- I Became a Creative Writer -
- A Matter of Tradition -
Corresponding Thoughts to “He Who Said Yes, He Who Said No” by Bretolt Brecht
How nice is it to agree on doing things and with decisions after we put enough thought into the matter and not because others said yes and we blindly repeated, yes?
I have learned something essential from listening to the radio version of Brecht’s play “He Who Said Yes, He Who Said No.” Many times in my life, I ended up agreeing to things without having enough knowledge regarding how much harm they could bring me. It is not too late. I am still capable of fixing what will come next.
I was once offered a trip abroad with a group of teachers and two classmates. My classmates and I won a competition for short stories between schools. The prize was a trip to Morocco to attend an international conference. We were a total of ten participants, but my family refused. It was my extended family from my father’s side. My father wanted me to go, but my mother kept changing her mind according to what the neighbors and family thought about the matter. All of that made me hate traveling although it was my dream since I was a child. In the eyes of my father’s family, I was too young. According to them, how can a 16-year-old girl travel alone without her father or brother?
The reasons for saying no also included the news of a plane that fell somewhere, bird flu, swine flu and and and… I cannot recall the entire list of reasons. It was a difficult period. Despite it all, I traveled. My father was the eldest among his brothers. His approval was the end of the story.
It was my first trip ever away from my family. I was very happy despite all the troubles one could face while traveling alone and far from all what one is used to. I enjoyed every moment and I was very responsible against all the expectations that came from those who said no.
Why is it that a girl is not allowed to travel when everyone else would not miss a chance to travel? Is the age of 16 that young? If a girl is not given space for trust and freedom, how will she accomplish what she wants in her life? Every opportunity of trust that I was given, has given me massive space to achieve what I want and sense responsibility in my life.
I have always been up to the trust my family gave me. I have always employed every opportunity to go further in life. Unlike a daughter who deserves trust, a son is granted trust unconditionally and effortlessly. Tradition hinders women despite the many examples of women who did much better than men in life regardless of the more difficult challenges. Tradition, in many cases, forbids a woman’s right to work especially if she is financially OK or if she married a man who can provide for her. Tradition does not see the necessity of women leaving the house. Tradition makes every “No” in this regard a shame as if women are demanding a sin. Families would do all they can to make their daughters change their minds about work. Why is it so?
Women take care of their families and still work outside the household. They are capable of it all. Then why is it this complicated? What is this denial of rights for? Education and work are self-fulfilling. Deprivation is unfair. Women are also deprived of expressing opinions. They are all given what is considered basics. Yet, there is what is more important than food and water. There are essentials.
Women are asked to take care of children, to clean and raise a family. All housework is on women’s shoulders including helping children with their schoolwork. Men go back to the house everyday from work demanding absolute silence. Why can’t men and women share housework and childrearing? Why do women have to handle all these burdens by themselves? They have to do everything and anything except for things that would help them fulfill themselves.
Even when it comes to technology, many families ban their daughters from using phones and laptops. What is this deprivation and mistrust for? The world has become a small village. Sciences have gotten closer and available in small devices that are in many cases exclusively accessible to men.
If a girl makes a mistake, she is shamed. Men make hundreds of mistakes with no blame at all.
Tradition in rural areas puts the responsibility of entire families on women once they are married. It adds to their duties hard labor like farming, harvesting, cultivating cattle, processing dairy produce, bringing fuel and water. And men? Men go to the city for work leaving all of this behind. Why cannot men and women share the burden and together find ways to create a decent life side by side in villages?
When it is time to marry, it becomes shameful for a woman to say whom she wants to marry, for they know whom and what is suitable for you. You are never qualified for making life-altering decisions. Who is to live with this man? Who will pay the price for an unhappy marriage, the family or the woman?
Who pays the price for saying no?
- Al-Afandema1 “The Policewoman” -
A Short Story from An Interview
What a tiring day! It passed very slowly. When I reached that beautiful land called the Land of Cubes, I forgot all my troubles!
I reached the hotel and fell sound asleep. I woke up later to go to the agreed place where I had to get my mission to the Land of Cubes accomplished. When I walked into the building, a policewoman, afandema, searched me. She allowed me in after welcoming me with a charming smile that attracted me and made me feel warm.
I finished my paperwork and right before leaving the gate, I looked up to the afandema’s office. She seemed swamped in work. I wanted to say goodbye, but I also did not want to interrupt her. I kept thinking the whole way back: “What is she like? What are the details of her life?”
Three days later, I left the hotel to the Wide Leaves Road. I was staying with one of my work colleagues. When I arrived to the house, I saw afandema walking down the same road, Wide Leaves Road. Her chestnut purse with a dangling small owl key chain caught my attention.
I approached her and said: “Hello, how are you? Do you remember me?”
My sentences flowed with no sense of order. She, however, responded with the same charming smile from a few days ago. I gathered my courage and asked if I can get to know her better.
She answered: “I have to go home now. I take care of a big family and I have too many responsibilities.”
I sneaked my business card in her purse, as I got lost in her glowing eyes. She had determination that I have never seen anything like before. I asked her to allow me the chance to meet her again when she can. Two days later, She called me and we agreed to meet at the Blue Rose garden. This was the biggest public park on Wide Leaves Road. I wrapped my shawl around my head and decorated the corner of my hair with basil leaves and flowers the way men do in my village back in Saber, Taiz. She came to the park in a bright red sweater. While she was walking towards me, a child fell off the swing. She ran to pick up the child and we only left him when we made sure his wound was stitched at the nearest hospital. My heart was racing as I saw her do the most mundane as well as the most complicated things of all.
Later that night, she told me about her dreams, about how she wanted to have a capital that allows her to build and manage her own park. Her passion made me visualize the colors and butterflies in that dream park of hers. I offered her money to fund her project, but then her face changed and she said: “It seems that you are rich and so foreign from the Land of Cubes.” I lost words and became very nervous until the sight of the little owl keychain saved me. I said: “It seems this owl is so precious to you. “
Two weeks, later, I left the Land of Cubes with tears in my eyes for the first time in years. I was not able to understand myself. Was it the exhaustion? Or was it the afandema with the purse whose zipper had a dangling little owl?
Afandem is a colloquial title to address policemen in Yemen. The writer here is adding an “a” to make it an equivalent to “policewomen.”