GroundReport Recognition Award June 2012-The Disabled Break Media Silence In The Arab World
Written by Ahmed Awadalla- recipient of The GroundReport Recognition Award June 2012
Based in Egypt, Ahmed Awadalla belongs to a corps of bloggers writing for Global Voices to bring the world the unique perspectives drawn from international citizen media sources. Awadalla considers himself an advocate for human rights and his interests as a blogger also include gender, health, and sexuality.
An online campaign  was recently launched to shed light on the struggle of people with disabilities and their neglected rights. Founder of the campaign, Abdallah AlShalaqi , an activist from Saudi Arabia said in a TV interview that the campaign aims at raising community’s awareness of the rights of people with disabilities; breaking media silence about it; and giving a message to government officials to take action towards this issue.
People living with disabilities suffer from marginalization and neglect to varying degrees. And those with disabilities have been campaigning for equal citizenship so that they can achieve their full potential. Their struggle focuses on accessibility (the ability to move freely in the surrounding environment), equal opportunities in education, employment, housing and freedom from violence and abuse, which they can be vulnerable to.
The campaign heavily used Twitter as a main platform to raise their voices. Twitter users were asked to reverse their avatars and to use the hashtag #Ù„Ù„Ù…Ø¹ÙˆÙ‚_ØÙ‚ÙˆÙ‚ meaning “people with disabilities have rights” to highlight their cause. A large number of Twitter users joined the campaign. Safar Al Hogbani, a player in the Saudi special needs basketball team, tweeted [ar]:
@safar_ALhogbani : Ø§Ù„Ù…Ø¹Ø§Ù‚ÙˆÙ† Ø¬Ø²Ø¡ Ù…Ù† Ø§Ù„Ù…Ø¬ØªÙ…Ø¹ØŒ ÙˆÙ…Ø±Ø§Ø¹Ø§Ø© Ø¸Ø±ÙˆÙÙ‡Ù… ÙˆØ§Ø¬Ø¨ ÙˆØ·Ù†ÙŠ ÙˆØ§Ù†Ø³Ø§Ù†ÙŠØŒ ÙƒÙ…Ø§ Ø§Ù† Ø§ØØªØ±Ø§Ù… Ø§Ù„Ù‚ÙˆØ§Ù†ÙŠÙ† Ø§Ù„Ø®Ø§ØµØ© Ø¨Ù‡Ù… Ø¯Ù„ÙŠÙ„ Ø¹Ù„Ù‰ Ø±Ù‚ÙŠ Ø§Ù„Ù…Ø¬ØªÙ…Ø¹ ÙˆØªØØ¶Ø±Ù‡ â€«#Ù„Ù„Ù…Ø¹ÙˆÙ‚_ØÙ‚ÙˆÙ‚â€¬
People with disabilities are part of society. Considering their circumstances is a national and human duty. Respecting their laws is an indicator of a society’s progress and civility.
Sumaya Al Ghamadi shared her experience [ar]:
@sumaya1405 : #Ù„Ù„Ù…Ø¹ÙˆÙ‚_ØÙ‚ÙˆÙ‚â€¬ Ø¹Ù†Ø¯Ù…Ø§ Ø³Ø§ÙØ±Øª Ù„Ù„Ø¹Ù„Ø§Ø¬ Ù„Ø£Ù„Ù…Ø§Ù†ÙŠØ§ Ù„Ù‚ÙŠØª Ø¥Ù‡ØªÙ…Ø§Ù… ÙˆÙ„Ù… Ø£Ø±Ù‰ Ù†Ø¸Ø±Ø§Øª Ø§Ù„Ø´ÙÙ‚Ø©,, ÙˆÙ‡Ù†Ø§ ÙˆØ¬Ø¯Øª Ù†Ø¸Ø±Ø§Øª Ø´ÙÙ‚Ø© Ø¨Ù„Ø§ Ø¥Ù‡ØªÙ…Ø§Ù….
When I traveled to Germany, I found attention and I didn’t see looks of pity, but here I found pity without attention.
