“Abdul is my world, my 3rd child. My first two children went straight to Jannah… heaven. Still born. That’s what the doctor called it. You see it’s difficult to raise children here in Iraq. UN sanctions are impoverishing our land, it’s been 13 years now. Children are malnourished…” I offer halwa to the Western journalist sitting at my kitchen table. Little food comes into Iraq. Little of what we produce goes out. And rarely do we find a journalist willing to tell the rest of the world what is happening to our country. This month many journalists are flooding in. There are high hopes in the hearts of our people. Hope that they have come to finally relieve us from these chains. Relieve us from the way our schools and hospitals are slowly being run into the ground. She says my son Abdul is one of the happiest children she’s ever met. I tell her how me and my husband will never make him realise how he suffers. “This has been the life he’s always known. And for that he is happy.” The journalist seems lost, as though she is seeking something I cannot offer. She soon leaves. It is at this point I realise how blessed we have been to have had a healthy child for 9 years. Babies who have complications rarely make it. The first few years are the scariest for any mother here. Last week I saw a look in my child’s eyes a mother never wants to see. It was the look of fear. It mirrored the fear in my own face. The ground thudded. Our house shook. A noise louder than I’ve heard in the 35 years of my life. Earthquake I thought. Suddenly I recalled the last thing the journalist said to me: “Protect your family, they’re planning shock and awe.” She wasn’t talking about sanctions. All I ask is that Allah protect my Abdul from the evils in this world.
I’m Abdul. 4 years ago today our house in Fallujah was raided by the armed forces. They fired their large guns through our kitchen. My mother was cooking. Six of those bullets sent her to Jannah. My Dad could no longer face that house… or our country anymore so we left. We arrived in London soon after. My father knows the meaning of hardship. He missed our country, lost every job he struggled to get. He was a hard worker, but employers don’t care for that much. My father wasn’t accustomed to living in a place where only a rare few stopped to say hello so when he was friendly to people they suspected him. People see us as a threat. That’s the first thing we noticed when we landed. The funny thing is, we “the big threat” feel the most vulnerable. Our local Mosque was trashed by “far-right extremists”, “terrorists” graffittied on the walls. They don’t understand Islam. My father is getting old. Though he battles, he has become weakened with the life we’ve been faced with. When I have the money I will return to Iraq and train to fight against those invading our homes. May Allah protect my Father whilst I am away.
Four days have passed since I had to tell my darling Timmy that his Daddy wasn’t coming home to us anymore. I know he feels it, my Timmy. He smiles and plays like every 7 year old boy should, but I can tell from the reflection in his little green eyes, he knows the worst has happened to us. And I know it’s not long till those smiles turn to confusion. He’s waiting. Waiting for John, my husband to return. Oh and what a husband he is… was. Too good for this world. That’s what I keep telling myself. That’s what I keep telling everyone else. It helps, but of course if I had to chose, he’d still be mine. He’d still be here with me throwing Timmy up and down in the air whilst I’d repeatedly ask him to be more careful. But he was careful, and through my moaning I secretely knew I’d could never feel safer than when he was with us. He’d always protect us. And that’s what made me marry him; love and security. I just wished I could’ve protected him. He phoned me, just before… he said: “They’ve hijacked the plane… we’re circling the World Trade Centre.” 5 minutes later, I saw it on the news. All I ask is for God to protect my Timmy from the evil in this world.
I’m Tim. I’m 18 years old. I lost my Dad when I was a young-un. It’s no secret. Everyone at high school knew ‘bout it… talked ‘bout it. Before 5th grade people used to understand what September 11th meant to me. I’m not too sure now. I hear people talk ‘bout how all those died on 9/11 just don’t matter when no more. “Those who died in 911 are nothing compared innocent people being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan”- that’s what they say. But it matter to me. My Dad’s death didn’t mean “nothing” to my family. He was innocent too you know. There needs to be justice for my Dad’s death. This is the year I can finally join the forces. My Mom don’t want me to, she scared. She’s been scared for a long time now. I tell her I just want to protect people. I want to protect my future family, and protect the families in Iraq. See I know what it’s like to lose someone you were never meant to lose, I don’t want them to know that feeling too… May God protect my Mom whilst I am away.
Timmy is a terrorist
Timmy will murder the innocent
Timmy is part of an evil regime
Timmy is racist
Timmy is attacking the East
Abdul is a terrorist
Abdul will murder the innocent
Abdul is part of an evil regime
Abdul is a racist
Abdul is attacking the West
Perception. Isn’t it strange how it differs depending on who we are and where we are from. Sometimes, we need to take a step back and remember; everyone else is human too. Those of us blessed enough to not be in the positions of Timmy and Abdul are in a position to think critically. Instead, so many decide take sides, make assumptions resounding of those above. Does it ever help? No, it only adds fuel to fire.
To identify why we need Black Feminism, we must first of all distinguish what it is. The first and most frequent mistake regarding “Black feminism” is the misinterpretation of the term Black. Black refers not to the colour of ones skin, but the person’s heritage and political consciousness. People who self define as Black are mostly of African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean descent. The Black feminist movement seeks for equality for women within these communities.
A young Algerian woman, Malia Bouattia from NUS’s Black Student’s Campaign, touched upon what it means to be a Black woman:
“The issues facing Black women are so much worse, not only being women but as a woman of colour.”
