Living through war…from afar

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It’s been almost 6 months since it all began, 160 days to be exact. We were on holiday in a remote area of France and it was late at night when my husband came to wake me up to tell me the news.

My heart skipped a beat then started racing, my mind was trying really hard to find another meaning to the words that were coming out of his mouth. But he seemed certain, the war had started.

I suddenly felt angry, angry at him…it wasn’t logical I know, but I blamed him for being the bearer of the horrible news.

His voice jolted me back to reality and it took me a few seconds to register what he was saying “we have to call your mother” I eventually heard him say, “um… yes yes of course” I replied, but the truth was calling my mother was the last thing I wanted to do. I wasn’t prepared to let that reality sink in and talking to my mother meant I had to.

But there was no escape. As he dialled her number I sat on the steps, still in shock. It must have been the early hours of the morning in Sana’a. I wondered if she would pick up and then I started to panic, what if she doesn’t answer, would that mean something had happened? For all I knew Saudi Arabia had secretly acquired a nuclear bomb and had dropped it on Yemen killing every soul there.

There was no reasoning with my mind, it was heading to a dark place.

Thankfully she picked up her phone and my husband spoke to her as I sat there looking at him with envy. I envied him for being able to express his worry and love through his words and prompt action while I sat there paralysed. My mind was racing… ‘I need to take deep breaths’ I kept reminding myself, ‘everything will be ok’ I reluctantly lied to myself.

Then I started thinking, the last time I saw my mother…no no I won’t go there, I won’t think of any ‘last times’. But who was I to try to reason why my irrational and unkind mind.

It was six months before the Saudi-led coalition started its military offensive on Yemen that I last saw my mother. Six months since I was last in Yemen. Six months since I last felt at home…since I had a home.

‘Yes, she’s here next to me, she wants to speak to you, you take care of yourself’ I heard him say as he handed me the phone. I felt mixed emotions then. Partly relived that she was ok and sounded calm but terrified at the thought of what could happen. ‘Can you leave?’ I asked her naively…’no habibty the airports are closed’ she replied ‘we’ll wait and see what happens but don’t worry we’re all fine’ she tried to reassure me.

We hung up and I thought to myself, if my mother can be this calm then I have no excuse to fall apart.

It took us two months and several panicking calls from my sister to my mother to get her out. After we convinced her it was time to leave I was faced with a bigger problem, how the hell will I get her out? Airports, embassies and borders were closed and the roads were unsafe. But eventually it all worked out and we got her out.

I won’t deny the sense of relief I felt when we got her out of Yemen. She was safe and nothing else mattered. Here I was lying to myself yet again.

For those who haven’t been following what’s been happening in Yemen I will spare you the details, but suffice to say that the destiny of the 25 million people living in fear of losing their homes and loved ones at the hands of their own people and their mighty neighbour is sealed by this poor country’s insignificance to the world at large.

There are certain realities you know and accept. Wars will happen and innocent people will die, good people will face cruel and undeserved destinies and tragedies will not change their course to spare a child.

You also learn there is no good and evil, only us versus them.

You realise despite not advertising itself well humanity does exists, but in a selective form.

And yet none of this changes the fact that when it’s your own home that takes the hit, when it’s your generous and warm people who are suffering…all the certainties you took for granted take a whole new meaning.

And it takes you a while to realise it but one day you see it. You have also changed.

You bottle your feelings and learn to hold back your tears. You’ve got no other option because really, what’s the use of falling apart. But the worst part is knowing that the pain you feel is nothing compared to what people who live there have to go through day and night until god knows when.

So you’ll wake up every morning and get ready for work, you’ll wish your husband a good day and on your way you go. You’ll walk down the street carrying your purse and in it all the things you need for the day, but for a moment you’ll stop to ponder, what would you carry in your bag if you were forced to flee? You come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be much more than what you’re already carrying, because ultimately the things that matter the most you carry in your heart. And so with a heavy heart shouldering the weight of your memories you are so scared of losing, you get on the train and head to work hoping and praying that today won’t be the day when the ruthlessness of this unreasonable war will finally overpower you.

@mainoman

Notes:

These are some links to the latest news out of Yemen:

BBC: How bad is the humanitarian situation in Yemen?

Yemen crisis: How bad is the humanitarian situation?

