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jeudi 20 août 2015

Egyptian doctor living in Zurich produces educational videos about health and sexuality for the Arab world

par Mireille Vallette, journaliste indépendante






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She makes videos to promote basic knowledge about health and to fight taboos about sexuality. Very popular in the Middle East, she also fights against sharia law on Twitter.

A doctor from Egypt, Alyaa Gad has been living in Europe for about 20 years. She now lives in Zurich. I found about her through an article in Poste de Veille (1). One of her hashtags (2], which translates as “Why we reject implementing sharia”, made the buzz at the end of 2014. But her main activity is much more original : health and sex education via a TV channel on YouTube (3), in Arab and English, focusing on the situation of women.

Alyaa Gad’s medical language transmits humanistic and egalitarian values with more success than an ideological approach would. Her actions and herself are widely known in the Middle-East and her productions attract millions of web visitors.

Getting to know this courageous freelancer was worth a travel. A happy forty-year old, Alyaa gave us a warm welcome. She and her German husband have been living in Switzerland for 5 years. Before that, she lived about 10 years in the Netherlands and Germany. Besides Arabic, she speaks fluent Dutch, English and German, and apologizes for not mastering Swiss-German yet. “When we became parents, we felt like settling in Switzerland for family reasons, and because of the good Swiss education system. In the Netherlands, I was teaching in a nursing school. Here in Zurich, my husband leads a clinic and as a doctor, I work with him.”

At twenty, she already dreamt of setting up education programmes for Egyptian women. “But in the 90s, there was no Internet. During 15 years I tried to involve TV channels, but none was interested.”

If you want a thing done, do it yourself. Five years ago, she created Afham TV (“Afham” : “I understand”). Professional, full of surprises, and very refreshing.

Women want to talk about fashion

She began producing in Arabic, then in English too. “I reckon that 50 % of people working in some rich countries in the Middle East don’t speak Arabic”. Alyaa is supported technically by a team from Zurich, Hildebrand Media. “They loved the idea and were convinced by the 6 million views on one of my videos.”

At the beginning, the viewers were mainly from Egypt, but now more and more are from Saudi Arabia. And strangely enough, 85% are men. “Women don’t get easily interested. I must attract them with subjects like fashion, make-up etc.” And for both the male and the female public, respect Islamic mentality.

This year, on International Women’s Day, she was surprisingly invited by a Saudi channel to speak about women’s rights. “After this programme, I received hundreds of thousands of insulting tweets, most of them from Saudi Arabia… and about twenty praising my action. Women in Arab countries have to face three plagues which are intertwined : poverty, ignorance and disease.”

She has three channels : Afham TV, iUnderstand TV, EWA (English with Alyaa).

The subject “First time sex” got 2.3 million views. “Premature ejaculation”, a lot more. “When I go to Egypt or to Dubai, I realise that many people know me. But they often don’t know what to think about me. On the one hand, they know that I’m very much against sharia, and on the other hand they appreciate the information I give them about their health.”

Masturbation and excision

When she made a programme about women’s masturbation, men reacted with anger. She replied : “Knowing that you are often on travel (many Egyptian men work in a Gulf state), do you prefer that your wife pleasures herself or that she cheats on you with another man ? Think by yourselves. A woman who feels well in her body will have a better sex life, which is in your interest too.”

One of her statements is that Arab men usually find sex education in pornography. A wide majority are addicted to it. “There are sexuality education movies, but they don’t watch them. 99% prefer porn and its delusions : feminine orgasm in 5 seconds etc... Most of the videos they watch show very young white women. Fed by these fantasies, they treat their wives like in those movies. They don’t respect real women. This creates a lot of problems in couples.”

In Egypt, 80 to 90% of women are excised. “My mother was excised. Her sisters had their daughters excised. My mother didn’t, because back then we were living in Kuwait and this is not done over there.” She tackled that subject too on her channel. “I rely on scientific, objective facts ; among other things, I explain the role of clitoris in pleasure. Many women tell me how desperate they are not to feel anything during sex. One of them even committed suicide.”

