This article is also available in: Italiano
We asked Amina Al Zeer to tell us about the Progetto Aisha, an association founded in March 2016 to combat violence against women and help them regain their lost value. We believe that it is essential to stop and reflect on dramas of this type, which are too often hidden.
K: Tell us about the Progetto Aisha, how was it born and what are its objectives?
A: The Progetto Aisha was born in March 2016 as a socio-cultural activity of the CAIM (Coordination of Islamic Associations of Milan, Monza and Brianza) to combat violence against women and FGM (female genital mutilation), becoming an association in April 2017. We have recently opened our headquarters in via Palmanova 59, where we carry out activities such as: training, prevention, awareness and assistance. At the moment the staff is composed of Selma Ghrewati (president), Sara Sayed (councilor), Bianca Guarino (secretariat) and myself as vice president.
Our vision is that of a society in which men and women can enjoy the same rights, duties and opportunities, living in mutual collaboration. Our mission is to fight so that the value of the female figure is recognized, thus promoting freedom of choice, social and economic. I would like to underline that our association does not discriminate in any way, from our point of view we are like doctors and for this reason we try to help anyone. It is no coincidence that in our association there are also male volunteers.
K: Doesn’t the presence of men push women to be more reserved? What is the path you usually follow?
A: It really depends on the women in question. Generally, however, at the first meeting we prefer that there are only female volunteers, certain questions are really strong and we understand the discomfort in responding with a man in front. Usually after the first meeting we make a WhatsApp group called “Together for …” with the girl’s name. Within the latter there may be several volunteers, a civil lawyer or criminal lawyer (depending on the case) and, if you are followed by us and you do not already have your own, by a psychologist.
K: Tell us about the types of cases that have happened to you
A: We are in 75 different cases, not counting the requests from abroad. Unfortunately in these last cases everything becomes more complex also due to the distances and the different problems that these situations bring with them. I can tell you, for example, that we received the request from a girl stuck in Tunisia and that every day she is beaten and raped by her partner, she could also run away but she is afraid for her children who are there. Unfortunately, the farther they are from our territory, the more difficult it becomes to react and give suitable tools. We do not treat minors but unfortunately 152 are involved in these cases.
K: Violence against women is a growing phenomenon, from your experience, how do you explain it? As for Italy, I can tell you that unfortunately it has very ancient origins, just think of the “honor killing”
A: Many times it is something of regression at the level of the psyche, often the abuser has already experienced these things as a child and for this reason they have the unconscious tendency to repeat it. Unfortunately, psychological violence is tremendous because many times the evil that the latter can commit is not immediately visible, but its effects are equally tremendous. Because of him, the victim is convinced to accept the treatment of his tormentor, isolating himself and refusing any help. Even on the offspring the effects are catastrophic, pushing them to apathy and greatly increasing the risks that this cycle will never end. We think that in these cases the role of the imams is fundamental, for this reason we have established a stable and fixed collaboration with their association. If they first notice the problem, it can be much easier to fix it right away.
We must not forget the existence of two other types of violence: the assisted one and the economic one. Very often they go hand in hand and are the ones who finally bring down the victims. Sometimes the family unit puts pressure on the victim’s feelings of guilt, pushing her to remain in the arms of her executioner, thus abandoning all care. Other times, however, the tools of the torturer press the woman economically, even preventing her from receiving the assistance she deserves; I could tell you about cases of ladies who discovered only after having owned their names …. With our workshops we try to make women rediscover their value, also contributing to their reintegration into society.
K: Today is world day against FGM, is it a phenomenon present in Italy? Have you ever had cases of this type?
A: Unfortunately it is a phenomenon that has also arrived in Italy with migrations and which mainly concerns the Egyptian community which alone represents 90%; although it must be said that theirs is a mutilation, fortunately, only of the first level, so much so that it is also called “female circumcision”. However, it is enough to remove a part of the woman’s clitoris so that she will enjoy less pleasure forever, if we think that in Islam the wife can ask for a divorce if she is not sexually satisfied, we understand the madness entirely.
It seems that the origins of this practice are to be found in the traditions of Ancient Egypt and that initially an aesthetic value, which has increasingly fallen into popular culture; even today, it is mainly the grandmothers who organize everything. I invite you, if you are interested, to know the story of Sara Ahmed, an Egyptian girl born in Rome who fights against these practices every day. I think it is essential not to pass it off as a practice of the past because it is not and it still affects many women even in Italy, forced to lose forever part of such a precious and intimate treasure.
We deeply thank Amina Al Zeer for the interview, we believe that it is essential to stop and reflect on dramas of this type, too often hidden from the eyes of most until it is too late. For any information we leave you their site and their facebook page, you can better inform yourself whether you need support or want to support them.
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