghada, stay on the phone with me for a bit”, I immediately knew what was going on. I have never wanted to be near anyone as much as I wanted to be physically near her at that moment. When I was raped I was scared and I wanted someone to be near me, simultaneously I wanted to die. She was scared and I was scared for her. I stayed on the phone till she got home and I was assured that she was ‘safe’. My heart broke a thousand times because my best friend, another beautiful independent woman, was just raped by another vicious man who felt like he had the authority to do so. Helpless,  I was oceans away.

And now society plays a role…

I have not told my parents. That summer I flew to Palestine to visit them but I only stayed for about a month. I hadn’t allowed myself to cry or to absorb what had happened to my body and soul. I guess I was in denial or in shock or even both. My mom will not be able to take it. If I had told my father he would have blamed me just like society would have. I really didn’t have time to fight with anyone about who’s fault it was, I knew I needed to ‘fix’ me so I made my trip to Palestine a bit shorter than expected and bought a ticket back to the states. I was angry at my father because when I was little he would physically abuse my mother, me and my brothers. He hasn’t changed. I am still angry at him because I needed him that summer to be my father and not a stereotypical Arab man who will hate me for what a man did to me. I am still disappointed because my father will probably, most likely look at me with disgrace; I “allowed” a man to touch me, beat me, and come inside me. I wanted so bad for him to hug me and say “Ghada, it was not your fault and I love you no matter what.” I know if I had told him I would have been crushed yet again…

So if you’re a father, hold your daughter tonight and tell her “no matter what happens to you I will always love you.” Tell her this only if you mean it. I am telling you this as an Arab woman and as a daughter, if you are anything like my father or like the Arab society than just know that your daughter will have secrets like these that she will keep from you. If you are anything like my father than I feel sorry for you, how dare you put society over her. What is worse than this is to know that my parents cannot be here for me because of our sad, insecure, patriarchal society. Let us help each other fix our society before we decide to fix our country. Fix ourselves before we try to fix our governments. And Bahrain, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Palestine, Lebanon and etc… Let us fight for each other rather than with each other. If you’re a woman and you’re Arab than I applaud you for fighting for my rights as well as yours because I know how hard it is to fight the men in our lives. For me as a Palestinian woman, I will only speak for myself, but I know it is harder for me to fight men like my father than it is for me to fight Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint.

I look into the eyes of my sisters and think “oh my God, please fight for your rights to exist as a whole.”

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Story Six: B.J. from Saudi Arabia

I’m a girl from Saudi Arabia. I live with my four sisters and with our father (the so-called father or what he is supposed to be) after he hit my mother and kicked her out of the house and now she’s not divorced and living with her parents. We meet her at the market or in a restaurant according to the dictator’s orders, my father.

That man, whom I knew as a father since the day I was born, hates women and girls. He curses them and casts his ultimate anger on them, whether they were close or far from him. That father has beaten my mother up many times over endless problems which I witnessed since the day I was born and it was all over absolutely trivial matters.

He has beaten me up very badly in Ramadan because one day I went to the pharmacy next door without asking for his permission. Even though it was during day time and I was completely covered and my face was covered too! He started beating me hard with my own shoes and hit me many times with his forehead. Even when I tried to argue he hits me. One time he hit me very badly because I argued and I was good at it. He doesn’t want anyone to be better than him or gain wisdom and courage. He treats us the girls as if we know nothing and we don’t have brains. He always told us, ever since we were little, that we were useless and that we can never be good at anything and won’t understand anything.

He once hit me so hard with an empty water gallon that I almost lost my eye. He then accused me of being mentally ill and took me to psychiatrists. He claimed that I wasn’t normal because I talk back. He gave me drugs for mental illnesses for about a year. I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia knowing that he convinced the doctors to do so, he convinced them to take his side as they have no morals. They fear no God and don’t do proper diagnosis and that’s the case with many psychiatrists in Jeddah. They seriously need to be scandalized and their façade must be uncovered to show who they really are. I turn to God, may Allah punish them. They take money, on the expense of the oppressed and the weak, and give false diagnosis.

