24 Apr 2012

Love, Not Hatred, Dear Mona !

Dear Mona Eltahawy

My name is Dima Khatib. I am an Arab, Muslim woman, proud of my identity and culture. I lived half my life in the Arab world and the other half between four continents: Europe, Asia, North America and South America. I got to know cultures much freer than ours, when it comes to women, politics and society. I learned and watched and noted…and wished that many things which do not exist in our societies and exist in other societies would come true for Arab women, although I also noted aspects of suffering and negativity in the life of non-Arab women.

I have not met you personally yet, but we have exchanged conversations and our relationship has always been amiable - in fact, quite warm. I have always felt that we share the same dreams. I was among the first to write about your arrest. And today I don’t wish to join the army of your adversaries or of your staunch attackers. I hope you take my letter as constructive criticism, in the spirit of plurality of opinions and exchanging viewpoints and dialogue, the exact spirit that we seek to build stone by stone on a perilous Arab land, and you know this better than most. 

I don’t think I am less emancipated than you, Mona, and no less someone who strives for and loves freedom. I dream of freedom for me and for you and for every Arab woman and Arab man, for every child and adult, the religious and non-religious, those who wear hijab, those who don’t wear hijab, and those who wear niqab, the women who work and the housewives, the rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate. However I don’t belong to any feminist movements, I haven’t studied the theories of feminist movements, and I don’t write to you as a defender of women’s rights or in the name of all Arab women, I write to you as a female Arab citizen who feels that you have spoken in her name, in absentia.

I confess that the title of your article in Foreign Policy Magazine “Why do they hate us? – The real war on women is in the Middle East” made my blood boil. This was added to when I saw the picture of the woman, naked but for the black paint, so you see nothing but her eyes lined with kohl (with Arab kohl?). I could not keep myself from asking: Is this woman on the cover me, the Arab woman? I felt insulted, Mona. Did you not feel the same insult when you saw the article’s images? I felt an urge to tear the pictures apart.

I was attracted to the opening of your article. Your style is interesting and you do poke the issues, and our issues are one, Mona. There’s no doubt that the facts in your article are accurate, that the problems highlighted are real, and that the suffering you write of is experienced by Arab women, even if they are not always aware of it. My anger faded as I read, slowly…until I reached the section where you explain “The Arab men’s hatred toward women”. Hatred?

Let's see. In our Arab society, does the son hate his mother? The brother his sister? The father his daughter? And the husband hates his wife, and the lover his beloved? And the male colleague hates his female colleague, and the male friend his female friend, and the male neighbor his female neighbor? I don’t think our culture teaches us to hate women. In fact, mothers are sacred, grandmothers are sacred, aunts are treasured, and so are female cousins.

It is true that women’s issues are among our most thorny problems, and I believe that the liberation and progress of our societies will only take place through solving these problems, but I also believe that the other problems must be solved too. And the other problems are suffered by both men and women, social degradation, oppression, subordination, illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, exploitation, ignorance and many of the injustices, among other things you know well.

We, Arab women, are not weak, Mona, and the Arab revolutions have proved to us that we are stronger than we even thought, and the heroines of the Arab revolutions don’t need to be pointed out. I don’t think we need saviors from the hatred and grudges of our men, especially since the revolutions have proven that we are more than able to stand shoulder to shoulder with men to achieve progress for our societies. 

Your article paints a picture of the Arab society that matches the images of the article: black, bleak, depressing, a painted black body. You have reduced the problem of the Arab woman to the feelings of men; while the image of the Arab woman was reduced to the image that the West has of her. What you have tackled is true, and we have a long road ahead, and the revolutions have not achieved anything for women or for any one else when it comes to societal demands, and we have not yet been granted our basic rights, as women or as men. Like you, I felt a huge shock when the new Egyptian parliament was elected in front of my eyes while I was in Egypt, with women representing less than 2% of it. But the picture in your article is incomplete and gives the impression that we are all miserable, helpless female beings. Arab society is not as barbaric as you present it in the article. You actually enhance the typical stereotype in the non-Arab reader's mind, and it is a stereotype full of overwhelming generalisations, and contributes to the widening cultural rift between our society and other societies, and the increase of racism towards us.

