Monthly Archives: September 2010

A Glimpse – Short Story

Short Story By: Alexandra Kinias

The thermal blanket that covered the skies of Cairo  trapped the smog in the atmosphere and caused the temperature to soar. The woman who stood by the bus door was covered from head to toe in a black burqa and black gloves, with only a slit for her eyes to see through. She was suffocated by the body heat of the sweaty passengers who crammed inside the bus like a can of sardines.  The sticky sweat rolled under her armpits and between her thighs and intensified her feeling of heat. The bus maneuvered through the congested traffic and hobbled to the stop. She fought her way out and almost tripped when a passenger stepped on  her long burqa’s tail. Instantly, the street was flooded with  passengers who raced out from the belly of the bus. In another instant, and challenging the existing laws of physics, the bus was filled with double the number of passengers who showed high acrobatic skills in climbing it, scrambling inside, squeezing their way in and trampling over the passengers who were already on board.

The bus moved away from the station emitting from its muffler an enormous black cloud of burnt oil. The woman coughed as she hurried away from inside the cloud. The traffic light turned red, but none of the cars stopped.  She looked right and left, collected her courage and attempted to cross the street, in spite of the moving cars. A speedy car appeared in front of her and almost hit her. The car broke, its tires screeched and the driver yelled at her from behind the steering wheel. She bounced back on the sidewalk defeated by the congestion and inhaled deeply to relax her heart that raced in her chest. A police officer with a whistle in his mouth appeared from nowhere and succeeded to stop the cars, but the light had already turned green and the cars started to move again. The woman dodged the cars and weaved her way to the other side maneuvering between cabs, mini-buses, pedestrians, scooters, bikes and a donkey cart overloaded with baskets of fresh produce.

To celebrate her success in crossing the road, she dashed to the sugar-cane juice store at the intersection and rested her body against the cold ceramic tiles that covered the inside and outside of the store to catch her breath. Inside the store, a guy behind the counter fed the rollers of the squeezer with  long stems of sugar cane. He turned the switch on and the rollers squeezed the juice into a container and the pulp fell off.  A young boy picked the crushed pulp off the ground and dumped it next to where the woman stood. Flies buzzed over it.  The icy cold tall glasses of the golden sweet juice covered with white foam looked so inviting. In spite of being  late,  she stepped inside the crowded store and stood in line and waited for her turn.  When she got in front of the counter, the guy behind it handed her a tall glass. She picked it with her gloves and walked to the corner of the store. The curious eyes of the guy behind the counter followed her as she removed her face cover and gulped the juice. Their eyes locked for a moment and then  she smiled and winked at him. Before he recovered from the surprise, the woman  covered back her face with the veil, slammed the glass on the counter in front of him and hurried out of the store.

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Tal al-Mallohi: Another Voice Silenced

By: Alexandra Kinias

Freedom of speech is a birth right often taken for granted by those who are privileged to be born under clear skies. And while others living with rain clouds above their heads are still taking their first cautious steps toward it, freedom of speech is still considered a hazardous practice to the lives of many millions around the world who are struggling to find their way in the dark. Tal Al Mallohi’s misfortune was that geographically she was born on the dark side of the world where regimes tend to dictate to the people the code of speech they tolerate.

Mallohi vanished after she was detained in December 2009 by the Syrian authorities and her computer confiscated. Even though she was not charged with any crime, yet she was thrown into jail in an undisclosed location inaccessible even to her family. The nineteen years old girl was neither a member of a religious cult nor a revolutionary organization that threatened to tumble the government. The high school student’s crime, however, was that the entries on her blogs didn’t appeal to the regime.

Syria is a country where its population is kept under close surveillance. Over two hundred websites are banned by the authorities for everyone, but a closed tight circle of the ruling elite. In this autocratic regime that has absolute power over all printed media, political opposition was banned and emergency law was implemented in 1963 when the Baath party took power; the young generation’s interaction with the world is through blogging.

Most blogs created by nineteen years old girls reflect their hopes, friendships, dreams, feelings and interests. Tal’s writings, however, revealed the image of a girl way beyond her age; someone who carried the burden of the world and the suffering of her fellow humans on her shoulders. Molouhi’s writings included poems, humanitarian issues and articles supporting the Palestinian cause and criticizing the Partnership for the Mediterranean, a French diplomatic initiative bringing together Arab and European countries, as well as Israel.

The writings in her three blogs raised no red flags to justify her arrest, neither to the readers nor to the Human Rights organizations  which are trying to mediate for her release. However, since her last entry was dated September 26, 2009, three months prior to her detention, the question remains unanswered on whether later entries were deleted by the regime after her computer was confiscated.

It is hard to imagine the sorrow and agony, the despair and heartache of the mother of a nineteen years old girl whose dreams of her daughter’s blossoming future became a nightmare overnight. Instead of going to bed hearing wedding bells and grandkid’s giggles echoing around, the wounded woman is most likely up all night thinking of her daughter’s torture and loneliness in a cold prison cell. Political prisoners who have survived such nightmares hardly mentioned that they were pampered by security forces. Her mother has sent a letter to the president Bashar Alassad pleading for her daughter’s release. News has already circulated over the internet that the misfortune girl died as a result of her torture. But even if this was untrue and the girl is alive, isn’t she already dead, and left a wreck of a human being, a wounded spirit with scars on her soul and a disturbed mind.  What future would awaits such human being?