He almost had me electrically shocked, but I begged him, the doctor and everyone in the hospital to let me out before they did that. In fact, one of the doctors told me that I was healthy and I had no mental illness whatsoever and that he didn’t agree with this unjust and untrue diagnosis. My so-called father still thinks I’m ill, he’s giving me Sericol drug by force and if I refuse to take it, he beats me really hard and sticks his finger in my mouth to make sure I swallow the pill.

He beats me up and I don’t need him!

For all of that, I’m with the uprising of women in the Arab world. I support this uprising which I believe must be intellectual and cultural, and not swaying from faith and religion or leaving the veil. An uprising where the prevailing and controlling patriarchal rules are replaced by new rules, where there are penalties with fine or prison for each man who abuses a woman violently, mentally or psychologically. An uprising in order to change the prevailing thought in a society that considers that a woman is weak and can’t think for herself, that she’s just a tool for a man’s pleasure and satisfaction.

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Story One: Abir from Lebanon

Name: Abeer
Country: Lebanon

Age: 11 years
Secret: Rape
Reaction: Absolute oblivion of childhood

Age: 14 – 17 years old
Secret: Verbal and physical abuse
Reaction: I remembered the rape, decided to put an end to this violence.

Solution:

Black belt in Karate, facing the past, revealed the secret and was freed from home, the chains, the taboo of society and the taboo of the deed… rejected the thought that maybe it was my fault and talked about it to try to recall the memories.. I couldn’t.. yet, but surely I will..

Since then and till forever I am with the uprising of women because we can’t be freed except like this and because:
No, I’m not from my family’s house to my husband’s house
No, I won’t keep silent because it’s easier and because of what would people say about us
And no, because I’m a strong free woman who is not ashamed of her past, body or her options.

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Violence Against Women

Cartoon: The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

 

Cartoon by Artist Amgad Ali from Egypt

Man’s banner: “I am with uprising of women in the Arab World because of anything!”
– Man: Come here you dirty, take a photo of me to put it on Facebook!
– Young Woman: ” Yes sir”

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Story Seventy Three: Khitam from Palestine

Living Biologically

The name is Khitam (ending) because heaven forbid my father’s manly pride is insulted ever again with another daughter. A third boy was all he wanted. Having four daughters already, he hoped for a boy. In 1973, during the October war in Egypt to liberate the Suez Canal, my father wanted to take my brothers outside to show them the zionist air fighters headed for Egypt. None of my sisters showed any desire to join them, but I did. I was almost three years old. They were fast, but I followed them up the stairs and stood under the pine tree with them and looked up at the sky and saw the air fighters. That was the earliest memory of my childhood; me joining the boys of the family.


Though my father wasn’t happy with the fact that I was born a girl, he somehow turned me into the unofficial third boy of the family. My two brothers had few responsibilities and when the eldest left the country to get an education in the West, which he never got, my younger brother spent his time playing with the neighborhood kids. Who was left to take their place? I was. Since my older sisters were not allowed to go out much, whenever they needed something from the store, I was the fetch boy to get what they wanted. When my mother would buy a big sack of flour, I was supposed to take our cart and wait for her at the bus stop to wheel it back home. Whenever my father needed to fix something in the house, I was the one who assisted him; something that none of my sisters ever did.
I never liked skirts because they restricted my movement. They called me a Tom Boy all the time. I was the alpha male in our neighborhood and though I was petite, all the kids feared me. I never used violence against anyone, but I always outsmarted everyone.


And then one day, I was told that I was a woman who had to wear skirts and be a lady because no one would accept to marry a Tom Boy. I refused because I felt naked in skirts. My mother’s ultimatum and threat descended upon me. “If you refuse to wear a skirt, you won’t get out of the house.” I was forced to wear them for some time until my mother got off my back and I was able to wear my jeans again.


My useless younger brother used to pick fights with me all the time. He realized that in his absence, I had taken his place. His mission was to subjugate me. He used to steal my things, hit and verbally abuse me. Every time I complained to my mother, she would lament over her far away brother she didn’t see very often. One night, my brother’s verbal abuse pushed all my buttons and I decided to run away from home and I did. I spent the night walking on the streets of Ramallah until I made it to my teacher’s house where I spent the night on her balcony. In the morning, she found me and called my family to come and pick me up. When I got home, my father wanted to lecture me about the family honor that I tarnished with my action. I don’t remember everything he said because I fell asleep since I didn’t sleep all night long. My mother’s attitude changed a bit not because she understood why I ran away or had any sympathy for me, but because she feared that I would do it again.