Qatar deploys 1,000 ground troops to fight in Yemen

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BBC: UAE launches fresh Yemen attacks

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The Guardian:

The Guardian: There are 21 million in need of humanitarian aid in Yemen – please listen

Photo credit: Reuters

To find shareable infographics on the impact of war on Yemen follow 

Yemen in Numbers by Ruba Al Eryani

And if you are interested in following what is happening in Yemen here are some of the twitter accounts you should follow:

https://twitter.com/raleryan

https://twitter.com/NasserMaweri

https://twitter.com/PoliticsYemen

https://twitter.com/ammar82/media

https://twitter.com/NoonArabia

https://twitter.com/omeisy

https://twitter.com/WaddahOthman

https://twitter.com/Ndawsari

https://twitter.com/altoflacoblanco

https://twitter.com/Fatikr

https://twitter.com/Shuaibalmosawa

https://twitter.com/NismaAlozebi

https://twitter.com/adammbaron

https://twitter.com/JamalBadr

https://twitter.com/Yemeniaty

https://twitter.com/absi456

https://twitter.com/ionacraig

https://twitter.com/BaFana3

https://twitter.com/NotUntilHeFalls

https://twitter.com/almuslimi

https://twitter.com/Afrahnasser

https://twitter.com/WomanfromYemen

https://twitter.com/RashaJarhum

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A Tribute to Ibrahim Mothana

Listen here for BBC’s tribute to Ibrahim Mothana

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Ibrahim was like no other 21 year old I had met. He had read more books in different languages than i have till this day in one. He was extremely smart, knowledgeable, humble, helpful, kind and it always gave me great faith in a brighter Yemen knowing that it has brilliant people who care for it like Ibrahim Mothana always did. I’m at a loss for words, it is truly one of the saddest days for Yemen and me. I just wished he had left our world seeing Yemen in a better place than it is today. الله يرحمك يا ابراهيم

 

 


Salmon fishing drawing attention to Yemen

It is true that when thinking of Yemen one’s mind doesn’t conjure up an image of men standing quietly and peacefully by fresh water rivers to practise a sport that is foreign in concept and might very well be an indulgence Yemenis can never afford (mainly because water and meditative sports are of equal opulent rarities in Yemen). It is also true that media attention on Yemen has been on the rise as the words “killed” and “militants” find more ways of reasserting their notions as the only reality existing in “the” Yemen. So how is it that Paul Torday’s fiction novel that was briefly set in Yemen, and of which a screen adaption was recently released, bring a different kind of attention to the long-forgotten Arab country?

According to an article in The Telegraph titled “There’s no salmon fishing in Yemen, tourist board warns”, there seems to be a surge in interest by brits to visit Yemen’s fishing industry, an interest the article attributes to the feel-good British rom-com adaptation of Torday’s Salmon Fishing in The Yemen which was released in April of this year.

The film is about a simple love story with a pinch of British humour set in an unexpected and unexplored location built as the premise for a love affair to strengthen the mystical and adventure aspects; and yet this particular story brought a different kind of media reality to the estranged Arab country.

It might be a case of hollywood magic, despite its fictional premises, casting its spell on an unassuming audiences and once again surpassing the work of those who have been tirelessly and persistently trying to provide a more balanced view of Yemen as a culture within a historical, political and economic context. And a part of it may well be the relief brought by a happy and feel-good story to an audience “fatigued” by the negative stories coming from southern Arabia

The interest arisen in yemen from this film was beyond what the media perceives as a priority story for the reader, as AQAP remains a threat to the western world international media and western governments remain undeterred from shifting their focus to other humanitarian and pressing issues in this impoverished country. This all suggests that the interest in Yemen is not Yemen in itself but the threat it poses to western security. And perhaps despite the happy ending in his story, Paul Torday managed to keep the status quo by placing Yemen in the title but far from a reality relatable to its people suffering from many things including profiling.

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I for an Infant Revolution – Part 1

Although the 5th of November of 1605’s attempt to blow up the House of Lords in London might have been a different setting from today’s Arab revolutions that have spread across the Middle East and North Africa, the fact of the matter remains that in 1605 and 2011 an idea to overthrow totalitarian authorities was strong enough to be marked down in history. But where Guy Fawks and his men were faulted and hanged for their failed attempt using a symbolic violent act, the Arab uprisings were met with cheerful acclamation for succeeding with numbers and peaceful ways.  The cheers were well deserved, for the Arabs who took to the streets managed not only to defy long-standing antagonistic regimes, but they were also able to reconstruct the portrait of Arabs in the world.

