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Life in Another World

egypt

There are many things we control in life, but the country into which we're born isn't one of them. Today I read this Reuters story about the worst Arab states for women. Egypt tops the list, followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria. All day I was distracted by the article, thinking how my life would be different if I was born in one of these places rather than America. The statistics in the report are shocking. Essentially every woman in Egypt experiences some type of sexual harassment (99.3% according to the article), female genital mutilation on the rise, etc. I don't know how "sexual harassment" is defined - is it merely whistles, rude sexual comments, or more serious offenses? The article doesn't specify.

I've never traveled to any Arab country and don't really have the desire to, but I've read accounts of Western women being harassed on the streets of Egypt - pawed at, sexual insults constantly being shouted. Some of this is a result of cultural insensitivity, Western women wearing sleeveless or revealing clothing and ignoring local customs. How do you feel about it? When traveling in a foreign country should you observe all cultural norms to the extent possible? I know Egypt is a prime tourist destination for Russians, but it's my understanding most people are lounging at resorts and the sea rather than walking the local streets. I wonder if any female readers have ever ventured outside of tourist areas in Egypt. Did you wear headscarves and how were you treated by local men?

In the article I also was reminded about Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women aren't permitted to drive. Where a female can basically do nothing without the permission of a male, including going to university or traveling. Imagine such a life? I've previously done free legal work for clients of a wonderful DC organization called Tahirih Justice Center. They represent women seeking asylum in America on the ground of horrific gender-based violence in their home country. It was here that I met an Afghan girl who was almost murdered by local townsmen for trying to attend school. Her father and brother supported her right to education, but their hands were tied and they were threatened by other males in the village. Her brother was eventually killed for supporting her attendance at school. She now lives in America, haunted by her past. Before I get accused of being a feminist, I'll remind everyone once again that I'm not. Such cases are not about male vs. female, but basic human rights which should be afforded to every person walking the planet.

I've traveled to and love many different countries, but I've never had even the slightest desire to move to one of them. I've made my life in America and it's a good one. No life of privilege, just a typical middle-class girl who always worked hard and now reaps the rewards. All of my family is here and I can't fathom life without them. It would lead to a complete sense of emptiness and loneliness on my part. Moreover, it's essential for me to live in a very diverse and open environment, not only culturally but belief wise. Appreciation for individuality and tolerance - I truly believe these are two of America's greatest strengths.

How about you? If you could control your own destiny from inception, would you pick Russia as your birthplace? Somewhere else? And, most importantly, why? 

Comments

( 75 comments — Leave a comment )
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onkel_hans
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:27 am (UTC)
I am afraid the Reuter story is somewhat a kind of exaggeration. I cannot believe it about Egypt topping the list. There are a few African countries where the situation with women is much worse. Where the female circumcision is as regular as putting iron shoes on horses.



peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:40 am (UTC)
Yes, you're right. But the study was limited to women’s rights in the 21 member states of the Arab League. This includes only a few African countries. Some African countries are also the most barbaric when it comes to persecution of gays. I know because I represented a gay Cameroonian who was jailed, tortured and beaten to the point of near death by local authorities. He's now in the process of getting his green card and on the pathway to American citizenship. :))
inamora
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:28 am (UTC)
When we went to Egypt, in addition to relaxing on the beach went out of bounds. The Arabs are aggressive, stick to all. Of course, I was not alone. I wore a scarf that covers the face. It protects from burns and no one stares.
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:42 am (UTC)
Interesting, and if you were walking alone w/out the married lover I'm sure the scene would have been different. Especially now that I've seen your ass! :)
(no subject) - inamora - Nov. 13th, 2013 04:20 am (UTC) - Expand
asharky
Nov. 13th, 2013 04:06 am (UTC)
Reuters writes always the truth? Maybe you should read the other sources?