She is looking for financial support. But international organisations and NGOs focus mainly on political changes (e.g. laws promoting gender equality) and very little on ways to change mentalities. For the time being, her husband is her only sponsor.

Promoting tolerance

In the Arab world, there is great ignorance about health and handicap. For example, one teacher admitted that he had never heard about dyslexia. Alyaa immediately made a programme on the subject. A web user declared it helped him understand what had ruined his whole life. “By giving them information, I try to make people more understanding and more tolerant with difference and handicap. This can save lives. But I can’t go too fast. Mentalities evolve very slowly.”
Did she ask any imams and Muslim associations in Switzerland for a support ? She laughs : “Of course not. They don’t like me. They know that I’m very anti-sharia. Actually I am trying to warn people in the West : they are very naive if they think that sharia can be softened. Sharia is worse than Nazi ideology.”

When she questions certain statements in the Quran in her videos, it is always on a scientific basis. “For example, I have spoken about the development of the embryo. According to the Quran, bones form before flesh. I showed that it is the opposite.”

She finds our societies very naive. “When I arrived in the West, I was rather religious. I had undergone the classical brainwashing against Westerners : people with no morale, no decency, no sense of family... The West is tolerant. It is good in itself, but sometimes one has to stop being tolerant in order to protect oneself. Today, the Netherland are paying for their great tolerance. Some mosques spread ideas like : you must reproduce so that one day we are a majority and we can suppress democracy and introduce sharia law. I think that the Western culture could very well disappear.”

Educating newcomers

Alyaa considers immigration as necessary, but stands for strict conditions. “You in the West need immigrants because you don’t make enough children. But you must absolutely educate newcomers so that they totally accept the Western mentality.”

To her eyes, the current chaos in Arab countries, characterised by persecution and fratricidal struggles, are due to a mental chaos. “There is a great emotional immaturity in the Middle East. Hatred is directed towards certain group of peoples without any rational reasons. For example between Sunni and Shiite, though people do not even know the differences between the two. There is hatred against all people who are different. This is due to ignorance and poverty.”

She participated in discussions about a famous hashtag in Arabic which translates in “MentalInstitutionMiddleEast “. “We list all the contradictions in the Arab world. What we do is like holding a mirror. Human beings need money and food, but they also need education.”

In this part of the world, the Gulf States own the media and have a very strong influence. “Western people cannot imagine the hatred against them that these media produce. The oil money feeds the wahhabi ideology”.

She is not fond of religious texts. As a child, she was traumatised by the story of Abraham who was ready to kill his son, then by the story of Muhammad marrying little Aisha. ” Later on, I was shocked when I read the texts, for example Bukhari and his hadiths. Moderate Muslims usually don’t know what is written in these founding texts. “

“Think by yourselves !”

In her addresses, Alyaa Gad promotes individual intelligence, gender equality, and tolerance. She does not throw any bombs, but she surely drops bombshells. Her activity on Twitter, where she is followed by tens of thousands, might indicate it. She initiated the sharia hashtag in reply to continual attacks from a certain web surfer “I have become famous thanks to this idiot !” She is also very active on Facebook.

The programmes on Afham TV are conceived to be used by professionals in clinics and in help and care centres. When Alyaa and her team began producing videos in English, they received one million clicks in a few weeks. The subjects covered are numerous : family, personal development, emotion management, health, sexuality. She tackles sexually transmitted diseases, the role of penis size in sexual relationships, addiction to pornography, the G-spot. And the importance of vitamin D, a vitamin produced by exposing one’s skin to sunlight...

References

1. "Pourquoi mous rejetons l’application de la charia".
2. Hashtag.
3. Chaîne TV sur Youtube.

- Version française parue ici.

On ligne in Sisyphe, August 20th, 2015


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Mireille Vallette, journaliste indépendante


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