Living with #SudanRevolts

Picture taken from Karikature Sudani page, Facebook

The reality

I haven’t written anything for months now, I’ve silently watched as things around me have  reached new levels and even lower ones.  The absence was much needed, it gave me insight and perspective on what exactly I should be doing, not only for myself, but also for my homeland, Sudan.

Over the months, fellow Sudanese bloggers, tweeps and activists were harassed, imprisoned, not to mention taken away from what they do; express themselves. On what that is relative to each one but the common denominator is that they were silenced because of what they were saying and to whom they were saying it to. I.e, through their blogs, twitter accounts or even sending a video to AJ Stream in the case of Tweep Simsimt. Nevertheless, they have spoken and took the back lash of the powers that be.

Now, what provoked me to write a post to begin with was Mo Alzubair post on Mo Musings titled, 5 types of #SudanRevolts Personalities; the cheerleader, the adult, the troll, the tourist and the activist.  I took the liberty in re-posting the two relevant typologies from Mo’s Blog below:

 

THE TOURIST

I would like to propose a new term, Revolution Tourism ™. The tourist lives abroad, mostly in the GCC but some in Europe, UK, US, etc. The tourist typically carries a foreign passport and so he/she feels emboldened to go out and express discontent with the government. While there are no guarantees that a foreign passport will save him/her, it “feels” safer.

The tourist actually does care and is caught up in the moment hoping for his vacation to one day become a permanent residence with change he/she is affecting. But, as with all tourists, when the vacation time is over, he/she must head to the airport to go back to wherever they came from. Change will have to wait for the next year.

THE ACTIVIST

The activist is filled with passion. So much passion he/she is bursting at the seams! He/she is well-meaning but increasingly self-righteous that everything around them feels like an attempt to kill the spirit of the revolution. He/she spends more time on the offensive instead of recruiting more people to their cause.

The activist can be better, given some guidance, but they will have to want it first to get it.

I don’t fit any of the criteria’s that were suggested, perhaps a mash-up between an activist and a tourist -despite the fact I don’t have a foreign passport. But, the latter is crucial; the tourist. We are all tourists, if we are not residing in Sudan or in the case of those who are but are not anything. When I say anything, I mean they do not contribute in idea’s or iniatives that are constructive whether online or offline.

We blog and tweet on Sudan, dissecting everything that comes our way to no avail. My question is, then what? We then blame the media for the lack of coverage of Sudan. I hate to break it to you, but  Sudan is not sexy, simply. We haven’t reached a stage in regime- change where foreign media can report on Sudan and not get sacked. Not to mention the fact that, who really cares? Everything is a set-agenda in the media world, if Sudan is not on the list then so be it. People should care for Sudan in it’s own standing rather then in the global context.

The hyper-reality that is #SudanRevolts

The slogans, patriotic as they are, warm the heart and keep moral high at times. But what do they provide? What is the alternative? What is the vision? These are questions i ask myself almost daily. What we lack, is a vision for our country. Tourist, activists or what ever we may be, what can we provide for our country in means that are plausible and can be understood by the masses.  Because of the given geography of Sudanese in diaspora, we need to use platforms such as twitter to generate sound ideas, solid foundations and clear mediums to realize what we want for Sudan, so as to transfer them to the masses.

What we are doing now, is shouting and demanding for a free Sudan. But to whom? Who is hearing us? The internet is a vacuum for the average Sudani, we are the 1%, if you will, who have access to the internet and can maneuver our way around it.  But what about the rest? How do we contribute online to those offline. This is the path one should think of.

#SudanRevolts is a luxury for you and I, dear reader. But what about the masses beyond Khartoum and other major cities. How do we connect them, we cannot. Perhaps we are fortunate that we may know more about the realities of  the politics and economy of Sudan. The question is how much do we know, if enough, then we must convey them to those less fortunate than us. Let them know the reality, teach them their rights, print out copies of our constitution and ask them to read it, explain its faults or rather explain the laws that are not enforced but are there for show. In the case of  the feud of South Sudan, tell them about the CPA agreement, its flaws and lack of transparency. Break it down into simpler matters, tell them who represents them in parliament, who are the current ministers and decisions makers.

These are simple questions, many of you may not know the answers to. Ask yourself, how do you expect regime change if you do not know who are part of the regime and what they do. At the end it is about being more politically aware, it is not simple as black and white or we are good and they are bad. #SudanRevolts as beautiful as it is, exists in a paradox far far away of the reality of an average Sudani. We have to look into a more traditional approach that fits our personal agenda, a way that meets our needs and addresses the masses. An example of a grass root initiative is Girifna, many of their members, men and women alike  have taken the streets, and have preached their cause, whatever it maybe,  through a clear cut simple medium.

