Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eid El-Adha: The pleasant massacre of sheep!

It is Eid el-Adha again! Kids wearing new clothes, adults conducting Eid prayers as soon as the sun rises, and relatives, neighbors and friends exchange Eid salutes and congratulations with much happiness and excitement. Yet, the most important feature is the sheep and other sacrificial animals – e.g. buffalo and cow – slaughtered, literally, in every single street of Egypt.

Walking randomly in Cairo’s streets on the morning of the first day of Eid el-Adha might give you the impression that a massacre has taken place. Blood is poured into streets and you should be very careful while walking in order not to get wet. You also should cover your nose well in order not to get offended by the smell of flesh and blood coming from every house. Butchers are moving from one house to another with blood on their big knifes and white galabiyas.

As an essential ritual of Eid el-Adha, some might see such a blood bath as a reason for joy and celebration. Although I am a devout Muslim, I still cannot see this horrible scene but a group of bloody people killing innocent animals in a very savage, immoral, and unsanitary way. Seeing a sheep slaughtered in a previous Eid el-Adha, when I was a kid, is the reason why I do not eat. I am sure I am not alone in this!

A random thought came across my mind on the night of Eid el-Adha about the Egyptian government and the slaughtering habit. I expected – or wished – the Ministry of Health would prevent the slaughtering sheep and other animals outside licensed butchers. Since July, after the appearance of the H1N1 virus, or Swine Flu, the Egyptian government has banned most of the usual activities of people in similar religious celebrations and public places. For example, the government banned holding Sufi celebrations of the birthdays of some Sufi figures. This was very offensive to Sufis who had to cancel their celebrations for the sake of keeping public health. The government also banned smoking sheesha, or water-pipes, in several coffee shops, including those in tourist places, like Khan El-Khalily and the Hussein area. It is expected that such a ban would result in negative effects of tourism in the city.

Likewise, the Ministry of Health should have banned the random slaughtering of animals at citizen’s houses or in streets; not only for pollution reasons, but also for moral reasons.

Actually, it is absolute insanity to attribute such a habit of slaughtering at one’s home to their divine record of good deeds! Some might claim that this is about following the steps of Prophet Muhammad, who used to watch the sacrifice of animals slaughtered at his house. A very clear fact that people usually tend to ignore while trying to follow Prophet’s habits is that he lived in a Bedouin society, in the desert. Slaughtering sheep was something that happened all the time then.

Nevertheless, we are in the 21st century now, with all the professional, clean, and sterilized butchers. Why do we need to butcher animals at our houses, then? There is no logic in slaughtering animals in such a primitive way, which might cause the spread of infections and increase the possibility of the meat spoiling, no need to mention the sight of pollution. If it is a ritual, we should find safe and healthy ways to practice it.

On the morning of the first day of Eid el-Adha, while watching the sheep from my house and other houses in my street herded, without resistance, to a spot at the end of the street to be slaughtered, they reminded me of the submissive majority of my country, who are not willing to show any resistance against the tyrants who drive them, slowly but surely, to their definite end. Like sheep, they are stronger, but still do not want to resist the man driving them with a stick from behind or the man waiting for them with a big knife at the other end.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

About Egypt Politics, Arab Nationalism and a Soccer Match

By: Dalia Ziada
first published on Bikya Masr on November 21st, 2009

“Get these flags down! God damn Egypt!” I was shocked when I heard a young man in the street saying this immediately after the historical soccer match between Egypt and Algeria in Sudan on Wednesday. Before the match, people were wearing flags with sense of pride. After the match, they hid the flags and were ashamed of showing them.

I am sure that this young man, who cursed Egypt, is not the only one who did so. There must be others who cursed Egypt; not because they hate Egypt, but because they are fed up with the many failures we have been through and the many hopes we are losing day after day. We lost the match and subsequently will be deprived from participating at the World Cup next year. What a shame! But still I am very happy with this failure.

I am not happy because our loss saved the lives of the thousands of Egyptians who traveled to Sudan to support their national soccer team. Unfortunately, Egyptians received unexpected and unacceptable physical attacks by Algerians after the match. This was a clear remark on the destruction of the sacred statute of the so-called Arabism, Nationalism and Arab unity, which the revolutionary regime of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser founded to fool the people and keep their attention out of the focus on internal problems! Probably, Nasser was sincere in calling for these noble causes of one unified Arab people.

