The place of women within the tribal system of the Bedouins of North Sinai is very restricted and anchored to very specific traditions. The situation of Bedouin women, in fact, is connected to the tribal structure. In the Bedouin culture, the status of families is determined by their size. Women are thus both venerated and marginalized to the role of "birth givers".
Therefore, Bedouin women are obliged to marry as soon as possible and they are subject not only to a strict cultural code, but also to a strict sexual code of conduct. Each individual, through his action, represents his family as a whole in the society. Each shameful or not acceptable conduct will damage the honor of the entire family.
Being subject to these strict codes and rules, only a very small minority of Bedouin women have access to the public sphere and to social life outside the domestic walls.
In this reportage it will be shown the voices of both Bedouin and Egyptian women and men, that are fighting for a social change for Bedouin women, and that explain the situation for women in Sinai.
Selwa el Hirsh, an active woman of the Billi tribe of Rabaa (near Bir el Abd) shows her struggle in trying to enable Bedouin women to integrate in the economical sphere of their families through handicraft. She explains the importance of women in participating in the economy of the family.
Mona Barhoum, is an activist in Rafah, engaged on women and development issues. She gave more then 5000 ID to Bedouin women and she run as a candidate in the last parliamentary elections.
Sheikh Arafat, a sufi sheikh of the tribe of the Sawarka, is the director of the Al Gora Society (in al Gora, in the nearby of Sheikh Zwaid), an NGO working on human rights and development in Sinai.
Said Hytaiek is a Bedouin activist of Sheikh Zwaid, explaining how the policies of the last 30 years on Sinai didn't bring any progress on the women issues in the region.
Sheikh Goma el Tarrabin, a member of the most facultous families of the Tarrabin, and very famous smuggler, explains ( only audio) the traditions and marriage in the tribal system.
Sheikh Abd el Hendy, an Orfi judge (the traditional Bedouin legislation) of Chabaana, in the nearby of Sheikh Zwaid explains the legislative status of women in the Bedouin traditions.
00:00 - 01:00 Selwa El Hirsh: “In the name of Allah my name is Selwa el Hirsh, a leader for the women of North Sinai. I am a Bedouin, the tribe of Baradeya, family el-Hirsh.
We have here six places: Bir el Abd, Sinai is Bir el Abd, el Arish, this is the capital, Sheikh Zwaid, Rafah, el-Hassala, Nekhel. We have six areas in North Sinai.
Women in the past were very weak, she tried to cultivate to help her husband to grow her boys, girls in the house. There is no learning, no culture, nothing, only she was growing some sheep in the house.”
Images: man on the beach of el-Arish, el Arish University, militaries walking on the beach of el Arish, Chabaana (Sheikh Zwaid )peach trees, palm trees of the beach of El Arish, rooftops and building of el Arish, Orfi tribunal in Chabaana, fruit trees in Bir el Abd, woman with child in her balcony, children playing in Rabaa village, sheep in cage in Chaabana.
01:00- 02:04 Sheikh Arafat (director of Al-Gora Society):
“Despite all the services we do for women, there is still a lot of challenges in Sinai community because of the uneducated ones and because the women they cannot finish their education in so many places in this region.
And the other places the girls leaving school in the primary school because there are no preparatory or high schools for them. At some other places they stop at high schools because there are no universities and sometimes the university is too far and not easy to reach.”
Images: Bedouin men in peach trees in Chabaana, Flyer of Al-Gora Society activities on women, two Bedouin women in traditional clothes and baby, particular of the mother holding the baby, Bedouin women and the baby, village of Sheikh Zwaid with girls and donkey chariot.
02:04- 02:34 Said Hytaiek (activist):
“The women in Sinai suffer a lot because she lives in a men community that does not believe in the woman goal nor the woman rights. And she lives in a community that puts her role only inside the house.”
Images: Women with Niqab and baby walking in the street, main street of El Arish.
02:34- 03:11 Goma Tarrabin (Tarrabin rich man and smuggler):
“My name is Goma Abu Sahba Tarabin tribe, Sinai, Egyptian citizen like any other Egyptian citizen, Muslim, Arab and we have our custom and tradition in our community that we cannot change.
The women’s state in Sinai is not like anywhere else. And because of our customs and traditions that we have for long time, from our grand-grandparents, we can’t change the women state in 10 or 20 years.”
