Sunday, 23 October 2016


While in Egypt I lived for some weeks with a family. One day, one of the daughters told her brother-in-law what she thought of him.  It was not flattering.  There was uproar. The rest of the family rounded on her, even though she was saying what they all thought, but didn’t dare say.  One of her brothers took off his belt, wound it round his hand and stepped towards her  to hit her with the rest of the strap. He was held back. She sat before him, still and composed, but her eyes were full of fear.  No one chastised him and, of course, he never apologised I asked him  later, if he had hit his sisters before, and he said ‘Yes.’  Polls show that  the majority of  Egyptian women agree that men have a God given right to beat them. She probably agrees, too. Her brother  certainly does. This particular sister has a psychological problem. She spends hours in the bathroom obsessively washing herself, and scrubbing the toilet. Clearly something is painfully wrong and her brother’s violence is likelyto be a contributory factor.

Several months later,  he physically assaulted his partner. Fortunately they were in a Europe, not Egypt, and was able to call the police who made it clear to him  that his behaviour was not acceptable and  led him away. It was his mother who tried to contact the victim to  persuade her not to make a police charge against him.  Another sister berated her for calling the police. It was a family matter, she said, The victim stood her ground.  “I thought he would kill me. They wanted me  to keep quiet, so he would get away with it.”  Refusing to collude with the family she went  ahead with the charge, believing it might stop him doing it later  to another woman. Statistics show that this is unlikely.

When Trump was caught out on tape, admitting with relish to having sexually assaulted and harassed  women, he was surprised by  the resulting outcry. It was ‘only locker room talk.’ he said peevishly. His behaviour was shocking enough, but it is even more shocking that so many women continue to support him. It is a sad truth, that  the complicity of women as an enabler of misogyny is one of the  reasons why men like Trump  continually  get away with their  abuse and degradation of women.

As the allegations against Trump pile up,  many  women, including me, are reminded of the shame and humiliation of their  own experiences. Recently, while discussing Trump with  female friends one of them burst into tears at something she had tried to forget. Twenty five years ago a doctor had groped her genitals when she was left alone in a hospital room. Shocked and traumatised she never reported it, thinking no one would believe her. 

In response to Trump’s misogyny, thousands of women  have tweeted memories of sexual harassment. One of them was Sharron Coulter. ”While working in Silicon Valley, my boss’s boss came breezing through. Suddenly he came up behind me and pressed himself right up against me and said, 'Why is it you always look so good?' He had a colleague with him and it was so humiliating," she recalls. "No matter how smart you are or how hard you work, they can do that."

Coulter is now calling for a boycott of Trump's daughter's successful  fashion business – urging voters to vote with their wallet and for major retail outlets to drop her products. Unwilling to jeopardise her high profile in her father’s campaign, but forced to respond to the outcry,  Ivanka Trump could only refer to  his comments as  'inappropriate and offensive'. In  the past, she has made excuses for his aggressive and misogynistic comments. “If Ivanka Trump had distanced herself from the campaign I would not be boycotting her," Coulter said.

Unless Ivanka separates  herself  from her father, the Trump brand is all the same. Her website promotes female empowerment and is  a one-stop shop  for working women. but while  she remains a  surrogate for  the most hateful racist and sexist  campaign  in American politics, she can only be seen as complicit.  Some would say  her support is understandable  - she loves her father.  Trump  may  have commendable fatherly qualities, just as the guy who took his  belt off to hit his sister is considered  a ‘good’ brother.   Ivanka  has  learnt from her mother Ivana, to stand by your man – or dad, regardless of  what he does. Ivana claimed she was raped by Trump in 1989 during their marriage, following a violent assault in which he tore her hair out.  Yet she  openly supports her rapist in his campaign to be President. 

We have all witnessed, and probably know,  women – mothers, sisters, lovers, wives, sisters - who have stood by 'their' men knowing they have killed, raped, beaten  and degraded  other women.  I remember as a child, my mother standing at the door, while my father beat me. “Don’t hit her too hard,” she said but made no attempt to stop him, or protect me.

