Domestic violence is a topic not often discussed in Egypt because women feel ashamed; however, Mariam Raymone sits down with six women who share the raw, uncut, and shocking stories of how they have been physically abused by their partners.
It is quite known that victims of domestic violence do not always report the incident in fear of their partner, or in fear of their reputation being compromised in such a society. In other cases, they do not believe that the government will help, although, in fact, the National Council for Women and Nazra specialise in violence against women, and can provide the victims with the support they need. About 35 percent of women worldwide have faced physical violence from their partners, and about 25.2 percent of married women are physically abused – however, these statistics cannot be fully accurate because many women don’t report the abuse. And the violence is not limited to married women; a few women have had abusive boyfriends and fiancés as well.
Trigger warning: Below are the raw and uncut stories of what happens behind the closed doors of six Egyptian households and relationships; these stories are true, personal, and graphic.
Marina, 47, Housewife
I lived in an abusive marriage for years; I was rather naïve at the time. I was in love with the idea of having a strong, secure man by my side. He was the owner of a huge company and a multi-millionaire. Class, chivalry, care, and intellect – what more would a woman want in a man? At least, that’s what I thought he was.
We met while I was working at his company alongside his brother. One day, his brother approached me and asked me to switch departments to better suit my abilities. That was when I met my husband. We went out on several occasions; he was a gentleman, and he spoiled me like any girl would dream of. We got married and had our first daughter. After giving birth, I was treated like dirt; the abuse started from there and continued for about 20 years. He cheated on me endless times, he insulted me, disrespected my family, and treat me like his maid. My life was a constant cycle of disappointments and trying to please him no matter what he did.
He was abusive, not only to me, but to my kids as well. I remember on one occasion, we got into an argument in front of the kids; I don’t remember what it was about, but he violently pushed me. Luckily there was a couch behind me that I fell on. A mixture of emotions quickly rushed through my veins; shock, fear and self-pity. I looked into his eyes; the room was silent for a split second, but then came the beating. He grabbed my legs and pulled me to the floor.
My 10-year-old girl cried; I could tell she was frightened while trying to get in the middle. I remember her petite hands pulling his arm, and him aggressively pushing her. She fell on the floor crying, and that was the pivotal moment when I broke into tears. I screamed, “She’s only 10! She’s only 10! That’s your daughter!” My eight-year-old son helped his sister up and stood in the corner. My husband glanced at the kids and stormed into the bedroom. Although that was the extreme, his verbal abuse never stopped.
At one point, I remember he used to discipline the kids by getting the wooden handle of the broom, breaking in in half, and hitting the palm of their hands. We got into several arguments over this. Once, he was going to hit my youngest daughter, who was around 10 and the time, but one of her brothers, who was 16, quickly placed his hand on top of hers – even he knew she was too young to go through that. He was punished for that, of course, and was hit two more times. They ran into their rooms crying, all three of them; it was heartbreaking seeing my children like this. The upside is that this wasn’t a constant thing, it happened only twice until I got through to him, and so did his mother.
Throughout the marriage, I tried to get a job several times to be able to support myself and the kids because he was stingy. He threatened to take the kids away from me, and that is why I was never able to leave him; I couldn’t abandon my kids like that. We separated six years ago; however, after a year or so, he came back. I thought he changed. He didn’t. He was rude and controlling, but he never hit me or the kids again.
We are currently separated and he wants to get remarried; he goes around telling everyone that I was in the wrong, but I’m sure everyone who knows me will never believe anything he says.
Nourhan, 26, Housewife
My husband worked at a factory and we have two sons; he always used to cheat and was candid about it. He would always come home saying “ana 3ayez 7a2i” in return for giving me food, water, and clothes on my back. One time, he tried to rape me and tore my clothes. I cried and screamed like a deer trying to break free from its predator. That's when my children came into the room; I ran and tried to hide behind the door because I was completely naked – I didn’t want them to see their mother in this state. He tried to have sex with me in front of my kids. Then he grabbed my hair and dragged me outside the apartment, naked. I was exposed in front of the neighbours; it was very humiliating. I took the kids and stayed at my dad’s house for eight months.
My husband apologised and bought us a new apartment; at the time, I was fighting with my dad. Later, after moving back in, I realised he tricked me; he only rented the apartment for a year. However, being on bad terms with my dad, I figured I should stay with my husband. However, he constantly beat me and, at one point, he was going to gouge my eye out. Last time he beat me, I went to the police, and when he found out, he beat me like a crazy person; my vision is now somewhat impaired.