Twitter user @jessica_2090 blamed society [ar]:
@jessica_2090 : â€«#Ù„Ù„Ù…Ø¹ÙˆÙ‚_ØÙ‚ÙˆÙ‚â€¬ Ù„Ø§ ÙŠÙˆØ¬Ø¯ Ø´Ø®Øµ Ù…Ø¹ÙˆÙ‚ Ø¨Ù„ ÙŠÙˆØ¬Ø¯ Ù…Ø¬ØªÙ…Ø¹ ÙŠØ¹ÙŠÙ‚
There is no disabled person, but a society that disables.
Abo Khaled added [ar]:
@AaaAbokhaled : #Ù„Ù„Ù…Ø¹ÙˆÙ‚_ØÙ‚ÙˆÙ‚â€¬ Ø£Ù‡Ù…Ù‡Ø§ ØÙ‚Ù‡ ÙÙŠ ÙƒØ³Ø¨ Ù‚ÙˆØªÙ‡ ÙØ§Ù„Ø¥Ø¹Ø§Ù‚Ø© Ù„Ø§ ØªØ¹Ù†ÙŠ Ø£Ù† ÙŠØµØ¨Ø Ø¹Ø§Ù„Ø© Ø¹Ù„Ù‰ ØºÙŠØ±Ù‡
People with disabilities have rights, and most importantly the right to earn a living. A disability doesn’t mean they would become dependent on others.
Other Twitter users have been campaigning for their rights. Dr. Sohair Abdel Hafeez , who identifies herself as an Egyptian wife and a mother of five men, two of them are hearing impaired who finished their university education. Following the announcement of Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt, she tweeted to one of the members of Morsi’s campaign [ar]:
@omelregalsohair: Ø§Ù„Ø£Ø´Ø®Ø§Øµ Ø°ÙˆÙˆ Ø§Ù„Ø§Ø¹Ø§Ù‚Ø© ÙˆØ£Ø³Ø±Ù‡Ù… Ø¬Ø²Ø¡ Ù…Ù† Ø§Ù„Ø´Ø¹Ø¨ Ø§Ù„Ù…ØµØ±ÙŠ Ù„Ù‡Ù… ØÙ‚ÙˆÙ‚ ØØªÙ‰ Ø§Ù„ØªÙ…ÙƒÙŠÙ† ÙÙ„ÙŠØ¬Ø¹Ù„Ù‡Ø§ Ø§Ù„Ø±Ø¦ÙŠØ³ Ø£Ù…Ø§Ù…Ù‡ ÙÙŠ Ù…ØµØ± Ø¨Ù„Ø§ ØªÙ…ÙŠÙŠØ²
People with disabilities and their families are part of Egyptian society. They have rights including empowerment. The president should keep these rights in front of himself without discrimination.
Another prominent user is Mohamed Abu Taleb , a non-sighted person who trains other people with visual impairment on computer skills. Abu Taleb tweets about overcoming his disability [ar]:
@love_life201 2: Ø¹Ù„Ù‰ Ø§Ù„Ø±ØºÙ… Ù…Ù† Ø£Ù† Ø¨Ø¯Ø§ÙŠØ© Ø§Ù„Ø¥Ø³ØªÙ‚Ù„Ø§Ù„ÙŠØ© Ø§Ù„ØªØ§Ù…Ø© Ø¨ÙŠ ÙƒØ§Ù†Øª ÙƒÙÙŠÙ„Ø© Ù„ØªØ¬Ø¹Ù„ Ù…Ù†ÙŠ Ø´Ø®Øµ ØØ¨ÙŠØ³ Ø¨ÙŠØªÙ‡ Ù„ÙƒÙ† Ù„Ù… Ø£Ø±Ø¶Ù‰ Ù‡Ø°Ø§ Ø¹Ù„Ù‰ Ù†ÙØ³ÙŠ Ù…Ø·Ù„Ù‚Ø§ â€«#Ø¥Ø¹Ø§Ù‚Ø©â€¬ â€«#ÙƒÙÙŠÙâ€¬
Although the beginning of my complete independence was sufficient to make me home-bound, I didn’t accept that for myself.
