Saturday, June 28, 2008

Warning : Al-Diwan language school, Nasr city

This post is actually by a friend of mine, Linda who came to Egypt to study at the Al-Diwan language school in Nasr City.

Following is her experience studying at this particular institute and in the area surrounding the institute.

To put her message in perspective, (she isn't a naive student away from the US for the first time in her life! She has traveled to Syria, Palestine, and Jordan and never experienced it like this. This is not a rant against Egypt or Arabs or Muslim societies. This is information that any female expat considering studying at this school should be aware of)

I'm at the Al-Diwan language school here, and while the language school is great, the surrounding area is not kind to females who don't wear the hijab or niqab.

I cover everything save my hair and arms, and get harassed every single day, several times a day by men and even children who jeer and say disgusting things. The day I decided to wear the hijab for my own safety, I was followed and groped by four males in a car as I was walking to school. I decided not to wear it again.

I've spoken with other international female students living in Nasr City, and I've heard similar horror stories: taxi drivers exposing their private parts; men slapping them on the ass telling them to cover up; not being able to go outside to the corner store without being chided for walking the streets alone. To say that we're treated like prostitutes is not an exaggeration. A friend of mine was offered money for sexual favors by a taxi driver as she walked home.

Al-Diwan is a great school, and because I can't get a refund even if I wanted one, I asked to transfer to the Garden City branch. The Nasr City manager said he could not transfer me for several weeks so I decided just to cut my time here short. I hadn't been informed that a Garden City branch existed and didn't find out until the first day I arrived, as it wasn't advertised until the Nasr City branch filled up.

I've since heard of an unhealthy competition by the two branch managers which is quite unsettling, seeing that I had requested a transfer once I arrived and was denied until the day I was groped ten yards from the school and walked in, in hysterics.

I'm on a fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education, and this school is approved by them. I will be recommending to them, as I did to the Nasr City manager, that female students be advised of the problems of sexual harassment that are being experienced here. From reports I've heard of Egyptian friends who live in Nasr City and do not wear the hijab, the situation has gotten much worse for them in the last ten years, and it's getting worse every day. I encourage anyone who knows of a female thinking of studying in Nasr City to pass this message along.

Best,
- Linda

14 comments:

vagabondblogger said...

Wow, this sounds totally creepy! I hope this eventually works out for your friend.

Aziza said...

This is just terrible. Is there no way she can transfer to another school?

Kim said...

After a really traumatic episode, they allowed her to transfer to the Garden City branch

Aziza said...

Fantastic, glad to hear that it worked out.

Mohamed said...

"Warning : Al-Diwan language school, Nasr city"
Isn't it unjust to shame a reputable school known for its superior care and personal attention to U.S. students..that your friend herself didn't have any negative comment about?

If you just "googled" about this famous school, you will find a lot of very positive reviews about. A school that facilitates female-only classes with female teachers.. and ariport pick-up service..I think deserves special appreciation.

http://www.aldiwancenter.com/new/1/Student_Student_Services.php

No one can tolerate women - or men - harassment .. not in Cairo, not in New York, not in Los Angeles..but just anywhere!!

But not because I was a victim for some kind of these incidents means I have to defame Los Angeles, New York, Cairo, or Paris, nor their educational institutes I was studying at!!

Please consider re-editing the post's title, to just match the post content, which is just talking about Cairo and Nasr City in general, not Aldiwan Center in any way.

Mentioning the school's name in this "warning" way is unjust, and defaming, which will serve no body!

Thanks

Kim said...

Mohamed,

It looks like you did not bother to read the entire post.

Mohamed said...

Thanks Kim!
It seems that 'you' didn't bother to read 'my' entire post! Kim :)

Let me travel through Linda's post, paragraph to paragraph ..hoping you do what's right towards a decent school..after you mentioned a "Warning" associated with their name..


She says:
"and while the language school is great, the surrounding area is not kind to females "

so..the school is "great" ..ok

She says
"I've spoken with other international female students living in Nasr City, and I've heard similar horror stories:.."
So, it's all about "Nasr City" ..ok

Next paragraph she says:
"Al-Diwan is a great school"
Again .. and in a very clear statement..Linda recommends Aldiwan Center..not 'Warns'.

At the end..Linda says:
"I'm on a fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education, and this school is approved by them."

So..Al Diwan Center is: an approved, decent, safe school..that the U.S. Department of Education respects, recommends, and honors students a fellowship to study at..

Finally..Linda says:
"From reports I've heard of Egyptian friends who live in Nasr City and do not wear the hijab, the situation has gotten much worse for them in the last ten years"

So, again..it's Nasr City issue.

Now ..and after I elaborated my ideas to you..
are you going to do the right thing, Kim?

Thanks for discussion!

:)
Mohamed

Mohamed said...

Aside from the issue of defaming the Egyptian school name in the title..which I didn't like ..

I actually sympathized deeply with Linda, I stand with her..and wish her a quick healing from this offenses and insanity..happened to an intellectual and decent woman like her, outside her home country.
It's of course a very hard bad experience that I understand myself, not as a Muslim, not as an Egyptian, but as a free human first.

Let me tell you that this exact issue is one of the "top" concerns of civil society groups here..

I am posting some websites which deal with the issue, and need your support.. in a positive way..