Love Sudan

To the skeptics and pessimists, who think change will never come or those who will free ride when change does come, love your country. Love Sudan.

Pessimism does not resolve much nor does it inspire a thing, it only shuts the light at the end of that tunnel we call life. Be realistic, Sudan is not only about horrible hot weather or bad educational institution, noneffective health systems and badly built infrastructure. these are all a facade of Sudan but what makes Sudan is it’s; fertile land, the Nile, natural resources and a rich history of great civilizations among other things. Not to mention that Sudanese far and wide are known and admired to be honest people, hospitable and trustworthy, this is an honor that proceeds any Sudanese. To add to this, we are blessed with a rich culture and traditions that cannot be found elsewhere. This is the Sudan our forefathers loved so much and fought for it’s Independence, unfortunately we tarnish their legacy by channeling so much negative energy.

The moral of the story

These are all humble assumptions and reflections, take of it what you may. Love your country and give it your two pennies and if all else fails, leave and find your fortune  elsewhere but do not talk ill about Sudan, if you know nothing about it.  I believe change is inevitable but also relative to what we do, online and offline. At this point it is far away from regime change and media attention but it is rather about political awareness and knowing more about the regime we exist in. Address your concerns of the weather, economy, unemployment, bad roads and hazardous hospitals by suggesting a solution, a constructive one.

Nothing in life comes easy and the Sudan we want will not come easy either. So, don’t let #SudanRevolt dwindle and die out but rather make good use of it.

– #ASudanRevoltee

Reclaiming Hamra from Harassment


Saturday Night 

I was casually walking back to campus, with two girlfriends of mine, when suddenly a  random – creepy, might i add – man finds himself between us and grabs my American friend, Samantha’s, butt.  Outraged, she yelled after him “F*** you!, as that was the only word she could muster up following the incident. She kept on yelling and the man who was brave enough to approach her to begin with, was running around the corner, scared that her voice would bring him trouble.

A couple of hours earlier, as we were walking up to Hamra, Samantha, Jane and I were talking about harassment in general and incidents that they both face in Lebanon. I felt obliged to apologize to them and tell that that what she has gone through in Hamra does not reflect Lebanese society or other Arabs society. However, i did admit that harassment, including sexual harassment, is a growing issue in the region. I told them, whenever they find themselves in a situation like this, they should stand their ground and fight them off. After, creepy guy ran off, i would never forget the sigh of Samantha feeling so empowered as a woman.

The story

There isn’t one really. I am a woman and men find it alright to harass me.

That’s my fault of course.

I am a vulnerable creature by nature, yet, i have all these qualities of seduction from the way I walk, talk but more importantly they way I dress. I take the streets at night [nine pm] and expose myself in order to hear the obscene and degrading words spat at me like a definition.

I bring this opun myself.

I have no boundaries; no matter what i am wearing, no matter what color skin i have, no matter where i am going, not matter what time. I am at the end nothing but a woman.

The remedy

The remedy is to reclaim our dignity, too long has man degraded us, too long has man defined us and too long has man felt it to be their right to harass us. I am proud of what I am and therefore, I am reclaiming the power and pride that long ago was pacified by man. I urge you as a woman to reclaim what is dutiful yours. More importantly, I urge man to condemn such acts and unite with their counterparts to fight this.

Harassment is a serious issue and should not be taken lightly. It is not alright for anyone to approach another without his consent, more importantly butt grabbing and sexual advances are certainly not welcomed! This issue is a growing globally, in  Egypt harassment escalated during the days of the revolution but campaigns were set up and it is being spoken about openly. Even in the West, women are getting harassed on the streets too, last year, the city of Toronto had it’s very first Slut-walk in protest of women facing -like us – harassment.

I have zero tolerance for harassment of any sort, no one can empower me but myself. So, empower your self by standing up for yourself. Like I said earlier, I’ll never forget the sensation Samantha felt after creepy guy ran off.

Anyways, I am starting with Hamra.

Join me.

Defending AUBites

I don’t often have to defend AUB as an institution as its reputation and history speaks for itself. However, i often have to defend the honor – my honor as a an AUBite,  from remarks, smirks or right out insults. For those who don’t often mingle with the locals, here is what people really think you are like; spoiled, elitists, incredibly rich snobs that have nothing to do with reality. I won’t lie, some if it is actually true; we are not in touch with reality. Even within AUB, our fixations – i am sorry to say – are trivial.  I don’t mean to judge but i am stating the reality, as individuals we are active in the community but as a whole we have boiled down to very little; parties, some trips, bake sales, parties, Outdoors, bit of tree planting and some more partying.