Sara, 30, Prostitute
I was married for about six or seven years and we lived on the roof. He never used to give me money and my friends tried to help financially, but there was only so much they could do. I’m not a well-educated woman, so it wasn’t easy finding a job; I used to sell vegetables on the side of the street, and he never worked - he was always on drugs. One night, he tied me to the bed with the laundry rope and electrocuted me with a wire and shaved my head with a blade. I wore a veil to hide my baldness and shame. One day, he came in with a woman and took her to our bedroom, and she lived with us. I had nowhere to go, so I had to accept it. I'm now a prostitute to be able to live and provide for myself; the only way is to sleep around. When people confront me, I’m honest about my lifestyle, but ask them to look at my husband before judging me.
Nesma, 27, Filmmaker
As a girl who had never been in a relationship, I was thrilled to meet him – I had it in my head that he was the love of my life, and so I held onto him with everything I had. We met at work, and I instantly felt a connection although he was a few years older. Coming from an abusive home, finding someone who accepted me the way I am made me hold on to that.
I used to buy him expensive gifts - like a laptop; however, when it was my birthday, he bought me things like those cheap perfume bottles you had to fill. My mom didn’t like him, but I never paid it attention because she was one of the abusive aspects in my life. I didn’t like his family though, and he wasn’t from the same social background. He also never went to college, but putting all that aside, I still loved him and we got engaged.
He always complained he didn’t have money so I tried to help as much as I could. I paid for more than half of my shabka (equivalent to wedding jewellery), which was only worth 8,000 LE, but I was still very happy with him.
He used to insult and hit me until I’d faint. One time, we were having an argument in the car and he viciously twisted my arm against my back, and beat me constantly until I fainted. This is only one example. I used to cry myself to sleep, but I still loved him; I was willing to do anything for him. I never understood how someone can be “blinded by love,” but now I know I was one of love’s victims. He would often have the audacity to hit me whenever I was at his house, while his mother was in the kitchen.
One night, I got a call from him saying that he wanted to end things; I was heartbroken and felt sorry for myself for having gone through all that and then being dumped. I woke up the next day to find out that he got engaged to a girl who was his best friend's ex-fiancée; he was leading a double life. On top of that, his mom said that she wanted to have the receipt for the shabka in order to sell it and buy one to give to his new fiancée. She also told me to give her my wedding dress to use as a rug on their kitchen floor; so the abuse was also from his mother. I found out later that he did, in fact, have money, and all this talk about not having enough money was a lie. That's how it all ended.
I have bruises and scars all over my body, though; I can’t tell which ones are from him and which ones are from my parents. If I didn’t give my mom money, if I was late at work, or simply out of frustration, she would hit me, throw heavy objects at me, scratch me, pull my hair, bite me, and tear my clothes. She kicked me out of the house on more than one occasion, sometimes in the winter with just a tank top, pants, and no shoes, which was even worse because I’m veiled. Luckily, I have one of my friends living next door, so I could always go to her.
I thought about leaving the house several times, but I’m willing to live with her because she’s sick and I don’t want to feel guilty if anything were to happen to her. I also feel bad for her because she was physically abused by my dad for 40 years, but I know she loves me deep down.
Sylvia, 21, Student
My parents never really cared about me - they were always working - so I ended up having sex when I was 14 and thought I lost my virginity. After that, I went fooling around with boys and I didn’t care about anything. I got engaged to a man when I was 20 and we had sex. I realised that I had still been a virgin because I bled a lot that time I had sex with my fiancé. After we did this, he started beating me constantly for an entire year. I refused to marry him, and we split up for six months. However, when we got back together, I got a skin disease and went to several doctors, and he left me because of this. I’m better now, but now I’m not a virgin anymore; I was beaten and I was humiliated. Who would want to marry me now, especially in this society?
Khadija, 62, Architect
My entire family lives in the US except for my dad, and my husband was an officer in the army, so he was brutal and forceful in nature.
I guess army men are usually very muscular and tenacious, or at least he was. He would viciously hit me for the smallest reasons - if I didn’t shine his shoes properly, if the food wasn’t ready on time, if I was late at work, if I didn’t answer the phone straight away. My back is full of scars from his army belt, aside from the typical beatings with his bare hands. The moment I hear the keys and the door open, my mind instantly shoots five minutes into the future and I can see myself crying and yelling for mercy, all because the food wasn’t ready on time. It was hard because I had my own job as well, so balancing everything wasn’t easy.
No matter what he did to me, I never left him because I didn’t want people talking; in this society, people don’t leave you alone. At the same time, I didn’t want people to know I was being beaten; it’s embarrassing, after all. I tried to be as forgiving as I could.
I wasn’t able to get pregnant until 20 years into the marriage when I was finally blessed with a girl. My husband is now sick with several diseases, such as Virus C, so he’s not able to hit me anymore. He is always in surgery. I don’t know how I still have the patience honestly, I pray every night, and I’m sure all good things will come in time.