Those are homepages of two big national campaigns against street - and everywhere- harassment- please activate links -:

http://streetisours.org/
[has English translation]
http://www.ecwronline.org/
[English page:
http://ecwronline.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1&lang=english]

This search on Google - please activate links - on "against harassment Egypt" will lead you to many reports on the issue that shows - unlike what Linda said - that "wearing hijab" has nothing to do with it..at all..unfortunately!!

http://www.google.com/search?q=against+harrasment+in+egypt&sourceid=navclient-ff&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1B3GGGL_enEG234EG234


So..we need to deal with it, we need to join hands to fight it, with very activity .. but not defaming other innocent parties in the Egyptian society, who are fighting with us!! :(

In America, there are a 'huge' databases online of sex offenders in every corner of every city of the country. That doesn't mean: "Warning: University of California, School of Medicine, Los Angeles"

Thanks again.. if or not you decided to clear the Egyptian school's name from that title.

I hope we see you both one day in one of these activities...in the heart of Nasr City ..helping us fighting the bad in our beautiful society.

Regards

Mohamed

Kim said...

She also wrote
"I can't get a refund even if I wanted one, I asked to transfer to the Garden City branch. The Nasr City manager said he could not transfer me for several weeks so I decided just to cut my time here short. I hadn't been informed that a Garden City branch existed and didn't find out until the first day I arrived, as it wasn't advertised until the Nasr City branch filled up.

I've since heard of an unhealthy competition by the two branch managers which is quite unsettling, seeing that I had requested a transfer once I arrived and was denied until the day I was groped ten yards from the school and walked in, in hysterics. "

Kim said...

The good things she has written, show that she isn't just ranting, but is providing a balanced opinion.

I stand by my decision, to leave the title the way it is.

If there are so many good reviews about the school on the web,then one not-so-good one won't harm the school that much. But at least other females planning to study there will be fore warned of the right things before they make a decision

Mohamed said...

Well Kim!
It's your blog!
We are all just guests here..have no control over what is published.

My concern, besides harming my country's school by associating its name this way, is also about:
"But at least other females planning to study there will be fore warned of the right things before they make a decision"

What are "right things" females have to do when they go to Nasr City?

Nasr City is now a place for the new American University in Cairo (AUC) campus!
http://www1.aucegypt.edu/ncd/location.html

I think AUC public relations should post Linda's warning for all new - and existing - American female students - and employees - too?

agree?

Thanks

Kim said...

Mohamed,
1. You would never be able to understand what it is to be a single woman in a foreign country.
2. this is MY blog as you rightly pointed out.
3. you don't seem to have any trouble with my other posts about how women are treated in Egypt, so I have to suspect that you have a special interest in this school.

Number 3 being a point, I doubt any further conversation on this topic will get us anywhere. So let us just agree to disagree.

Good Day.

honorary masriyyah said...

Hi,

I am so sorry this happened to your friend. I pray she recovers from these horribly traumatic events. I have to agree with Mohammad,when I read the title I thought the post would be about a mishap with the school itself. If she had been groped while on school premises and the administrators did nothing for her, then OK, I would understand her anger and blame, but the school did at least try to accommodate her(yes,they were slow about it, this IS Egypt we are talking about)even though the incidents had nothing to do with the school itself, other than its location where these unfortunate incidents took place.

She did not mention anything negative about Diwan's program or teachers. Two guys competing for recognition? Is that really the school's fault? Was the reason she requested a transfer due to negligence on the school's part? Did they not honor any of their commitments to her?

I lived in Nasr City for five years and attended two Arabic language centers there. Diwan was not one of the schools I went to but I have only heard good things about them and their 1st rate program. There are some Arabic language schools in Nasr City that I would never recommend to others. Some schools have a history of excessively overcharging foreign students for courses, charging outrageous fees for finding apartments and airport pickups. Some schools have weak programs and ineffective teachers. These are schools that should be warned against.

As Mohammad mentioned sexual harassment of women in Egypt is an issue many groups are actively fighting against. Women being harassed is not limited to Nasr City, it happens everywhere, it happens not only to single foreign women but to Egyptian women as well as, married women, hijabis, niqabis and non covering women. I wear hijab and niqab and I have been harassed too. I have been followed in the street. One guy told me exactly where he wanted me to touch him while in line at the grocery store. Was this the store's fault? I have friends who have been groped on the micro buses and had men touch themselves in front of them on the metro. My advice to any woman, in any city or country, be alert and aware. Here are some tips I used when I lived there:
1. Do not walk past groups of youth if you can help it, cross the street.
2. Do not make eye contact with men.
3. Walk with your head up and walk with a purposeful stride.
4. Walk with an older woman or group of girls who are going in the same direction as you.(You can practice your Arabic or they can practice their English)

5.Try not sit next to men of the micro buses, if it is unavoidable, place your bag between you and him. sit in the women's only car on the Metro or upfront close to the driver if you ride the bus.

6.If you take taxis, NEVER sit upfront with the driver. Do not allow the driver to pick up other passengers. Do not carry on unnecessary conversations with the driver. He only needs to know where you are going and directions. Your name and where you are from are not his business! If you are uncomfortable with him do not let him drop you at your home, get out a few blocks away and walk.(This was something I did in Cairo and still do in my hometown New York City).

7. If you are harassed, make a lot of noise, speak loudly in English, sometimes this is enough to shame the creeps especially if people start to gather around. I threw rocks at one guy. One of my friends carries a long hatpin which she uses to jab gropers on the micro buses.

8. Use your street smarts!


Please check out this BBC article:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7514567.stm

Best wishes to you and your friend.

Asmaa Marketing said...

Arabeya Arabic Language Institute (Arabeya.Org) in Mohadesin (19 Dr Ahmed Al-Hofy, Ahmed Orabi), it's more safe place for females

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