Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Two Women, One News Item | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Only a tragic ending brought together Nada, the Iranian young woman killed by a gunshot at the hands of the Iranian authorities during recent protests, and Marwa al Sherbini, the young Egyptian woman who was stabbed to death by a German extremist in a courtroom in front of her young son and husband whilst a stream of racial abuse was hurled at her.

Two young women in their prime were brutally murdered in front of television cameras, allowing the world to see pictures of their deaths. Nada and Marwa were victims of two different kinds of extremism. For a moment, one might think that they are two completely different cases whereas in actual fact they are so dramatically similar even in the way the two women were killed.

It is true that the political circumstances surrounding Iran makes Tehran’s protests, and the killing of protestors, front-page news. But who’s to say that Marwa al Sherbini’s death in Germany does not carry parallel or complementary messages to those that came with the death of Nada?

The public opinion that raged and was deeply affected by Nada’s death and the violent way she was killed on the streets of Tehran for protesting against a political reality, did not show any real concern over the tragedy of Marwa al Sherbini, who was looking for a park in Germany where her young son could play. This public opinion’s sympathetic outcry over the death of Nada is now open to question. Its reaction to the death of Marwa al Sherbini who was stabbed in front of a judge and a German security team in the middle of a courtroom was not as strong and intense as it should have been.

The tragedies of both women are documented with photos that have been posted on thousands of websites. But the situation is different when we talk about the traditional media, particularly the traditional Western media. The German and European reaction to Marwa al Sherbini’s death in general seemed surprisingly weak to the extent that it was almost a joke. It was primarily a candid reflection of the structure of German society, as recent statistics show that 50 percent of Eastern Germans and 25 percent of Western Germans are hostile towards foreigners.

Marwa al Sherbini’s killer is a German of Russian origin. Before stabbing her in the courtroom, he angrily asked her, ‘Do you have a right to be in Germany?’ Is this at all related to the evident lack of integration between different Russian immigrants and German society? It is a legitimate question that was not asked. Running the story on the back pages of German papers was thought to be enough without even a clarification of the racial implications it could have. The Germans were surprised by condemning protests in Egypt and later on in Iran and only then realized that the story needed more. Even the official German position denouncing the crime was only announced a week after it happened and after protests were held.

What makes the disregarding of Marwa al Sherbini’s tragedy even worse is the way it has been exploited by some people in the Arab and Islamic world, and the strengthening of the idea of a clash between Muslims and the West on the popular level that is prevalent in our societies. This idea picks a tragedy, such as the one that ended Marwa’s life, to strengthen the tendency towards confrontation and collision, and not dialogue.

What further compounded matters was the position taken by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad who in the tragedy of the Egyptian woman found an opportunity to hit back at those who criticized him and his regime in the wake of the death of Nada.

Somewhere between disregard and exploitation, the messages conveyed by the tragedies of both Nada and Marwa might be lost just like their young lives were.