commentary, photography

Samira Ibrahim: her journey through Tahrir

On March 9, 25-year-old Samira Ibrahim was arrested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square while participating in a protest.  Along with 172 other demonstrators, including 17 women, she was forcefully removed from the protests and brought to the Egyptian Museum on the edge of the square, where she and the others were bound and tortured for seven hours before being loaded onto buses and eventually brought to Heikstep, a military detention center.

There, she and the other women were forced to break themselves into two groups: virgins and non-virgins. Continue reading

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commentary, research

the legacy of women in the liberation war, 40 years on

Tarfia Faizullah, a fellow Fulbrighter and beautiful poet who was based in Bangladesh for the past year, is working on a long-term project on women who were raped during the Liberation War.  Out of her project has emerged a series of poems, which she has so wonderfully agreed to share here today.

Following the end of Bangladesh’s Liberation War on 16 December 1971, forty years ago today, all women who were raped were given the honorific term birangona by the first president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.  The term, which is often translated to war heroine, was meant to pay respect to the women for their sacrifices during wartime.  Yet it soon became a mark of shame, with many of the women rejected by their families and ostracized by their communities upon their learning of the assault; rape was, and largely still is, seen as an enormous source of shame in Bangladesh for the assaulted woman. Continue reading

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commentary, photography

women of the revolution: cairo, egypt

 

Back on the blogging train, and this time with a recent piece I did for GlobalPost.  The photographs were published here, the words are up only on this site.  This continues an exploration that I’ve been working on for the past few years, on the role and experience of women in conflict, previously done in Vietnam and Bangladesh, and now here in the United States.  This is the chapter from Egypt, centering on what Cairene women had to say on being female and immersed in the recent political uprisings in Egypt.  They spoke both to the events themselves, and to the representation of women in the revolution by the media; their responses were impassioned and highly varied – read on to learn more.

Women of the Revolution

The events of Tahrir Square in January and February 2011 have been hailed as everything from a boon to a bust for the women of Egypt, with countless reports covering and recovering retrospectives on women’s role in the continuing Egyptian revolution.  But what do the women themselves have to say, about their own stories? Continue reading

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9/11, commentary, research

The Politics of 9/11 Narratives in History Textbooks


“He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”

Orwell 1949: 37

Think back to your high school history textbook.  How many hours did you spend bent over its pages, copying “key terms” onto flashcards the night before an exam?  How often did you complain of the weight it added to your backpack?

How often did you question what was written on its pages?

“The Politics of 9/11 Narratives in History Textbooks Worldwide” is an in-depth analysis of how political forces have shaped the narratives on 9/11 in high school textbooks worldwide.  It provides a never-before seen look into history textbooks from across the globe, illustrating how purportedly objective accounts are refashioned for political ends. While history textbooks are often seen as an authority on their subject, authored by teachers and historians, those who can be counted on to write objectively on events of the past, to distill the “important stuff,” this study reveals that it is press teams more than educators and politicians more than academics who are dictating the narratives currently found in textbooks around the world.

Continue reading

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9/11, commentary, research

it’s the history, stupid

A while back, Foreign Policy magazine came out with a fantastic piece by Robert A. Pape, delving deep into an issue that is rarely discussed – the why rather than the how of anti-American attacks.

For nearly a decade, Americans have been waging a long war against terrorism without much serious public debate about what is truly motivating terrorists to kill them. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, this was perfectly explicable — the need to destroy al Qaeda’s camps in Afghanistan was too urgent to await sober analyses of root causes. Continue reading

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9/11, commentary, research

lost memories

In November 2009, I spent a week with my head buried in textbooks as far as the eye can see.  Where can one do this?  At the one and only Georg Eckert Institute in Brunschweig, Germany, home to over 100,000 textbooks from scores of countries.

I was on a research trip collecting clippings, searching for retellings of 9/11 in history textbooks from all over the world.  It was a bit like a treasure hunt – and a coded one at that.  As I spoke painfully few of the languages in the books I was sifting through I found myself looking for clues – dates, names, catch words – to tip me off about the mention of the event.  But sometimes even these don’t jump out, especially for languages with non-Roman alphabets.

Continue reading

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commentary

on being sick abroad

I’m a strong believer in the power of sleep and ibuprofen.  Headache?  Head to bed early and pop a couple pills.  Back pain?  Same deal.  Fever?  Again, early night and two tablets.

