Part 3 -- More from Both Right and Left Handed: Arab Women Talk About Their Lives by Bouthaina Shaaban
See this post to read about the author, the introduction and Syrian interviewees. Click here to read about Lebanese women.
In the next chapter the author talked to Palestinian women who resided in other countries as refugees. (Because she is Syrian, Ms. Shaaban cannot travel to Palestine/Israel to interview women still living there.) I read eye-opening accounts from women who had experienced so many hardships because of the Israeli occupation. It was interesting reading facts I had never heard before, and I learned how the Israelis exploited the fact that Arabs are very, very concerned with their women's honor (sexual purity) by saying they would rape all the women. Therefore, many people fled. (It wasn't until later years that Palestinian women took it as a sign of courage for getting raped by Israeli monsters because they refused to abandon the land.) I was appalled by many things described -- how women and children were killed either by Israeli bullets or by being allowed to starve and thirst to death in shelters. Truly heartbreaking if you really imagine people living in such a way. And how can people be so incredibly evil and cruel to one another?
When asked what she thought the answer to her problem as a Palestinian, one woman replied, "The answer is for all Arab countries to unite, love each other and stand in one line and one heart against the enemy. The enemy is not the problem, because if we unite we could defeat not only Israel but America as well. America is one country and Israel another -- but how many Arab countries do you have? Fifteen or sixteen? I just wish to God that we could start loving and truly supporting each other, and then no enemy, however mighty, would be able to impinge upon our rights." (pg. 153)
Speaking of her family pressuring her to marry at age 14, one lady said, "Although my mother was against the idea and my father never tried to force me, I nevertheless felt the pressure from the extended family and from society at large; a pressure that bordered on brainwashing. I found their industrious attempts to persuade me to get married exhausting." (pg. 157)
Another lady didn't fight the pressure to marry early, instead she declared that "Like most Palestinian girls I got married early in an attempt to escape family and social oppression. Despite the fact that my family was quite a distinguished one I was still expected to live a double life; I might be open, intelligent and independent, but once it came to marriage I was expected to marry a man of my parent's choice rather than that of my own. Amongst Palestinians communities, early marriage is the norm; as far as young women are concerned an early marriage is their only outlet from the traditional Arab family in which unmarried women have no right to act, speak or even think independently. So my marriage was in a way a bid for freedom." (pg. 161)
So from reading these interviews, I've come to realize how awful extended families can be! Why in the world is it necessary for women to be married off so early in life? :-/
Stay tuned for excerpts from the interviews with Algerian women.