On a full moon night, what raises a lotus flower from the muddy water that it dwells in is “Hope” -- the unseen light that dwells in the dimly lit corners of every “living force”.
Hope emanates within and around us since the birth of creation, yet we fail to emerge from the shadows of different oppressions imposed upon us, and fail to walk into it's luminous path. It is this light that we women, more than any other need to find today, in order to be able to stand up for ourselves and be the “voices” that we need to become.
The familiarity of the term “violence against women” has spread over and across almost every corner of the world – neither excluding the small Nation of Maldives -- “expected” to be “wiped off from the map” in fifty years due to sea-level rise. Regardless of how “sympathy-prone” this prediction may be, what the world fail to notice is that almost half its population is facing an “eradication” which may slowly annihilate the “voices of its women” – in the name of tradition, culture, religion et cetera.
Over the decades Maldivian women have become more educated, more aware, and simply put, more “street-smart”. Fair opportunities and equal rights between genders continue its “strive to be practiced” on a National level through governance – nonetheless, with hindrances, with limitations and with fallbacks. The female intellects and literates; the finest of the “crop” have become a “voice” loud enough to reach the ears of policy makers, judiciary system, political leaders – however, not sharp enough to seep deeper into the hearts of the oppressed women’s shortcoming in voicing out her condition. The several factors holding back such women from raising their voices are completely another story – some, almost a taboo and a crime in the “hundred percent” Muslim community.
My offering here this time, however is not to shed light upon the setbacks faced by my fellow women, but to remind them of “what had made the hidden lotus flower beneath the muddy water rise and open its petals”. Hope, is the flame needed to burn the fire of courage and strength – the grit to raise from the muted lyrics back into its loud melodious song – one, which should be sung for one’s own self and for the sake of the generations to come.
As December 13th marked the end of a profound campaign worldwide; sixteen days of Activism Against Gender Violence, I am immensely inspired by the campaign undertaken by WorldPulse “Let’s Take Back the Tech”. Even though I had not been able to contribute to the campaign within the required sixteen days, I shall commence my journey from here -- inspired by the footprints of the brave and profound women who have contributed their strong voices through WorldPulse – for, I believe those “sixteen days” should be continued with its activism through “each and every day”.
Dear friends, the role of my humble pen and meek ink here is only that of a simple messenger -- delivering a letter written by “Hope” to “Death” -- wishing that it reaches every hopeless heart awaiting a reason to “speak out”….. Like the lotus flowers that bloom at night in order to live its life and “stay alive” – if not for anybody else, then for the sake of her very own self.
-- Ishtar Zikr
It is me again; Hope.
How often does one receive a letter with a faded stamp of a coconut palm and a fishing boat -- posted from a land barely visible on the surface of any atlas? A millennia old Nation, once reigned by Sultanas and Queens who proudly processioned on decorated elephants, and ruled regal thrones. A country once led by a significant matriarchy -- now “harvesting” its women, like “scarce seasonal crops” in a “field of a men’s world” -- The Maldive Islands.
Dear Death. Of the many times that we have crossed paths upon this land, I have never looked you in your eyes and held my ground as firmly as I shall today. My remorse for those lost yesteryears -- when I, Hope, failed to resonate on the “chains of shackled tongues” of many women hushed by heinous atrocities -- have now become “rusted scars” tearing asunder their enduring bosoms; spilling hopelessness, which slowly seep back into their red veins on silent nights… Mute shadows of silent deaths! Alas!
Ah, Death! My Nemesis! I am well aware of your little tolerance for my loquaciousness. Hence, I shall hasten the jabbing of my pen upon the pulp of this page and put forth my point.
Well, would it be too impudent for me to say that you no longer are welcomed upon this land?
Hark! While you were busy taking lives of innocent children in Syria, gathering souls of Shias bombed in Pakistani Mosques, collecting lives of suicide-bombers in Palestine -- a death nor lesser than yourself prevailed over Maldives -- killing innocent women – silently, slowly – today and yesterday, as it always did and always does.... Demise of mothers, sisters, daughters and aunts... Demise of teachers, midwives, writers and politicians -- death of their souls, death of their courage, of dignity, of chastity and of their womanhood too -- “murdered” on their very own beds, behind closed doors, within black hijabs, beyond “glass podiums” – and, most appallingly, before the very sight of Justice. Alas ! Such disgrace in your name, my friend !
Dear Death. Now, might your persistence in committing such abhorrent acts of “gender-butchering” upon this “self-selling-sunny-paradise” prevail, I exhort you to ruminate over again – for, henceforth I vow to become a barricade at every bedroom, every courtroom, every classroom, every prison cell…. To become a bulwark for every soul raped, every mind demeaned, every voice hushed, every body torn -- fortifying the “Voices” of every women forced to live in the “hell of this paradise”. Aye! The feminine voices that once sung lullabies to the sons of this land are hushed by the same men -- like lyrics forgotten before being sung into melodious songs – in the name of tradition, in the name of law, in the name of religion and so on.
Ah, Death! You must be loathing my audacity. But, they say I do wondrous things too. Thus this letter -- reaching you as “a candent ray of a new Sun”, neither you nor they had expected to witness. Yes, I rise! Upon this page, beneath this ink; as Hope I rise -- on the horizon of the defeated soul’s courage, I rise! On the azimuth of muted voices’ truth, I rise!
I rise… … for every woman raped in the vicinity of her own home, I rise! … for every girl forced into labor and deprived of education, I rise! … for every girl sexually abused by her “fathers and uncles”, I rise! … for every wife physically abused before her own children, I rise! … for every intellect suppressed in the name of religion, I rise! … for every educated woman deprived of fair opportunities, I rise! … for every woman jailed and molested in confinement, I rise! and, for every woman made to “die” in the name of “being a woman”, I rise!
O’ Death ! Be cautioned ! The golden sun of a new Hope is here. The veins you squeezed into lifelessness throbs again, beats again. After washing the blood of “silent battles”, the Maldivian women shall stand up again – after centuries they shall rise up again -- singing songs of a new life they shall rise – reminded of the courage once lost, yet pulsating through their “deaths” they shall speak again – of their rights for their rights !
So listen… listen… listen…
Your comrade from a different war, Hope