The ex-Wales international footballer, Ched Evans, was jailed in 2012 for raping a 19-year-old woman at a Premier Inn near Rhyl, Denbighshire. He was released from jail in October 2014 after serving half of his five-year term. Evans, 27, has always denied raping the woman. He served half of a five-year prison sentence before being released but there was a public outcry when he attempted to return to professional football. The  Court of Appeal quashed his conviction and ordered a retrial. The victim, who was already known to Evans, said she was drunk and had no memory of the rape, which also involved two other men invited to the hotel room by Evans. 

He was acquitted at the retrial,  even though the judge stated,  "A complainant consents if, and only if, she has the freedom and capacity to make a choice, and she exercised that choice to agree to sexual intercourse."

The sexual history of the victim was picked over in open court as if she were the accused.  Needless to say, Evans’ sexual history was left well alone. Vera Baird, the UK's former solicitor general, said the case had set the law back decades when it comes to treatment of a  rape complainants sexual history. ”The only difference between a clear conviction of Mr Evans in 2012 and the absolute refusal of him having any leave to appeal at that time, and his acquittal now, is that he has called some men to throw discredit on (the woman’s) sexual reputation,” she said in a radio interview. 

Evans’ fiancé, Natasha Massey stood by her man throughout his rape conviction, prison sentence, and  acquittal.  She has said it was not the accusation of rape that bothered her, but the fact that he cheated on her. She also revealed that her father later told her that a lot of stupid and drunk men of Ched’s age, who was 22 at the time, would have acted the same way.  More locker room talk then?

Just as Evans no doubt has his female admirers,  Trump has plenty of women who support  him. In the face of his disgusting rhetoric  and open trail of sexual harassment and aggressive assault. It is gobsmackingly bewildering  that any American woman  would  want to vote for him.

Melissa Deckman, In her book Tea Party Women: Mama Grizzlies, Grassroots Activists, and the Changing Face of the American Right states that Republican women like Trump’s constant refrain that the nation is headed in the wrong direction as well as his anti-immigration stance. His bitter criticism of the Republican Party, she says, resonates not just with white working class men but with white conservative female activists at the grass roots. They feel that the United States is turning into a country they no longer recognise, echoing the refrain of many Brexit voters, and that Trump is the only candidate who will keep Americans safe.  What I wonder, would these women  do if their candidate rammed his disgusting tongue down their throats, or  grabbed their daughters’ pussies?

Deckman’s book ignores the root of what  prompts the collusion of women with misogyny and the men who act it out in appalling ways, often killing women in the process

Let’s go back to the poor woman passively waiting for her brother to beat her with his belt. She believed she deserved it. She didn't. NO woman does. She was not born sexist, and neither was her brother. They have both  been  socialized into believing she is inferior. Internalized misogyny is the involuntary internalization by women of the sexist messages we are drowned in by  all patriarchal societies and culture. It refers to the by products of th societal view that women are inferior to men. It causes women to shame, doubt, and undervalue themselves and others of their gender. It shows up even in the most feminist and socially conscious of us and robs us of our potential to be who we truly are, preventing the development of an equal and humane society. Religion, social values, media, institutions, governmentpornography  etc all conspire to ensure misogyny thrives. 
The  old argument that men are  stronger and taller than women and that this justifies a male hierarchy is laughable and does not  belong in the 21st century. The fact that a man  can lift a heavy sack of potatoes and I can’t, doesn’t entitle him to smash me with his fist, or believing that I am inherently inferior. But that's the way it's been for centuries.  In 2012 some 80 per cent of homicide victims  and 95 per cent of perpetrators globally were  men.  Almost 15 per cent of all homicides stemmed from domestic violence (63,600), but the overwhelming majority - almost 70 per cent - of domestic violence fatalities were women (43,600). While men are mostly killed by someone they may not know, almost half of all female victims are killed by those closest to them. Home can be the most dangerous place for a woman. A glance at today's news will tell which gender is the killing machine of this planet. 

Misogynistic messages are subliminal and ubiquitous - their drip-drip effect insidious. In religious societies, the constant repitition of texts that degrade and disempower women are internalized by both men and women. The result is societies where women are absent in decision making processes, are invisible in the public sphere,  are sexually owned and are victims of male privilege. The subliminal messages of advertising, the media and pornography promote an idealised image of feminity, usually youthful, resulting in  women mutilating themselves and the margnalisation of  older women. 

