I wake up every day to the sound of Azhan (prayer’s call), I get up and wash myself in order to pray and make mom happy. I lie to her, I lie to myself and I lie to everyone around me but why? Because I really want to fit in. I want to be this girl that thinks like the rest, behaves like “normal” girls and aims for the Moroccan dream: marriage. I cry myself to sleep because I want to be educated, cultured, open-minded and freed from what my family thinks of me. I was told to put the book down and wash the dishes. I was beaten hard to change my tight jeans and wear loose garments that cover my curves in order not to attract the opposite sex. I was blamed for every catcalling act. I was insulted for my body shape and how catchy it is to the point that it causes Fitna (sexual temptation). I was judged for every decision I made: from when I shower to what color my underwear should be. I spent nights trying to force myself to think that repression is alright against girls because that’s what my upbringing was based on: girls suck, boys rock.
At an early age, I used to watch fatwas (religious orders/speeches issued by sheikhs or Muslim leaders) with mom about how haram (forbidden or proscribed by Islam) it is to bury women’s bodies next to men’s. How haram it is for women to exist in the same place as men. How haram it is for women to leave their houses. How it is forbidden for women to work because they should let men take over job posts to contribute to decreasing masculine underemployment. That somehow, women are the main reason men complain all the time. I wanted to believe that they were right but I couldn’t. I was shouting with tears in my eyes, I was hitting myself and cutting my skin for being so weak and unable to say NO, I WILL DO WHAT YOU DON’T WANT ME TO DO. I wanted to be independent and alive instead of chained and imprisoned to death in a house waiting for a man to marry me and practice patriarchy against me. However, it won’t feel as awful because I already got used to it with the presence of my father around as the person who decides my entire life in front of my eyes and I have no right to disagree or opine whatsoever!
I survived through hell, thinking that where I was born and where I am today isn’t the place for me. This pain made me realize that many people, like myself, around the world were born in the wrong place and that doesn’t stop them from working their way through their struggles. I belong somewhere else, where I won’t be judged for smiling or wearing jeans. I belong in a place where freedom is a right, not a privilege, I belong elsewhere, not where I was born. This is the caterpillar effect, the geographic mistake: you live as a caterpillar in your homeland in which you don’t belong and you wait until you go somewhere you fit in, in order to be the butterfly you want to be.
Never lose hope, you’ll be it.
This is just one example of the important work produced YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region.