She, Breaking Free by Zineb, Tunisia

Her room, again, portrayed an obscure cavern of darkness which was not new to her. A vintage dress, from an era that goes way back, was the only separation between her skin and the creeping midnight chill. In her usual sleeplessness, she was drunk on silence. For hours, it had seeped into her pores, dowsing her mind in its thick toxicity and slowly she stepped into the darkness. Her mind is blurred with dreams and possibilities, each more fanciful than the next. She hugged her bare arms real tight, and she opened her window and started gazing at the dead life surrounding her. It had been one rough day which she spent trying to avoid the man that she has found herself married to. She felt separated from her body and felt herself being dragged up the stairs like a useless old handbag.

She could hear her heart bouncing and feel the electricity on her skin. And within seconds, his hands moved over her body causing her a transitory paralysis. She couldn’t move even if she wanted to, because his fingers have short-circuited her mind, in a way out of her control. And then both of them moved in an intoxicated dance that lacked lust and passion. In the twilight room, their fingers didn’t caress each other’s skin and they didn’t melt into one. They remained two bodies, each utterly drunk in its own thoughts.

Her days were all the same. The house felt emptier than a crypt and crying had become a habit.

He hardly showed emotion. He only showed polite interest in her life and otherwise kept to himself. The marriage was a sham. Two months after the ink had dried on the certificate, they were just two people sharing a house.

Thinking about her great prospects and how she could still go to college, were the only two things keeping her alive in the midst of it all. Leading her eventually to bring up the subject with the man that her father chose for her without consent.

The slap was as loud as a clap and stung her face. It had been an open-handed smack and it had left a red welt behind. Just below her eye was a small cut where the ring had caught her. She staggered backwards, hiding her face, eyes watering.

She went running up to her room, and her foot went right through the first one. She staggered backwards, her mind swirling, her breaths swallowed until she fell in a heap to the floor. Suddenly, the image of her father beating her up crossed her mind again. She knew she would loathe herself if she made the same mistake again and didn’t speak for herself. Trembling, she stood up again, fast, and ran to the room, and instead of breaking down, she started packing.

She was blinded by a five-course serving of rage that tasted bitter, yet surprisingly satisfying.

On her way out, she paused and looked at him for the very last time feeling disgusted and then she slammed the door hard hoping his stupid brain would rattle in his stupid skull, completely rejecting the fact that men feel superior to women, never altering the status quo no matter how hard they try.


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.

EUPI both flags

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