However, what happened in Sudan on Wednesday in response to a soccer match is evidence of the failure of his theory. This would make me partially happy because it will help us open our eyes to new realities and focus more on the real problems behind our sufferings.

On another side, I am happy with the failure we achieved against the Algerian national soccer team on Wednesday, because winning means taking people away from their actual battle and fooling them with a false one. If the Egyptian national soccer team were to have won the match, Egyptians – all Egyptians – would have been occupied with the World Cup dream up till the end of 2010.

This, simply, means that Egyptians will keep blowing horns, wearing flags, and singing patriotic songs till the end of the Parliamentary elections, which is the gateway to the presidential elections of 2011. It is true that the Egyptian people are looking forward to the presidential elections that might renovate their hope to a new era of democracy, political freedom, and most importantly, economic welfare. But the politicians, either from the National Democratic Party or the supporters of the current regime of Mubarak – senior and junior – or even from the other opposition groups including independent and partisan competitors on the presidential seat know that their real battle is winning the Parliamentary elections.

Winning the majority of Parliament seats is simply about controlling how laws would be fabricated and the Constitution will be amended according to the plans of this majority. If the NDP wins the majority of seats at this legislative cycle, there is no doubt that they will fabricate new laws and tailor new Constitutional amendments to fit their prospected heir of power, Gamal Mubarak, the son of the current president.

On the other hand, if the opposition groups and parties win the majority of seats, they will act like a thorn in the side of the regime. At the very least, they would object to all legislation in this regard and would have the courage to amend certain articles and codes in a way that guarantees the failure of the presidential succession plan. Definitely, it is a strong battle, the real battle which Egyptians should pay enough attention to. The will of the people should decide their representatives in Parliament because this will determine the future of the presidency, which will play the definitive role in determining the future of every single citizen, young or old.

It is good that we did not win and we are not going to have more “drugs of patriotism” represented in a 90-minute soccer match. But the question is: could we mobilize the people again to the new cause, which has nothing to do with soccer? What is important for Egyptians … their national soccer team or their political, economic, and social future?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

مصطفى النجار شاهد على ما حدث أمام سفارة الجزائر في الزمالك أمس

قبل البداية
قبل القراءة ، لا يعني هذا ان نسكت عن المطالبة بحق ابنائنا
وكرامة مصر التي اهينت بالسودان
ولكن كيف تكون المطالبة بحقنا ورد اعتبارنا
بشكل حضاري
هذا هو التحدي
النوت للمصريين فقط مع تقديرنا للجميع

لأن ما حدث يجب ان يوثق ويجب ان ننتبه لما فيه من دلالات خطيرة تنذر بخطر بالغ علي مصلحة الوطن ، أضغط علي نفسي وقلبي الموجوع لأحكي ما رأيته بعيني وابكاني في ش 26 يوليو بحي الزمالك بالقرب من سفارة الجزائر بشارع البرازيل – مساء الخميس وفجر الجمعة 20 – 11 - 2009
الساعة 1 منتصف الليل احاول ان أصل الي كوبري 15 مايو قادما من ميدان التحرير لأقوم بتوصيل اصدقاء لي كانوا معي في عشاء تأخرنا فيه ، اصدقائي مقيمون بالقرب من سفارة الجزائر بحي الزمالك ، قضيت علي مطلع الكوبري اكثر من نصف الساعة وقد اصيب الطريق بالشلل الكامل وعندما صعدت فوق الكوبري وقفت متسمرا حوالي نصف ساعة اخري حتي اصل الي نزلة الزمالك التي وجدتها مغلقة من قبل الشرطة لأسير مضطرا في اتجاه العجوزة وعندما انتصفت المسافة اقف بسيارتي علي يمين الطريق كما وقفت عشرات السيارات لنشاهد التجمعات الحاشدة التي كان هتافها يهز المكان اسفل الكوبري وفي مقابلة شارع السفارة ، الصفوف الامنية والكردونات تسد الطريق امام المتظاهرين وتمنع عبورهم للسفارة ، الهتافات تتعالي وتغدوا اكثر سخونة ، يأتي ضابط ليهتف بنا لكي نتحرك بسيارتنا كي لا يتوقف الطريق ، امضي بسيارتي وانزل نزلة العجوزة وامبابة واعود مرة اخري للكوبري لانزل في شارع ابوا الفدا ذو الاتجاه الواحد ، لسوء حظ اصدقائي ان بيتهم يقع وسط المربع الكبير الذي فرضه كردون الامن ومنع الدخول فيه ، الساعة تقترب من الثانية والنصف ، اسير بشارع ابو الفدا واحاول ان ابحث عن اي ركنة ادخل في شارع علي الشمال،