But the exuberant crowds have quieted down, for despite the Arab uprisings’ success in toppling presidents and causing a stir for the Arab regimes, the fact remains that the peaceful revolutions were not all that distant from violence and chaos.

The infant revolutions of the ‘orient’

Both governments of Tunisia and Egypt were overthrown rather ‘peacefully’. There was no weapon showdown and the majority chose civilized demonstration. But that wasn’t the whole story. Violence did emerge within chaos, and revolutions were at fault for the loss of lives and livelihoods. In Egypt the strange disappearance of the police lead to an alarming rate of crime increase, the sudden absence of law after years of tight control caused anarchy, indicating people’s need to test new boundaries. Admittedly after a few months public order was restored but during these few months Egyptians had to fend for themselves. In a country that relied heavily on nepotism and being associated with an important person in the police or the army for protection, Egyptians suddenly found themselves alone in the war against crime. Violence has been boiling and building up under the old regime and its infamous cruelty, and when the time came, it had to be expressed. Egypt’s stability was disturbed. But the revelation was beyond the aggression that arose, it was rather how the toppled regime was more than one man with an iron fist. If Egyptians were fighting against corruption and foreign meddling, it’s becoming clearer by the day that there are stronger forces at play here, and the Egyptians will have to chose their next confrontation carefully.

But unlike Egypt and Tunisia, the Libyan revolution had to be fought with weapons, or at least that is what the rebels chose. In this case,  violence prevailed. I am in no position to judge whether the violence was unavoidable or question if NATO’s decision to be a part of this revolution was purely humanitarian. But I believe it is important in this stage to reflect on the these issues before we move forward.

Violence is a natural outcome of disorder, and in a lawless country like Yemen where the state is weak and people are governed by traditions and tribal codes, the disappearance of law enforcement changes little in the social cohesion. And despite the heavily armed nation surprisingly choosing peaceful protests, acts of random violence still occurred. They occurred because in the midst of loud chaos some felt the need to test boundaries in the new social structure. In Yemen, tribes rule and the tribal code, as tainted as it became,  governs. It is estimated that 85% of  of Yemenis belong to a tribe and mainly to one of 3 most powerful tribes, Hashed, Bakeel and Mathhaj who govern Yemen economically as well as politically. Yemenis today are rebelling against a corrupt and uneducated head figure, but similarly to the Egyptian situation, when and if they oust the current regime, they will struggle to move away from the ‘root of all evil’, in their case, political tribalism. Egypt’s antagonist is a military regime and Yemen’s a tribal one.


What does it take to be an Arab female ChangeMaker?

Women of the Year award receivers of 2011

Yesterday I attended the Women of the Year lunch and Assembly in London, an event that has been held annually since 1955 to honor and recognise amazing women in a wide range of fields. I wasn’t one of the honorees but was honored to meet such accomplished and inspiring women.

I was standing by the entrance of the hall gazing admiringly at all the 380 impressive women being honored for something they have achieved when a lady approached me to ask “are these women born with something special, or does everyone have it in them to accomplish great things?” I opened my mouth to answer her question as her gaze confided in me a trust that I would know “I think…”  I then paused when I realised that I didn’t really have the answer. I had to wonder about the special formula that makes these incredible women. What does it take to accomplish great things? A five-foot heart, a handful of courage and a ton of self-belief? Or is it in the genes we inherit that breed some sort of a rebel in us? And does it take something different for a woman to accomplish great things? And more relating to this article, what does it take for an Arab Woman to be a change maker?  (Please join in a discussion below to share your views)

There are millions of Arab women who ought to be recognized and honored for their role and the great work they do for society. But it takes something extra for an Arab woman to find herself under the spotlight. As girls and women in the Arab world we are taught not to draw attention to ourselves. Society tells us that women who are different are tarred-and-feathered. And if you want to be accomplished, you don’t change the rules, you only surpass in following them.

