Monday, December 23, 2013

Supporting Women's Right to Join the Military Since my Childhood

Reem's Scream

I remember the exact day I knew I would disappoint my family. I was visiting my uncle, and numbers were being shouted from across the room. It was like an auction, only it wasn't an auction; it was a marriage proposal. 

“5000 pounds,”said the suitor; this is around $700 in US currency. 

“10,000!”yelled my uncle. 

"Be reasonable, she is over thirty," said the suitor, pointing to Sarah, my “over thirty”relative.

I stared at Sarah, hoping that she would get up and angrily walk away but, unlike my fantasy, Sarah remained silent, still and poker-faced. 

“8000 and not a piastre more,”said the suitor, and my uncle grinned. 

“Welcome to the family,”he said cheerily, and they both got up and broke into hugs and kisses. The dowry negotiations were over and Sarah was to be given to the suitor for “8000 and not a piastre more.”My uncle kneeled down besides me and said, “One day, child, this will be you.”While I am sure these words were said in good heart, they sent chills down my spine.

Most of my close family members are in the Muslim Brotherhood. My father, a puritanical fundamentalist, saw only one future for me and that was becoming poker-faced Sarah. He prided himself on banning music and art from our household and forbade me from playing sports because they were unladylike. 

But I had a thirst for knowledge and an enormous intellectual curiosity that grew with each passing day and I was not convinced by his ideas. When I was eleven, a family member gave me her old laptop; this was the most precious gift I have ever gotten for, without exaggeration, it changed my life. For the first time listening to real music, not just hymns about Hamas was not a fantasy but a true possibility. I downloaded books and music and art and in a few years began to read books about politics, philosophy and religion. My father’s voice was no longer the dominant source of knowledge for me, and that sparked endless questions in my head about the meaning of life and the existence of God—questions that led me even farther from my father’s views. 

In my teenage years I became an agnostic, realizing that while I could not answer the big questions, I was not convinced by the answers I was given. I gradually introduced my beliefs to my father. Needless to say, that resulted in tremendous conflicts. After much research into the matter and coming to firm beliefs about it, I removed my veil. My father became enraged when he saw that not only were my opinions were utterly different from his but that his inability to control me was visible to other people. He said on more than one occasion that he regretted sending me to school and that girls like me are the reason the Taliban opposes educating females. After months of attempting to pressure me with domestic violence and seeing no sign of submission, he used his connections to get me admitted to an insane asylum where I was given electroshock treatments. Eventually I pretended to submit in order to be released. I was released in May of 2011, more than two years ago ...

By: Reem Abdel-Razek