يسألني عسكري حراسة علي أحد السفارات : انتم عايزين سفارة الجزائر
نحن : نعم
طيب تعالوا اركنوا هنا
انا : نركن فين ؟ يفاجئني : هنا في مدخل السفارة وشدوا حيلكم عشان تلحقوا الرجالة ، لازم سفارة ولاد ال ... دي تتكسر النهاردة عشان يعرفوا اننا مش هفق ....!

اركن فعلا في مدخل السفارة – وهذا بالطبع مستحيل حدوثه في اي وقت اخر – وانزل انا واصدقائي لندخل الي شوارع جانبية ، نجد بجوارنا العشرات من الشباب في مجموعات تتكون من 5 الي 10 و20 فرد تجري بسرعة وتهتف يلا يا شباب ...!

المشكلة اننا لا نعرف الطريق ولا احد من الشباب الذين يتسارعون في الجري يعرف اين المكان ، يتضامن معنا عساكر اخرون يحرسون سفارة اخري ويشيرون لنا : من هنا يا رجالة ..ادخلوا يمين في شمال في يمين هتلاقوا المظاهرة

يسرع الجميع ، اصدقائي منهم صحفية بوكالة اجنبية قادمة لمصر من حوالي شهرين فقط ، تصمم علي الذهاب معنا ، احذرها تقول لي : لا هاجي معاكم او هروح وحدي اشوف اللي بيحصل ، امضي مع المجموعة وانا قلق جدا علي دخولها لهذه المنطقة الخطر ولكن بمجرد وصولنا اكتشف ان هناك عدد كبير من الفتيات موجود ويشاركن بحماس ، نخرج من الشارع الذي تقع عليه بنزينة موبيل ، لنجد امامنا سيارة اسعاف بداخلها شاب مجروح في قدمه جرحا ينزف ويصرخ من الألم ، نسرع اليه نسأله : انا مينا يوسف ، الحكومة بتضرب فينا وقبضوا علي اخويا جوا هو وناس صحابنا ، ومش عارف اوصل لاخويا ، طالما انتم صحفيين اعملوا حاجة الشباب هيضيعوا هنا
نترك مينا ونقترب من الدائرة الاكبر التي امتلأت بشباب اغلبهم في سن 18 الي 25 سنة ، يجري بجوارنا جرحي اصيبوا بجروح في رؤسهم وفي اقدامهم ، تسيل دماءهم ويسندهم اصحابهم حتي يصلوا بهم لسيارات الاسعاف التي كانت تقف علي بعد 200 متر تقريبا

اساعد صديقتنا الصحفية في عمل حوارت سريعة مع بعض الشباب المشاركين للتعرف علي الموقف
محمد : مبرمج كمبيوتر : لو ما خدناش حقنا هنبقي ملطشة للدنيا كلها
سامح : طالب : احنا اتغدر بينا في السودان ولازم ناخد حقنا
فتحي : سائق : كان لازم الحكومة تبعت حي شبرا وحي بولاق يشجع مش يبعتوا عيال سيس تضرب هناك وتجري زي الفيران ، لو رحنا كنا قطعناهم ولاد ال .............