By the way: just for more information, you can use your blog)
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 04:16 am (UTC)
Such stories aren't only written by Reuters, and a lot of agencies amd human rights organizations routinely conduct similar studies. Gender inequality in these regions is well-established. Perhaps some women are so tied to their cultural heritage and religious beliefs that such a life is normal and acceptable to them. If so, I'm glad they're happy and content. But I could never live such a life. This was the main point.
(no subject) - asharky - Nov. 13th, 2013 04:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 13th, 2013 04:38 am (UTC) - Expand
spolotko
Nov. 13th, 2013 04:58 am (UTC)
Concerning your question about picking Russia as a birthplace... Well, history doesn't know what subjunctive mood is, however if I had a choice I wouldn't have picked another country. Time of birth - maybe, but not the place. Somehow I can't find proper words to explain myself - it's just the feeling of belonging I thnk...
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 05:13 am (UTC)
I understand this "feeling of belonging." It's essential to a happy life and I'm glad you've found it in Russia. I have the opposite feeling there - that I definitely don't belong. However, I certainly find the country interesting and will continue to visit.
andrey_kaminsky
Nov. 13th, 2013 05:26 am (UTC)
Не очень удачный пост
There is nothing to add. Yes, the life of women in medieval society is sad. Yes, Russia is not the best place on earth to be born, but not the worst. Where should a man be born? The man will understand it only when he finds love. Only love allows a man to stop cheat, to pretend, to bargain, to fear, to consume. But citizenship is an important thing, of course.
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Не очень удачный пост
Not a very good post? :)) Well, I can't always please all. Maybe I should just write about sex all the time? Of course Russia isn't the worst place to be born, and I didn't say it was. This issue of gender inequality is serious to me. Perhaps as a man you can't really understand it. Where in the world are men denied the right to drive, or forced to lose all sense of personal identity? I've met and represented these women in asylum cases and their stories really impacted my life.
luin_nsk
Nov. 13th, 2013 06:23 am (UTC)
Good day:)

First, about travels. I'd rather call myself an inexperienced traveller, for I was abroad 2 times, and only once in a country with radically different customs. Both times I tried to follow a proverb "When in Rome do as Romans do", and I wasn't sued or somehow humiliated by locals:) Essentially I found that "following a local customs" generally means being polite with locals, abstaining from spewing around you own "cultural identity" and in general following an advices from your guide:)
About your last question. As for me, it doesn't matter in what country you are born, you'll face pretty much the same problems as in any other country. Of course, it'll be flavoured by "cultural specifics", so to say, but the core doesn't change :)
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:08 pm (UTC)
Good evening! I agree you should follow local customs to the extent possible, unless they contradict your personal or moral beliefs. However, I wouldn't travel to such places in the first place, so it's never been an issue.
vitsky
Nov. 13th, 2013 06:25 am (UTC)
When in Egypt I walked along streets with two girls, arabs enviously looked at me saying "Casanova!" :) For me it was a bit strange and funny.

Well, as far as know, russian women mostly don't have any problems with locals in Egypt, at least in the resort areas. Yes, this girls attract increased attention, arabs almost always try to flirt with them - I suppose, for many it can be annoying. But I didn't see or heard about any rudeness and harassment. Some women even enjoy such high attraction to them.
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:11 pm (UTC)
Life in the resort areas can't be compared to life on the streets. The stories of serious harassment involved blonde haired European or American women, who definitely stand out more in the crowd. A rarity that must be examined by the locals, sometimes in a very crude and aggressive manner.
dubai100
Nov. 13th, 2013 07:11 am (UTC)
Dubai (UAE) is a top in many ways, Skyscrapers of Dubai are №1 on our planet.
It could be very interesting to live some time there.

Edited at 2013-11-13 07:27 am (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:11 pm (UTC)
City of skyscrapers! This is a nightmare environment for me! :)
(no subject) - dubai100 - Nov. 13th, 2013 08:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 13th, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
cherez_dorogu
Nov. 13th, 2013 07:32 am (UTC)
I would probably chose to be born in (or move to) one of the European countries. But which one - that is a question! ))

I have spent as a child several years in Algeria (it was quite peaceful at that times)- and yes, I have no desire now to travel to any "active Muslim" country. I have had enough.
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:14 pm (UTC)
If I had my choice I would live in a different State (probably Vermont or New Hampshire), but I don't want the burden of flying or driving long distances to visit and connect with family. And my job keeps me in Washington, DC.
(Anonymous)
Nov. 13th, 2013 08:02 am (UTC)
"If you could control your own destiny from inception, would you pick Russia as your birthplace?"

