Sunday, May 27, 2012

A minority of Arab girls in search of crumbs of freedom

        Arab women, in the past few centuries, were enslaved by men. Men who were born during that Era thought that because Eve was created from "the crooked rib" of Adam, her duty in life was to serve her man without blinking an eye. A woman had to obey her parents blindly: do whatever they ask her to do and marry whoever man they choose; as, for them, she is only a soulless body, an object, a treat for man to ease and enjoy his life. A woman used to only serve her husband; cook his food, wash his clothes, take care of their children, smile at him even when she's upset, remain silence even when he swears at her and cry calmly every time he beats her.. Till today and in some areas in the Arabic world, women are still handled in the same way, especially those who never went to school, or got used on being treated like that by their families, or live in a suppressing society. It is true that women who are still living in such hellish prison are merely a minority. Nevertheless, a true human being must believe that a minority must not be overlooked. So, did the status of women in the Arab society really change over the centuries? The answer is yes! But how?

        After years of struggle, women have finally been given the right to go to school, have a job, vote and express their minds freely. Technically, it is true; however, practically, it is not- at least not for all women. Governments all over the Arab world gave women these rights. But what about their parents? Do all parents believe that their daughters may practise them? A girl at my age can vote; but, is she allowed to attend political reunions? She can think the way she wants to think; still, can she put those thoughts into practice? These girls must be so confused asking lots of questions like: Why don't my parents let me talk? Why don't they let me go out, experience the world and be a social butterfly? Ironically, girls who have been given the liberty to do whatever they want by their parents, use it to do absurd and sometimes blasphemous things like going out with boys and party all night, smoke, drink and get high. It never occurred to them that they happen to have such a bless that many other girls wish to have. Nevertheless, the good thing is that great female freedom fighters were born from the most restraining families, societies and countries; pioneers like Zaynab Fawaz, May Ziada and Houda Chaâraoui.
 Now let us seek the reasons behind parents withholding their daughters. Although these reasons are unclear, the questions are many. Are parents afraid of the danger that their daughters may be exposed to in the real world? Do they think that their number one priority is to make their girls stay still till they get married? Is it because they don't know what their little girls are capable of? Or is it because they just don't respect their decisions and desires? What a puzzle! Let me take my situation as an example. I have a brother. On one hand, my parents always encourage him to go out, meet descent people, socialize, practise a hobby, have a summer job. They let him bring his friends over to hung out or study. He enjoys a big amount of freedom and he is misusing it anyway. On the other hand, they don't even let me go to my girlfriend's house which is next door! They don't let me go to a certain party's reunion, even though I am going to vote. And my mother's idea about voting was: "You don't have to vote. Your vote won't matter." But I am going to vote no matter what. I'm not going to give up a right that other women died to fulfill. what would that make me? Moreover, I'm not allowed to do anything at all without their permission, and they will refuse my demand anyway. Likewise, every time I ask to practise a certain hobby, they turn me down telling me to go read a magazine or watch TV or something. Why? It is simply because I was born a girl and he was born a man. "It's a man's world" indeed. Now, what's wrong with this picture? Or more likely what's wrong with my parents? What's wrong with all parents thinking and acting this way. I know that I am not the only one facing problems in proving my existence. I happen to have some girlfriends who suffer from the way of their parents' thinking. Some of them get beated every time they exercise a right or think out of the box. Some of them hear harsh and heart breaking comments for writing an innocent love poem at the back of their copy-books. The situation in the Arab world, and in Tunisia to be precise, is so ironic and sickly absurd. Half of the Arab girls have surpassed the red lines of freedom, and the other half know nothing about it. It is rare to find something in between; something fair and just. And when I say rare I mean parents who happen to be very well educated mentally and morally. I know that it is hard to find such balance; however, it is not impossible. I wish that all parents around the Arabic world would keep their minds open. Letting their girls practise a hobby, visit their girlfriend next door, or attend a political party's reunion does not mean they will become immoral. If they are, they will exercise their immorality no matter how many doors you will lock them up.

          It is up to women to fight for what they believe in and want to achieve. However, it is so hard for some women to get rid of the way of life as well as the way of thinking that their parents have implanted in their minds over the years. They get used to them to the point that they don't want freedom anymore even if it becomes easy to get. Per contra, for those who still want it, I would like to tell them that if women before were able to stand up against the harsh criticism and judging eyes of both society and government, then I think girls like you and I can surely stand up against the negative repressing power of our parents. Let us be wise, out-step the generation gap and make our parents hand us the torch of freedom. Do it now or else you will lose it forever; first because of your parents, and then because of your husbands. If you want it, then you have to earn it. If you deserve it, then you'll finally have it. %

                                                                                                                                                  Written by: Nada Mrabet

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