الغضب يمليء الجميع يتحدثون بانفعال وحدة ويكيلون الشتائم التي كنت اخجل وهم يتحدثون امام فتاة بمثل هذه الالفاظ ، اسألهم عن وظائفهم ؟ اتفاجيء ان منهم مبرمج كمبيوتر ، واخر خريج فنون جميلة ، واخر محاسب والبعض طلبة والبعض صنايعية في حرف مختلفة وكلهم قادمون من اماكن مختلفة من القاهرة ، تتعالي الهتافات والشتائم البذيئة وحرق اعلام الجزائر واشعال النار عبر زجاجات السبراي ، الحماس يشتعل اكثر ، الشوارع الجانبية تبدوا كصنابير مياه تضخ كل لحظة مزيدا من البشر يدخلون في زفة وهياج وصراخ ، يحملون اعلام مصر ، السيارات التي اخطأ اصحابها وتركوها تحت الكوبري يصيبها التلف من وقوف المتظاهرين عليها وقفزهم عليها ، اسرع الي بعضهم
اقول : يا رجالة حرام كدا دي فلوس ناس مالهاش ذنب انزلوا يا جدعان ، واحد منهم يصرخ : انت جزائري ؟؟ قلت له : انا مصري وادي بطاقتي بس انزلوا حرام عليكم ، لا يسمعون ويتقافزون ليخبطوا بأقدامهم علي سقف السيارات كلما اشتد الحماس

اسوق اليكم نماذج من الهتافات التي استمرت حتي الفجر :
ك .... يا جزائر
هيلا هيلا وهيلا هو ...الجزائر ....ك
ون تو ثري .. ك ..الجيري
مش عايزين سفارة
يا حكومة وسخة ..يا ولاد الو .... ( دا موجه لحكومة مصر لما الامن كان بيبدأ ضرب )
مصر الدين ..يا مت ....... ، انتم مين ..معر ........ ( الهتاف دا موتني من الضحك شعب متدين فعلا بيقول الدين عندنا وبيقذف الناس في نفس الجملة )

دي فيديوهات رفعها احد من كان معنا في المكان ..( شاهدوها وعذرا للألفاظ الجارحة )
احنا المصريين ..يا ولاد المت ......
كاس العالم مين ..يا ولاد المت .......
يا تطردوهم ..يا ندبحوهم

الغريب في المشهد ان هؤلاء الشباب لا يعرفون بعضهم ولم يدعوهم احد للقدوم الان بل كل واحد منهم سمع علي الفيس بوك او التويتر او من ناس صحابه او كان معدي بعربيته فنزل بشارك والاكثر غرابة وجود البنات لهذا الوقت المتأخر ولكن شهادة حق لم اري حالة تحرش او معاكسة لاي بنت طيلة مكوثي هناك

بين الحين والاخر يغني الشباب اغاني وطنية مثل : يا احلي اسم في الوجود يا مصر يا اسم مرسوم للخلود يا مصر ..نعيش لمصر ونموت لمصر ..مصر مصر تحيا مصر

اصبح المشهد رتيبا ، الأمن يمنع الشباب من التقدم فيهتفون ويطبلون ثم يتحرك بعض الجنود بالعصي والدروع فيجري الشباب ويقع بعضهم علي الارض ويفقدون احذيتهم تحت الزحام والتدافع ، ثم يعودون ، كر وفر ، وبينما اقف علي الرصيف افاجيْ بصف يدخل يحمل صناديق خشبية غريبة ، اجري نحوهم ، ايه دا يا رجالة ؟؟
يجيبيني احدهم : دا مولوتوف احنا هنحرق ولاد الكلب دول وكل اللي ساب المصريين يضربوا في السودان
يصعقني ما رأيت وانا اري الصندوق الخشبي مليء فعلا بزجاجات مولوتوف ، اقول لهم : حرام يا جدعان ، احنا كدا هنأذي مصريين وناس غلابة مننا ، المنطقة كلها هتولع ، يشتمني احدهم : انت شكلك خواف ومعندكش كرامة وراضي باللي عملوه فينا
اسرع الي ضابط يقف امام الكردون اقول له الشباب هيولعوا الدنيا ومدخلين مولوتوف ، يقول لي : ما تخافش القصة دي كلها هتتلم حالا وخد صحابك والصحفية دي اللي بتصور وامشوا دلوقتي لو خايفين علي نفسكم
وبعدها بقليل يبدأ الفرار والجري بعد ضرب الامن للبعض بالعصي والجري خلفهم ونجري مع من يجري ونتوقف عند فندق الماريوت نلتقط انفاسنا ونعاود لنفس المكان ويصدمني منظر بعض الفتيات فوق السيارات المركونة بالشارع وأتألم وانا اري عدد منهن يهتفن بنفس الهتافات الخارجة مع الشباب

