Why this continous hate?


Yesterday I was invited to two different seminars and I wanted to visit both, but had to choose one. The one I went to was the presentation of and panel discussion arranged by IFEMA concerning the Greek documentary film “Girls of the rain”/”Ta koritisia tis vrohis” from 2012 by Alinda Dimitrio. She had interviewed 50 women who when they were young were arrested, jailed and tortured by Greek police during the dictatorship 1967 – 1974. The interviewees had then been in their teens or early and mid-twenties. One of the women who was interviewed in the film and a survivor of the horrible experiences discussed was Natassa Mertika from Xylokastro. She had come together with her family to participate in the debate after the film. It was impressing to see the vivid life and dignity in her now 40 – 45 years after the torture she experienced. When the movie started I didn’t at all know what to expect. The director had mixed bits and pieces of interviews with the 50 women mainly shot in their own homes it seemed. The film lasted for almost two hours. They had been arrested for being communists or left wings, or just being connected to communists in one way or the other. The young females had had boyfriends, fiancés or husbands, were single or merely belonging to families or groups that were percieved as threats in the eyes of the new régime. All the women had been arrested and described in the interviews the horrendous torture they had been victims of. Cruel interrogations, flogging, rapes, verbal abuse, beatings, pinching, limb-stretching, more flogging, more beatings, more rapes and psychologic abuse. This period 1967 – 1974 had been a living hell for all of them, and at the end of the film one elderly woman with agonising memories in her eyes finished her story by putting a trembling hand on the table in front of her. I couldn’t hold back a tear at the end. Several of all the women who had been jailed then do not live any more, and it’s quite certain that they had been traumatized by the terror. Still it was amazing to see these fifty survivors sit there describing the tragedy that had befallen them… And to see that they had kept their dignity alive.

After the film there was a panel discussion led by the journalist Ingela Brovik. The panel contained Natassa Mertika, one of the interviewed women in the film, a young woman named Özlem Kinal, Festival Coordinator at the Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival/Ucan Süpürge Ulusararasi Kadin Filmleri Festivali in Ankara, Turkey. The last person in the panel was Parvin Ardalan who’s an Iranian journalist and women’s activist, asylum writer and now active in Malmoe. All the women in the panel had experienced jailing and/or torture and rape. I asked them why they thought that the male guards had been so cruel. Was it because they had had the wrong political view or because they simply were women? The answer I got was that it most likely was a combination of both…The ladies in the panel also added that the women who both had been young and pretty had got the toughest treatment. The ladies explained that the men who tortured them could be anything from youngsters to mature family fathers and older men who all hated that young women in their teens and twenties dared to take a stand and protest against the old norms. The sexual connotation was also there. The fact that these women were young and beautiful was frustrating for these men who couldn’t stand not “owning” them and therefore had to punish them in every possible sadistic way. A Greek man in the audience who had been young in those days, but now is living in Sweden with his Swedish wife and daughter explained this to me. “In the eyes of those men the freedom and expression of these young females were very provocative”, he said. All the women in the panel, Natassa Mertika, Özlem Kinal and Parvin Ardalan gave their views on the matter and Ms Özlem Kinal also trembled on the voice a bit when she said that the interviews in the film woke up memories of her own.

This film also got me to think of 19-year old Amina Tyler in Tunisia who not long ago appeared bare-breasted on pictures on the web-site of the Feminist organisation FEMEN. Across her breasts she had written: “Fuck your morals” and in another in Arabic that her body was her own. She has got lots of support from many corners in the world, (also from me), but in Tunisia she is under surveillance and threat. Her family want to send Amina to a mental hospital and Almi Adel from Al-Jami’a Al-Li-Wassatin Tawia wa-l-Islah/ “The Committee for the preservation of decency and virtue” recently wrote about Amina Tyler: “This young woman ought to be punished according to shari’a with 80 to 100 lashes, but considering the severity of her crime she deserves to be stoned to death”. That is in my eyes a much greater sin to threaten and punish a young woman or anyone else for making her own choices and simply to say that her body is her own. After having been working with honour-related issues I’ve seen many distinct patterns appear in situations like these. The women who revolt against the old norms of being “owned” by men, be married away, not to make their own life choices, being guarded and punished, not be able to inherit as much as the men etc… when they revolt they tend to go from one extreme to another extreme, instead of finding the balance someplace in between. Many of them simply can’t see the balance, because their situation is so extreme already in one direction that it takes extreme measures to protest.

That women like Amina Tyler and others take off their clothes around the world, or women in the West like here in Sweden who go “slut-walks”  is a way to manifest a protest, but it doesn’t mean that they want to go around naked all the time. As I understand these women they are angry for being told this or that and for being blamed and punished for provoking the sexual desire inside us men. But most of these women and many others irrespective of culture just want to live a normal life, earn money, have jobs, a normal love life, possibly make a career and maybe sooner or later settle down with someone that actually loves them and whom she can love back… Whoever that might be. This goes both for the Arab countries, other Muslim countries, among Christians, Jews, Hindus… Everyone all over the globe.  What saddens me is the hate that is provoked in many men for seing women being women, but I’m also saddened by the continous dichotomization in the debates, laws and discussions between men and women instead of trying to find some kind of harmony among us. I’m also concerned about the hatred, blame and accusation between different cultures and religions. It’s very understandable, but it’s also very tragic. I don’t deny that I’m very critical towards the old shari’a rules like the reaction above on Amina Tyler, but I also believe that all our cultures, the Western-Christian, the atheist/secular, the Muslim, the Hindu, the Jewish… all would benefit from serious discussions between both men and women, young and old. I believe that we ought really to take serious discussions about our various ideas, life-styles, frustrations and experiences both among women and men in order to… maybe… find improved solutions for the benfit of both parties. Or do we really need and want continous hate and Medieval standards in a modern world in turmoil?

Anders Moberg, April 12th 2013


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