Back in December 2007, I was almost crucified for writing a post entitled: Relationshsips Warning: Do not date Egyptian Men. In that article, I said:
Because of the nature of my work in the tourism sector, I am used to hearing that this or that country has issued a travel warning to its citizens who plan on traveling to Egypt, especially in the aftermath of an attack. Naturally, most warnings address safety and security issues, and some warnings dedicate a section or two to hygiene and harassment. Lately, and because of the increasing number of divorces, custody issues, and domestic violence cases, some countries warn their women from Egyptian men. Yes, they tell them clearly not to get emotionally involved or legally committed to an Egyptian man!
Wandering Scarab - an Egyptian girl living in Canada – prior to her last visit to Egypt, decided to visit the Canadian Consulate website to register with the consulate in Egypt just in case her Canadian husband or her baby girl needed assistance with travel or local authorities. What she read on the site was appalling and ended up in her writing this post.
On the page specific to Egypt the first item displayed recent updates about major events in the country, like strikes and riots or disease outbreak, of which there was none for Egypt. So far so good. The second item displayed warning and recommendations where “EXERCISE HIGH DEGREE OF CAUTION” was in bold and highlighted in blue. I went on to read why the good people in the Foreign Affairs department think that I should exercise a high degree of caution. Among the many warnings, ranging from terrorist attacks and unexploded landmines to substandard medical care, there was this excerpt:
Women, particularly foreign women, are frequently subject to unpleasant male attention, sexual harassment, and verbal abuse. This often takes the form of staring, inappropriate remarks, catcalls, and touching. The Department publishes a booklet entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Guide to Safe and Successful Travel. Its prime objective is to inform Canadian women and encourage them to travel safely.
There are reports of female Canadian citizens being forced into marriage without their prior knowledge or consent. Parents, relatives and the community may use relentless pressure and emotional blackmail, threatening behavior, abduction, imprisonment and physical violence to coerce young people to enter into marriage. While both men and women experience forced marriages, it is a form of violence most commonly perpetrated against women. They have been unable to return to Canada, and their passports and money have been retained by family members. Canada opposes the practice of forced marriage and urges all countries to respect their international human rights obligations relating to free and full consent to marriage. Forced marriage constitutes a human rights violation under several legal instruments, including international human rights law, to which Canada is a signatory.
The Wandering Scarab thinks that the fact that the Canadian government went though the trouble of creating and promoting such a booklet suggests:
a. they are not exaggerating about the warning, and
b. the incidents of harassment happen frequently enough that there had to be a public warning about them.
This is the first thing Canadian women learn about Egypt. How embarrassing and sad this is.
Trying to overcome her shock and sense of indignation, she was struck by a second clause:
Canadian citizens who were born in Egypt, or who were born outside Egypt to an Egyptian father, are considered citizens of Egypt. Consular assistance, if required, will be granted by the Egyptian authorities on a case-by-case basis.
In other words, because I have dual citizenship, Egypt has the right to refuse the assistance of the Canadian Consulate in the event that I need such assistance. Let me reflect on that for a minute… OK, so even though I'm a Canadian citizen, Egyptian authorities will treat me as an Egyptian citizen, which means that if something happens, I can be denied legal counsel, held without charge indefinitely, interrogated (tortured) in prison, and prosecuted in Egyptian courts.
How was this particular dilemma resolved?
After not much thought I did indeed register. However, I registered using my husband's name, since he does not have the Egyptian citizenship. I avoided putting my name on the forms like it was the plague.
In pursuit of my original cause; Egyptian men taking advantage of foreign women, I found Insteadi who is “a trailing Scottish bird in Cairo” who dedicated a post for the nature of the relationship between Egyptian men and foreign women.
I just read an interesting article from Egypt's Daily Star (nothing like the UK one!). It is about men looking for foreign (note they actually use the word ‘blonde’) wives to finance them. I have seen this sort of thing time and time again here, with the foreign woman usually being a tourist when she ‘falls in love’ and not understanding that her beau could actually have ulterior motives. Why should she? He says such beautiful things to her, makes her feel so special, so wanted. He is so romantic (it's a shame she doesn't understand Arabic or she'd realize when song lyrics are being translated). Later comes the demonstrations that ‘he's not like that’. Frequently divorce is on the horizon. Soon after that, I don't know what happens with her, but he remarries: IT'S BUSINESS.
While I understand life in Egypt is tougher by the day, it surely can't be fair to enter a marriage you believe is for love, when the reality is that an entire family is plotting how to cajole you out of your money.
Words, beautiful or not, are cheap.