يمر الوقت ويقترب موعد الفجر الذي ينطلق اذانه من المسجد الموجود في اول الشارع ، فتصمت كل الاصوات وتهدأ كل الجلبة حتي ينتهي الاذان وبعدها يمسك امام المسجد الميكرفون ويوجه خطابه للشباب يحاول تهدئتهم : ويقول : ابناءنا الاعزاء : ان الله يقول : واطيعوا الله واطيعوا الرسول واولو الامر منكم ...وتستمر كلماته وما ان ينتهي حتي تبدأ الاصوات مرة اخري تردد هتافاتها وشتائمها وبعد ان تنتهي الصلاة يدخل الامر لبعد جديد ، اذا ببعض المجموعات تدخل بأجولة ممتلئة بالحجارة والدبش ويبدأ رمي الحجارة لتصيب بعض الواقفين وبعض العساكر والضباط وهنا نقرر ان نمشي فورا ونحن نري بعضهم يمسك بشوم ويكسر في بعض السيارات الموجود في المكان ويتحول المكان لساحة حرب حقيقية تضار علي اثره واجهة البنزينة وبعض المحلات وبينما نحن في طريقنا لسيارتنا عبر الشوارع الجانبية نقابل نفس العساكر العاملين في حراسة احد السفارات الذين دلونا في البداية علي الطريق ، يضحكون ويقولون لنا : الله ينور يا رجالة

واعود لنفس المكان في الصباح مع عدد من الاصدقاء الصحفيين لنصلي الجمعة في مسجد قريب لتصدمنا مشاهد التدمير والخراب التي حلت بالسيارات والمحلات والبنزينة وبعد الصلاة تصطف تشكيلات الامن لتعتقل كل من يحاول التجمهر او تفرقه وكذلك تنزع الأعلام من ايدي البعض حتي لا يتجمع حولها من يريد ان يعترض ويتظاهر لنفس السبب

في النهاية لن اعلق واترك لكم الصور والفيديوهات لتعبر عما حدث في يوم لن تنساه مصر لأنه ينبيء بدلالات بالغة الخطورة وارسل به رسالة عاجلة للمهيجين الجالسين في صحفهم وفضائياتهم يزيدون النار اشتعالا ولا مجال للمزايدة علي الوطن وابناءه مع الاحتفاظ بحقنا في رد كرامتنا بأسلوب حضاري ومعاقبة كل من اساء لمصر وابناءها ..اللهم احمي مصر وابناء مصر ووحد امتنا وبصرها باعدائها... يا رب

مقاطع فيديو عن ما حدث:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Egyptian blogger, activist kidnapped, beaten during Egypt-Algeria match

CAIRO - November 15th, 2009: Kareem el-Shae’r, an Egyptian blogger and political activist, was found beaten, injured and covered with his own blood in New Cairo one hour after the end of the Algeria-Egypt soccer match on Saturday night. El-Shae’r was then taken to el-Salam hospital by local citizens until his wife came to take him home.

According to the blogger’s friends who contacted him later, he is “very ill and has serious injuries and bruises all over his body.” It is unclear what pretext was given for kidnapping the young man and leaving him in New Cairo, some 30 minutes from Nasr City.

Egyptian police in recent years have used similar tactics of kidnapping and beatings in an effort to silence critics of the government. A number of leading opposition figures have been taken from the street by police, beaten and left on the side of the road outside the capital, much like el-Shae’r.

On Saturday, emotions were high across Egypt as the national team was playing Algeria in a World Cup qualifier that would determine which nation would make it to South Africa next June for the World Cup Finals. Egypt eventually won the match 2-0 to force a play-off Wednesday in Sudan.

El-Shae’r is the moderator of Masr el-Horra (Free Egypt) blog. He has been arrested several times for short periods in recent years over his political activities. The worst of them was when he was arrested and physically assaulted during the protests calling for judicial independence in 2006.

He is also a member of the el-Ghad Party and April 6 Youth movement. On November 4th, he established “Youth against Presidential Succession,” a new youth campaign inspired by the larger national “Egyptian Campaign against Succession” founded by opposition leader Ayman Nour last month.