What happened?

Back in the hay days, AUB students were active not only locally but regionally and internationally. As a Sudanese, i am proud to say that the first president of Sudan post independence, Ismail Al-Azahri,  was an AUB graduate (1930). AUB was a haven were students studied and talked about revolutionary ideas, breaking norms, bringing developments but most important these students fought as a whole in what they believed in. The spirit of AUB was rooted in them and the legacy of the university they came to fulfil proudly.

So, answer me this;  why are we so dead? why aren’t we moved by what is happening in Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and other countries in the region? Why are we not actively giving back to our respective communities? Being active does not mean being politicized but it means trying to bring [much needed] change in whatever way you can.  We have the institutions, facilities, money and time but not the heart nor the commitment?

This is a rant but is it not a personal attack on anyone but simply a call for AUBites to really step up and stop complaining. We have it good, let us try to do with what we have and give back to our respective communities, especially during these dire times.

Out of all of the years in AUB, i am excited about Speakers Corner simple because the motto appeals to me, “You do not have the right to remain silent”. Take a seat, say something, protest about what others saying, boycott the whole even but be productive.

I am ending this post with a simple word, “Engage”.

Post #SMCL | Dec. 16

Social Media changing Lives Conference by the Online collaborative at AUB can only be described as a successful event that  gathered a unique strand of bloggers and/or tweeps in one room for nine hours. But, i met new Lebanese bloggers;  the minds behind many initiatives and ideas in Lebanon; and lastly, many AUBites with promising futures.

For those who could not make it, i have  complied My list of new people,

 

  1. H.M  Ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher, was the key note speak of SMCL. He describes himself as a twiplomat, trying to survive in the terrain of SM. Check out his speech here and follow him on Twitter.
  2. Yorgui Teyrouz, is the founder of Donner Sang Compter (DSC) which is a non profit organization that is working on establishing an efficient blood donation system online in Lebanon using SM, since a national one is non existent. It is truly a great and crucial initiative, quoting Teyrouz “SM is not changing lives but saving lives.” For more information on DSC, click here and please be sure to follow Teyrouz and DSC on Twitter
  3. Nadine Moawad, a feminsit active and founder of Nasswiya .  Check out her website and follow her on Twitter.
  4. Loryne Atoui is the mind behind One Wig Stand. Inspired by her friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer, Atoui founded One Wig Stand in 2010 as a breast cancer awareness and support group based in Beirut where survivors can share their stories. I thought this is a great initiative as  topics such as cancer, in particular related to women, are a taboo in this part of the world. Check out their website for more information and follow Atoui on Twitter.
  5. Assad Thebian, is a local Media consultant and the mind behind Beirutyiat, he was a panelist on how Social media influencex decision making and gave a presentation on the impact of censorship in Lebanon. Follow him on Twitter.
  6. 3 Food blogs you should follow;  Cynthia Bu Jawde managed Strawberry Blu, a blog which specialized in Wellness, Nutrition, Dieting, & Cooking ;  Loulwa Kalache‘- a good friend and excellent cook managed Pearl’s Powder, a blog dedicated to food as a science ; and Particia Moghames who manages a nutrition blog, Paty M’s Nutrition World.
  7. Mher Krikorian is a photoblogger, a talented one might i add. At times, a picture is truly worth a thousand words, as Krikorian said, we all express ourselves differently, why not through pictures.
  8. Andrew Bossone gave one of the most interesting presentation throughout the whole of the conference, how the revolutions impacted music, art and so forth. He is definitely worth following on Twitter, please do check out his website.
  9. The last segment was dedicated to local bands who use Social Media as a platform to promote their music and connect with their fans. All are brilliant and all are worth checking out; Anthony Touma, EpiSode, LazzyLung and Poly.

Alright, I am finishing this post with Malek Teffaha’s comedy skit on how people abuse SM. Enjoy.

Rant II -Shi Libani | Inti…ya Sowda

I walk every where in Beirut because its the type of city that allows you to do so. Choosing to walk, however, also means being subjected to racist remarks, looks, finger pointing and last but not least being labeled for something I am not.

I chose to come to Beirut almost four years ago to pursue my studies, to live a different experience in the hip-modern-Paris-of-the-of-the-middle-east; Beirut. Where everything is possible but of course i was wrong.  Beirut reflects only what people see in the media or what the media allows people to see. Its complicated and it deserves another post.

