Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dirty Hands

By Amani:
Yesterday was just another day for me. I woke up got dressed in my favorite sweatpants and t-shirt and headed out to open my store. I was going to be working alone without employees, so I wasn`t really looking forward to it. I got there and the day was quite slow. However, at around 5, the door opens and this guy comes in. He needed help in choosing an outfit for his girlfriend, something short and sexy, something that shows lots and lots of cleavage. That’s when he got his first black point from me, but I smiled and remembered that this is business and I had to put all my feminist feelings aside for the moment. Something kept bugging me about the guy though and I kept thinking maybe it’s just the outfit that he wanted for his gf. So I shook off all those feelings and kept helping. Finally he decides on 2 dresses and tells me to please put them on me so that he can see if they are good. Naturally I refused and turned around to tidy up. And then just when I’m not paying attention he pulls me to him hardly and grabs my breasts. I yelled out so loud and my neighbor came in running and pulled him off me and they hit him.

I sat and cried not just because I felt invaded because some creep forced himself on me. I cried because I felt that what I was experiencing was a drop in the sea of the experience of rape victims. I cried for every woman that was ever harassed by a look, a touch, or a grope. But mostly I cried for women that were the victim of rape, women that did nothing wrong to deserve such a punishment. Women that were raped just because some asshole long ago made it a general case that women were the weaker sex and thus made every slime on the face of earth think he can manhandle a woman.

Now I’m not crying anymore, and I’m not ashamed of what happened to me. I want everyone to know because this can happen to anyone of us anywhere and anytime. This did not break me, it just made me stronger. At first I felt I was dirty, but now I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Dirty hands touched me, and when they did they made me a hell of a lot stronger. Before yesterday I had a brain that thought about women and said they were not treated as humans. Now my blood runs with feminism and my brain calculates how best to use my bad experiences with men to empower women. DIRTY HANDS TOUCHED ME AND MADE ME STRONGER. DIRTY HANDS TOUCHED ME AND FUELED MY BLOOD WITH THE FEMINIST REVOLUTION.


April 24th was the commemoration of the Armenian genocide on the hands of the Ottoman empire. April 24th also marked 94 years of denial by the Turkish government that such a thing ever happened… and they called them casualties of war…

I go to work like any regular Tuesday. I log on Gmail and my friend, Lynn, gives me the link to an article in the press praising the Turkish cultural week. I do not understand, because two days ago was one of the harshest days in the year for me; two days ago, I was wallowing in transgenerational trauma and reading William Saroyan. I got angry and confused and after talking it over with my friends, I realized that Martyr’s day is in a week and it all made sense… How perfect to put a cultural event in the between these two events and diverge the minds and thoughts of everybody from Turkey’s past and its ongoing denials.

So Lynn tells me, let’s do something, let’s hold up a banner, peacefully. I agree with the idea; we tell our friend to create a page on facebook and we start calling up our friends and acquaintances.
At 7.30, we are around 17 people, we go to UNESCO , we walk in under the banner that says something along the way of Turkey, nation of peace. I laugh. Lynn had brought a camera, I take it. We start dispersing. Our friends, Ali and Sara, take the stairs and the rest follow and they drop the banner and my friends start going : “Hey up here!” So everyone looks up and I start taking photos, hysterically, because we know that the photos will mean the most, along with the banner.

A T.V. cameraman turned his lens upwards, I hear the security guy say : "check which T.V. that is and stop them.” A moukhabarat guy goes up and rips the banner, he starts yelling at Ali and Sara, tries to calm things down; they take us outside. In the meantime, we manage to give the camera to our friend and tell her to just leave with the photos, just in case they take it from us inside, she does.

We stick together and are eventually led to the Makhfar ( police station ). All 15 of us.
The faces of the officers were priceless, I guess seeing 14 girls and a guy in their twenties walking into the makhfar was not so regular, or was it?
Inside the Makhfar, they asked us for our IDs and some had left them in the car and had to call our friends to get them for us. To be very honest, what they ended up charging us with was walking around without identification which is quite hilarious and very George Orwell fiction-like.

Anyhow, they took those without IDs to another room, a room with a small television hanging in the corner. The officers were watching football. We sat there and a bit later, the channel was switched and names in Turkish alphabet started popping on the screen, we just looked at each other and smiled.