Internalized misogyny becomes an involuntary part of our thinking and women do not ha ve a lot of choices that don’t come with social consequences. Women who perform female genital mutilation, who traffic women, who make derogatory remarks about other women, who murder their daughters in the name of family honour, have all internalized the misogynistic messages of their societies in the same way as those who  remain silent witnesses  to the domestic  abuse by sons, brothers, fathers, husbands etc. The reward for these women is to remain comfortable within the status quo, and sometimes, even be paid for their collusion. The mantra of misogyny is: Don't rock the boat, or we'll all fall out.

It has to be understood that  the lies, stereotypes and myths that  subordinate the place of girls and women  in patriarchal societies ARE NOT TRUE. Men and boys grow to believe many of these messages and treat women accordingly. Unequal pay, classified by looks, endemic unfairness, harsher punishment for crimes, lack of representation in government, domestic violence,  lack of convictions for rape, lack of control over our sexuality and bodies,  sexual harassment, the gang raping of Indian women, the kidnapping of girls by Boko Haram, the sex slavery and murder of Yazidi women by Islamists are all  results of the unquestioned, internalized  hatred of women

Internalized misogyny creates a uniform society, where everyone understands and complies to the rules. Men create them and women are   expected to go along with them. Thankfully women are both quietly and noisily  subversive.  We have a heritage of the  words and lives of wonderful, courageous women (and men)  who have dared to be different and have refused to live by  imposed stereotypes. Many have been killed for it. Change continues to  blow in the wind but it feels more like a breeze right now.  Increased understanding that the  roles  men and women labour under are social, means that they can be changed. And they are changing.  There is a growing army of women, and men,  challenging sexism both in private and public life. Hopefully, the Neanderthals will be left behind and fortunately, Republican women are not the only ones who will be voting in the American election. A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute shows a massive gender split, with Clinton trailing Trump  by 11 percentage points among men - they would rather have a fascist leader than a female -  but leading him by 33 points among women.  If a man like Trump is kicked out by women for a woman, the lesson learned will be  a resounding  one  worldwide - regardless of what you think of Hillary.  It may also  encourage more women  into realising that they are  more powerful than they have been led to think.

Sunday, 16 October 2016


Late last night I went down to the beach, called by a fat, full moon. We didn't talk for long, and I declined its offer to sit beside it in the sky.
 "It's too far," I said. 
"Too far?" said the moon indignantly. "I smile on your sea, your face, light the way for you, my rhythms are yours...and you can't be bothered to come and visit me!"
I explained the difficulties of gravity, the light years between us, and my fear of heights. 
"No excuse," it snapped. "I'm leaving you if you keep treating me like this."
 I stood on the edge of the sea, wondering if I could walk the moon's path. Witches do. It might take me directly to it. After all, it was right: when an old friend is always there for you, no matter what, it's easy to take them for granted. If they ask you to do something, it ought to be done.  I didn't blame the moon for being cross. How often had it shown me the way, shone in the darkest corners, soothed my own eratic tides, reminded me of my place in the universe?
"I really can't come tonight. It's impossible," I said sadly. "I just came to say thank you.

Thursday, 6 October 2016



a theory of  exploding light
the indelible reality of illusion.
the perfume of your eyes.
your hair, a volt of vipers,
burns my breasts.
my mouth, a temple of profanity,
meets your reckless dark.
the earth mire muck of  exquisite union.
you measure yourself not by length,
but by time, eternity of the moment.
don’t speak of love, it’s hardly done.
all this fucking,
where does it lead to?

the shaft and seed of you. 
the spread-open sin of me. 
put me on your table, dine on me.
leave sadness behind.
the depravity of wanting
makes love a glutton,
your unsheathed devil 
a thrusting beak.
dawn prayers rising.
god is great, but your breath is sublime.
all this fucking
where does it lead to?

timid light slippers through shutters.
rumours of love absconding.
the throat of my thighs swallows your tongue.
the limb locked cling of us
hurtling towards a moon.
I am your fleshly bouquet,
barbed wire and petals.  
nail me to the floor - a crucifix.
the outside of you in the  inside of me.
our explicit wonder moistening. 
all this fucking
where does it lead to?

lust's hemisphere moves to conquer,
bares the dark-bright fade of you.
an old slavery clinks its chains:
a ringing phone, fist-bone masterful,
love’s eyes brimmed,  footfall running in snow.
a fallen king buries his queen and her bruises.
the ghosts of us call from that place
where an iron smoothed shirts on a  bed
and spices bled from our skin
and the tea by your side was left to go cold.
we are murdered by change. we are tossed to the dogs.
i’m in a dark corner where I can't see my feet. 
i dream of our bed, unwrapped like a sweet.
a crow passes over. you're crossing the desert. 
i 'm the sand on your feet, 
each grain falling as you run towards home.

