Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Veil, Self Expression, and Identity

Last month, I flew from Sana’a airport wearing a bright green scarf. On the plane I encountered the same awkward moment I always face: when and how do I take off my scarf? [In Yemen I cover my hair not because of any legal obligation, but because it is the custom].  

I scanned the area and then I did what I usually do, waited until it naturally slipped off and then I kept it on my shoulder until I left the plane. After that, I folded the scarf and put it in my suitcase. 

Some of my feminist friends say this is hypocritical and wish that I would just pick one way or the other.  But as a feminist myself, I don't see why I should only stick to one "look".  I think this flexibility is a testament to the degree that we, Middle Eastern women can adapt. 

As long as I do not change who I am, and just change the way I look, then why does it matter whether I wear a scarf or I don't.  But the reality is, to many people it does matter.  The scarf is not just any piece of cloth, it's one that carries a statement, an identity, a heritage and a history.  

Regardless of people's perceptions, I want to say loudly and clearly that with or without it, I am still me.

One person, different looks

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"A dream you dream together is reality"

"A dream you dream alone is only a dream.  A dream you dream together is reality." John Lennon

In dreams, we are gifted with super powers, and with the ability to do extraordinary things. The euphoria one gets from mass mobilization gives us the same feeling. It allows us to dream that the impossible is possible. Armed with only this belief, we continue to demand justice and change, believing that nothing will stop us.

At the start of the revolution in February 2011, I had very high expectations, and despite my usual over analysing personality, I did not allow any negative energy to seep in.

In April 2011, when some unexpected forces, such as General Ali Muhsin "joined" the pro-democracy movement, and when certain elements of the opposition imposed their intolerance on others, the colors in my dream started to fade.

Today, after many high hopes have been crushed, I dream only in black and white.

I still believe in the power of the people to do amazing things, but I also believe that the extraordinary will take time to become a reality.  Long term change requires a long journey.

Like a video game, this journey is filled with many challenges (poverty, lack of security, foreign and regional interferences, airstrikes, corruption etc), but hopefully we can reach our ultimate goal.

In that long journey, I hope that I never reach the point where I stop dreaming. But if I find myself stuck in a constant nightmare, I ask you to please wake me up.

Protester at change square holding a sign that reads: "We don't ask for much..we only dream of change"