They thought we were all Armenian. We were, in some metaphorical way. I should have reminded them of the day Hrant Dink was murdered in Istanbul and the Turkish crowd gathered in the streets shouting : "We are all Armenians”. However, on paper, of the 15 people arrested, only 4 were Armenians. The officers didn’t like this much, they didn’t really understand why a bunch of our friends were with the cause. They kept asking us : "enno, you hate the turks, is that it?” We do not hate the turks, I do not hate turks, I hate any government or the power that denies others the right to live and oppresses them; I hate any government or power that chokes ideas and freedom ( Orhan Pamuk and Hrant Dink anyone? ), I hate any government of power whose basic value is denial of the pain and anguish it inflicted, I hate any government or power whose morals are to spread their culture by erasing other’s ( no need to let you know what is happening to the historical Armenian landmarks in eastern Anatolia ). I have nothing against the brainwashed masses, they are brainwashed, lobotomized and ashamed, one can only try to speak out and break the silence and the walls.

The head of UNESCO came to tell us how hurt he was, I snickered and Sarag, my friend told him, well my people have been hurting for 94 years and this is what you care about? A diplomatic affair? Before your fellow citizens?. We shamed them, they said. I wonder if he realized how much he shamed me as a citizen when he disrespected my culture, our dead, our memory.
We sat there waiting for the event to end so they’d release us. A phone call told us that people outside had gathered, around 200 of them, from parties and universities. They were not related to us, but knowing they were outside made us all the more proud and we felt strong. We called our friends to let them know we are inside, we changed facebook statuses. Nadine managed to update hers from within the police office. There was just something so powerful to be inside a room, with friends and colleagues and people who were there to support a cause you always deemed yours and that had suddenly become theirs as well.

They released us at around 11.40 p.m. we walked out from the same place we had walked in, in front of all the officers and the UNESCO main entrance. Some diplomats were still leaving. I was smiling.

We gathered at a friend’s house, got some beer, it was very emotional to say the least. My friend, Sarag , came up to me before leaving, she automatically realized what I was thinking about. We had discussed our identity so many times before. At the risk of sounding sappy, we hugged, we couldn't help but cry. It all made sense, made real sense. The banner, the arrest, our friends supporting our cause, the feminists supporting a human issue, it all made perfect sense.

The next morning my mom called to ask me if I heard about the protest, I said yeah, she told me : " your dad wished he was there." I replied, "mom I was there, it was our idea." She was shocked. She finally asked: "were you arrested? " I said yes. She laughed and told me she was proud. I thought of the police officer that kept nagging and wanting to be right about all of us being Armenian and IANs and I felt like saying, my mom isn't and what makes her special is that she gets it. She gets the cause, our cause, and like my friends, she views it as something beyond a specific race and ethnicity, as something fundamentally righteous, fundamentally human.


This article also appears in Menassat:


(To chant and sarag)

I could feel the heartbeats of a 15 feminist among the crowds gathered to celebrate the Turkish Cultural week. I heard 15 heartbeats rushing together forming one symphony and taking over the noise produced by the hundred or so persons gathered in the fancy hall of UNESCO. Diplomats, politicians were amongst the crowd, sipping wine and eating refined appetizers, and I could not help myself but wonder if they enjoyed the taste of blood lingering at the mouths after each bite and after each sip.

Most of us rushed to the upper level of the hall, and held a simple handmade banner: "Recognize the Armenian Genocide." The banner, during the first couple of seconds of its appearance made no sense to them, and slowly the noise started to fade. Few shouts from our side to confirm that yes, your worst nightmare is here, yes, inside your very intimate gathering, breaking through your revised history and shameful celebrations only 4 days after the Armenian genocide commemoration.

In the lapse of one minute everything changed. In one minute, and it seemed so much longer, everything made sense, why we were here, and why we were taking these actions, and why we will not stop from taking action again. Everything made sense. This is how people create their own revolutions. Upstairs, and before the Turkish secret service came to rescue turkey from this public shame, I felt I was one body, but with 15 heads working, thinking and acting in one organized harmony. I felt unbreakable.

In the hours that followed, we survived everything, the tactics of breaking us apart, by choosing the only male and asking him to walk with them to the police station, and it didn’t work. Some of us had IDs and some of us didn't. Still, each and every one of us refused to leave until each and every one of us was out. We sat in the gray room, we added colors to it. We sat and experienced anxiety, content, and anger.

The Darak defiantly got perplexed; a bunch of girls and one boy, the majority of whom are not Armenian, are all together for an action for Armenians.

Our action was successful, our point was made and it reached that Turkish ambassador and his ambassador friends celebrating with him. It is not in Beirut that you will be able to rejoice, and not in our cultural centers and not in our name. We made a point to the Lebanese people as well, that every time they will allow a circus of culture to happen, we will be there, smiling, looking as fabulous and as feminist as they imagine.