Still, I carry a song of lovers first meeting -
a rooftop and music, a city awaking -
forgetting the strangers we finally led to.


Cairo Photo: 'Nile Corniche in Cairo at dawn' by Yasser

Sunday, 18 September 2016


Loving the bitch word! I've been a motherfucking bitch, a mean bitch, a hot bitch, a cold bitch, a cheeky bitch, a slut bitch, a lying bitch etc etc etc. Well, for all you name calling bitches, there is nothing wrong with being a female dog, fox, wolf or otter. Otter? For hundreds of years the b-word has insulted women considered belligerent, unreasonable, malicious, control freaks, rudely intrusive or aggressive. On the positive side, it suggests an oversexed woman (whatever that means) comparable to a dog-on-heat. Those who find this threatening and can't keep it up, are more likely to use it pejoratively. Since the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries its slang meaning has always referred to the sexual behaviour of women that confronted the sexual morals and oppression of the time. The 1920's saw the birth of the new sassy bitch . By the 1930's, thanks to Ernest Hemingway, bitches moved towards 'edginess', 'grit' and 'ferocity' reflecting the new found freedoms of women. By the 1960's feminists were reclaiming and re-meaning it. In 1968, The Bitch Manifesto by feminist lawyer, Jo Freeman, stated...

"A Bitch takes shit from no one. You may not like her, but you cannot ignore her....[Bitches] have loud voices and often use them. Bitches are not pretty....Bitches seek their identity strictly thru themselves and what they do. They are subjects, not objects...Often they do dominate other people when roles are not available to them which more creatively sublimate their energies and utilize their capabilities. More often they are accused of domineering when doing what would be considered natural by a man."

These days men can be lady dogs too, life's a bitch and the plumber calls my kitchen tap a bitch,. I'm waiting for the Bitch chocolate. But the term bitch is still considered offensive. According to linguist Deborah Tannen, "Bitch is the most contemptible thing you can say about a woman. Save perhaps the four-letter C word." Depends who's saying it. When my man-dog ex fired it at me, it was hurtful. But Beyonce and Rihanna (and me and my sisters) can call us bad bitches, just as blacks can use the N-word. Whites can't. Want the bitch lowdown? Just be your own strong, over-sexed, over-there, under-sexed, under-the-table, over-the-hills, whip-crackin', whatever-you-wannabe-bitch.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


On a hot dusty day in Cairo,  General Abdel Fatteh Al-Sisi   kicked out  President Morsi  and his band of  incompetent Islamic Brothers. The euphoria of Egyptians was difficult to witness: military coups always end in tears. The sun shone out of  the new Pharoah’s  arse. There was nothing  he could do wrong.  “Liar, liar pants on fire,” I said when he promised he would never  run for president.  Months later Al-Sisi had swopped his khaki for a suit and  was  ruling Egypt from an overstuffed gilt and red throne. After a promising revolution, five governments, two parliamentary elections and two presidential races, each filled with much promise, the people were too tired to see the signs.

While they happily honeymooned with their new leader,  I met X, tall, handsome, charming and with a smile  to die for. Intelligent   and gentle   he pursued me politely and earnestly.  I was flattered but  resisted, I was happy to be on my own and besides, he was far too young. He was an Sudanese  activist, who had fled to Egypt with his family to escape the Islamist dictatorship of President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir. He told me that as  a student he had been  imprisoned for speaking out  against  Al -Bashir and his harsh regime. As a result of imprisonment and  torture, his brother   was wheelchair bound and totally disabled. Eventually the entire  family  fled their home and settled in Cairo where  they faced racism and hostility on a daily basis.

 Just as Al-Sisi was quick to seize Egypt, X was quick to declare his love, even talked about marriage. I preferred to take things slowly but speed can be seductive.  I was like the Egyptian women who swooned over their new President. How could I resist?  I fell in love. I felt safe with him.  He was my hero. He had risked his life for peace and democracy and I admired the way he took care of his brother and family. Friends and a fiancé had been murdered, his family persecuted. He was kind,  funny, sexy.   I was hooked.

