Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Walk in her shoes

After watching this video I got overwhelmed with emotions
I learned that I couldn’t trust anyone from a small age, even in the house.

I used to have panic attacks at the idea of leaving the house, but when the house became unbearable, what was outside wasn’t as scary.

How are you supposed to trust a stranger to be with him alone in the car while he drives you somewhere?

It took me a lot of courage, and I managed to remain cautious.

First time a cab driver grabbed my leg, my arm, my breast, my face…

It wasn’t the first time I got harassed, but I couldn’t get used to it.

It took me weeks to recover, from the knife held near my neck, the gun pointed at my head…

I became stronger.

Until I get touched by the person I love, and I break down in tears, because there I was vulnerable and being loved but his touch only reminded me of the pain and disgust.

It is an everyday process to not let it destroy the good things in life, to not let it turn you bitter, detached, to keep on trusting and being kind.

Friday, 21 February 2014

لماذا لا تدمريني؟

-لماذا لا تتكلمين؟
-لأنني أراقب
-كيف يتصرفون
-كي أعرف كيف أدمرهم, هل تعلم, لكل شخص نقاط ضعف
-لماذا هذه الابتسامة على وجهك؟
-الانسان سهل التدمير, من دون سلاح, مجرد سلسلة كلمات ممكن أن تجعله ينهار
-ما هي الكلمات؟
-لكل انسان كلمات خاصة به
-هل تريدين أن أصدق ان بمجرد كلمات يمكنك تدميري, أنت وطيبة قلبك وكيف تتسللي على داخل الانسان, ستدمريني بكلمات؟
-الكلمات ليست وحدها تدمر, عليها أن تدخل لصميمك
-فاذاً لماذا لا تدمريني؟
-لأن العالم يدمر, أنا أريد أن أبني

Monday, 10 February 2014

together, we can fight

I will never forget when my grandmother asked me in tears one day “why would you want to cause yourself a headache? Why would you bring yourself pain?”
She was asking me to stay away from politics, to stay away from protests, to stay away from trying to do any change.
It wasn’t the first time someone asked me that, I am always asked, “Why do you bother? Why don’t you just live?”
Dear grandma, I already explained to you that I already have a headache, and that I already have a pain, staying away from politics will not make it go away.
That is the only way I know how to live.
People agree that the world is bleeding, they continue detaching themselves from this world and one another to breathe.
Detaching themselves from what they view as suffering.
You can’t fully detach though, you can’t hide the suffering under the mattress  and sleep on it without it reaching out to touch you at night.
I know it is a lot to bear, but the pain shouldn’t be a reason to stop us from being open to this world and embrace it.
We might think that we are going crazy and break down and feel how insignificant and fragile and small we are, but once you open up and reach out, we will become connected to this world and to one another, together we will be significant, together we will live and soothe our pain, together, we can make it, we can fight.

Monday, 3 February 2014

lessons learned from TBP

Take back parliament was a reformist way of changing the system. Winning the elections was debatable; it was a short period of time to be able to launch a campaign for the election, When I chose to be a part of it, it wasn’t much about winning the elections as much as it was about starting somewhere, but it takes even years to create a stable foundation for an alternative movement on the ground.
It was bound to fall apart seeing now how it was built on a momentary circumstance, which was the election. It was an attempt to plan something for the long term but it fell into the “reacting” cycle.

For the past year, I came to see that fighting oppression was no longer about fighting only the polarization of both 8 and 14 march.

Take back parliament included in its fights, methods to reduce corruption, to create more gender equality and provide basic rights from health care to laws to protect against domestic violence. It included environmental causes and solutions to everyday problems such as electricity, water, traffic… It even included animal rights and causes from the region that we are connected to, such as Palestine per example.

But it stayed in the bubble, it remained centralized and it failed to reach a different audience than the usual group of people from the activist scene.

How detached is the civil society in Beirut from the rest of the population? Simple small example (no attempt to generalize) is how for 22 years and mainly because I never went to hamra or gemayze or achrafiye and such, I heard and knew nothing about the civil society. I barely watched news and my parents as well as my surroundings never spoke about the “civil society”. That was the first time I get to see how detached the scene was from the rest of the population.
You have to seek them and not vice versa.

The tone of a lot of activists (including myself at times) is also often dogmatic, there isn’t much listening and interacting. When I joined Take back parliament or an NGO, it was often the same group of people jumping from an NGO to another, or from a movement to another, or participating in more than one.
It was often the same group of people in the protests, no matter what was the main cause; most activists participated in most protests. At first I got stuck in the cycle of reacting, I felt the need to react whenever something happened but after some time, I realized that the plans based on reacting are falling apart because they don’t grasp the whole image and aren’t built for something sustainable or long term.
Why is it easy to get stuck in that cycle? Because when you feel as suffocating, it feels good to react and have the illusion that you are acting and accomplishing something that will cause a change. It is hard to take a step back, in time of crisis and plan for the long term while we let the world bleed for a while knowing that burning our energy reacting to the crisis, wouldn’t do much good on the long term.

Second, I wanted to fix the system, I was more open to communicate and compromise and reform the system from within. It was a form of normalization of that system to be able to work with it and within it. Later on I stopped wanting to “fix the system”. I want to destroy the system and meanwhile work on alternatives. The system wasn’t just the government, the system extended to the religious institutions and patriarchy and corporations… Some claims that it is better to bring down one thing by it is own and then move to the other, so we debate if we should fight it all at the same time, or fight it part by part. This is more depending on the circumstances.
 There is also how to fight that is debatable, but I don’t think there is much space for debating violent or non-violent tactics once you consider destroying a system exerting so much oppression on you, and would do anything to remain sustainable and functional. The less violent the more you will fall into the “fixing” the system and normalization it and back to reforming it. Movements come and go, and there will constantly be crises to react on, but I no longer wish to support such acts that will burn out the people interested in a change and push them in despair once they realize that in the end we aren’t building a stable force on the ground to fight back.

What do we really have? We have a cycle of support, spaces to gain knowledge. What I want is more interactions in other areas where we rarely interact. I want to initiate more but no longer as a reaction but stop waiting for crisis and start working on independent projects for the long term. I want stable spaces that are both secular and not controlled by a specific NGO or movement, in areas outside Beirut. I want us to stop repeating the same cycle.
Changing the look of a movement, its name, members… wouldn’t mean changing its core. I want us to start tackling problems differently. We have to start thinking differently in order to plan differently.