To be a female changemaker in the Arab world, a woman would not expect recognition but ostracizing. So yes, it does take something extra to be an Arab female social disruptor. You have to be defiant and unruly and you have to have the stamina to stand tall and undeterred when injustice decides to take you on for speaking against it. Seeking change is certainly no easy task for anyone anywhere in the world, but Arab women have it especially difficult. They have to stand against many norms, traditions and cultural and foreign stereotypes. The image of the oppressed and voiceless figure in society Arab women have in the world certainly does not help recognise the roles simple women have in making a difference.

This year, the International Woman of the Year award went to the great feminist and novelist from Egypt Dr. Nawal AlSadaawi. I first met Dr Nawal a few days ago on October 16th when I accompanied her from Heathrow airport to Oxford. Being a figure of controversy and a name that incites heated feminist and religious debates, I was intrigued but I must confess I was also a little intimidated to meet her. A woman that dares to speak her mind about taboo subjects is, for better or worse, intimidating.

But the 80-year-old physician and novelist wasn’t all that different from other female activists and accomplished women I have met in the Arab World. A certain unique strength in spirit, resilience in character and an undeterred mind is what I have found in most of these women working to change the way their world or society works. And yet to be undeterred, you find some of these women compelled to narrow their focus and areas of interests. They have their causes and their beliefs are built to support them. And the more resistance they find from society, the stronger their beliefs become and the more determined they are to win their battle. These women are not adverse to disagreement or conflict. I even think they feed their passion for their cause through challenges and struggles. It could be true that these women make a decision not to have an easy life, but it is also true that some of them were not chosen by life to have it easy.

What do YOU think?


A Great Day to be Marked in Yemen’s History

Days before the winners of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize were announced, excessive speculation lead to wide spread rumors of who would receive the prestigious award. The evident choice had to be in honor of the Arab Spring. The challenge would have been who to nominate that represented a strong influence and demonstrated leadership during the Arab revolutions. Some of the names that were widely speculated to win were: Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who became one of the prominent figures of the Egyptian revolutions, Lina Ben Mhenni, one of the first Tunisian bloggers to write about the attacks on protesters and Israa Abdel Fattah an Egyptian female blogger who co-founded the April 6th movement. Some Yemenis expressed hope on social media outlets that the award would go to a Yemeni activist, but were dismissive of the thought given that Yemen’s revolution (Similarly to Bahrain’s) had received the least international media attention and international community support.

The announcement made on Friday October 9 2011 jointly awarding a Yemeni and two Liberian women the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize came as a big surprise to many. But to Tawakkol Karman, the Yemeni activist who became the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the astonishment surpassed anyone’s expectation.

Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman were awarded the prize for “their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Only 12 out of the 91 laureates awarded this highly prestigious prize were women. The award given today to Ms. Karman is the first to be awarded to an Arab woman, the second to a Muslim woman, and the first to a Yemeni, which many see as fitting with Yemen’s history of great Queens and female leaders.

About the Yemeni Laureate

Born in Taiz, Tawakkol is a married 32-year-old Yemeni activist with 3 children. She is the founder of Women Journalists Without Chains, a human rights organization (website), and a prominent female member of the Islamic Islah Party in Yemen.  Her role within the Islah party is seen by many as being more “moderate” than the views of the main head figures of the conservative Islamic party.

Why Tawakkol?

Tawakkol organized protests and sit-ins long before the first revolution in Tunisia kicked off in 2010. She organized and led the first 2011 anti-regime demonstrations in the capital Sana’a that followed the toppling of Bin Ali and Mubarak. As one of the leading figures of the uprising in Yemen, Tawakkol was detained twice by the Yemeni authorities as her name and presence seemed to jeopardize the regime’s control over the revolution.

But many youth revolutionaries also felt that Tawakkol and the Joint Meeting Party (of which Islah is a part) had hijacked the revolution. Many also expressed their concern that she might be leading the uprising in the wrong direction.

The controversy and debate around Tawakkol’s role in the revolution did not stop Yemenis everywhere from feeling a sense of long overdue pride. This is a heavily-armed nation that chose peaceful protests and marches in their call for freedom and democracy. A nation that is known for its unmatched hospitality even in its poorest households. A poor nation that survives and smiles despite the daily struggles the majority of its people have to endure. A nation with a proud history that was the first to export coffee from its port in Mocha, a name widely used around the world with no understanding of its origin in Yemen.