Eight hours before the historic football match between Egypt and Algeria that attracted the attention of all Egyptians, Ahmed Maher, head of April 6 Movement spread the news that “members of April 6 were arrested and Kareem El-Shae’r disappeared.” Two hours later, Medhat Shaker, another political activist and friend of el-Shae’r, stated that “Kareem was kidnapped from outside Nasr City Police Station where Mohamed Mostafa [another member of April 6] was being held in custody.”

One hour after the match, news spread on the walls of El-Ghad Party members’ Facebook pages about El-Shae’r being “beaten and thrown from a police truck in New Cairo” and other news about “locking El-Ghad Party members up by security forces in their headquarter of Talaat Harb street, after the match!”

Apparently, the security forces used the opportunity of the match’s hype to attack young activists, who were busy with watching the match. A number of activists said security was using the match “to take revenge of young activists like Kareem and other members of El-Ghad Party and April 6 Youth movement.”

The interior ministry would not comment on el-Shae’r’s case, saying they had not heard of anything related to this person.

**reporting by Dalia Ziada (first published on Bikya Masr)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A soccer match or national hope: Egypt vs. Algeria

By: Dalia Ziada

Today, at 7:30pm, the whole of Egypt will, unusually, turn to silence. It is the calm before the storm; either a storm of anger or storm of joy. It depends on the results of a football match between Egypt and Algeria national soccer teams. For weeks, the exchange of statements and symbols emphasizing pride and patriotism between the peoples of the two competing nations did not stop. Some fans from both sides went extreme and insulted the history and culture of each others’ nations!

In Cairo, flags are hanging on every street and posted everywhere on the Internet. Logically, Egyptians must beat the strong Algerian team by at least three goals to ensure qualification for next year’s World Cup. This is the last chance for the players of the current team to compete for this great honor. Egypt has not been to a World Cup Finals since 1990.

By stepping out of the box of the breath-taking developments of today’s match inside and outside the playground, we can clearly read Egypt’s future. For years, Egypt has been sinking into a dirty pool of sectarian tension between Muslims, Copts, and Bahai’s. All of a sudden, they forgot about these tensions and silently agreed to unify for a week or two unti the end of the match.

Egyptians decided to stop speaking about their daily problems of pollution, political repression and the deteriorated economic situation. Polls and surveys running online and in newspapers now are not concerned with the next president of Egypt any more. They are all about the results Egyptians expect in today’s match.

Egyptians are crazily supporting their national soccer team, despite the fact that according to logical calculations, the Algerians are in a better position and Egyptians might not make it to the World Cup next year. Egyptians, who immigrated to Europe and North America, seeking better opportunities of dignified life are now restoring their confidence in their homeland and are not ashamed of linking their origin to the land of Pharaohs.

An Egyptian-American friend of mine, who left with his family to America 26-years-ago, is visiting Egypt this month. He came particularly to watch the match with his Egyptian friends and celebrate with them the joy and pride of being Egyptian, before and during the match. He told me he never thought he “loves Egypt that much!” He can hardly speak the Egyptian dialect, but he understands almost every Egyptian word because he was brought up by two Egyptian parents and watched Egyptian movies all the time. Yet, the soccer match restored his confidence in his original homeland.

Football is the most popular sport in Egypt. Yet, it was never of such a great impact on all sectors, age groups, gender and class. It is clear that something more valuable and more important is popping up: a hope for a national story of success. This is exactly what encouraged all Egyptians to unify under the banner of one goal and one hope. I think this is a clue that witty political activists and reformists should use to ensure the change they are seeking for Egyptian society. Egyptians are not passive. On the contrary, they are willing and all-the-time ready to take action and move towards a common goal. Egyptians are not hostile. They are not fighting each other day and night over political and religious differences. These are the symptoms of the real disease of depression and lack of common hope.

This is the clue: common national hope. Give Egyptian people a common hope to fight for and they will make it, not only towards the World Cup 2010, but also towards a better economic and political future.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A space for unveiling the minds of young Muslim women

By: Dalia Ziada

I was once asked: if you were given the choice, would you choose to be born now in the new millennium? I replied: definitely, yes! Not only because I was given the unique chance to witness the end of one millennium and the beginning of another, but also because I was given free access to the whole universe from my small room via a laptop computer and an Internet connection.