I felt that your article in the magazine you chose was a plea for others to go save an oppressed Arab woman, poor, veiled in black, as though anyone would come to "save" her anyway… As they did when the United States liberated Afghan women, for example?

We have a heap of accumulated and intertwined problems in the relationship between men and women, in how men view women, and how women view men. If only we could learn how to love again, so that men learn to love women without controlling them, and women learn to love men instead of loving to please men. How about we start from love, Mona, instead of hatred?


Note: I wrote the response originally in Arabic because I felt it was an issue Arabs should read about and discuss. This English version was kindly translated by: Tasnim Qutait (Thank you @TasnimQ)

الحب بدلاً من الكراهية.. يا منى

عزيزتي منى الطحاوي

اسمي ديمة الخطيب. امرأة عربية، مسلمة، فخورة بعروبتي وبثقافتي. عشت نصف عمري في الوطن العربي والنصف الآخر بين أربع قارات في العالم: أوروبا، آسيا، أمريكا الشمالية، أمريكا الجنوبية. تعرفتُ على ثقافات أكثرَ تحرراً من ثقافاتنا بكثير، فيما يتعلق بالمرأة وبالسياسة وبالمجتمع. تعلمتُ وشاهدتُ وسجلت.. وتمنيتُ أن تتحقق أشياء كثيرة للمرأة العربية ليست موجودة في مجتمعاتنا وموجودة في مجتمعات أخرى، مع أنني أيضاً لاحظت أوجهاً للمعاناة وأوجهاً سلبية في حياة المرأة غير العربية

لم أتعرف عليك شخصياً بعد، لكننا تبادلنا الأحاديث وكانت علاقتنا دائماً ودية، بل حميمية. وأحسست دائماً بأننا نتشارك بنفس الأحلام. وكنتُ من أول من كتبوا عن اعتقالك. وأنا اليوم لا أرغب في الانضمام إلى جيش معارضيك ولا جيش مهاجميك الأشاوس. بل أتوقع منك أن تتقبلي رسالتي كنقد بناء في إطار تعددية الآراء وتبادل وجهات النظر والحوار، وهو الإطار الذي نسعى إلى تشييده حجراً حجراً على أرض عربية زلقة، وأنت ست العارفين 

لا أحسبني أقل تحرراً منك يا منى، ولا أقل سعياً وحباً للحرية منك. أنا أحلم بالحرية لأجلي ولأجلك ولأجل كل عربية، وكل عربي، لأجل الصغير والكبير، المتدين وغير المتدين، المتحجبة والسافرة والمنقبة، المرأة العاملة وربة المنزل، الثرية والفقيرة، المثقفة والأمية. لكني لا أنتمي إلى أي حركة نسوية ولم أدرس نظريات الحركات النسوية، ولا أكتب إليك بصفةِ مدافعةٍ عن حقوق المرأة ولا باسم كل النساء العربيات، بل أكتب إليك بصفتي مواطنة عربية تشعر بأنك كتبتِ باسمها غيابياً

أعترفُ لك عزيزتي منى أن عنوان مقالتك في مجلة فورن بوليسي (السياسة الخارجية) الأمريكية: "لماذا يكرهوننا؟ - الحرب الحقيقية ضد النساء في الشرق الأوسط" أصابني بغليان فوري. أصبح غلياناً مضاعفاً عندما أمعنت النظر في صور المرأة العارية إلا من طلاء أسود لا يـُظهر سوى عينينها المكحلتين (بكحل عربي؟). لم أستطع أن أمنع نفسي من التساؤل: هل تلك المرأة على الغلاف أنا، المرأة العربية؟ شعرت بالإهانة يا منى. ألم تشعري بنفس الإهانة عندما رأيت صور المقالة؟ انتابتني رغبة جامحة في تمزيق الصور 

شدتني بداية مقالتك. أسلوبك شيق وتضعين اليد على الجراح، وجراحنا واحدة يا منى. ولا شك في أن الحقائق التي وردت في مقالتك دقيقة، وأن المشاكل المطروحة حقيقية، وأن أوجه المعاناة الكارثية التي تطرقتِ إليها تعيشها المرأة العربية وإن كانت لا تعي لها دائماً. خف غلياني مع القراءة شيئاً فشيئاً .. حتى وصلتُ إلى المقطع الذي تشرحين فيه "كراهية الرجل العربي للمرأة". كراهية؟ 

