Saturday, February 23, 2013

Love blossoms through the Syria thorns

Zeinab and Iyad

Her name is Zeinab.
His name is Iyad.
They met, fell in love and got married.
A simple, everyday love story you would think.
Not quite so simple when you are in today’s Syria.
Their love story blossomed in the middle of the killing, fighting, raping, detention, torture, displacement, sickness and exile raging throughout Syria since March 2011.
They are both from the western Governorate of Latakia.
Zeinab is from the city proper, held by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
Iyad is from rebel-held Reef Latakia as the surrounding agricultural towns and villages are known in Arabic. Regime forces are continually attacking the Reef.
Latakia is Syria’s fifth largest city after Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama. It borders Tartus to the south, Hama to the east and Idlib, Turkey to the north. It is the capital of the Alawite population and is a major cultural center for the religion.
Zeinab is Alawite.
Iyad is Sunnite.
They met and fell in love and were already planning to get married before the outbreak of the revolution in March 2011. As events got worse, they were separated for a year during which Iyad was arrested, accused of supporting the revolution and detained for two months.
Zeinab and Iyad: "At the end of the day, we are one people..."
The couple resumed contact in the months following Iyad’s release.
Zeinab decided to leave her family to be with Iyad.
She says in the video below she fled to Turkey and Iyad crossed over to get her. They got married two months ago and now live as husband and wife with Iyad’s family in the Reef.
Their surnames and exact location are withheld for their safety, although they appear in the Aljazeera video.
“At the end of the day, we are one people, we both belong to the same religion,” Zeinab says.
Iyad adds: “We [Syrians] are not a sectarian people.”
Iyad's mother: "Zeinab is my daughter..."
The couple was talking while sipping tea with Iyad’s mother, who says, while wiping out tears, “Zeinab is my daughter. I love her like my daughter. I hope her family understands this…”
Zeinab with her pupils at the village school
The villagers are happy to have Zeinab and have warmed up to her. She is a university graduate holding a degree in psychology and is now teaching mostly displaced pupils at the village school.
Zeinab and Iyad’s love story is maybe one of many around the country in these difficult and sad times. It gives hope that sectarianism will not prevail after all in Syria.
Good luck to Zeinab and Iyad in their married life. Hopefully, their fairy-tale will inspire love and reconciliation in the new Syria.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I’m one in a billion rising up on V-Day

One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.
One billion women violated is an atrocity.
One billion women, joining together to rise up, sing and dance, is a revolution.
I will rise up, sing, dance and be part of the one billion demanding an end to violence against women because:
I am privileged not to have endured this kind of abuse and violence at home. I cannot begin to imagine what living with an abusive father or brother or relative must be like;
I started out my career in journalism in the 1970s and it took a lot of battles to be accepted as a professional, in many cases it still is so many years since; and
Just last week, a former co-worker verbally abused me.
Violence, abuse and rape against girls and women are a sign of ignorance, cowardice and weakness and should no longer be tolerated.
Hopefully, strength in numbers, we will get the message across to abusers, assaulters and rapists that their actions will no longer be tolerated and their cowardly and barbaric acts will diminish and become a shameful part of our history.
So this Valentine’s Day is not only about buying chocolates and roses but enlisting as many people – women, girls, men and boys -- as we know to walk out, dance, rise up and demand an end to violence against women.

This day’s events are organized by V-Day on its 15th anniversary.
One billion rising is:
  • A global strike
  • An invitation to dance
  • A call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture ends
  • An act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and their power in numbers
  • A refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given
  • A new time and a new way of being

V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. It is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sex slavery.
Eve Ensler, the playwright, performer, feminist, activist and artist best known for her play The Vagina Monologues, created V-Day in 1998.
In their own words:
  • V-Day is an organized response against violence toward women.
  • V-Day is a vision: We see a world where women live safely and freely.
  • V-Day is a demand: Rape, incest, battery, genital mutilation and sexual slavery must end now.
  • V-Day is a spirit: We believe women should spend their lives creating and thriving rather than surviving or recovering from terrible atrocities.
  • V-Day is a catalyst: By raising money and consciousness, it will unify and strengthen existing anti-violence efforts. Triggering far-reaching awareness, it will lay the groundwork for new educational, protective, and legislative endeavors throughout the world.
  • V-Day is a process: We will work as long as it takes. We will not stop until the violence stops.
  • V-Day is a day. We proclaim Valentine's Day as V-Day, to celebrate women and end the violence.
  • V-Day is a fierce, wild, unstoppable movement and community.

In Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, V-Day commits ongoing support to build movements and anti-violence networks. Working with local organizations, V-Day provided hard-won funding that helped open the first shelters for women in Egypt and Iraq; sponsored annual workshops and three national campaigns in Afghanistan; convened the "Confronting Violence" conference of South Asian women leaders; and donated satellite-phones to Afghan women to keep lines of communication open and action plans moving forward.
V-Day was instrumental in the founding of Karama, a program working in Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon that strives to consolidate efforts to end violence against women by bringing together local women organizations and other civil society groups in collaboration, analysis and advocacy at national, regional and international levels.
Oh, and by the way, the 'V' in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.
What will you do today?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Global outcry against rape in Egypt