A brutal regime that has succeeded to stay in power for forty seven years by crushing its opposition is now targeting the new generation and detaining minors to repress their voices that are popping all over the Internet. Malouhi is not the only one, but there are many like her in the Syrian jails. But she is yet another scapegoat, a symbol of how opposition is not tolerated. Arresting her sent a warning message to others to keep their mouths shut.

A regime intolerant of opposition will not rest until it crushes the e-resistance that is growing in the blogsphere.  The efforts to silence these voices by arresting the bloggers,   imprisoning and torturing them has only succeeded in silencing the ones kept behind bars.  However, there are millions more out there who have risen to speak on their behalf.

To read more about Tal al Mallohi and to view her blogs:

1. Shame on Syria! 19 years old girl detained until now?

2 .Mother for young Syrian blogger appeals for her release

3. Fate of 19 years old girls is still unknown

4.Syria cracks down on bloggers

5. Tal al Mallohi Blog (1)
: My Blog

6. Tal al Mallohi Blog (2) : Latters

7. Tal al Mallohi Blog (3) : Palestine

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The Priest’s Wife — The Sequel

By: Alexandra Kinias

Caption: Camillia Shehata

The relief over the return of Camillia Shehata back to her family was short lived and the media circus which her disappearance had created is back in full thrust. Camillia had vanished from her home on July 19, 2010 and returned back a week later by security forces after the speculations over her abduction and forced conversion to Islam almost ripped the country apart. The intervention of security forces was to curb another episode that might have flamed  sectarian violence as a result of  demonstrations  that erupted by her fellow Copts in several churches around the country.

Upon her return Camillia explained that she had voluntarily left her home after a family dispute with her husband, Priest Tadros Samman, and she was neither abducted nor forced into conversion. The Priest’s wife was handed back to her family in the church after which she was transferred to an undisclosed location. This family dispute that had caused the media frenzy should have ended by her return. And it did until Camillia’s news surfaced again. This time the demonstrations that a month earlier were led by her fellow Christians were replaced by ones led by Muslims who claimed that she had converted to Islam. Since she belonged to their camp, she thus required their support, guardianship and protection — and demanded the church to hand her over to them.

Meanwhile, on August 26, a group of Copts arrived to Cairo to protest the disappearance of another girl from her family house in Upper Egypt. They expressed their fear that the girl was also abducted and forced to convert. What was interesting about this protest was that the protesters chanted slogans in favor of the regime and addressing the son of Mubarak as their future president.

Egypt is in turmoil and the dormant volcano of sectarian violence is bubbling under the surface ready to erupt. But when their future is vague and hazy, their security and religious freedom are at stake, fear united the Copts around the aligning regime since the devil they know is better than the one they don’t.

In a country like Egypt where Islam and Christianity are deeply embedded into the fabric of the society, religion plays an integral part in people’s lives. Such incidents create continues sparks between the Egyptians and thus defending their religion becomes a priority above their citizenship. Stories like Camillia’s when printed on front pages become the fuel that feeds the fire of the sectarian violence. There is no doubt that the first part of Camillia’s story was true, but there are hidden forces that were obviously not satisfied by her return. Someone must benefit from all these rumors that circulate on the internet about her conversion to Islam. If she had in fact been incarcerated in an undisclosed location by the church, as per the rumors, then who had created the website in her name with her photographs wearing the veil?

The drama escalated by the day as we read about Islamist lawyers demanding her release from the church and requesting a search warrant to inspect all monasteries in search of her. The hysteria culminated when it was reported that another group of Islamist lawyers filed a lawsuit in an Egyptian administrative court against Coptic Pope Shenouda to compel him to release the alleged Muslim convert Camillia Shehata.

A Christian woman returned back to her husband after a family dispute should not cause such controversy to Muslims over her non-evidenced conversion. The problem with Camillia Shehat’s saga is not whether she had converted or not, but rather it yet demonstartes another case of oppression in a society where women have no voice of their own. Camillia had wished to leave her husband, but not only the laws of her church wouldn’t allow her to do so, but she was also criminalized for this act and punished.  She is a classical case of a woman suffering  of man’s tyranny.

But to keep such story in the spotlight and to feed it with rumors that spark sectarian violence make the motives so suspicious; for these new developments achieved nothing other than polarizing, alienating and distracting people  from the real issues that are taking place in Egypt.

The question remains of whether the news was fabricated by media frenzy to sell more news, since readers have been fed by nothing but false information and speculations about her whereabouts.  If this is the case then those who are responsible should be found and punished. Or is it an organized effort to ignite the emotions of people from both camps for political gain.

Playing on the emotions of simple people is unethical. But since when politics was known for its morality. This insanity must stop because once the water starts boiling it will be very hard to put the lid back on, and Egyptians will pay a very severe price.

And the saga continues ……

For more information about Camillia Shehata:

http://news.egypt.com/en/2010090112337/news/-egypt-news/court-to-hear-lawsuit-against-pope-shenouda-for-holding-priest-wife.html

http://www.globalpost.com/webblog/egypt/put-fire

https://alexandrakinias.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=559&action=edit

http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/news/lawyer-demands-monastaries-be-searched-priests-wife-said-have-converted-islam

http://www.kamiliashehata.com/

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