We  settled happily  into our relationship while  the the new government settled into ruling Egypt, acquiring mass surveillance equipment capable of monitoring social networks, individuals and organisations around the clock.  Infiltration of  social media sites such as  Facebook and Twitter have been  stepped up  as the regime  tightens its grip on the population  in the name of ‘security,' operating without public scrutiny and accountability.  

At around the same time, X’s Tablet was  stolen and  I gave him the password to my computer so he could check his emails etc. I trusted him implicitly, but was unaware that he  was rifling through my entire hard disk, accessing  photographs, personal messages, documents and social media, and sometimes making copies of them, to be thrown into my face later.  I only discovered this when,  in bouts of jealousy, he  referred to old private FB messages between me and an  ex. Unexplained porn sites suddenly appeared on my computer's history.
He  constantly checked my phone and iPod Touch which were never locked. I had nothing to hide, but that was not the point. He was  never as generous with his passwords.   He kept his phone on him at all times, even taking it to the toilet and sleeping with it under his pillow.  I managed to check   his phone twice.   “Only twice!”  a female friend said incredulously when I told her. But  I didn’t feel good about it.  Much later, he created a bogus Twitter account and  as someone else tried to lure me with suggestive comments into messaging him.  Creepy.  On Facebook, Al Sisi’s minions also fired friend requests from bogus people to spy on content. They were easily spotted, very irritating and sinister.

It took me some time to realise the full extent of X’s surveillance. When confronted, he clearly believed he was entitled to invade my privacy and that it was for my own good.   The   regime was no respecter of privacy either. It justified its citizen surveillance as a security precaution and rounded  up  hundreds of so called ‘terrorists’ ie  activists, who had once been heroes of the February 2011 revolution, and Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood 'for the good of the country'. 

When I first  met X, he had just opened a café for Sudanese refugees. There was nothing else for them in the bleak, isolated area they had been settled in.  I admired his commitment to his people, who in Egypt, were marginalised, suffered racism and regular attacks.

One evening, X  nipped out to buy sugar and coffee. A group of masked men  rushed into the café with machetes and sticks and tried to behead people. They hacked at X’s assistant. He was left for dead. Others were injured. When X returned, his café was covered in blood. We spent the night in hospitals waiting for people to live.  From the information we gathered, the attackers had been after X. It was political,  The next day we fled our flat and stood on the edge of the  main road to Cairo with  our cat and belongings.  We went into hiding and for several weeks lived   with X’s family.  The strain and stress  and the uncertainty  affected our relationship.  I lost weight and  missed my family and friends. I  felt alone and isolated. X became increasingly insecure, and jealous, particularly of my male friends. I lost my temper easily, and we found ourselves arguing a lot.  I slapped him in a rage over what was really nothing. It was unforgiveable.  Upset and shamed I  felt I was losing myself.  The Egypt I loved was becoming a very dark place. I should have packed my bags and left but I wanted to support X through this difficult time.  

As the insidious creep of fascism continued, X’s behaviour became increasingly unpredictable. One minute he was the X I had met: loving, considerate, supportive and sweet, and  the next he was  mean, jealous, critical and punishing. I felt increasingly isolated and uneasy.  People were being arrested or disappearing from the streets, or their homes. Friends spoke  of friends who had been taken from their beds by security forces.  Loved ones searching for them were met with a governmental wall of silence.
 As these searching relatives discovered, silence is an effective form of abuse. All dictators practise it as a tool of control. It is also called 'stonewalling'  and  is used to  punish frustrate  and dominate. X’s silent treatment would last  for up to three days.  His silence was sudden, cold  and  inexplicable. He shut me out with hostile stares. When I asked what I had done, he would answer, ‘You know.”   I didn’t.

Stonewalling creates a bewildering array of emotions - shame, anger, rage, infuriation, humiliation, desperation, helplessness. I felt I was going crazy. Both X and the regime seemed to relish the humiliating efforts of their victims to be heard. Never having encountered this behaviour before, I explained it away as a symptom of X’s stress.  He never took responsibility for his stonewalling, and  stymyied any reasonable discussion by blaming me without explanation, just as Al- Sisi blamed the ‘terrorists’ in his prisons.

