Excerpts of interviews. For more information please contact the author.
“When I was seven, I thought: ‘I want to be a woman one day!’.
Then I turned 14: I put makeup and started to wear women’s clothes.
At 17 I wanted to have a real ‘boyfriend,’ as every woman has.”
Bangkok, Thailand. November 2007
‘Dalit’ gem cutter
“More gems I cut, more they pay me. I must be careful, however, not to cut them too quickly. The risk of wasting material is there, and therefore the risk of loosing money …. If I get sick or I get pregnant of course I do not get paid.”
Kodaikanal (Tamil Nadu) India. February 1996
“The immigrant is always someone who brings new values and new culture. He is a source of richness. He comes to give, not to take away …. Ours is a passage and we will always be guests …. My project against the war is to promote the knowledge of the Arab culture and let people know that the Arab world is not only violence, but also culture and civilization.”
Milan, Italy. April 2007
“Mutual interest is a fundamental pillar in the construction of multi-ethnic society … I think now to be many ‘myself’, as many as may be human environments in which I could find myself living.”
Milan, Italy. April 2007
“Good goals for the wrong reasons!” says Brett Short, retail manager of Trussville. “It is a negative thing in the same way that bribing children for good grades is a negative thing. People should want to be healthy, not to be told that they need to be healthy. A person’s choice involving their own body should not in any way be a factor in how much money they pay in taxes!” he ends while giving us his point of view on the new insurance premium introduced in Alabama to encourage (or penalize!) obese state workers to have health screenings”
Birmingham – Alabama (U.S.A.), November 2008
Female Genital Mutilation cases (FGM) arrive also in Italy with immigrants. Mona Mansour, Egyptian gynecologist working in Milan at San Paolo Hospital, speaks about them. “The Arabic woman has grown thinking that sexuality was an unapproachable territory” explains us. “It is more a duty, than a pleasure”. The Doctor confesses us to have had FGM demands since she works here in Italy. “Egyptian mothers are normally the one who ask me to practice the FGM to their daughters as they cannot return to their home country to do it”. But Mona has always refused. “I see it like an habit of the past, during Pharaohs, when people tried to eliminate women sense of pleasure in order to make them concentrate only on the heaviest work of that time”. Then she concludes “The woman has been created by God with her body, her clitoris and her vulva. The sexuality is something, which belongs to us. Why should we eliminate it?”
Milan (Italy), June 2008
(speak about the bread price increasing)
Rehab (young student): “I consider myself a lucky person, as my family and I have not suffered too much from the bread price increasing. Poor people are those penalized and bakers are the more corrupt” explain us hiding behind her brown veil.
Amal (29 years pharmacy assistant): “We can’t make anything! Nothing has changed for us, well-off family, apart the lines where we have to stand daily”.
Badr (65 years Coptic shoemaker): “There is not heart left, and not love in the world”, tells us remembering Oum Kalthom’s song, the most popular Egyptian singer.
Waleed (35 years mechanic): “I am forced to buy bread although I don’t like it. My wife must prepare sandwiches for the children school. She waits over half an hour in queue every morning next to the bakery”.
Ahlama and Rad (brothers and bread vendors): “This bag keeps costing 1 LE (0,12 euro), but before it contained 5 pieces and now only 4 and even smaller. There is no lack of bread here and no lines. Our bread is more expensive than the governmental bakeries one, where it is cheap, but sometimes not enough for all.”
Hagga (sand and concrete old lady owner): “Before I earned from 40 LE to 50 LE in a day (approximately 6 euros), today only 20 (around 3 euros)” confesses us. She spends every morning at 6 AM a quarter of her gain buying bread. “I stand in line and wait for my turn. If there is not enough bread I should arrange two turns with my daughter, otherwise they don’t sell it to us. Rabbina ais keda… God has decided so!”
Ahmad (bakery owner): “There are no lines in my bakery, we have enough bread for all!”
Imbaba-Cairo (Egypt), June 2008
“I was afraid to go to hell after my death. I wanted to be sure not to do that atrocious end. My fate is marked, my present is here and here it will remain until I will be alive.”
Deqen (Yunnan) China. May 1999
Employee (with a great passion for motorcycles)
“When I’m riding a motorcycle I don’t need anybody at my side. I feel satisfied, omnipotent. I have everything. I do not miss anything. This is certainly the best way that I know to release any kind of tension.”
Milan, Italy. November 1997
Guardian at the mausoleum of the City of the Dead in Cairo
“I used to be a tailor, but when I retired I decided to inherit my father’s job and I became the guardian of the mausoleum where we stand now. Ahmed Khairy Pasha was the owner of this place … He was a rich man … Almost all the members of his family were buried here … His relatives know me since I was a child and when I asked them to work in this mausoleum, they welcomed me with joy. They take care of everything and they pay my bills. They also give me a small amount of money. Today I have a salary and a house free of charge.”
Cairo, Egypt. November 2003
“Integration depends on people’s social background, which is often quite poor in several Arab countries” says Mariem. ”Lots of Arabs are afraid when they arrive in Italy. Arab world is mainly tradition. Integrisme, fear and war make confusion and push backwards the new generation”
Milan, Italy. May 2007
“My mother took me by hand to the new bedroom, where my young groom was waiting impatient. They exchanged an accomplice look and made me sit on the big bed” says Rania, remembering the first day of her marriage in the small village north of Cairo. Her look is faraway, her voice is imperceptible, as she were afraid of being listening. “My mother rolled up my husband’s finger with a white gauze. She knew already what it would have happened to me. I was scared to death. Then she opened my legs, preparing the access for the man’s finger penetration”…
North of Cairo (Egypt), June 2008
(speaking about the new regulation in Egypt against FGM)
Emma Bonino is very happy about the new regulation in Egypt against Female Genital Mutilation. For long time, together with the Egyptian diplomat Moushira Khattab, she has been fighting the FGM. The Senator does not seem to be afraid of the ‘exception’ which appears in the new regulation. “To be honest I am not worried about the ‘quibble’” she says “What scares me more is that laws in Egypt, as often happen in Italy as well, don’t go forward”. Bonino hopes that this new rule will be defended and applied. She also whishes that the other International NGO keep working on the campaign as “We are doing, although a bit alone – she emphasizes – with NPWJ in Liberia, Eritrea, Djibouti”. Then she says “The Egyptian example surely helps us!”
Rome (Italy), June 2008
Back from he first walking long distance trekking trail in the Arab World – 500 km through the Lebanese mountains
“I never had this idea that I would fall into a normal job (or a job that gave me security). Instead I was only interested in pursuing anything that would give me freedom. I see the trail as being more than just a path through Lebanon. I see it as the beginning of a path through the entire region linking Lebanon with Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Syria. If similar trails could be created in each of the above mentioned countries and linked together, if and when a true peace is achieved, then this new path could be called the ‘Peace Trail’!”
from United Arab Emirates, May 2009