Now, that we are all out, safe, stronger and powerful, we need to thank our Armenian friends who inspired us to go. We, and now that we are all out, should believe that we are all Armenians from now on, we are all Palestinians, we are all working class people looking for inspiration, we are women eager to make the change that will set us all free.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our Feminist Activists Are Out!

Inside the UNESCO Palace, during the celebration of the cultural ties between turkey and Lebanon, our feminist activists dropped the banners that called for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. For that, fifteen feminists were detained, and their ID’s were taken.

Finally, three hours later, when the “celebrations” ended, they were released and their ID’s were returned. They're all fine and in great spirits.

More details later!

Cultural Ties, Genocide and Democracy

Posted by Jay:

Tuesday April 28, 2009: Today morning, I got to work, and I logged onto Gmail, as usual. A while later, I saw my friend Shant’s chat status voicing rage towards the Lebanese government. Intrigued, I asked her what was going on. She pasted the below excerpt from the Daily Star for me:

“BEIRUT: Turkish Cultural Week opened Monday evening with a lavish meal organized by the Turkish Embassy in Beirut. The week's events aim to strengthen cultural ties between the two countries, with a wide range of activities taking place in Beirut and in the northern city of Tripoli, with the goal of embracing the cultural richness of the two Mediterranean countries.”

Naturally, I understood her frustration; I was more than irritated myself. To launch a “cultural tie strengthening” event with a nation responsible for mass genocide a mere THREE days after the Armenian Genocide’s 94th year unrecognised is more than disrespectful - it’s downright disgusting. Slowly, it flared up, and resulted in a decision to protest the Cultural Week at the turkish traditional and contemporary music concert that was to take place at the UNESCO Palace later in the evening.

We spread the word throughout the day using our available means (namely Facebook) – and the number of people to confirm attendance steadily rose during the day. At 19.30, armed with nothing but banners stating “Recognise the Armenian Genocide”, 15 young women and men set out to Corniche el Mazraa, to the UNESCO Palace, and revealed the banner there.
Around an hour into the sit-in I wasn’t able to attend, I sulkily texted Shant and asked her how it went. Her response? “We are in the makhfar (police station).”

...That is democracy for you, ladies and gentlemen. A few minutes into their having displayed the banner, the police showed up and took “their measures”. Currently, the 15 feminists are being indefinitely detained in the Ramleh el Bayda Police Station. Everything is under control, however, the activists are calm and composed, and we are working on solving the issue.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

About Us, And Them.

I remember— back in ‘06, when a bunch of us were helping CRTDA gather signatures at AUB, in support of their Nationality campaign. A boy signed his name on the petition, then he asked me: would this mean that a woman would be able to give her Lebanese nationality to Syrians? And I said: yeah.

So he just scratched his name from that petition and walked away.

Strange how that ability, that power of women to determine who to give their nationality to, scares people. Like we have the power to change the entire demographics of this country. Like we can turn this country into a Palestinian state, into a sub-Syrian state.

Strange how racism works with sexism and with classism. Swayable, easily seducible, women can sleep with the “enemy.” Poor women, women of certain regions/sects, have lots and lots of babies, tipping the sectarian balance to “their” favour. Them. The Syrian workers. The Palestinian refugees. And then there are the migrant domestic workers. The women. The women of da7hyi and the South. The sexually active women. They’re all equally threatening. To the nation. To the middle class. To the family.

Sometimes I think that some men (particularly the very sexist ones) are more aware of our capabilities and potentials than we are ourselves. I don’t mean our abilities to change the distribution of the population in that racist/sectarian way, like that AUB boy was afraid of. I mean our ability to change things for the better. To introduce new ways of understanding things.

And that’s why we’re here. Because we see things differently, because we can see how things are wrong, from the little things that we have grown numb to, like the pressure on women to conform to impossible beauty standards, like street harassment, to more blunt things like how migrant workers are treated, how women can’t give their nationalities to their husbands and kids, how there are no laws against domestic violence and marital rape. And because we know we can/must change that.

That’s why we’re here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Top 12 Reasons Why the Billboard Campaign: “Sois Belle et Vote” Is Offensive to Women

Feel free to add yours.