Yes, I would.
I don't regret I was born here.
qi_tronic
Nov. 13th, 2013 10:14 am (UTC)
Well, of course we cannot understand the muslim culture well.
For us their attitude to women is shoking.
But for their defence I can only say that it all stems from the feeling of fear.
They fear that they will lose control over their women and their traditional society.

If you look at all of this on a global scale you'll found that it's like a social trend: the more educated and independent women - the less children they want to have.

So on one pole we have these medieval societies with high birth rate.
But on the other pole we have Western societes there totally independent and happy whites cannot reproduce themselves anymore.

For me, the right course is somewhere in between.

Re the question where I want to be born ... I was born in Soviet Union and thought it was the best place because this society represented future of mankind.
Now I feel like that yankee which was sent to the time of King Arthur: forced to live in a backward cannibalistic society.
I mean not only Russia, but America as well.

So I'd like to be born in time when people stop making their lives at the expence of others but start working together to make everybody's life better, explore the universe, etc.
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:17 pm (UTC)
If this is the life they choose, it's their right. I'm speaking about women who are trapped in these societies and fear death for trying to escape or engage in basic human necessities (like education). I'm not a religious person in any respect, so of course I'll never understand these extremist views. And why are you so focused on women procreating? :) There are still plenty of women popping out babies in America.
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Nov. 13th, 2013 03:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 13th, 2013 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Nov. 13th, 2013 03:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 13th, 2013 04:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Nov. 13th, 2013 04:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 13th, 2013 04:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Nov. 13th, 2013 05:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 13th, 2013 05:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
alexeykostylev
Nov. 13th, 2013 10:30 am (UTC)
sounds like if you could choose your parents... Hey, have a look at this familiy across the road, they are so nice and have a big house, expensive cars and a yacht, would you like to be their child? No I wouldn't. It means that I have to reject all memory about my childhood. The same with the country where you were born. For me, at least.

I'm quite happy that I was born in Russia. It is not so terrible as it looks outside and I can recall lots of nice moments.

Now I live in New Zealand and my russian origin allows me to look at things at different angle, which is not bad at all.

ps. How nice to see you love your country. You have travelled a lot and can compare yr country and others and still love it. Quite opposite to many russians patriots who has never been abroad, possibly apart from Turkey or Egypt.

Edited at 2013-11-13 10:31 am (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:21 pm (UTC)
I definitely would not switch parents, but I understand your point. :) I don't believe Russia is all bad, there are lots of good things. But the general culture doesn't fit my mentality, and I can't imagine a permanent life there. People who love their country but have never traveled abroad live under a false illusion in some sense. There's no frame of comparison to know whether life is good or bad. However, I understand not everyone can afford to travel and explore. This is a sad fact of life. Btw, do you think you will ever return to Russia to live again?
(no subject) - alexeykostylev - Nov. 13th, 2013 11:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
dysto
Nov. 13th, 2013 10:51 am (UTC)
Maybe it sounds strange, but former soviet countries is an excellent place for some kinds of people. Being straight male with slavian face is a great handicap, it's embarrassing truth. Adding not to be an alcoholic, to be a native-speaking russian or ukrainian - that's might be enough to compete (in the quality of life) an average american having the same profile. Bad roads are compensated by a better car :)
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:23 pm (UTC)
Doesn't sound strange! I've met many older Russians and Ukrainians who preferred life in Soviet times. Nothing can compensate for bad Russian roads! :)) They are a horror.
(Deleted comment)
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:23 pm (UTC)
Abroad where? In what country do they live?
(Deleted comment)
nar_row
Nov. 13th, 2013 11:21 am (UTC)
"If you could control your own destiny from inception, would you pick Russia as your birthplace?"

Yes, I would.
I don't regret I was born here.

(There's duplicated anonymous comment above, it's mine. Little mistake :)
peacetraveler22
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:24 pm (UTC)
Well what do you like about your country? Also, thanks for the article you sent me. I'll read it tonight and write you back. :)
(no subject) - nar_row - Nov. 13th, 2013 06:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
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