Tawakkol is not only recognized for her struggle for democracy and peace, but what many see as being a great role model for Yemenis and an example to the rest of the world of what Yemen has to offer of brilliant and brave women, who will challenge society and its conventions and surpass any stereotypical expectations.

Tawakkol Karman dedicated her award to all Yemenis, and rightly so. What the world needs to realize is that Tawakkol is not Yemen’s exception. She is one of many I like to call true Yemeni women. There is a long list of female activists, journalists, advocates of peace and democracy and hardworking Yemenis who are playing a big role in the shaping of the new Yemen. Yemenis, men and women, pride themselves on having had two great queens in their history. And as sexist and backward as Yemen is shown to be by looking at the UN Indexes, what it fails to do is acknowledge women’s role and their non-paid accomplishments.

Also read an article written in 2009 by journalist Oliver Holmes on protests lead by Tawakkol Karman’s:

Just off Freedom Square in Yemen


Criminal riots or justified reactions

There seems to be  heated debates on whether or not the riots happening around London and across the UK should be criminalized. On one hand some people say that they had a legitimate cause and honest grievance after the shooting of Mark Duggan on August 4, 2011.  Evidence gathered showed that he had not fired his gun when the police had shot him dead. Many of those who would not condemn the London riots believe that the daily struggle and hardships of this marginalized segment justifies their actions. But there seems to be a lack of understanding and differentiation between the underlying cause of these troubles and the justification of the reaction. If the grievance is poverty and discremenation, is it justifiable to harm and terrorize your own community physically, emotionally and mentally?

Some even see these events as an extension of the Arab spring reaching the UK. So at this point I must humbly disagree.

Now allow me to put these events in context. Today we live in a world where kids in Yemen are dying because there has been a severe shortage of electricity and clean water, where people in Syria and Iran are not allowed to own their thoughts in fear of torture and hanging, and where people in thousands are dying in Somalia of hunger. And in the UK, you find the ‘look-at-us-we-finally-have-your-attention’ attitude from people too young to understand the gravity of their actions!

These rioters are burning down people’s livelihood, robbing houses of their valuables and shops of their income, and attacking innocent civilians…so yes by definition what is happening is a Crime. And people who have lost their businesses, homes and well-being have every right to prosecute those responsible. The Arab uprisings were and are about ousting corrupt dictators and what the Arabs stand to gain from it is self-respect and dignity. On the other hand, there is nothing remotely dignified about the way these riots have damaged different communities and different parts of the UK, it will take these people years to rebuild their lives, not to mention those who have lost their loved ones during these reckless events. Yes, the riots are a symptom of something wrong with the community and the system governing it, but that does not make it ok or  in any way acceptable.

If we are going to defend the riots then lets also defend all ‘crimes’. They were also done by people with grievances and had troubled lives that led them to this path. let’s not criminalize what they do…and let’s do what we do best, find someone to blame.

Having experienced injustice does not give one the right to render other kinds of injustice onto the innocent. We have seen too many atrocities in the world in the name of grievance to accept what is happening today. This culture of blame needs to end or else we might find ourselves always looking for who to blame rather than asking what can we do.


Yemen, More than a Failing State

A revolution, an uprising, peaceful protests, a call for democracy and freedom from corruption and imposed leadership has somehow been twisted into a crisis, Al-Qaeda threat and a question of when will the Americans intervene.

Yemen is not a militant camp and is not a place that ‘sounds like a real country’. It is a historical land with 23 million real people with real lives, dreams and aspirations for a better future. The repeated media portrayal of Yemenis as malnourished, poor, uneducated and armed desensitizes the international community to their cause and existence.

I have read dozens of articles published everyday following the current situation, and I found that a distorted image of Yemen is now sadly embedded in my mind, me… a Yemeni. I know better than to be influenced by foreign perception and portrayal of my homeland, its people and its worth to all of us who carry its name with honor. But it breaks my heart to know that the words used to describe the situation in Yemen are very powerful and have their resonance with the international community because they speak to their fears and land right into the pre-conceived notion of that region.