When I couldn’t pass my high school exams, I couldn’t go to college and even if I passed and wanted to go to college, my father would have refused to fund my education like he did for my two brothers. My father didn’t even bother to console me and all he did was tell me to find a job just like my sisters. He told me once that boys are more important than girls because they take care of the parents while the girls get married and take care of their new families. Later on in life, my two brothers got married and moved out and took care of their new families while I became the bread winner and gave my elderly father an allowance.


Getting out of my family home could have only been done through marriage, but I wasn’t fit for marriage in the eyes of many. I was petite, dark-skinned with a boy’s body and no skirt. I was too liberal for other men. Others didn’t want to marry someone from an impoverished refugee family. Or I wasn’t woman enough because I worked and earned money. Finding a decent husband to rescue me from my misery was near impossible. Working in a field that allowed to work with foreigners gave me the chance to travel to a western country where I met a man who saw me as the exotic Palestinian with interesting food and fascinating stories. Of course, I didn’t realize that then. It took me almost a year to convince my family to let me marry him. My younger brother whose wedding expenses came out of my pocket agreed to be the male relative during the signing of my marriage certificate since my father wasn’t mentally capable due to his old age. My father died shortly after I got married. I forgave him everything he did to me though I do not have any loving memory of him. I was always there, but he never saw me.

Virginity

According to my society’s standards, I’m officially a whore. Would you like to know why? Because you need more than your two hands to count the number of men who touched my body and fondled it. My first was not a Muslim. The first time he kissed me, I almost fainted. Our relationship lasted for almost two years and I was madly in love with him. I was in my early 20s and I felt that he was my world. He ended it with me when it was time to get married and he decided to marry someone from his own religion. Issa loved me. He took me to a monastery once where we made love in a cave by the monastery. Actually, he came and I did not so that doesn’t really count as making love. He wanted to marry me, but his mother had a heart attack when he wanted to convert to Islam and he feared that if he told her that he wanted to marry a Muslim, she’d die. A few months later, he left the country. Later on, I met Asaad, a married man with two kids. We used to have sex at his work when everybody was gone. It ended between us when I realized that I was being used by him. I went out with another four married men afterwards. There were two Americans, one French, an Italian and one Arab and the rest were Palestinians. You’ll be surprised to know that though I went out with all those guys who touched every bit of my body, there was one place they didn’t dare to come near; my vagina. I did everything else with them, but I never lost my virginity. If they wanted penetration, they had another hole in my body to use. Though they all enjoyed having sex with me, I only enjoyed it with two of them who were willing to go down on me (the Italian and one American-Palestinian). The last Palestinian man I dated was extremely abusive. He always accused me of cheating on him when he was the one who was cheating on his wife with me. After several months of abuse, I told him to take a hike and I swore to never come near a Palestinian man. Thus, finding a Palestinian husband was pushed out of the equation.

I dated all those men in my desperate attempt to find a husband to get me out of my family’s home. They always said that a woman can only leave her family’s home either to the grave or her husband’s home. The grave didn’t seem to be possible and I had to focus on the husband. When all failed, I sought the help of three therapists. The first one was a woman in her forties with high-cheek bones and salt and pepper hair. Loved that hair! I became so attached to her and that bothered her and at some point, she refused to see me anymore. I tried to see another two therapists, but one didn’t have time to see me and the other spent our sessions talking about his successful wife. Failing to find anyone who could understand me, I decided to check myself into a mental health hospital. I wasn’t mad enough for them and they sent me home. That day, I took all the pills that my general doctor had given me. My attempt failed and it only gave me a stomach ache.

So, I couldn’t find a husband and I couldn’t kill myself. The solution came when I started making more money that I was able to give to my mother. The more money I gave her, the more freedom I gained. Finally, I was able to speak the language that my mother understood. While I spent money on my family, my mother kept sending money to my brother in the West and my younger brother was busy saving his money to get married. As long as I made money, my mother didn’t care when I came back home or where I was. But when I lost my job at some point, I went back to square one. An American friend of mine mentioned a job opening at some foreign company and told me that I should apply. I did and I got the job. A year later, I was sent on a training program to the US. During the three months I spent there, I met my husband. He was shy and on our first date; he didn’t dare to kiss me. During the third month of my training, I lived with him. No, I didn’t lose my virginity then.