فكرت ملياً. هل في مجتمعنا العربي يكرهُ الابنُ أمَّه؟ ويكره الأخُ أختـَه؟ ويكره الأبُ ابنتـَه؟ ويكره الزوجُ زوجتـَه، والحبيبُ حبيبتَه؟ ويكره الزميلُ زميلتَه، والصديقُ صديقتَه، والجارُ جارتَه؟ لا أظن أن ثقافتنا تـُرَبينا على كره المرأة. بل عندنا الأم مقدسة والجدة مقدسة وكم هي غالية الخالة والعمة وبنت العم وبنت الخال 

صحيح أن مشاكل المرأة من أكثر مشاكلنا تعقيداً وأؤمن بأن تحرر وتقدم مجتمعنا يمر عبر حلها بلا محالة، لكني أؤمن بأن كل المشاكل الأخرى يجب أن تحل أيضاً. والمشاكل الأخرى يعاني منها الرجل والمرأة معاً، من انحطاط وتدهور وطغيان وتبعية وأمية وفقر وبطالة واستغلال وجهل وكثير من الظلم، ضمن أمور أخرى تعرفينها

لسنا ضعيفات يا منى والثورات العربية أثبتت حتى لنا أننا أقوى مما كنا نظن، وبطلات الثورات العربية غنيات عن التعريف. ولا أظننا نحتاج إلى من ينقذنا من براثن الكره والحقد من رجالنا، خاصة أن الثورات أثبتت أننا أكثر من قادرات على وضع يدنا بيد الرجل من أجل تحقيق التقدم لمجتمعاتنا

مقالتكِ ترسم صورة للمجتمع العربي مطابقة لصور المقالة: قاتمة كاحلة كئيبة، جسد أسود مطلي. لقد اختزلتِ مشاكل المرأة العربية في مشاعر الرجل، بينما اختـُزلت هي في صور حزينة تمثل تماماً صورة الغرب عنها. ما كتبتِ عنه حقيقة، وأمامنا درب طويل وشاق، والثورات لم تحقق لا للمرأة ولا لغيرها أياً من المطالب الاجتماعية ولم تعطنا حتى الآن حقوقنا الأساسية لا كرجال ولا كنساء. ومثلكُ شعرتُ بصدمة كبيرة عندما تم انتخاب مجلس الشعب المصري الجديد أمام عيني وأنا في مصر، وليس فيه من النساء سوى أقل من ٢٪. لكن الصورة في مقالتك منقوصة وتعطي الانطباع بأننا كلنا تعيسات، لا حول ولا قوة لنا. مجتمعنا العربي ليس بالغوغائية التي تصورينها في المقالة التي تعزز في ذهن القارئ الأجنبي الصورة النمطية لنا، وهي نمطية تعاني من تعميم مجحف، وتساهم في اتساع الشرخ الثقافي بين مجتمعاتنا ومجتمعات الآخرين، وتزيد من العنصرية تجاهنا

شعرت أن مقالتك في المجلة التي اخترتيها استجداء للآخرين لنصرة امرأة مضطهدة، مسكينة، منقبة بالأسود، وكأن الآخرين سيأتون لنصرتها.. كما فعلت الولايات المتحدة عندما حررت المرأة الأفغانية مثلاً؟

عندنا كوم متراكم ومتشابك من المشاكل في العلاقة بين الرجل والمرأة، وفي نظرة الرجل للمرأة، والمرأة للرجل. كم أتمنى أن يتعلما الحب من جديد، فيتعلم الرجل حب المرأة دون التحكم بها، وتتعلم المرأة حب الرجل بدلاً من حب إرضاء الرجل. ما رأيك لو انطلقنا من الحب يا منى، بدلاً من الكراهية؟


اقرأ النسخة الانكليزية من التدوينة

21 Apr 2012

مطريات - الخذلان

امتطيتُ ِبساطَ الحزنِ
أبحثُ عنْ صديقْ
ْفي ليلةِ ضيق
ناديتُ وناديتْ
لكنكَ ما لبيتْ