I launched a campaign for X and his family to be resettled elsewhere by the UNHCR. X had already started the process some time ago, but now it was urgent. Other  Sudanese activists were being targeted, homes raided, and the café had been bulldozed by the military.  I flooded the social media, got a journalist friend to write articles, wrote  to UN HQ in Geneva and New York. Finally, someone at the UNHCR in Cairo contacted me and arranged a visit to the family.   Soon after, they were told they would be  resettled in Scandinavia.

Despite being an urgent case, it took eight months before they finally left. During that time our relationship lurched between  heaven and hell. X’s sudden mood swings, jealousy and coercive control became more frequent as did my emotional outbursts. I began to feel the strain of trying to keep everything together, financially and emotionally. I worried about our safety.  I didn’t recognise myself any more.  Friends in Egypt  were being arrested and  I couldn’t cope with the continual sexual harassment of the Cairo  streets as well as a growing visible  military presence.  X grew increasingly  controlling. He resented my male friends, and didn’t like me visiting Alexandria where an ex  lived. But he thought it was OK  to invite women   to join him in  bars while I was away in the UK. He said they were old friends. That was fine,  but why had he  never mentioned them to me or introduced me to them before?  Clearly it was one rule for the boys, and another for the girls.

A few months after I met X,  Al-Sisi focused his charm on  the Egyptian women. The man who oversaw the virginity tests of arrested female protesters, made an awkward, surprise appearance at the bedside of a sexually assaulted  victim.  In a country where women, not men,  are blamed for sex crimes, his visit was a turnaround. Despite his visit, and the introduction  of gender equality in the 2014 Constitution, perpetrators of sexual harassment  continue to go free, and sexual violence carried out by security forces has surged. A report by human rights umbrella group, FIDH, details the use of sexual violence against detainees and suspected political opponents. The regime’s  aim, the report says,  is to   to eliminate public protest and legitimise the authorities as guardians of the  moral order.

Men like  Al-Sisi and X deploy the same coercive control tactics by intermitently offering enough charming carrots to their victims to give the impression that things are changing for the better.  They never are.  It’s a manipulative  ploy to get you thinking that  the  Mr Nice Guy you first met,  is back in business. It doesnt last for long, but is enough to draw you back in. You want the guy you fell in love with to come back again, so he gives you  tantalising false promises. Al-Sisi’s bedside photo-shoot had  the female population applauding. Later he would be   sanctioning  control tactics that undermine  constitutional gender equality.  For me, X was both devil and angel  in one body  The problem was, I never knew when the devil would show up .
I finally left for the UK. X and his family flew  out a week later to Scandinavia. They were settled in a  tiny remote town unprepared for the isolation and a long hard winter. Later   I flew out to visit him. He was thinner than when I last saw him, and the strain of a new country showed on his face. He was distracted and seemed lost. I had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and I was sure he was suffering from the same. But we did our  best to enjoy ourselves exploring his new home. 

I returned again a few months later, this time to the capital for a week taking Christmas presents for him and his family. Needless to say, there wasn’t one for me. It was cold dark and snowing. X seemed more settled. We hit the bars and danced. It was like old times, even though he was unsure of the future. Inevitably we argued, this time over his stubborn refusal to answer questions that I felt were important. I walked out, but alone in a strange city, I returned. The familiar feelings of rejection and insecurity trickled in.

One evening he left me to see a fellow African activist we had met.  Bored and fed up watching Norwegian movies,  I phoned him a couple of times to see if I could join them -  it wasn’t much fun being alone when I had come all the way to spend time with him.  He clearly wasn’t keen.   He said he was coming back soon. I stood on the balcony watching the snow drift down. Two hours later he returned.  We chatted and  he suddenly turned to me with a strange unsettling , expression. In a voice I did not recognise he accused me of bringing a man in from the street and sleeping with him. He had found a tiny piece of paper which he said was a condom wrapper.  I thought he was joking until his fist slammed into the side of my face.  “Motherfucking bitch,” he said. I can't remember much of what followed, except that I was shaking and  shit my pants in terror. Desperate to escape, I tried to  get to my shoes, passport and bag. He pushed me down  onto the sofa. “I control you,” he shouted in his new ugly voice, his face contorted with hate and disgust.  He wagged his finger under my nose reminiscent of   Al-Sisi  when he was broadcast instructing   Egyptians to  listen only to him. He was their master. X thought he was mine. He seized my computer and tried to plug it in  to check my social media. I took my chance and made a run for it. He grabbed me and took my phone and keys. Terrified,  I realised how easy it is for a man to kill a woman. I tried to grab my phone back.. He twisted my arm. I began to shout and tried to kick him in the balls.  He twisted my leg but  handed the phone back to quieten me. I turned around and saw an emergency  number written on a notice in the hall. I dialled while he looked on  unbelievingly.  A policeman and police woman arrived. They escorted X out of the building. The policeman returned and said, “I told him, in our country you don’t hit women no matter what they do.”  

