Al-Ahram Weekly Online   5 - 11 February 2009
Issue No. 933
Reader's corner
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Readers' corner

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Alexandria crumbling

Sir-- I request that you investigate the destruction of Alexandria's streets that is taking place at the hands of its governor, Adel Labib. Streets and pavements are being broken down and rebuilt over and over again, with poor quality material. The campaign of destruction and corruption reached its pinnacle recently when the sidewalk of the Cornice at Mahatat Al-Raml, that has existed for over 100 years, that is part of the history and heritage of Alexandria and is as old as British colonialism, was destroyed. The sidewalk all of us walked on as children and along which the tourists have been walking for decades to take in Alexandria's wonderful sights from Saad Zaghloul Square and Cecil Hotel to Qaitbay Citadel, is being destroyed with no concern or respect for a city's heritage, to be replaced with a sidewalk that is so slippery people will fall and break their legs when it rains (just like the new sidewalk in Abu Qir Street), while the streets where the governor lives and works are unscathed. This man and his administration are violating and defiling the heritage of this beautiful, touristic city.

Baher Ibrahim

Just the beginning

Sir-- I'm not so sure the easy part is over, or that there is an easy part ('Carter redux' Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 January-4 February). There are a lot of completely innocent people at Guantanamo (some held for seven years) that America will dump wherever it can, and try to forget, something that it's quite good at.

There is suspicion that dark dungeons will continue to exist (how would we even know where they are?) There are fears that "extraordinary renditions" will continue, but more secretly. America doesn't torture, they outsource it. Hush-hush.

Neoconservative crocodiles in Congress are trying to extort the new attorney-general designate to agree not to investigate and possibly prosecute crimes against humanity. They may succeed.

President Obama is relying on unrepentant hardliners such as Defense Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Clinton, and Bush's obedient mass killers Odienero and Petraeus, to name but a few.

And then there's the economy, with the crooked banksters still in charge.

Private jet, anyone? But there's nowhere to go.

John Hatch

Deeply male chauvinistic

Sir-- Egyptian men who were for so long renowned for their chivalry and decency have recently plunged into new depths of sexual harassment. According to a Washington Post report, Egypt ranks second among the worst nations in women's molestation. The report says 83 per cent of Egyptian women and 95 per cent of female tourists have experienced some sort of molestation.

In addition to a quick glimpse of the do's and don'ts in tourist guide books which is apprehensively discouraging for women to visit Egypt unescorted, is it not dispiriting amid all societal conservatism and showy religiosity that harassment of women has become justifiable and is not restricted to certain age or class?

In the 1970s, the veil was non-existent and the dress code was far more revealing -- sleeveless dresses and miniskirts were in vogue -- but Egypt's streets were safe and groping was hardly heard of.

There are many dimensions to this problem: Egyptian culture has been inordinately infiltrated with the narrow-minded Bedouin customs imported by the huge influx of Egyptian workers in the Gulf. On the other hand, the abominable nonchalance among Egyptians and the excessive culture of denial can only add insult to injury. Have you not heard men remonstrate that Egyptian women have taken more than their rights, have upbraided women's immodesty to make allowance for sexual frustration, mentioned unemployment as an excuse for harassment, and cited the most absurd pretext that women are tickled pink when teased?

It is somberly unsettling for Egyptian women as the dominant culture forces them to be submissive and yield to men. Those who dare break this taboo are probably rebuked and faced with endless obstacles to cajole them into forfeiting their complaints. Nevertheless, the prison sentence passed recently by a pioneer judge on a groper must be an example to follow suit and offers a tenacious hope for more women to pluck up the courage in pursuit of their cause.

Dignity and emancipation of women, their right to learn and work, to move and walk freely, and to realise their potential are not gifts bestowed by men. They are plainly women's full rights, as no society can throw off the shackles of backwardness without them. Shame on all of us if we sit still, exonerating the wrongdoing and chiding the victim.

Isaac Bandry

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