The fact is,  Lebanon is a place where sectarianism is deeply rooted, tension is constantly brewing and peace is vulnerable. Nevertheless, people live, dream and many succeed in doing what they love best, only because this is Lebanon.

Lebanese people are among the most educated, skilled, specialized Arab people and tend to do well for themselves. Yet, they have a fault.

Shi Libani

I was walking down the street with a Sudani friend of mine, out of the blue, a guy walking by points his index finger right in front of her face and says “Inti a7la wahda ya Sowda” which translates to “Your the prettiest, you Black one”. Eliminating the first part of the sentence and focusing on the  latter, the guy was referring to the color of her skin. I might be over -reacting – but then again this is sort of a rant that broke the ice after four years, after four year of tolerating endless remarks, looks and unwanted feeling! I had to write and enlighten others how this impacts me.

Ya Libani

I refuse to me labeled by the color of my skin because in Lebanon being Sawda (Black) means i either work as a maid or a prostitute. I am a student who happens to live in Lebanon. The feeling I get when someone deliberately labels me without asking, without knowing my being, aggravates me. At times, it makes me resent living in Lebanon.

In every country, you find the janitor, the doctor, the driver and the diplomat, Sudan is no different. The Sudanese who come here are refugees that believe they can get to Europe through Lebanon – which a transit country. Once they arrive and realize they can’t, many opt to live here instead -illegally- of returning to an unpromising country. I, as a Sudanese, am sad to see my country men working in such conditions; overworked, underpaid, at times not treated well, imprisoned and beaten up and deprived of basic human rights. The again, who am i to talk about upholding human rights for Sudanese? When the Palestinians gain some right in Lebanon, then perhaps i can give my two pennies on the issue of Sudanese in Lebanon.

What i resent however, is the feeling many force me to feel. I live in your country – legally. I respect the culture that it, i experience the experience you do, i picked up the accent…i feel Beirutiya to an extent. So, i do not appreciate it when i walk in one of the  most hippest parts in town and be called Sawda or $*^&!  The people who are labeling me are not, Naeem, the person i buy my coffee from every morning; or the old lady who sells gum across from Universal restaurant; or  3amo Ahmed the security guard who has the M-W-F shift at Main gate. No, It is the people that are educated, traveled, experienced, well read and fortunate people…you are the supposed future of this country.  You are the one’s who are supposed to know better, know about the impact of words on others, know more about tolerance and of people from different cultures. Yet, many of you do it anyways  and this saddens me.

What i ranted about is not applicable to all Lebanese, i am fortunate to have found many Lebanese friends who share the same views as mine, who apologies constantly and  are more aggravated then i am on this issue.

The moral of this rant is simple; weight the words you use and the things you say. Calling me “Ya Sawda”, is racist.

Wa7da Sudaniya fi Beirut.

Is Social Media Changing Lives?

I am happy to announce that the Online Collabrative Club (OC) at the American University of Beirut is hosting its second annual conference titled: Social Media Changing Lives.

Aside being a member of the club and promoting the conference, i encourage all social media fanatics, bloggers, tweeps or those who now have developed an urge to know more about social media to attend!

The conference it self is about how social media is changing fields such as education, culture, business, media and journalism, music and art, NGOs, politics, religion, human rights, science, the environment and even personal lives of everyone who is using them.

Who is coming?

Other then the awesome team that makes up OC, here are some

  1.   The British Ambassador to Lebanon, HMA Tom Fletcher – How Twitter can change diplomacy
  2. Riham Kowatly from Be7ke – Inspiring youth online.
  3. Esraa Haidar – A hijab with a voice
  4. Aliaa Al Zeiny (A friend and a fellow political science major) – Human right and Arab women

Panels 

  1. Social Media influencing political decisions with panelists Marina Chamma, Shakeeb El-Jabri, Nadine Mouwad and Assaad Thebian. Moderated by yours truly.
  2. Food Science & Nutrition Controversies on Social Media  withCynthia Bu Jawdeh, Loulwa Kalache (Awesome blog. Check it out!) and Patricia Moghamed. All are  Food and Nutrition Bloggers and Masters Candidates in AUB’s Nutrition and Food Science Department.

That’s not all

Many other speakers are also attending the conference plus a little bit of entertainment in between sessions and at the end. Musicians include Poly,Anthony Touma, Lazy Lung and Episode. Check out the schedule and it is still not to late to register, , please do so after you finish reading this!

Things to remember

WHERE: Issam Fares auditoriam (See map below)

WHEN: Friday December 16, 2011

Plus, stay tuned for LIVE tweets @AUB_OC #SMCL

 

 

See you all there!