ْبحثتُ عن القمَر
ْفمَعَهُ يحلو السهَر
لكنهُ الآن على سفَرْ
يا لهُ منْ قدَرْ

وفجأةً منْ بيِن الشجَرْ
ْردَّ عليَ رعدٌ شديدْ
جاءني بسرعة منْ بعيدْ
ْيحمِلُ إليَّ هديةً منْ .. مطَر

ْضمَّتْني قطراتُهُ الدافئة
ْواحتضَنتْني رائحـتُهُ العطرة
يفتُرُ حيناً ، ويشتدُّ حيناً
ليْـتَهُ بقيَ صاخباً إلى الأبدْ
كيْ لا أسمعَ أنينَ الصمتْ
كيْ لا أذوقَ مرارةَ الصمتْ
كيْ لا يطاردَني شبحُ الصمتْ

عندما يسكُتُ الإنسانْ
يصبح صمتُهُ أعلى
من قنبلةٍ تَصُمُّ الآذانْ

أيها الصديقُ الجبانْ
يا سيدَ الخذلانْ
ُقـُلْ لقلبِكَ المتحجرِ إنني سامحتـُه
ُوقلْ لحضنِكَ الباردِ إنني صفحتُ عنه

قلْ ليدِكَ المتجمدةِ إنني غفرتُ لها
وقلْ لنظرتكَ النائيةِ إنني لنْ ألاحقـَها
وأبشرْ أيها الـ (لا) صديقُ الجبانْ
أبشرْ، ستكونُ طي النيسانْ

لقدْ غسلَ الغيثُ بدموعِهِ دموعي
وأصغى بسمفونيتِهِ إلى شجوني
وأزاحتْ سُحُبُهُ عني همومي
وأعادَ بعذوبتِهِ إليَّ سُكوني

ْتعلمتُ في الكبر
ْأنني لنْ أجِدَ بينَ البشر
ْحبيباً يداني القمر
ْولا رفيقاً يوازي المطر


كاراكاس ٢١ أبريل نيسان ٢٠١٢ الخامسة فجراً

11 Apr 2012


Una hermosa tarde
Fue testigo
De un sueño
Aunque pequeño
Con un Sureño

Su piel de miel
Su olor, su color
Sus labios, su sabor
Su mirada llena de amor
Todo le daba calor
Lo amaba sin temor

En su corazón estará
Un hombre querido
Y nunca lo mandará
Al callejón del olvido
Aunque siempre tendrá
La culpa por haberlo perdido

Eternamente abrazados
Los dos parados
Ahí donde pasarán
Millones y millones
De Caraqueños
En el aire se sentirá
Al azar
La pasión de un amor
Bello e imposible
Que ahí terminó
Antes de empezar

8 Apr 2012

قمريات - بلا قمر

ْليلةٌ بلا قمر 
ْمدينةٌ بلا بشر
ْظلامٌ غيـَّبَ الشجر

ٌلكنْ في القلب دفء
ٌفالوَحدة رفيق
لا مثيلَ لهُ
لا موعد معهُ
ْدائماً معك

لولا تلك الوحدةُ
لكنتَ جد وحيداً
ْفي ليلةٍ بلا قمر

كاراكاس ٦ أبريل نيسان ٢٠١٢

7 Apr 2012

The Syrian Uprising Through Palestinian Eyes

It honours me to host this post written by Budour Hassan, a revolutionary Palestinian who tackles a topic that may be sensitive for some. 
She writes: "... the Palestininian cause lives not in the ivory towers of intellectuals or in the dungeons of dictators. It lives in the voice of Ibrahim Qashoush..." 


Not In My Name: The Syrian Uprising Through Palestinian Eyes

“Have you ever protested against the massacres in Syria?”, asked Israeli police officer Yossi Peretz as he was detaining me along with other activists on our way to an anti-occupation demonstration in Bil’in. “Bashar al-Assad murders tens of Syrians every day and you are silent.”