"We will not stay silent. We will not be broken. We will not be ashamed."
Today, February 12, 2013, at 6 p.m. local time, people all over the world will gather in front of the nearest Egyptian embassy to say these words to protest the rape of, and violence against, women in Egypt.
The message is: “We, citizens of all nationalities, all around the world, will not watch in silence the spreading epidemic of sexual terrorism. We want to show our support, solidarity and admiration for the assaulted who paid the price of the ongoing Egyptian revolution with their own flesh, and to the heroic volunteers who are risking their lives for a safe Tahrir [Square].”
The global protest, planned by the The uprising of women in the Arab world  and several other groups, is against “sexual terrorism, a technique recently used extensively by organized mobs in Egypt aiming to injure, undermine, humiliate and scare female protesters in Tahrir Square, during the ongoing Egyptian revolution.”
What is it about violence against women in general, and rape in particular, in Arab Spring states?
Is the current focus on countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere highlighting this mounting problem?
Was it always there, but concealed from public view?
Women protest in Egypt
Are women more daring and courageous in speaking about their horrific experiences, whether because of a shift in attitudes or the support they are getting?
Has Social Media in any way helped abused women? Is it thanks to the various Social Media platforms that we are made aware of the violence against women -- not only in Arab Spring countries, but also in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mali, Europe, the United States…?
In a recent article, Rachel Elmalawany points out that women of every race suffer abuse. She says,What’s disturbing is the overwhelming idea that women in the Middle East are treated far worse than women in the United States when, in reality, women everywhere struggle every day to combat misogyny and abuse, and that includes American women…
 “The mistreatment of women is global and not a characteristic of any one nation or group of people. Clearly, abuse is as big of a problem for women in the United States as it is for women in Muslim majority and Middle Eastern countries. The myth that women are mistreated more in the Middle East is just that, a myth. What is true is that women everywhere suffer at the hands of those they trust the most.”
Yasmine El Baramawy
Yasmine El Baramawy, who was raped together with a friend in Cairo's Tahrir Square, is among the first to publicly expose the most recent outrages of rape around Egypt and during demonstrations in the plaza.
Yasmine shows TV viewers what remains of the clothing after the rape in Tahrir Square
She went live on Egyptian TV to publicly “challenge the sexual terrorism and expose the corrupt Egyptian society which considers a raped woman a shame.” Yasmine told of her ordeal and showed viewers what was left of the trousers she was wearing and the red shirt her friend was sporting.
  • We accuse the Ruling Party [in Egypt] for not taking strict measures to prevent organized thugs from attacking, stripping, raping, injuring and killing peaceful protesters;
  • We hold responsible the Egyptian police and governmental institutions for not offering the necessary protection and safety to female Egyptian citizens. Furthermore, the police practice the crime of sexual harassment/assault;
  • We blame past and present Egyptian governments for condoning the crime of sexual harassment/assault by not issuing any strict law that clearly provides legal consequences to sexual harassers or those that indulge in sexual violence. We demand the enforcement of a strict law against sexual harassment in all its forms;
  • We condemn the social acceptability of sexual harassment, violence and rape by the Egyptian society, which puts the blame on the assaulted instead of the aggressor;
  • We hold accountable irresponsible media for focusing on personal, intimate and sensationalist details of the assaulted, instead of covering the criminal act in a professional and ethical manner;
  • We urge every revolutionary group, political party or individual to speak up and take IMMEDIATE action against both the sexual attacks committed by organized mobs aiming to tarnish the image of Tahrir and terrorize the protestors, and the sexual harassment targeting Egyptian women and girls on a daily basis in the streets of their own country; and
  • Fighting sexual humiliation and aggression should be a TOP PRIORITY in the noble endeavor for freedom and dignity of the Egyptian people.
  • We salute every hero and heroine of the ongoing Egyptian revolution! 
  • You teach us courage, perseverance and determination.

By Amgad Ali
Why is violence against women still so widespread around the world?
I keep asking myself the question and wondering where the solution lies. Is it in laws, severe punishment, naming and shaming or education?
In the meantime, we protest these barbaric acts and support the victims: "We will not stay silent. We will not be broken. We will not be ashamed."
You can check out the global events being organized around the world -- including Cairo, Tunis, Aden, Ramallah and Yaffa in Palestine, Rabat, Damascus, Beirut, Amman, Ko Samui in Thailand, Oslo, Copenhagen, Brussels, Paris, London The Hague, Milano, Washington DC, New York, Ottawa, Melbourne and elsewhere -- by visiting the Global Event Facebook page.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

One tip for hair loss

The following is for informational purposes only and is not meant to serve as medical advice or intended to treat a condition or replace a consultation with your physician. It is only my personal experience.
Practically every other one I speak to, since arriving in Dubai in late 2006, suffers from hair loss.
Also, because of the heat during most of the year in the UAE, hair and nails grow much more rapidly, fingers swell so that your rings hardly fit again and you gain a shoe size.
More recently, I started washing my hair halfheartedly because I was losing large chunks. Combing it was the same story. And I have a lot of hair (touch wood).
My shower drain often got blocked because of this. I was telling my landlord about this a couple of months ago. He said his wife had suffered from the same thing, but he found her the solution: Zinc!
He said his wife’s hair stopped falling a couple of weeks after she started taking a zinc supplement.
I was due to buy my calcium tablets a few days later and got one supplemented by zinc to give my landlord’s recipe a try.
And miracle of miracles… After about 10 days, my hair stopped falling.
It is once again a pleasure to wash and comb my hair. I hardly lose a few.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is naturally present in some foods, added to others and available as a dietary supplement. It is needed for the proper growth and maintenance of the human body. It is needed for immune function, wound healing, blood clotting, thyroid function, and much more.
A wide variety of foods contain zinc. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, but red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc. Other good food sources include beans, nuts, certain seafood (such as crab and lobster), wholegrain, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products.
I am so happy with the result that I thought I would share it. It is easy, inexpensive and not dangerous, so maybe worth a try. But again, it is only my experience.
Let me know if it works for you.