Images: Bedouin men and children in a Bedouin hut on the beach of el Arish, children in the hut, beach of el Arish, Bedouin man preparing Shisha.
03:11– 03:38 Selwa el Hirsh:
“We have here rules, in Sinai, between the tribes. We have rules. No one from the other tribes can touch me. Ok? We have rules here, but now no one care about the rules, women not safe, families not safe, the adults not safe.”
03:38- 04:11 Goma Tarrabin:
“one of the problems women faces in Sinai is education, marriage, even in growing up their children and sometimes the husband gets married more than two or three times.
The average of getting married in the Bedouin community starts from 16.”
Images: Bedouin women with children, two Bedouin women (one working) with children, Bedouin teenager girls preparing tea on the seaside.
04:11- 05:39 Judge Abd el Hady (Orfi judge):
“I am el haj abdel hady atteia hassan, from Ashira el Mansoureya, I am an Orfi judge. And one of the most important people in Sinai.
The Orfi law is when the people have some problems and they have to sit with Orfi to solve the disputes.
The society gives to women a lot of options, a lot of freedom, for ex is she can go to all the houses, so now she is a strange person there, so the father of the house deals with her like if he was her owner.
If she wants to divorce she can. If she wants rights, give her the rights. She goes to Massaid and Massaid take a lot of care of her.”
Images: particular of hands taking a cigarette, inside the Bedouin Tribunal, men listening to the judge, three Bedouin men in the tribunal listening to the judge, portrait of one man listening to the judge, portrait of another Bedouin smoking a cigarette and listening to the judge, outside of the Tribunal judge talking with a man, zoom on judge talking with the man.
05:39- 06:59 Selwa el Hirsh:
“Some of us(women) are educated, and we have a job. But the others women here don't have a job, and she wants to help her husband, she wants to make something in the family, for her family. These productions help the family to have many money, so she is trying her husband to bring money to her, she want to increase the income of the family. Our grandmothers give us this: When I was a child my mother gave me one piece and she asked me to look at her and to teach me how to do it. Since the childhood until she becomes an hold woman. All her life.
If she increases the income, the Governorate increases its income, the country, all Egypt, increases its income. Our economy is low now, we want to raise our economy, by cultivating Sinai, by these productions, by make factories.”
Images: particular of hands of woman working on handicraft, Bedouin women working, other Bedouin woman sitting beside her husband while she works, handicraft clothes in the trade show in Arish University, Bedouin women laughing with her husband, Bedouin family sitting all together under the shadow of a tree while women are working, old Bedouin woman, market in Arish, manequins of women clothes.
06:59- 07:25 Said Hytaiek:
“ we want to have a civil country to give the woman all her rights, even Mubarak did not commit on the rights of the women and the state organizations they have never given any solutions to solve all the women’s problem in Sinai, or even all over Egypt.”
Images: Arish downtown, woman in Niqab with two daughters crossing the street, Arish downtown, two women (one veiled one in Niqab) with their children.
07:25- 07:48 Selwa el Hirsh:
“Hosni Mubarak government and Morsi government, all of them don't care about Sinai. They (the women) are trying, in politics, to have places in politics in Sinai, on the TV, they want to appear to speak about problems in Sinai.”
Images: Selwa presenting handicraft products made by Bedouin women, Selwa talking with a man.
07:48- 08:56 Mona Barhoum (political activist):
“The situation of women in Sinai, is the same like all the Egyptian women. They got backward in everything that they gained before the revolution, like their membership in the local committees and making the decisions.
The main issue is that there is no faith in woman role in the political life by the political parties. And she is very welcome when she is voting, but she is not when she is a member.
As Sinai people now we ask the actual government to invest and develop Sinai.”
Images: Mona walking in the entrance of the court, Mona with her cat, portrait of Bedouin woman in traditional clothes, two Bedouin women with kids in the garden of the house, Bedouin woman eating fruits from a tree, Mona going outside of her house.
08:56- 09:10 Selwa el Hirsh:
“Everything is related to the woman, Woman is member of this society. If the society is good the woman will be good, if the society is bad, the woman will be bad. Everything is back to us.”
Images : Bedouin girls playing a game on the sand.