From the Outside

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt “The Outsiders”

Tell us about the experience of being outside, looking in — however you’d like to interpret that.

Hungary Serbia Migrants

He stood outside the window watching as they feast

She stood outside the door pondering her fate

They stood outside society judging from afar

We stood outside  the gates waiting to be let in

I stand outside reality admiring as it falsely unfolds

Playing By My Own Rules

I’ve been living in this city since the day I was born. I know the culture and I have a feel of it; it’s a crucial part of my life. But for the past four or five years I’ve been determined on leaving. I felt that my time here was limited that I was meant to live somewhere else, not sure where, but somewhere more accepting. You see I have many problems with living here, some more complex than others. My number one issue, though, has to be the people.

I’m aware of how general a term that is and how much it may not make sense, but I’ll explain. The population of greater Cairo is approximately 20 million people, give or take. It’s one of the densest urban areas in the world and one of the most polluted. That leads to an unfixable traffic catastrophe and more garbage than the city can hold. Leaving the house every day is a tedious task for everyone, regardless of which form of transportation they choose to take. All that is in addition to extreme inflation, which devaluates the money, adding more of a burden to people who’ve had it up to their eyeballs in problems.

However, this brief background doesn’t explain what I mean by having an issue with the people. I’m used to the crowded streets and have grown accustomed to the traffic, still hate it though. But what I can’t tolerate is the constant judgment and brazen interference in other people’s lives.  People’s lives are like a circus act, trying to balance between obligations and expectations. Society expects people to stand on a wire and effortlessly balance these two things with perfection, which is impossible! It’s outrageous to even conceive that such a life is possible. As you walk down the street, there always watchful eyes looking out to see if you step out of line. This creates an atmosphere of extreme frustration and oppression that no one can endure. One may pretend, put on a mask and spend their lives hiding, but it will certainly not be truthful. I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone, but it is the case for a great majority of the citizens of this city.

Back to the topic at hand, it hit my today that the only way I can be content with living here is if I do so by my own rules. I don’t think it will be entirely possible, but hypothetically it would be a step forward. If I could have my own place, take charge and responsibility for my own life. Be a mature responsible adult before being in a committed life-long relationship. Why is that I have to wait for a husband until I can be independent? It’s such an archaic social structure. Why can’t young unmarried men and women live on their own, outside their parents’ house? Why does there have to be a negative stigma behind that, especially for women?

I detest this culture of dependence and I hate that I’m sucked into it. I would like to not have to move away to have a life that I can call my own. I would appreciate it if people would mind their own business and accept the differences of others. I would like to see this culture as non-patriarchal, non-misogynistic, less destructive, more accepting, more proactive, more productive and more respectful.

Do I dare to dream such a dream?

An Unconventional Life

I’ve always wanted an unconventional life. A life that’s exciting, a life I’d be proud of and remember. I want to make a difference, even if it’s minute. However the culture I belong to and the society I live in make it quite difficult, if not impossible. Everyone needs to act a certain way, a be a certain way or else you’re judged or condemned. I can’t be who I want to be, because I don’t have the opportunity to do that.

This society sucks the life out of a person. This society which believes everything is wrong and inappropriate. I feel imprisoned.

“I feel like I’m standing in the middle of a crowded room screaming at the top of my lungs and no one even looks up” (Titanic). I can never really be myself, I’m not allowed to be myself.

I know that going anywhere else will be extremely difficult and exhausting. But I want to be able to walk down the street. I don’t want to be conned in everything. I don’t want to feel like a second-rate citizen in my own country. Or a second-rate human because I’m a girl. I want a life that’s mine. I want independence.

I look around and think this place can be much more than it is. But I’m not going to wait around to find out. I’m not gambling away my life, it worth a lot to me. Even if other people don’t understand the value of time, I do. And I want to make the most out of my time, because regret is the worst feeling imaginable. Anyway all I really want is to have as much control as possible over my life. I am a firm believer in fate, that’s why I accept fate as an invisible hand having some control over my life, but not other people.

I want to choose the life I want to live, regardless of how it is.

Child Brides

Child Bride

There have been speculations in Egypt regarding the passing of new marriage laws; laws that particularly deal with the minimum age for marriage for girls. Currently the minimum age for marriage in Egypt is eighteen, for both girls and boys. This law is an amendment of a previous law, which legally allowed girls to get married at sixteen. These speculations however revolve around child marriages, thereby allowing girls as young as nine-years-old to get married. There, however, haven’t been any confirmations regarding this matter. On the other hand in 2001 Egypt ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which states that it is prohibited for any party (boy or girl) below the age of eighteen to get married or betrothed. Unfortunately, child marriage continues to be a problem in Egypt for many years, therefore legalizing this phenomenon would therefore be catastrophic. This issue can be discussed from various different perspectives, in order to get an overall view of the problem.