The following morning I filed a police charge and flew home, leaving behind the presents. I arrived home numb with  shock,  a  bruised swollen head and arms. I felt debased and humiliated.  For months after, I had nightmares, insomnia, and couldn’t focus.  X kept calling and texting me and when we finally spoke he fluctuated from being sorry, to insisting  I had exaggerated what had happened: he had slapped me not punched me.  In what I now know to be the bog standard response and the insane logic of  abusers, he  blamed the incident on me.   He still believed I had had sex with a stranger in our bed while he was out.  It dawned on me  that I was listening to the delusional  rantings of a disturbed mind. He refused to acknowledge the horror of his violence and tried to convince me to drop the police charge against him. I didn’t. 

Two months later the brutally tortured body of a Cambridge University student was found on the Cairo Alexander road. Giulio Regini was so badly mutilated his mother could  recognise him only by his nose.  He had been beaten and tortured over nine days  with electricity,  stabbed and  had suffered a severe brain haemorrhage.

Al-Sisi’s cops  announced that Regeni had been the victim of a traffic accident, but when cornered claimed he had been kidnapped and murdered by “a criminal gang”, and when that didn’t hang, said he had been killed in a lover’s argument.   As Italy’s anger exploded, the creepy excuses of the Egyptian government moved from ‘conspiracy to people of evil and the shortcomings of journalists who believe in social media. Like X , Al-Sisi and his cronies  refused  to be accountable for their actions. Without conscience and blaming others  they can  do it again, and they do. There are plenty more like Giulio in Egyptian torture cells, and unless X changes and seeks help, there will be more women like me.  

It is ironic, but not surprising, that a political activist like X who risked his life  speaking   out against brutality and oppression became an oppressor himself.  As a couple, we were a small scale model of much larger systems that work in remarkably similar ways. The abusive mentality is the mentality of oppression regardless of  whether it’s a political leader  or  the man, or woman, you love.  Like a terminal disease, the abuse only gets worse.

According to Lundy Bancroft, an American psychologist who has spent 15 years counselling abusive men,  objectification is a critical reason why things get worse. In his book, Why Does He Do That? Bancroft states,‘”As the abuser’s conscience develops to one level of cruelty – or violence- he builds to the next. By depersonalising his partner, the abuser protects himself from the natural human emotions of gulit and empathy so that he can sleep with a clear conscience. He distances himself so far from his victim’s  humanity that her feelings no longer count, or simply cease to exist.” Yep.

I didn’t wait for the next attack. Afraid that I would eventually end up in a body bag, I skidaddled, finally freed from the constant check-up calls and accusations. I was still  in love with the angel with the smile, but unable to live any longer with the devil. For  those whose humanity is similarly denied by leaders like   Messrs Al-Sisi and and Al-Bashir,  they have no other choice than to  revolt, or endure worsening abuse. Some, like X and his family, pack their bags, and  leave. 

Did  X’s abusive control  stem from his traumatic experiences as an activist in Sudan  and then as a refugee? Is he mentally ill? Friends who felt sorry for him said his behaviour needed nothing more  than anger management, or medication and/or psychotherapy. As Bancroft points out, they are missing the point: abusiveness has very little to do with psychological problems or uncontrollable anger, but everything to do with a system of  attitudes to power and exploitation which are shaped by values and beliefs. It's called patriarchy, and  ISIS is an extreme of it.