It was an atrocious day: The security apparatus of the “only democracy in the Middle East” showcased its full force and flexed its muscles to prevent a bus carrying non-violent protesters from reaching an unarmed demonstration; we were detained for three hours in the Givaat Ze’ev police station on a dreary, freezing morning; we couldn’t march alongside the courageous villagers in Bil’in as they commemorated the seventh anniversary of popular resistance against the apartheid wall. What exasperated me the most was the cynical attempt of a man charged with enforcing brutal occupation and military despotism to exploit the blood of Syrian martyrs and feign concern for the victims of Assad’s deplorable atrocities. Ironically, a few days earlier during an anti-Assad protest in occupied Jerusalem, a Palestinian man scolded us for “not participating in a single demonstration against the massacres in Gaza.”

As the Syrian intifada for dignity, freedom and justice enters its second year without showing any sign of succumbing to the regime’s callous, pernicious crackdown, myths continue to dominate the discourse over Syria and Palestine. One such myth is that supporting the Palestinian struggle and the Syrian intifada are mutually exclusive. It is as though Palestinians and Syrians are competing over who can claim the greater measure of victimhood and unfair media coverage. For instance, when I tweet about the flagrant human rights violations and daily crimes that Israel perpetrates against Palestinians, I get similar reactions to that voiced by the Israeli police officer: “And what about Syria?” (Justifying and covering up Israeli crimes by switching discussion to Arab tyrannies is a well-known manipulative trick used by Zionist propagandists that has unfortunately been adopted by *some* Arabs.)

Many, on the other hand, complain about the “excessive” focus of mainstream Arab and Western media on Syria and ignoring atrocities in Palestine and Bahrain. Granted, mainstream media has an agenda and a set of politically and financially-motivated priorities, and shedding light on the repression in Bahrain or Palestine doesn’t meet their agenda… or the corporate goals of mass-media conglomerates. Similarly, pro-Assad media outlets in Syria, Lebanon, Iran, etc., blather for hours about the crimes of Israel while turning a blind eye to the massacres carried out by Assad next door. Hypocrisy and double-standards in the media happen both ways. Spending all of one's time blasting the media and Western governments for their despicable and shameful hypocrisy, selective indignation, and warped “humanitarianism”, while barely uttering a syllable of solidarity with the Syrian people is the epitome of the very hypocrisy and skewed “humanitarianism” one is trying to protest in the first place. As painful as the analogy is, reading circular debates about media coverage of Syria vis-à-vis Palestine reminds me of a football match where the supporters of both teams slam a terribly inept referee for his bias and explain his awful decisions by trotting out worn and tired conspiracy theories.

The truth is that the Syrian people are getting a taste of what Palestinians have been enduring for the best part of a century: futile Arab League summits; empty, toothless rhetoric by kings and sheikhs; lip service from the “international community”; crocodile tears; and a horribly feckless and reactionary political leadership that lags light years behind the rebellious youth. Moreover, both Palestinians and Syrians have been blessed with the all-important contribution of Kofi Annan, the undisputed master of equating between victims and executioners, an expert at calling for sham “peace” between the oppressor and oppressed amidst carnage and bloody repression.

It’s worth noting, however, that I’m perfectly aware of the significant differences between the Syrian and Palestinian situations. Palestinians have been struggling for over six decades against an expansionist settler-colonial military occupation erected upon physical and psychological walls, separation fences, and military checkpoints, maintained by the lethal combination of the military-industrial complex and deeply-entrenched institutional racism that penetrates the whole of society. Syrians are fighting a fascist, totalitarian ruling elite that has turned Syria into a private property of the Assad clan and their beneficiaries. That elite class, under Assad's dominating influence, has acted exactly like an occupation force with a similar lack of legitimacy.