But after my latest fever stint hadn’t disappeared after five days of first rearing its ill-timed head – Eid break, with lots of work on the to-do list – every nurse I had called back home had switched from that rest-and-ibuprofen tune to one of getting myself to a doc, pronto.

And after a slew of tests and a few days of waiting, back came a positive typhoid test and a doctor’s order to be admitted to the hospital – immediately – for a hefty dose of intravenously-administered antibiotics.

Typhoid.  One of the many vaccines I had gotten sometime in the past few years, part of the laughably long list for which the Resident Nurse at Somerville’s Harvard Vanguard had called me a pin cushion.  And one that is – take note travelers – only 50 to 80 percent effective.  Meaning not very.  And especially not during South Asia’s monsoon season, when the prevalence of diseases like dengue and malaria and hepatitis and, you guessed it, typhoid tend to spike.

So after nearly two weeks of trying to navigate this whole sick abroad thing, here’s a few notes that I’ve collected on the experience thus far, for any expats or long-term travelers or others who might just be interested in knowing what negotiating healthcare abroad is like.

A quick disclaimer – I am not a professional or expert on any of these things (you knew that!), and these are just a few of my own personal recommendations, things I would have found helpful in knowing a couple weeks ago.  Hope you find them to be so, too.

1. Have a medically-knowledgable someone you can call back home.  Whether it’s your general practitioner, or your lovely aunt who happens to be the world’s best nurse (thanks, Auntie Mariann!), having someone who knows more about health and sickness than you do is not just reassuring, but can be downright vital in deciding what’s the best course of action to take.  Plus, it just makes you feel better knowing there’s someone on the other side of the line.

2. Go into the doctor sooner rather than later.  Yes, it’s a pain, especially if there’s traffic and it’s inefficient and takes all day.  But having test done and results analyzed will (likely, hopefully) make for a faster diagnosis and less stress for you and all interested parties.  Maybe it’s nothing!  But maybe it’s not.  And for some illnesses, timing really is everything, and the sooner you can catch it the better.

3. Don’t just go to any doctor.  If you’re really sick, it’s worth calling your health care provider from home (or a family member’s, or a friend’s if you’ve given yours up) and seeing if they can refer you to someone in their international network, if they have one.  Otherwise, do some research online or ask around locally before making an appointment with someone.  Not all doctors are created equal, and the right doc can mean the difference between a real diagnosis and an order to just go home and sleep it off.  Which in some cases, you can’t.

4. Come with a copy of what your ‘normal’ blood results are, if possible.  Good for comparison’s sake, as not all reference ranges (the ‘normal values’ you should fall within on diagnostic tests) are the same for all people all the time.  A lot of healthcare providers now have online centers at which you can create an account and track your health history; check and see if yours does, and if they do, set yours up and get tests and vaccine information from as far back as possible uploaded.

5. Get international health insurance.  Just do it.  If you’re abroad in a disease-prone place for long enough, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to get sick, and it’s probably going to pay for itself in the end.  So.  Just do it.

6. If you have a bacterial infection, have a test done to see which drugs it is susceptible to.  I think it’s called a ‘panel’, and it’s important in determining what treatment you need.  For example, the South Asian strain of typhoid is resistant to Ciproflaxin (known to most as cipro), the antibiotic of choice prescribed by most doctors back in the US for most all bacteria-related travel ails.  Which means it just wouldn’t work on the strain of the disease here, and so you need a different drug.  Most doctors will automatically test for drug susceptibility when they do your bacterial culture, but it’s worth asking for it just to be sure.

Which brings us to…

7. Ask questions.  And don’t feel dumb or embarrassed for doing so.  For me personally, just being informed makes me feel better, and most doctors will be quite understanding – and even amused – at the string of questions fired off by a wide-eyed foreigner.  They know you’re far from home, they know you’re not used to this, and most likely they know the answer to what you’re wondering about.

And that’s all I can think of for now.  There is far more advice to give, and much of this many would consider excessive, but again, a few extra queries and a bit more info can’t hurt, ya?

Time in the hospital has put me in the market for entertainment – music or emails or  blogs or articles or whathaveyou – so if you have anything good, or have been feeling like writing an email, feel free to send it over my way.  And thanks to everyone who has been checking in from so many miles away, it absolutely brightens days in Room 2435.

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