  1. Oh, so now you’ve noticed that women are important? When you want their votes?
  2. You’re using a play on the saying “sois belle et tais-toi” (shut up and look pretty)? Really? So you think you’ve done it justice by changing it to “vote and look pretty?”
  3. Are you implying that women are too stupid to engage in real-life politics? That the only way you can appeal to their voting power is by reminding them to look pretty?
  4. What does being “pretty” have anything to do with the democratic process of electing a parliament that represents our voices?
  5. How many Lebanese girls look like that model in the picture? Better yet, how many Lebanese girls put their bodies through pain and confinement and self-loathing to try and look like that model in the picture?
  6. Isn’t your ad really saying: “Hey, men! Look at us! We have hot women! Vote for us!”
  7. If you care so much about women, where’s the 50% women’s quota in parliament? Or do you just want women to vote for men who care nothing about their rights?
  8. Where are the women in your candidacy lists? Not a single woman?! So you want women to vote but you don’t want them nominated?
  9. Wouldn’t it be better if you sought to change the Lebanese elections system so that candidates are forced to represent issues and not religions? Wouldn’t that make more sense for women voters?
  10. Where are women’s rights in the 19 elaborate points of your political platform? Hmm?
  11. How about instead of spending thousands of dollars on those useless billboards, you put up a campaign that promises things women really need like protection from family violence, the right to nationality, and protection from sexual harassment among hundreds of other things?
  12. So you want to settle for looking cosmetically progressive? How about some real political feminism?

Give me a break! All of you parties are useless. I’m going up to Baabda in June to exercise my right to vote in these elections because I can think, because it’s one of the only rights I have as a woman in Lebanon. But none of you will get my vote until someone presents a progressive gender equality platform. Till then, I’m voting blank.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What is Feminism?

So what happens when you give a Chantal a camera and permission to harass feminists with a simple question:

What is feminism?

Enjoy :)

The Feminist Collective Song Contest

The Feminist Collective is organizing a song contest. The purpose of it is to come up with a Feminist Anthem while promoting and encouraging the art of songwriting and composing. Our primary focus is to have a great song, written by one of you great people, to become the voice of our collective.


The contest is open to all Womyn and feminists in / from Lebanon.
Only one entry is allowed per person for the contest, and any multiple entries will be deleted. Your initial entry will still be valid.
Participants can submit a song to be performed as the Feminist Collective Anthem.
Participants can submit their songs on C.D. to the Collective’s headquarters or by email :

The information sheet at the bottom of this document should be attached to your track.

II-The Contest:

Upon completion and submission of the C.D. or by mailing in an entry, eligible contstants will be entered into the Contest for a chance to win our Prize.
The Application Deadline is July 16, 2009
The winners will be declared end of July 2009

III-The Jury:

Once all tracks received, they will be compiled and all members have the eligibility to vote for their favorite song to determine the winner.

IV- The Prize:
There will 500$ awarded as a prize to the winner.

To attach to your track :

Applicant’s name/nickname :
Phone Number:
Track/ Song Title:
Duration :
A few words about you:

Monday, April 20, 2009

So what was going on since we last posted here?

Actually a lot has been going on. And that is probably why we haven't updated the blog much. Anyway, to make my life easier, i will be posting separate updates throughout the day.

First things first, the results from the International Women's Day are finally out (Sarag had shared them with us more than a week ago so the actual publishing delay is my fault entirely). If anyone wishes to receive these results as PDF please do contact me and I would be pleased to send them to you by email

What is interesting is that the results are more consistent than what I thought they would be. Apparently, women are in general annoyed and frustrated by gender inequality in Lebanon. And that is in all of the areas that we interviewed women in.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us in this adventure :) !

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Honor suicides

Source:Women told: 'You have dishonoured your family, please kill yourself' by Ramita Navai for The Independent.

This is one of the saddest truths that we have to think about when we use international pressure as our tool for social change. Yes, women's groups have achieved victory when they imposed mandatory life sentence to honor crimes... but since not enough has been done to change mentalities, parts of the populations have simply moved from killing the woman (according to this same articles there were more than 200 crimes per year) to suiciding the woman.

And sadly, this is even worse, there is virtually no way of proving it. So instead of having the killer going to jail for a limited amount of time, he doesn't go to jail at all!

Now I am not saying that the Turkish groups didn't do enough, or that we should never use international pressure. No, they did a great job and Turkey is a really big country with various problems and a heterogeneous population. Sometimes even the best intentions are not enough, this just means they still have a lot of work to do.

First (woman) judge in Dubai

Source: Dubai appoints 27-year-old as first woman judge By Bassam Za'za' on Gulf News.