The means by which Israel attacks and suppresses the Palestinian population may be different from those used by Assad. Israel’s violence, especially in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and within the Green line, is not as visible as the Assad regime’s – although Gaza gets more than its fair share of air strikes and missiles – but it’s equally as destructive. The silent ethnic cleansing of an indigenous population in the form of rapidly increasing home demolitions, settlement construction, strict control on the freedom of movement of Palestinians and systematic denial of basic infrastructure such as water and electricity gradually squeezes the lifeblood out of quarantined, defenceless communities. In addition, Palestinians have had to deal with the ongoing theft of their land, identity, and collective memory since the creation of the state of Israel. The discriminatory legal system and racist bureaucracy that controls the tiniest minutiae of Palestinians’ daily lives re an evil force that is not as flashy and dramatic as bombs and rockets; therefore, it will never make the headlines of the New York Times and the BBC. Conversely, the brutality of the Assad regime since the start of the uprising has been much more perceptible, graphic, and less sophisticated. However, despite these aforementioned differences, the wound of Syrians and Palestinians is one; our demands are the same – dignity, freedom and justice – and we both have to fight our battle on our own as the world stands by meekly. The Palestinian cause transcends ethnicity, religion and nationality, which explains why it has become a symbol of the oppressed throughout the region. This is precisely why we Palestinians should be the first to support the Syrian people’s intifada – not as an act of solidarity, but as recognition of our shared demands and destiny. This unconditional support for the Syrian revolution does not, however, mean approving of the Syrian National Council or any human rights abuses committed by the Free Syrian Army or any other armed opposition group in Syria. On the contrary, it is in the revolution’s best interest to condemn human rights violations, sectarianism, and corruption regardless of the culpable party. Yet, it’s also crucial not to equate between the oppressed and oppressor and to keep in mind that the Syrian regime bears full responsibility for driving the country into violence and for fomenting sectarian tensions.

The Syrian regime has done nothing to liberate the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, let alone Palestine, but even if it were the only entity in the world capable of liberating our land, we must stand against it. You can never achieve your liberation on the blood of your brethren and with the aid of the very regime that denies your fellow men and women their most basic rights.
This is what makes the support of some corrupt Palestinian leaders, couch leftists, and Arab nationalists for the Assad regime so repellent and disgraceful. By brazenly exploiting the cause of one oppressed people to justify the oppression of another, Palestinian cheerleaders of Assad inflict irreparable damage on the Palestinian cause. Khaled Jabbareen, a veteran Palestinian activist I met during the demonstration we held in Haifa to mark the first anniversary of the Syrian uprising, told me: “I quit political activism for 15 years. What spurred me to be active again was watching an obsolete Palestinian ‘leader’ sing Assad’s praises on Syrian State TV. We have been repeatedly scapegoated because of contemptuous stances taken by self-appointed Palestinian leaders and we paid the price dearly. We cannot allow the same to happen with the Syrian intifada. We cannot sit idly as Syrians are being killed and repressed in our name.”

Jabbareen added that the Syrian intifada has unmasked the traditional Arab “Left” and exposed its moral bankruptcy. For decades, Arab leftists and modernists have been urging the masses to rise up. When the masses did rise to break the walls of fear in Syria, most of those self-proclaimed leftists and revolutionists cowered and either supported the regime in the guise of “anti-imperialism” and “Arabism” or sat on the fence, perhaps because the intifada was not attractive enough to satisfy their self-perceived intellectual superiority or because they were never revolutionary in the first place. Although those intellectuals and “leaders” are unashamedly loud in their support of Assad, and although one cannot deny that minhibbakjiyeh exist in Palestine as well, they do not represent the Palestinian people – as much as they shame me - and they do not represent the Palestinian cause. They do not represent the values and principles Palestinians are fighting for.

Palestinians chanted “Yallah Irhal Ya Bashar” in Nazareth, Haifa, Jaffa, Baqa, Jerusalem, Bil’in and Nabi Saleh. Many of us will continue to do so since it’s our duty to stand on the side of those who sing for freedom, dance, and even make jokes through the horror visited by bullets and mortar shells. A victory for the brave Syrian people over Assad’s tyranny will be a triumph for every oppressed community in the world. Such a triumph could change the discourse of resistance and turn it from a pretext to crush revolt into a leaderless, grassroots movement. Resistance is not a tyrant’s speech, and the Palestininian cause lives not in the ivory towers of intellectuals or in the dungeons of dictators. It lives in the voice of Ibrahim Qashoush, the innocent soul of Hamza al-Khatib, the heroic "Sumoud" of Homs and in the unbreakable spirit of the Syrian and Palestinian people.


Budour Hassan, originally from Nazareth, is a Palestinian anarchist and feminist activist and a fourth-year Law student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


Check out my previous post on Palestine and Syria, in Arabic فلسطين وسورية : قصة وطنين ، قصة جرحين