Begin with the sentence: Someone once told me…

“I wish I was brave enough as you are so I could speak out for my education. You were brave enough to stand in front of your uncles and say that you are studying and you don’t want to be engaged or married. I am engaged now and after a year I am going to be married. My mother-in-law told me, ‘Stay at home and learn how to cook for a big family, learn how to sew and try to make your jahizia (the materials that the girl’s family give to their daughter for her new house when married.) Try to lose weight a little bit, or otherwise I will not let my son marry you.’ My family accepts those comments of her and I have to stay home instead of going to school.”

Nadia, who was really smart and wanted to become a doctor, is suppose to sit at home and be a housewife instead. “It was her junior year. She could have graduated from school in just one more year,” I told her mom.

Her mom looked at me as if I was her biggest enemy in the world. “You did not accept your cousin, now you want to ruin my daughter’s future. Her fiancé is really rich, and he is a business man going back and forth to China,” she said. Then her grandmother started to advise me to get married, saying it is the only right way for Muslim girls and their future.

I could not say anything to her because I had to shut my mouth when the elders were talking, and I was just wondering whether, if I had not stood up to my uncles that night, I would be in the same situation now. I was glad, but also very sad at the same time for the girls who cannot decide for their own futures.

Where I wish I was…

In a world of silence, no sounds of explosions, bombings, rockets, shootings. No sound of crying, the scream of a child seeing his/her mom lying on the ground with blood all over. The scream of a girl looking for the pieces of her brother’s body hit by a suicide attack. No more sounds of a baby with eyes looking around to see who is going to pick him/her to be her future.

A place, where people are treated equally with seeing no difference in their color, religion, ethnic, language or anything else.

A world where there would be no more mothers kicked out of their husbands’ house or divorced because she gave birth to a girl. No more sounds of HATE…

A world full of love, respect, prosperity, unity, and equal rights.

What I want to say about my father or mother…

Parents are the most precious gifts from Allah. For me, they have been the most supportive people in my life. Every decision I make is supported by them. It is almost five years since I lost my father. He was always helpful. He was not educated, but he could write, read and help me with some subjects for my classes. Even some educated fathers could not write as well. Sometimes, I thought he was a genius. He was a hero for me, and he is still a hero in every step I am taking in my life.

My mother is not just a mother but a very good friend of mine. She has seen so many difficulties in her life. She endured a lot of people’s backbiting about her life before marriage. She was the only woman in my father’s family who was educated. She worked in a hospital as a head midwife. She was a very different person when she was a girl. She used to wear miniskirts to school, and then she had to wear burqa after her marriage. She let her children study and be like her. Although my father was not educated, he respected my mother and her decisions. After my father died, my mother supported me and the decision to go alone for one year to America for high school. My uncles who wanted to supervise our family after my father’s death did not agree in any way for me to leave the family for one whole year. I would not have been able to fight for it if my mom was not with me. I share almost everything, even the small incidents, that happen in my life with my mother. That is why I call her more of a friend than a mother.

By Maryam