Apparently Dubai appoints a woman judge, I can't really say I saw that coming. it's a pleasant surprise of course. But then again, how much do we know about this lady? From this article we can only know that she is 27, has a masters (with distinction from the police academy) and an experience in education. The four other (men) judges that were appointed apparently have only bachelor degrees in law (or law and sharia).

Interesting, non?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Residues of March

It’s April already. But March has been long and eventful, and there are things that happened this past month that I just can’t get over so easily. Things like:

Some women on the streets during our IWD event. When we asked them what they thought of women’s rights in Lebanon. They replied, “the issue does not concern me,” On the other hand, we did encounter some amazing ladies out there.

A woman telling me on that same day, “I don’t care what my daughter grows up to be. I want her to do what she wants. If she gets an education, that’s fine. If she doesn’t get an education, kamein mni7. Whatever she wants to do, I’ll support her.” Sweet really. Although I don’t know if not getting an education would get her where she wants in today’s world. And I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt that if this little girl, a good few years from now, happens to come to her saying, “I’m not going to marry, I’m going to move in with my boyfriend,” or if she tells her, “Mom, meet my partner, Leila,” I’m hoping the mom will say, “ya binti, I love you and support everything you do.”

IWSAW celebrating women’s day by paying tribute to the women soldiers in the Lebanese Army. On the one hand, I understand that the army is sometimes the only “respectable” place for many working class young people, mainly from rural areas, to turn to, but at the same time, why must we honour an institution that is built on machismo and violence—that is a basic facet of the nationalistic patriarchal world we live in. While I always respect individual women who are getting themselves into male-dominated spaces, I think, as far as women’s rights groups go at least, we could focus our efforts more on creating a world free from militarism instead, even if people call us crazy and utopian now; I think it’ll be worth it on the long run.

My friend and I getting harassed on Hamra. I wanted to kill those guys. Ok, I understand that violence may not be the best way to counter street harassment, but damn, the idea of it felt good. Good but still made me angrier and angrier every time I thought about it, about these idiots who think that they own the streets, who think they can disrespect women like that.

Discovering Winona LaDuke. Reading her All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Awesome woman, awesome book.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Disabling people out of habit - Marvelous world of Sexual Harassment

Again, I need to vent! A couple of days ago I finished reading one of the very few studies in the Middle East about sexual harassment. Not surprisingly, the study comes from the Egypt, one of the very few countries that have finally broken the wall of silence around street harassment. I expected it to be bad. I expected to find an outrageously high percentage of women that have been subject to street harassment (83% for Egyptian female citizens), I expected them to blame the woman’s outfit (62.5% assumed that a woman is more likely to get harassed if she is wearing a provocative outfit) only to contradict themselves a few seconds later (31% of the women who had confirmed being the victims of street harassment also confirmed that they are usually veiled and decently dressed when harassment takes place).
In my mind, I expected all that, but what I did not expect is how men willingly admitted that they had often harassed women on the street (62.4%), shamelessly as if they were doing nothing wrong going as far as pointing/hinting at or exposing bodyparts (4.3%) and a decent percentage even admitted they don’t even feel anything when they do these crimes, they just do them out of habit (19.3%).
Now that shocked me! What does this mean? What does it say about our society? I just think we live in a very sick society where degrading and humiliating women just because they are women have become the norm. When you know that 83% of women are fully aware of the fact that they are harassed, their humanity is aggressed. They are aware of how damaging this is but no one does anything about it. We don’t even want to talk about it.
This has reached a point where men don’t even see anything wrong with what they do, they admit that they harass women as if they are just stating that they like football. Women are afraid to go down to the street and avoid doing so, they have nightmares and depressions, their academic and professional productivity are reduced. Why? What for? Whereas some men enjoy it, others feel nothing at all, they just do it as a habit… Just a habit… For a retarded, stupid habit, women are deprived of the street that should be theirs just as it is anyone else’s.
Men often brag about how they are better drivers, how they are more productive at work, more successful in everything, more confident. And I have a question that anyone is kindly asked to answer: if you had to go through a debilitating experience, such as walking on the street when you are a woman; If your space is either limited to the safety of your home; if every excursion is a terrifying experience… would you be able to compete, excel and perform?
Most men adopting this oppressive patriarchal system are more vulnerable and weak than any other creature, but they are protected by patriarchy, by the fact that they can let out any anger or feeling of weakness on women, yes women, Women on the street, family members at home, or female colleagues. That is the sad truth of this great value that we defend so fiercely, our values in this beautiful Middle East have been degraded to humiliating women just because they are women who breathe.

The study is written in Arabic and I would recommend you read it: غيوم في سماء مصر