The fact of the matter is that I cannot deny the legitimacy of these fears, and yet, I can see that they have been misplaced as the focal point of what’s happening in Yemen, which subsequently harms the peaceful uprising and its rightful demands. It seems as though the country is falling apart piece by piece as each day passes and more conflict arises. I am not in denial about our current state, but I resent having our voices misplaced to fit into the international media view of what is happening. The primary focus here should be the Yemenis, what they have to face and endure during these troubling times from shortage in water, electricity and gas to internally displaced persons and those killed and injured while peacefully protesting.

As for Saleh, his chair has been broken to a 1000 pieces, but sadly he found a 1000 bodies to stand on and claim the rule of people willing to die to bid him farewell. His era is coming to an end, and yes Yemen will be left in chaos and will struggle for a while to find its new bearings, but I have faith in the Yemeni people and their resilience. They are after all the people who have managed to survive and keep their exceptional high spirits despite all the misfortune they have had to face in their lives for decades.

Ultimately a better future relies not on those holding or seeking power, but those who find themselves in a position of fear, doubt and hopelessness. For those are the ones who change means the most to. And those are the ones who will eventually find the strength and courage to own the responsibility of their own future.

Also read this post by a Yemeni youth http://yemensyouthsvoice.blogspot.com/2011/04/dear-states-nations-and-world-i-am.html


One size fits all

A letter in response to British Airways Chairman’s speech, in which he called for further profiling of people who pose ‘real threat’, such as Yemeni students (he actually mentioned us by name), to make it easier for Westerners to travel.

Sir,

At the beginning of my letter I would like to thank Sir Martin for calling attention to the absurdity of some security measures undergone at airports. I can only assume that his frustration stems from the challenges he faces when travelling. In his speech he proposed a solution to a problem all travellers relate to, but his suggestion makes me question a) if Sir Martin has forgotten that most of the UK’s terrorism troubles have been home-grown? b) if he knows what ‘Yemeni students’ go through in order to travel anywhere.

As a Yemeni currently studying for an MA in the UK, I feel it is my duty to share with you the difficulties a Yemeni goes through to travel. Just as Sir Martin so kindly shared his experiences with us on behalf of those ‘who should travel without hassle’. A Yemeni living in Yemen stands almost no chance of obtaining a visa to the West to study, work or visit for tourism. The reason being that all 24 million Yemenis are ‘terrorism risks’ or at least should be profiled as such. But that’s ok because as he put it, ‘we’ need a ‘risk-based approach to security’, and I can only assume by ‘we’ he meant westerners (i.e… not terrorist threats). So for the very fortunate and very grateful few of us who, by the grace of the Lord (we call him Allah), managed to obtain a visa to study or work in the west, the travel experience is akin to defending oneself in court.

I truly wonder if Sir Martin has any idea of what it feels like to constantly be in a defensive position to prove that you are not a ‘terrorist’, to always be ‘randomly selected’ at airports and questioned about your faith, to feel like a criminal when handing in your passport to immigration officers while always having to remind yourself that the questions that follow are not discrimination against you personally but simply against ‘your people’.

In your world, the inconveniences you speak of are a treat for the rest of us. To be able to travel with a bit of airport hassle is a luxury we only dream of. So in response to your speech, I must say that I think it desirable that insiders in positions of authority should undergo precisely the obligations and inconveniences that apply to mere mortals, if only to remind them how the other half lives. If Henry Kissinger is subjected to these attentions, as Martin Broughton suggests, it may at least encourage regular assessment of the necessity of such intrusion for all. It would be particularly useful to extend this egalitarian approach to the oppressive and expensive visa requirements imposed on foreign nationals with a perfectly legitimate desire to travel.

You can find a script of his speech on Financial Times website http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/17051592-6b1c-11e0-9be1-00144feab49a.html#axzz1K9jDzTZm



The color of me

White world White world
what do you know of my color
every shade is a paint of color that is not White
I am a woman and I am of color
so double my misery and cheers to that!
I have a lot to prove
and a lot to hide
But neither my womanhood nor my skin color
can save me from that delight
To be in a world that treats hue as a color
Compels me to think of all the weaknesses I have to disguise
For I am not weak by many standards but my own
But what is my own if not tainted by others’
Find me a way to be something but ‘colored’
For that means I’m not White
and if I’m not, then how could it be
that we can appear in a form so alike
Different is what we are supposed to be
therefore I am what you should be
For an Arab simply can not be
Civilized and liberal without being the mere reflection of you


A day at the cemetery

I picked up sadness one early day

I shared my troubles and it felt my pain

why dwell on me? It asked

your company makes me feel alive I replied

what about laughter? Doesn’t it make you alive too?

