Sunday, 9 August 2015

Roger Anis | Closet Full of Dreams

Photo © Roger Anis-All Rights Reserved
"To be a woman in Egypt is to live with the crushing inevitability of sexual harassment. The magnitude of the problem is epidemic, with 99.3% of Egyptian women having been sexually harassed, according to a 2013 U.N. Women report."
Despite faltering and sporadic government efforts, sexual harassment of women in Egypt has been described as a cancerous epidemic, especially during druing the past few years which saw the country's numerous political upheavals.

Roger Anis is a photojournalist working at an Egyptian daily newspaper whose recent and meaningful work "Closet Full of Dreams" was recently featured on TIME's Lightbox. His objective was to publicize the issue by making diptych portraits of women next to the clothes they would wear on the streets, if only they felt safe enough.

On a personal note: While I have no intention of generalizing (since I'm certain that this behavior is not universal amongst Egyptian youths), I do not know what happened to the Egyptian male psyche. Growing up in a Cairo suburb, which was totally Westernized at the time, I rarely -if ever- witnessed or heard of any sexual harassment. Women dressed as they chose; some provocatively, some less so... but there was no fear of them being harassed anywhere they chose to go. Yes, they may have drawn admiring glances, perhaps a whistle or two and even a funny comment...which would be frowned upon by passers-by and others.

There must be root causes for this epidemic. Is it caused by over-population, poverty, absence of cicil societal norms that progressively evaporated? I recall often hearing the word "shahama"...the Egyptian word for 'chivalry'...and 'honor', and an innate duty to assist and protect women, whether these were known to us or not. What happened to it? Is it a perverted misinterpretation of Islam one of the reasons to treat women in such a despicable way? True Islamic teachings call for the exact opposite; treating women with respect and dignity.

I have no answer. I just don't know. What I do know is that the Egyptian government must eradicate this epidemic as forcefully as any other public health issue, through the power of its courts and through the power of its media.

The age-old Shahama must return to Egypt.

Roger Anis is working as a photojournalist in the daily newspaper Al-Shorouk since 2010, covering various social issues in Egypt. He is one of the contributors to the Associated Press Agency, and received a Diploma in Photojournalism from the Danish school of Media & Journalism in June 2015. During his work in the newspaper and with AP, he covered a number of local important and historical moments, including the disenfranchisement of Coptic Christians.

His work has been published in international newspapers and magazines such as TIME, New York Times, Newsweek, Guardian , Le Monde, The Daily Mail, Newsweek, Aftenposten, and De Grone Amsterdammer. He has also been awarded a number of international and local recognitions.

He is also an alum of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop (Chiang Mai 2012).