The information technology revolution has done much more than merely making the world a small village. For us, young women activists living in Egypt and the Middle East, the information technology revolution gave us the space we needed to practice our lives the way we want, apart from the restrictions imposed on us by our patriarchal societies.

The life for us now is divided into two worlds, a real one (inside the real patriarchal society) and a virtual one (on the World Wide Web). In the real world, we are still looked upon as a “beautiful body” while in the virtual world we are treated as an “intellectual mind.”

In the home, the young woman is the property that her parents are keeping “safe and sound” until the anonymous knight comes on his white horse and takes her to the golden cell of marriage. To keep her “safe and sound,” they might commit an unlimited number of crimes against her body, mind and spirit.

These crimes might be as painful as Female Genital Mutilation in early childhood; as artificial as covering her body with as much clothes as possible when she becomes a teenager, or as frustrating as preventing her from traveling for study or work, preventing her from choosing her own career, blaming her for being ambitious and selecting the man she is supposed to live with happy forever – her husband.

One of the most painful experiences in my life based on the fact that I am a female took place while I was an undergraduate student. In the year 2001, after achieving three levels in the annual Students Chess Competition, I was prevented from competing for the title of University Master of chess because I am a “girl” and the final level was made only for “boys.”

I protested and proved to the organizers of the competition that the mind of the “girl” is one hundred percent equal to the mind of the “boy” and the difference between the minds of each has nothing to do with their gender. But, the answer from competition organizers was a threat to remove my previous titles. Of course, I had to shut up.

Even in the street and work place, young women are always looked upon as the sexual objects that men always desire to verbally or physically harass. What doubles the misery is that the society holds women – the victim – accountable for what the man does and blames her for being a “woman” who dared to walk in the site of men and must stomach the dire consequences of being professionally ambitious.

But online, in the virtual world, on the World Wide Web, the story is completely different. Thanks to the Internet, young women in the Middle East have proven to their patriarchal societies that they are equal active minds and not only beautiful bodies or passive properties of men.

Online, I am the woman I always wanted to be: I can “virtually” dress the way I want. I can “virtually” walk in the “web-sites” men walk without fear of being physically or verbally harassed. I can “virtually” challenge a “male” mind in an online chess game and win. I can “virtually” discuss critical, political, and social topics and my opinion is respected regardless of my gender. Online, I am enjoying the freedom I always wanted to have in my real life. Online, I am not the “beautiful body” any more, I am the “active mind” that people respect and follow.

Online, I am the FaceBook member who does not shy to write in her profile “I am in a relationship with … whomever.” I am the blogger who expresses herself without fear, who shares her own personal problems with the universe and networks with young women in different places in the Middle East in launching campaigns and changing the painful negativities of the real world.

Recently, on the day of the Mulid el-Naby celebration in Egypt – Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday – I wrote an article about the suppression I suffer as a young Muslim woman for not being able to do a pilgrimage to Mecca, only because the Saudi law prevents young women access to the holy land of Mecca without a “mahram,” or male relative chaperon. I posted the article on my blog and footed it with blaming the Saudi government for practicing such discrimination against all Muslim young women in the world.

On the same day, several international and local media outlets including Al Masry Al Youm and al-Youm el-Saba’a dailies, BBC Radio and website, PBS TV, Global Voices Website, Topix News Website and some other international blogs picked up the article and discussed it. Then, I received tens of emails from young Muslim women from different places all over the world offering their unconditional help and asking me to activate this campaign on a wider global scale. Thanks to the Internet, my very personal problem turned into a global one and I am gaining supporters from all over the globe.

By the way, Saudi women are prevented from access anywhere in real life and the virtual Internet world without the so-called mahram. One of the funny fatwas issued by a famous Saudi scholar that was released in 2006 said that young women may not use the Internet alone! A young woman must have a “mahram” a male relative chaperon with her while navigating the Internet, the fatwa said.

Under such Salifi restrictions, I wonder if the day will come for young women in the Middle East to transform the freedom we are enjoying in the virtual world to the real world. It is not about changing regimes or laws. It is about changing mentalities of both women and men. The first, but most important, step is for both men and women to believe that they are two wings of the same bird, which is our common society. If one wing is forced to be inactive, our society will fail to fly as high as we aspire. It will fall down faster than we would expect.

Empower woman; then you empower the whole society.