It does but for that it takes two

with you my friend I can be on my own

and feelings alone seem more true

with laughter i live the moment

but in the past is where I am with you

my heart feels warm when filled with memories

some are nice and some are tragedies

but all the same, I relive the stories

so that I might someday find their glories

the future seems colder than December winter

for that i seek comfort in what is familiar

Go and make new memories, it argued

They also might make you cry and dwell

I can’t , and I won’t..I said as my voice fell

I’ve lost my courage, strength and will

You my friend have been a good company

But tears have long stopped being my remedy



The Power of Expectations and the Struggle of Acceptance

Painting by The Soo-Rae Hong

I’ve always been convinced that experiences you go through in life are meant to teach or show you something, but unfortunately we seldom take the time to pause and reflect on what we are supposed to dig deeper in to . It is intimidating and hard for us to scratch the neat surface that we’ve spent a long time polishing, at the end we only see a reflection of who we’ve made ourselves believe to be.
What is more difficult is to take yourself out of the picture and see the experience as a whole and as a part of something bigger, an episode in a sequence of events happening in our lives which are meant to lead us somewhere. Instead we look at the experience in terms of emotions and expectations; how you felt during and after the process, and what you dreamt and expected to feel, and usually that leads to disappointment and frustration.

Emotional or non-emotional, we all have expectations when it comes to a certain feeling we want to experience. It might be that non-emotional distant people expect to reach this certain feeling by themselves through accomplishment and self assurance, while emotional people depend and expect from others to fulfill a needed and long-awaited sensation…for them it’s always derived from others, perhaps out of the sense of sharing and connecting or maybe out of the fear of experiencing loneliness.

Is it possible that we tend to have high expectations of others because it’s harder to look at our own unmet expectations of ourselves? Do we anticipate from people who we subconsciously believe will fail us to find a diversion from the disappointment we already feel within us? Maybe something to justify the discontent in how our lives did not measure up to our dreams?

One way or another, we all at some point in our lives hand over the power to some one else believing (or wanting to believe) that they will lead us to that euphoric place we call love and happiness.
So the question is, if you want to take pleasure in the joyous feeling of that deep connection and belonging, how do you let go of your fears and surrender in relationships without depending and expecting from the other?
Maybe you can find it if you let go and surrender out of your own will and conscious choice, and not surrender to a person but to the emotion. Surrendering doesn’t mean giving up your power; it is actually the power to choose the moments you want to take pleasure in while knowing that the present moment is ALL you can expect.

When we expect we are not really preparing ourselves to accept whatever happens. We are setting certain standards to what we will accept from people and from life, and in life we are disappointed more often than we would like to. But do we learn and expect less? No. On the contrary, our standards become higher, we start excluding from our lives people and situations that we think will lead to disappointment, so the result is…distance and loneliness.

Is it harder to accept who you are, how others are, or what reality really is?
What do you accept in life and from others? Can you accept something or someone who has failed your expectations?

If you are true with yourself, you will find that the flaws in you are also a part of the same reality you don’t want to accept or find difficult to make peace with.
It is easier to accept who we are because we see ourselves the way we want to, no matter how hard we are on ourselves, at the end we still look at our selves with screen filtered eyes. It’s not the same when perceiving others, because we look at them with critical eyes that tell us exactly what we need to see to affirm our own pre-judgmental thoughts of a person, gender, race or even a belief, making it all the harder to accept those who fail to be aligned with how we see ourselves and the world we want to live in.

Truly accepting all others means you accept even before you judge. Whatever your assessment of this person turns out to be in the end, you can still treat him/her with the courtesy you would a loved one. At the end we are all connected in this life, whether we like it or not, if we are honest enough with ourselves we will find that we can always find excuses to anything we do, but we would not do the same for others because we want to feel better about ourselves. When we judge and condemn other people’s actions then we are telling ourselves that we are one of the good ones WE ARE RIGHT.
For some reason it’s been the belief that people who do wrong (by a certain stated standard) are the ones who never assume the role of advocating what is right, therefore if you judge, you are on the right path.


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