@love_life2012 : ÙˆÙ…Ø¹ Ø¨Ø¹Ø¶ Ø§Ù„ØªØ´Ø¬ÙŠØ¹ Ù…Ù† Ø§Ù„Ø£Ø³Ø±Ø© Ù„ÙŠ ÙˆØ®ØµÙˆØµØ§ ÙˆØ§Ù„Ø¯ÙŠ Ø¥Ø³ØªØ·Ø¹Øª Ø§Ù† Ø§ØªØºÙ„Ø¨ Ø¹Ù„Ù‰ ÙƒØ«ÙŠØ± Ù…Ù† ØµØ¹ÙˆØ¨Ø§Øª Ø§Ù„Ø¥Ø³ØªÙ‚Ù„Ø§Ù„ÙŠØ© â€«#Ø¥Ø¹Ø§Ù‚Ø©â€¬ â€«#ÙƒÙÙŠÙâ€¬
And with some encouragement from my family, and especially my father, I was able to overcome many of the difficulties of independence.
@love_life2012 : Ø¨Ø¹Ø¯Ù‡Ø§ Ù„Ù… Ø£Ø¬Ø¹Ù„ Ø´ÙŠØ¡ Ù…Ù‡Ù…Ø§ ÙƒØ§Ù† ØµØ¹Ø¨ ÙˆÙ„Ø§ Ù…Ø³ØªØÙŠÙ„ Ø£Ù…Ø§Ù… Ø§ØÙ„Ø§Ù…ÙŠ ÙˆØ·Ù…ÙˆØØ§ØªÙŠ Ø§Ù„ØªÙŠ Ø£Ø±Ø¯Øª Ù„Ù‡Ø§ Ø§Ù„Ù†Ø¬Ø§Ø Ø¨ÙŠØ¯ÙŠ â€«#Ø¥Ø¹Ø§Ù‚Ø©â€¬ â€«#ÙƒÙÙŠÙâ€¬
And after that, I didn’t let anything however hard or impossible it was, to stand in the way of my dreams and ambitions that I wanted to achieve with my own hands.
Another blogger living with physical disability after she lost her leg shared her experience  with sexual harassment. Randa Aboeldahab  [ar] wrote:
Ø§ØºØ±Ø¨ ØØ§Ù„Ø§Øª Ø§Ù„ØªØØ±Ø´ Ø¨Ø§Ù„Ù†Ø³Ø¨Ø© Ø¯Ø§ÙŠÙ…Ø§ ÙƒØ§Ù†Øª Ø§Ù„ØªØØ±Ø´ Ø¨Ø§Ù„Ø¹Ø±Ø¨ÙŠØ© ØŒ ÙŠØ¹Ù†ÙŠ Ø§Ù„Ù…ØªØØ±Ø´ ÙƒØ§Ù† Ø¨ÙŠØ³ØªØ¹Ù…Ù„ Ø¹Ø±Ø¨ÙŠØªÙ‡ ÙƒØ£Ø¯Ø§Ø© ØªØØ±Ø´ ÙˆÙƒÙ†Øª ÙØ§ÙƒØ±Ø© Ø§Ù†ÙŠ Ø§Ù†Ø§ Ù„ÙˆØØ¯ÙŠ Ø§Ù„Ù„ÙŠ Ø¨ÙŠØªØ¹Ù…Ù„ ÙÙŠÙ‡ ÙƒØ¯Ø§ ØŒ Ø§ÙƒØªØ± ÙˆØ§Ù‚Ø¹Ø© Ù…Ø´ Ù…Ù…ÙƒÙ† Ø§Ù†Ø³Ø§Ù‡Ø§ Ù„Ù…Ø§ Ù…Ø±Ø© ÙƒÙ†Øª Ø¨Ø¹Ø¯ÙŠ Ø§Ù„Ø´Ø§Ø±Ø¹ ÙˆÙƒØ§Ù† ÙÙŠ Ø¹Ø±Ø¨ÙŠØ© Ø±Ø§ÙƒÙ†Ø© Ø§Ø¯Ø§Ù… ØŒ Ø¨Ø¹Ø¯ÙŠ Ù…Ù† Ø§Ø¯Ø§Ù…Ù‡Ø§ Ù„Ø§Ù‚ÙŠØª Ø§Ù„Ø³ÙˆØ§Ù‚ Ø·Ø§Ù„Ø¹ Ø®Ø·ÙˆØ© ÙˆØ®Ø§Ø¨Ø·Ù†ÙŠ Ù‚Ù„Øª Ø§ÙƒÙŠØ¯ Ù…Ø´ Ù‚Ø§ØµØ¯ ØŒ Ø±Ø¬Ø¹Øª Ø§Ø¹Ø¯ÙŠ Ù…Ù† ÙˆØ±Ø§Ù‡ Ø±Ø§Ø Ø±Ø§Ø¬Ø¹ Ø®Ø·ÙˆØ© Ù„ÙˆØ±Ø§ØŒ Ù‚Ù„Øª Ø§ÙƒÙŠØ¯ Ù…Ø´ Ù‚Ø§ØµØ¯ØŒ ÙˆØ«Ø§Ù†ÙŠØ© Ø±Ø§Ø