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Morocco: Ladies Honored

Kolena Laila

Moroccan bloggers joined the Kolena Laila (We Are All Laila) campaign, an independent online initiative inviting bloggers across the Arab region to express themselves freely and raise awareness on the concerns of women in their respective societies, for the first time. The campaign which originally started as an exclusively Egyptian initiative back in 2006 is now covering blogospheres from across North Africa and the Middle East.

Laila is the protagonist of the novel “الباب المفتوح” (The Open Door) by Latifa Az'zayate, and symbolizes women who try to build an independent personality in their communities.

Bouthaina, writing in Arabic on My Sweet Home tells the story [Ar] of a woman to whom modern life seems to have brought little benefit. She writes:

تصل إلى البيت أخيرا و قد استنفذت قواها الباقية من مشقة العمل و رحلة المواصلات التي لا تنتهي.. تنصرف السيدة المربية على عجلة من أمرها هي الأخرى ـ يبدو أنه قدرها الحتمي في هذه الدنيا .. عجلة أزلية.. لا تدري إلى متى فهي تكاد تنكسر..ـ تبتدئ بعدها مرحلة جديدة من مراحل عملها اليومي.. فالطفل يكون بانتظارها كي تقوم معه بنزهة.. أو تلاعبه أو تطعمه..عدا مراقبتها له و لشقاواته.. و التي قد تختلط فيها الضحكات بالبكاء و الصراخ الذي لا نهاية له…. تعود أنت يا حبيبي من عملك متأخرا.. بعد أن تكون طاقتي القليلة قد انعدمت أو تكاد
تندهش دائما إذا لم أتجاوب معك بما يكفي. و كيف لي بالتجاوب و أنا أخاف أن أبلغ يوما لا أستطيع فيه حتى التجاوب مع نفسي؟
She finally reaches home, having exhausted her remaining forces at work and by then commuting in an endless daily trip back home. The nanny leaves. She's in a hurry too. Being in a hurry appears to be her destined fate in this world. An eternal cycle with no end in sight. She's almost broken. Now begins a new phase in her daily work. Her child is waiting for her to give him a ride, or to play with him or feed him. Let alone that she needs to constantly look after him and watch him, which usually includes an endless succession of laughter, tears and yelling. Her lover comes back from work late, after she has lost almost all her energy. He's always surprised that she doesn't respond enough to him. She wonders: How on earth can I respond when I'm afraid one day I won't be able to respond to myself?
I'm Citizen Like You!

I'm Citizen Like You!

A. C. Osama writing in Ana Wa al-Hayat [Ar] attacks what he sees as widespread sexual harassment against women in his society. He writes:

التحرش الجنسي جريمة.. جريمة يعاقب عليها القانون، ليس لدينا طبعا. بل في دول الشمال. هنا الأمر يختلف، و إن كان هناك بعض الوعي الذي بدأ في الانتشار، إلا أن المجرم الوحيد الذي يشار إليه بالأصابع إن حصل فعل التحرش، ليس سوى المرأة. على الأرجح أنتم تعرفون كيف يحصل ذلك، و إن حدث و أظهرت تضايقك من تصرف “السي السيد” فلن تجد جاوبا أكثر من “إنهن فتنة، يستدرجوننا.. أنظر إلى لباسها! عليهن اللعنة”.
صحيح أن هناك تيار، يريد إرجاعنا، دون وعي منا، إلى زمن كانت فيه المرأة يرى إليها كوسيلة إشباع لرغبات و نزوات الرجل. و هذا ما قد حصل فعلا، فبعد تطور نسبي عرفته مجتمعات بعض الدول العربية في النصف الثاني من القرن الماضي على مستوى التفكير و رؤية الأمور، ها هي الأشياء ترجع إلى أصلها. كل ما يبدو لنا من المرأة هو الجسد. و أول شيء نفكر فيه عند رأيتنا لها هو السرير!!
. الأمر مقرف لدرجة لا تتصور. رأفة بنفسي و بكم طبعا، سأختم الآن. لكن كنوع من التنفيس عن الذات اسمحوا لي بالقول: لعن الله الرجال!!

Sexual harassment is a crime. A crime punishable by law, not here of course, but in the western countries. Here it is different: although some degree of awareness has started to spread, those being blamed and pointed at as responsible for the offense are the women. You probably know how this usually happens: every time you show your disapproval to “Si Sayyid” [in reference to the protagonist of Naguib Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy, archetype of polygamous and misogynous patriarch] the only answer you will get is “they [the women] incite and provoke us. Look how they dress! Damn them!”
There is indeed a current now that tries to push us, most of us unaware of it, to a time when women were seen as a means to satisfy the wishes and whims of men. This is what has actually happened: after a relative development in the ways we see things in some Arab countries, especially during the second half of the twentieth century, now we're back to square one. The only thing we seem to notice in a woman is her body.
This is unbelievably disgusting. Out of compassion for myself and for you I will conclude by a kind of cathartic call. So let me say: God damn men!!

The issue of sexual harassment was also tackled by writer and blogger Mohamed Mouâd EL GORDE (Medmouad) who calls for more respect and courtesy toward women. He writes:

I owe to my mother who, after the prematured death of dad, sacrified herself to raise us & to have all we need & my maternal aunts who didn't marry just to take care of us & later of grandma. Education & ethics in which I believe came from them & thanking them won't be enough whatever I do. Those silly men should think twice.
I won't allow myself to harass [any woman]. Understand as you want, I try to be as gentelman as possible.
So, men, please: have a respect for women.

