At 4:02, as the women sing, a male protester yells: “Who’s afraid of women’s song?”
The following is a testimony of one of the women, out of the 23 activists, who were arrested in this week’s Nabi Saleh demonstration (above video). This demonstration was the first after Mustafa Tamimi’s murder. It was extremely brutal, which is a relative term, considering the continuous repression that the demonstrations against the apartheid wall face, and the village of Nabi Saleh in particular.
Out of the 23 activists, many were physically assaulted while handcuffed behind their backs, as Mohammed Khatib, one of the leaders of the Bil’in popular committee, describes in his own testimony. Mustafa Tamimi’s sister, Ola, who was prevented from being with her brother as he took his last breaths, was pepper sprayed in the eyes, from a few centimeters away. And another handcuffed woman was slapped with the back of the hand of a passing male settler, when she expressed objection to him assaulting Khatib and taking pictures. These are just a few of the testimonies that were published and taped, we still don’t have a complete story of this particular demonstration, and many other stories will be lost in the clouds of gas.
Testimony of Sahar M. Vardi
A few minutes before I was arrested in Nabi Saleh on Friday, we walked next to the soldiers. I walked pretty close to them as they progressed in the direction of the road, mostly because I knew that the other soldiers won’t fire tear gas near these soldiers- a sort of reversed “Neighbor Procedure“. In short, I walked, and I don’t remember if at this point I was talking with them, or not. I think I was. I think I asked them why they’re there? And if they feel they’re protecting anything, or anyone, or me? And then one of the soldiers turned to me and asked: “How big is the Arab cock you’re getting?”
Answers were running in my head, some, if not all, we’re at the levels of his question. And no, I don’t answer, and it’s better not to answer. I have nothing to gain from it, I’ll speak only with myself, if I say anything at all.
And still it echos in my head all this time. It doesn’t hurt me. It doesn’t disturb me on that level. Or maybe it does. It hurts me not as “me”, but as a woman- a political woman. It hurts me because, as I later explained to the interrogator, at that point when he asks “do you have anything to add?” and I did have something to add. I’d like to add that one of the soldiers asked me: “How big is the Arab cock that I’m getting”. And the interrogator stopped, a bit struck. Less struck from the fact that a soldier had actually said that, but rather struck from the fact that I said it. So he asked why I said it? And I knew that he would ask, and had a ready reply and answered him. But fuck, what do you mean why am I saying this? Why did he say this?!
So here’s the explanation that I gave the interrogator as to why it bothered me so much, and why I need to file a sexual harassment complaint, if I identify the soldier: Because this soldier, with one sentence that- to him- was just an insult and nothing more, took away from me- as a woman- every thought of freedom of choice, every option of being a political being, of having stances, thoughts and ideas of my own. I’m an instrument. I’m an instrument in the hands, thoughts, or bed of a man. That’s what I know, that’s how thoughts, ideas and ideologies come to be in my head. I’m a woman- I’m a sexual object – and everything that I do, including protest, is the result of a man that turns me into an object. I’m a woman, I’m a sexual object of the soldier or the Arab- ours or the enemy’s- but either way, no matter what side I lay with, their cock, is what determines my opinions and my thoughts. Their size is what determines if I demonstrate here, or enlist there.
So this is what peeved me so much. That with one sentence, and without even thinking about it, this soldier put me back in the place of the object without will, other than his sexuality. An object that must be his property, or an instrument of his occupation. Of course size will determine what this instrument will be, and all its thoughts, ideas and acts- at the end of it all- are determined by one thing: Cock.
Last thought: Though Sahar describes what she went through as “sexual harassment”, I contend that because the man who had harassed her was holding a gun, this is in fact “sexual assault.” This is a common occurrence for women facing soldiers in demonstrations and should be called by its name.