Ø±Ø§Ù…ÙŠ Ø¬Ù…Ù„Ø© Ù…Ù† Ø§ÙŠØ§Ù‡Ù… ØŒ Ù„Ø§Ù‚ÙŠØª Ù†ÙØ³ÙŠ Ø¨Ù…Ø³Ùƒ Ø§Ù„Ø¹ÙƒØ§Ø² Ø§Ù„Ù„ÙŠ Ù Ø§ÙŠØ¯ÙŠ ÙˆØ¨Ø®Ø¨Ø· Ø¨Ù‡ Ø§ÙˆÙ„ ÙØ§Ù†ÙˆØ³ ÙÙŠ Ø§Ù„Ø¹Ø±Ø¨ÙŠØ© ØŒ Ù‚Ø§Ù„ Ø¬Ù…Ù„Ø© ØªØ§Ù†ÙŠØ© Ù…ØµØÙˆØ¨Ø© Ø¨Ø´ØªÙŠÙ…Ø© Ø±ÙˆØØª Ù†Ø§Ø²Ù„Ø© Ø¹ Ø§Ù„ÙØ§Ù†ÙˆØ³ Ø§Ù„ØªØ§Ù†ÙŠ ÙˆÙ‡ÙƒØ°Ø§ Ù„ØØ¯ Ù…Ø§ Ø§ØªÙ‡Ù…Ù†ÙŠ Ø¨Ø£Ù†ÙŠ Ù…Ø¬Ù†ÙˆÙ†Ø© ØŒ Ù…Ø±Ø¯ØªØ´ ØºÙŠØ± Ø¨Ø¶Ø±Ø¨Ø© Ù‚ÙˆÙŠØ© Ù…Ù† Ø¹ØµØ§ÙŠØªÙŠ ÙÙŠ Ù†Øµ Ø§Ù„Ø¨Ø§Ø¨ Ø§Ù„Ø´Ù…Ø§Ù„ ÙˆØ±ÙˆØØª Ù…Ø§Ø´ÙŠØ©
The strangest harassment incident for me was “harassment by car”. A harasser uses his car as a tool for harassment. I thought I was the only one subjected to this. The incident I remember the most was when I was crossing the street in front of a parked car, then the driver drove and hit me, so I said to myself “this cannot be intentional”. I moved behind the car and then I found him hitting me again by the car and he said one of those harassment lines. I found myself smashing one of his car headlights with my walking stick. He cursed me so I smashed the second headlight. He said I was crazy so I hit the car door and I left.
Similar online initiatives also highlight the issues of people with disabilities such as I Am Not Disabled Twitter account and the website Voice of The Disabled , which serves as a media outlet to convey the voices of people with disabilities.
Article printed from Global Voices: http://globalvoicesonline.org
URL to article: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2012/06/27/arab-world-people-with-disabilities-raise-their-voices/