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Drafting a New Story: Women's Rights in the Middle East

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Yasmin Ali

Originally Published by Sawt al-Niswa, November 8, 2010

Yes, when I do write about my father or I don’t, I take a political stance on how he treats me and how he portrayed the world for me, and how I frown upon the existing power structure and want to deny it, fight and choke it.

And yes the personal is political because when I chose to read Marx, when I hide in my bed, reading in English – it feels safe that the parents cannot read English – and I know it is my personal struggle, my personal abyss, to read, to break the walls and turn it political.

When personal is arab, when personal is twenty-seven years-old, with a muslim sunni currently pro-hariri ex-fate7 guerilla fida2i father and shia currently hasan nasralla groupie mother, female, middle income, the eldest in a family, when personal grew up during wars, grew up amongst Fears, grew up with 2 sisters and a brother, has lived with a handicapped younger sister, the personal IS necessarily political.

But the image is still unclear for me, and the wall ever too big. While I choose my personal struggles and stick to them to the bones, till the end, till I am the bones, the political was forced upon me. And I refuse it and I am a fighter.

And I wear my political, raw, red, and bloody on my neck, bow down to it in awe, dangle it from my hair and loop it around my fingers. And I refuse to keep it in a drawer and work at khatib wa 3alami, I refuse to keep it in a closet and push my boobs up, grow an ass-for god’s sake – botox those lips, straighten that hair, design those gardens or buildings or whatever the fuck you do and fit in.

And I fight and fight. And I refuse the anger in his eyes, and I refuse the hatred, and I hold on to the woman in me, to the ancient and mother and I resist. His words and actions, his portrayals of the world do not affect me, his life is not mine and it is my path he will not draw.

I resist and it is this resistance that ties me to my political, gives me right to call it my own, child of my veins, my personal.  When I walk down the street and have to bury the smile in my teeth, it is men’s position which forces me to turn my personal into a political belonging, a sisterhood of arms, a breaking of the shame cult.

When I choose my own path, and decide to question the basics of my existence and reply to each frown with a word, and I am blamed to be what I am, to believe and act upon my self-made principles and am ex-communicated because I don’t follow orders, my only survival tactic is to turn the personal into political, and live my struggle.

And I love that you see this, and I love that you love this and I love how you call me ‘shouyou3iyyeh ya albi’ despite my refusal and I’m thankful I don’t have to be shy about my personal, my political.



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