He followed me back home where I rented a place for him and found him a job working for a progressive Palestinian center in Ramallah. After almost a year of arguments with my brothers and the religious court we were able to get married. I was already two months pregnant.

Two months before we got married and during one of our fights as a result of being unable to get married, my husband said to me, “Are you keeping your virginity for your Arab husband?” I had no answer for him because he couldn’t understand my fear of losing my virginity outside of marriage. After a few days of thinking, I decided to give him what he wanted or I tried. I went to see my OBGYN and asked for her help. She gave me a sedative to relax me, but it didn’t work. I had two bloody marys with the pills and I couldn’t relax. In our final attempt, I knew that I couldn’t do it. I had only one solution and though he was against it, he reluctantly did as I suggested. He tied my hands and feet to the bed and and penetrated me despite my pleas to stop, but that was my suggestion. Was it rape? Perhaps, but who is to blame? My society that makes a huge deal out of a bit of skin or my husband who pressured me to have sex with him? I got pregnant on that day. A few months after we got married, we left Palestine and moved to the US.

Coming Out

Though my husband and I had sex during the seven years we stayed together, I never felt any pleasure during penetration. The only time I could have an orgasm was when he went down on me.

It took me years to understand why that was happening and why I was never sexually happy with any of the men I dated. It wasn’t because there was no penetration, but because they never understood my body and I didn’t understand it either. Let’s backtrack a bit. Though I dated all these men, I fell in love with my high school teacher and got extremely angry when she got married. I was attracted to another woman I met after high school. There was another woman whom I was attracted to at a typing course that I took. I was also attracted to other girls during my school years even when I was in elementary school. I always collected photos of famous sexy women and followed their lives. Now you know where I’m going. Almost ten years ago, my husband and I agreed that our marriage failed. He went out of town for a week and I went out of the closet. There was this sexy woman who was interested in me. She took me out on a date and then took me to her place. I got drunk, then stoned and we spent the whole night making love and I never looked back again.

Ten years out of the closet. Ten years of being really me. Ten years of appreciating my body and loving it. I’m no longer a Tom Boy. After coming out, I embraced my body and my femininity. Many men think that I’m straight and I enjoy watching them drool over me while knowing that this body of mine shall never be touched by a man. Call me sadistic, I don’t care. You can also claim that I “became a lesbian” because of a complex created by my father and those vile men I dated. Wrong! I was born that way and I will no longer deny who I am. I didn’t choose my sexuality; I was born with it.

I’m still angry at all the men that came into my life and abused me and used me for sex; the men who claimed that they wanted to marry me if I only slept with them. I’m not going to claim that I’m fine or will be fine and I won’t forgive them for the hell they put me through. If there is a hell, I hope that they rot in it for eternity.

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Tell Your Story Campaign Call

On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, “The Uprising of Women in the Arab World” Facebook Page is launching “Tell Your Story” campaign, a new call for women in the Arab world. This campaign will last for 2 weeks: from November 25 until December 10, 2012.

Because the stories hidden under our pillows need to come out in the open Because the only finger of blame should be pointed at the aggressor, not the victim Because the scandal is in the criminal act, not the victim’s reputation Because our silence is a self-inflicted punishment and an impunity to our aggressor Because we have to step out of the circle of fear and isolation into the circle of confidence and confrontation Because almost each one of us has endured a form of physical, psychological or sexual violence, just for being a woman: an arbitrary deprivation of liberty, or a sexual harassment (at home, at school, at work, in the streets…), rape (including marital rape), female genital mutilation, forced marriage (including marriage of minors), crimes in the name of “honor”… Write your story, ending it with the words/sentence:  ”This is why I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world”.

Send it to us via message to our FB Page or via email and we will publish it, mentioning only your first name and your country.

You can choose the format that fits best your expression: text, photography, drawing, painting, video…

Let us speak out to liberate ourselves, and make the world listen.

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