Some advocates of this phenomenon rely heavily on religion; by referring back to Prophet Muhammad’s marriage of Aisha, who was at the time nine.  But this notion can be falsified, giving more than one reason. First there is no proof that Aisha was nine at the time of the marriage, some scholars believe her age to have been between nine and nineteen. Therefore if she was in fact nineteen she was mature enough to consent to the marriage. Second in Arabia, during the seventh-century, adulthood was defined by puberty rather than law, making such an affair quite common during that time. Third, which is clearly stated in the Qur’an, is that marriage must be between two consenting adults. Therefore according to the religious text, marriage without consent, which is certainly the case when one of the parties is not even mature enough to give their consent, is invalid and void.

 However the more common perspective for such an imbalanced unity between two people is purely economic. The parents of the bride-to-be receive a respectable dowry, which becomes the focal point of the marriage process, in exchange for their daughter. Therefore debasing the entire marriage process to nothing more than a business transaction, where the girl is nothing more than a product. Results of a joint study between the Ministry of Social Affairs and UNICEF show another form of child marriage practiced in Egypt, one which is closer to prostitution than marriage.  Where young, usually village girls, marry wealthy men from Arab Gulf countries for a short period of time, usually the summer, in exchange for an agreed upon amount of money. In this case the marriage constitutes a legal form of prostitution. However there is no consent on the girl’s part, especially since some of the documents needed for the marriage, for example the birth certificates, are forged for the purpose of this union.

Girls who are married before the age of eighteen are forced into such a marriage, which in itself has negative effect on the girl’s psychological wellbeing. However the severity of the problem becomes clearer, when looking closer at the marriage itself. Victims of child marriage are subjects to sexual violence, due to forced intercourse by the much older spouse, domestic violence and early child birth. Often girls who are pregnant at a very young age either die during the pregnancy or during child-birth. These girls also have a higher chance of being affected by HIV/AIDS or other sexual transmitted diseases. Due to the huge age gap between the spouses these girls are unable to negotiate with their husbands on issues such as safe sex or even ask for a divorce, when it becomes too much for them to handle. Ultimately they become trapped in a forced, abusive, uneven marriage.

In addition young girls, who are forced into such an affair, are forced to quit their education. By doing so they are not given the chance to develop themselves or get involved in the professional arena. Thereby excluding nearly half the workforce at an early age, this becomes a key aspect as to why Egyptian economy is continuing to deteriorate. Child marriage induces domestic violence, rape, psychological trauma and prohibits young girls from, not only being productive members of society, but from being healthy human beings. Passing such laws will therefore not only affect a marginalized community in the Egyptian society, but the entire society as a whole.

*First published in AUC Times


The title of this entry is a very strong word that may have several connotations. It may refer to a legal, social or even religious term. I however am not going to go in depth in such a complex topic, as not to bore, plus I am nowhere near qualified to do so; therefore I will merely speak of fairness.

In any legal system a person is judged based on the gravity of the crime he/she has committed. Even though I’m beginning to doubt that that’s the case in Egypt; since a tyrant, who has terrorized the country for the past 30 years, and his corrupt sons have yet to be prosecuted. Not to mention he is still lying on that damn bed, as if that will bring his any sort of sympathy from the people. All of that, however, is irrelevant to this entry.

Being judged by a jury in a court for a crime is normal and just, but being judged because of your gender, religion or political ideology is not.

After the regime that has blinded and suppressed the Egyptian people has been ousted a year ago, people were able to see the realities on the ground. Some of these realities were unimaginable, while others were just unacceptable.

People speak everyday of political freedom, justice and democracy. I’m a political science major, so I study the textbook definition of these terms on a daily basis. We study what they really mean and how their application could succeed. So in order for a country to have political freedom it needs to first achieve a somewhat acceptable degree of social freedom, since total social/political freedom can never be achieved.

A society where you are judged by the people of your own country for just being yourself, will never achieve the political freedom that it is so desperately seeking. Because if you do not accept other people’s opinions and are unable acknowledge that they have a right to disagree with yours, then how will you do expect them to be accepting of you. Sharing an opposing view should never be a basis for discrimination.

A more severe problem is that so long as some communities in the same society are considered less a part of that society than others, there will never be real freedom or even fairness within a society. People in the Egyptian society tend to pass judgments without any substantial evidence to support them. By looking at a person or on the bases of a mostly false reputation a person easily thinks him/herself fit to pass judgments on others.

Whether you are judging a person or a community – regardless of the size or superiority of that community – based on reputation or prejudice that judgment will almost always be unfair. I say almost because people tend to get offended by generalization. But either way it will be unfair because the basis of that judgment were invalid to begin with.

Ultimately the only way society can have political freedom, is by being more tolerant and more accepting of minorities, of people from various political and social background and of people who are different from them in general. Otherwise political freedom will be useless, because the society will be suppressing itself and its members without any help from political powers.

Originally Published in The Independent Newspaper, AUC