We are all  products of the patriarchal system we live in. We are all victims of it, and while abuse is the domain of men, it is not  restricted to them - women abuse and so do partners in same sex couples in much smaller numbers. Male patriarchy, whether violently or delicately imposed, is still bent on subordinating us. The idea of patriarchy as  a male-dominated power structure throughout organized society and in individual relationships is not new.  In   The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, published in the 1800's, Frederich  Engels   cites ‘the historical defeat of the female sex’ by patriarchy. Life at the end of the Neolithic Era included a phenomenon - the "Exchange of Women" named by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. It  represented forms of trade where women became a commodity. Feminist historian, Gerda Lerner  states in her book, Creation of Patriarchy,  that the main strength of patriarchy is ideological and "severed the connection between women and the Divine". The arrival of supreme male gods, such as Yahweh/Allah, the controlling and  jealous god of the Abrahamic religions,  killed off the goddess.

Sudan was already a troubled  Islamist state when X was born. While  still a boy, his country experienced famine and civil war, and riots against a failed economy.  He watched as  Al-Bashir instigated a swift and effective military coup in 1989 and in  1993  appointed himself president, establishing Sudan  as an Islamic totalitarian single party state.  X spent  his youth  in a country where human rights abuses were the  norm. The public flogging and beating of women became part of  Sudan’s laws as well as amputations as punishment. Women have no legal rights to ownership, including land and are forbidden from any type of banking. Slavery is not illegal under Sharia law  and is a common practice in Northern Sudan used as a form of oppression against the  non-Muslim and  non-Arab population,  with women and children as its main victims. HIs own religion, Islam,  promoted the supremacy of the male and the submissive subordination of women. It is, according to one verse in the Quran, OK for men to beat their wives if they argue.

Most men who grow up in these cultures and traditions, do not  abuse  women consciously, but  along with everyone else, they collude with the subordination and oppression of  women. Those who arrive in Western countries often undergo classes to ‘teach’ them how to respect women and regard them as equals. The West has made progress in gender equality  because women, and some men,  have fought for each gain, but  within a continuing patriarchal system. Coercive control and violence is now a criminal offence in most European countries, and X's stalking and hacking of my computer and phone would have been considered a criminal offence in the UK. 
There are early red-alerts and we ignore them at our peril. Egypt and I ignored   ours. We both thought it couldn't get worse. But it did.  The good news is that it's not difficult to spot these abusers whether they are ruling your country,  or in your bed. They  never take responsibility for their actions, and  will do nothing to change, even though they say they love you, or have the country's  best interests at heart.  They say sorry and offer to do whatever pleases you to win you back. It means nothing.  They  blame you, even if the evidence is irefutable - and are never wrong. Remember Sadaam Hussein, Iraq's bully boy, and his defiance in front of the gallows? They lack transparency, will steal  your money, often  on the pretext of borrowing it Al-Sisi  made a call for Egyptians to donate money to the country. They did, but the way things are looking, they won't get it back.

I want to thank X for reminding me of my feminist heritage, which I had somehow pushed to one side  while I was with him. I too, was a political activist, campaigning  for women's liberation. During that time,  American feminist, Carol Hanisch,  argued that  the personal  is political. It  was used as a rallying slogan of the student movement and second-wave feminism from the late 1960s and underscored the connections between personal experience and larger social and political structures.  If he has the courage, X may hopefully one day make a shift, and see how  futile and hypocritical it is to campaign for freedom, equality and justice, when in his intimate  life he uses the oppressive tactics of the man he opposes, against the woman he claimed to love. Men like X  and his President Al-Bashir  do not respect women, nor do they   consider them as equals.

By rooting patriarchy in historical developments, rather than in nature, human nature or biology, Gerda Lerna  opened the door for change.  If patriarchy was created by culture from the Bronze Age it can be overturned by a new culture. Gloria Jean Watkins (born September 25, 1952), better known by her pen name  bell hooks, is an American author, feminist, and social activist who argues that   visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other.  

“The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. When men embrace feminist thinking and practice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving."

Maybe one day, gender abuse  will be ostracised  by society in the same way paedophiles are in the UK. It will go a little way towards creating universal equality and respect. The women, and men who walk away from their abusers are doing more than saving their lives, sanity  and wellbeing They are revolutionaries, quietly taking the first steps towards creating a new culture.  If the personal is political, they are not only changing their own lives, but also challenges abusive men like Al-Sisi, Al Bashir and X and  a system that institutionalizes male hierarchy, condones entitlement  and which robs men, boys, women and girls of their humanity.