Another blogger, Issam, although supportive of Kolena Laila initiative, is skeptical [Ar] about the impact such initiatives can have. He writes:

دعونا الآن نفكر في الفئة التي ستقرأ هذا الكلام.. إنها غالبا فئة مثقفة مطلعة على المدونات والأنترنت.. هذه الفئة تفهم تماما أبعاد القضية وليست على الإطلاق هي الفئة التي تحتاج إلى تنوير في الموضوع. وحتى إن وجد من هو على هذا القدر من الثقافة ورأيه يخالف ما نتكلم عنه هنا، فإن أول رد فعل سيقوم به حينما يجد موضوعا عن المرأة وحقوقها هو أن يغلق الصفحة دون أن يخسر على الموضوع سوى كلمة واحدة: “هراء!”
أظن أن الصراخ المثقف، والندوات المثقفة، كعادة الثقافة دوما، أشياء تدور في حلقة مفرغة مثقفة بدورها. إن من يهين امرأته أو يضربها أو يتحرش بها لن تجده على الأرجح يتصفح هذه التدوينات أو يحضر الندوات أو يشارك في المهرجانات.

Let us now think about who will actually read these words: it is often an educated class familiar with blogs and the Internet. This class fully understands the proportions of the problems facing women, and is not at all a category that one needs to enlighten on the subject. Even if one can find educated readers with an opinion contrary to what we are talking about here, I imagine the first reaction such reader might have when coming across this story about women and their rights, would be to close the page uttering this one word: “Nonsense!”
I think that cultural screaming, cultural seminars, and cultural things in general tend to revolve in a vicious circle. The one who insults his wife or beats or harasses her probably will not be browsing these pages or attending seminars or participating in meetings.

Hind Idrissi, writing on Hindapress [Ar], yearns for a time when, she says, men and women used to respect each other more. She writes:

إن ما تربينا عليه ووجدنا أجدادنا واباءنا وأمهاتنا عليه هو الاحترام المتبادل وليس اللكم المتبادل, إن من المعروف على المرأة العربية المسلمة عامة والمغربية خاصة هو احترام الزوج بل أن المرأة كانت تقبل يد زوجها احتراما له وهذا كان منتشرا في أجيال سابقة ومازال إلى يومنا هذا في بعض العائلات القليلة جدا ربما البعض سيقول هذه إهانة للمرأة لكن عندما يكون هناك المودة والاحترام المتبادل وعندما نرى البعد المعنوي لهذا التصرف لا يكون كذلك وبالمقابل يكون الزوج هو السند والأمان لها وفعلا في زمن مضى كان الرجل أكثر احتراما لزوجته والعكس صحيح .

We were brought up to live the life we found our forefathers and our fathers and mothers living: a life of mutual respect, not punching each other. What was well known about Arab and Muslim women in general and Moroccan women in particular, is their respect for their husbands, and that the woman used to kiss her husband's hand, out of respect for him, and this was prevalent in previous generations and still exits to this day in some few conservative families. Maybe some will say this is an insult to women, but when there is love and mutual respect, and when we consider the moral dimension of this act, it no longer looks insulting. On the other hand the husband supports his wife and provides her with security. Actually, men used to be more respectful of their wives. Today it seems to be the opposite.

Blogger Heebou goes on denouncing a certain mindset [Ar] that he sees prevalent against all Lailas or independent-minded women. He writes:

ما ننسى أنها حملتنا ,أنجبتنا ,أرضعتنا وربتنا فقط لنرفع صوتنا في وجهها كنا صغارا وحتى صرنا كبارا نجدها بقربنا أيام المرض نشفى فنعذبها حتى نسقطها أرضا ولا ننسى تشطيبها من الوجود فقط لأنها ليلى.

We tend to forget that she [the woman] brought us up, nursed and educated us, only for us to raise our voice in her face. We grow older, we fall sick but she stays on our side. As soon as we recover we start tormenting her until we bring her to the ground and finish her up, for the only reason that she is Laila.

Blogger Marrokia [Ar] who wears the Islamic veil or Hijab, defends her choice of a conservative lifestyle. She writes:

هكذا أريد أن أعيش لأني اتخذت ما هو صائب: حجابي تاجي وجسمي ملكي وعقلي حريتي. بكل بساطة هذا قراري

This is the way I want to live and this is the right choice for me: my Hijab is the crown, my body the kingdom and my mind is my freedom. This is simply my own decision.

Finally Naoufel explains [Ar] why in his view some assumptions need to be challenged. He writes:

.. فقط سأحتفظ بمقولة أن الاسلام كرم المرأة.. ثم أضيف: هل كرمها المسلمون أيضا؟ ان كنت ستهز رأسك ايجابا.. فتعال أكرمك أنا أيضا.. أمنحك حيضا و نفاسا و جنينا يعيش في بطنك لتسعة شهور و أسجنك في البيت ما حييت و اذا تسامحت معك و حدث ان خرجت فالبس النقاب، ثم في الأخير أمنحك نصف ما أخذه أخوك من الارث.. ها قد كرمتك

الديمقراطية هي الحل

[…] Let us keep the assertion that Islam honored women. Let's ask: Do Muslims honor her too? Now if you shake your head in approval I suggest you experience such an honor. I offer you the menstrual cycle, the postpartum and a fetus in your womb for nine months. I'll imprison you at home all your life and if I'm compassionate enough will let you walk outside but only if you wear the Niqab (a full veil covering the face), and then as a last gesture will offer you half of your brother's inheritance. How is that for an honor?

Democracy is the solution.

Kolena Laila celebrated its fourth anniversary, and whilst some have been questioning the point behind such initiatives, the organizers claim that it has already reached its main goal: opening up spaces of debate throughout the Arab world. The campaign was held from December 24 to 31.

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