It is important to recognise the struggles that women face outside their communities but also within. Black women face racism from outside their ethnic grouping whilst facing sexism within. It is often describe as double oppression.
Malia recognizes the need for Black women to have spaces to communicate problems such as shadism, stereotypes in the workplace, ideas of beauty and under representation. This led to Malia, Beverly Mettle and others from the NUS Black Students’ Committee to set up the first organised Black women’s conference.
Walking into the University London Union venue, it quickly became clear that spirits were high with workshops and seminars taking place throughout the day. The women participated, giving the opportunity for everyone to learn and share each others experiences. Ideas of how to challenge stereotypes and increase Black women representation within the media were also discussed.
After the conference Malia said: “I think a lot of women were surprised at how many problems they are facing. They took these problems to be the norm. They didn’t realise how much they need a collective unified black women’s movement to feel empowered and invigorated.”
Despite most feminism conferences being exclusive to women, this one had it’s first session open to men. Why? Because men need to understand the pressures Black women face:
“There is no point empowering and recognising problems solely within the female community if you go back to a place where the men are not even willing to let you apply anything, it just wouldn’t work.”
Sadly only a handful of men turned up, less than 5. Evidently there is still a lot of work to be done.
One significant problem Asian women face due to pressures internally within the community is pursuing education after the age of 16. And those young Asian women who do get the opportunity to continue the studies often are faced with the pressure of family who expect them to study Asian-typical subjects such as medicine or law. Then of course problems arise when Asian women actually enjoy such subjects; they are perceived by non-Asian communities are as being oppressed, forced into studying that subject. Sports, performing arts and media related subjects are often seen as no-go areas for some young Asian women. It seems to be a lose-lose situation for young Asian women.
However, there is hope. Salma Bi, 26, from Birmingham has proven herself to be able to embrace the activities she enjoys the most: sports. Amongst Salma’s many achievements, she is the first ever Asian Muslim woman to play for Worcestershire County Cricket Women’s team. She has been playing sport for over 12 years and in that time has managed to become the winner of the British Asian sports award.
When asked how she became involved with sport, Salma said: “It’s something I’ve picked up from home with the influence of my dad. I’ve grown up in a sporty family; my dad is definitely a bigger pusher for sports.”
On the 10th March, Salma organised a record breaking 10 hour futsal marathon raising over £1,000 for the National Autistic Society. The team she was captaining consisted of Asian women representing the culture. They are the first female Asian team to ever compete in the fustal league in Birmingham. Futsal is similar to football but played indoors with a heavier football and 5 players on each team.
“We’ve got girls who wear the full hijab and they want to be covered up, we get a ladies only environment if we want to play and that’s brilliant, there’s good respect from other teams as well, they understand our religious needs and beliefs. It’s home to us.”
Things haven’t always been so easy for Salma. She touched upon the fact that her father, though a lover of sport, at one point did not see why she would spend her free days playing cricket. Salma who is also a dialysis nurse said “as I got older I had a lot more independence, when I graduated, I proved it my parents, I’ve got an education and I’m still playing sports.” Salma mentioned that her sister too is involved in sport. Salma said her father “is really proud of what we do and he just wants to make sure that we’re on the right track and we’re doing something ourselves.”
Though lucky to have such a supportive family, Salma said “The public response has been mixed. Sometimes they can easily slap criticism on you and say what you’re doing is a waste of time or asking where sport is going get you in life.” Despite this, Salma continues to coach sport and inspires young Asian women to get involved.
Unfortunately she has encountered young girls facing pressure from home. “I’ve had situations where I’ve seen talented girls when I coach in schools, it’s a shame when I want them to get involved with a tournament or a club and parents are not supporting them. I’ve had to go to parents houses… I say to them “come along and see for yourselves, see how many windows of opportunity can open for them”. It’s just something you have to tackle over time.”
Sport is not the only subject Asian women have trouble engaging in. Media and film are also not popular within Asian communities. Institutional racism and sexism also does not favour Asian women. There is a serious lack of representation of Asian women with these industries. When a Black woman is successful in the media, she is often denied their identity as a Black woman. Examples of this are Beyonce and Oprah of who many do not regard as Black women.
Priya Sudra, 19, is currently doing a degree in film studies and London Metropolitan University. She appears to be comfortable in on her course and does not seem to be facing any real problems.
Her parents back home in Essex are very supportive of her:
“My parents were cool with it. My dad would’ve preferred me to go on to a subject more academic based but he wanted me to go on to something I enjoyed so he was happy for me to go on to media and film.”
As to whether or not Priya will face problems in the future is unknown but there is a evidently remains massive levels of under representation of Black females in the media and film industry.
Black women face massive stereotyping. Women are seen as either being loud, noisy and always shouting. Or they are seen as being trapped in an oppressive culture which in reality is beautiful and Black women are proud to be part of. Because these stereotypes are played out over and over again, Black Women find it increasingly difficult to express themselves as the individuals that they are.
The truth is all the Black feminism movement want is for people to recognize that Black women, like everyone else, are unique. Each has their own characteristics and interests. It simply seeks for these women freedom which appears to be locked away in cages due to stereotypes. It takes time but with empowering networking conferences like that set up by Malia combined with inspiration from women such as Salma and Priya who pursue their individual dreams whilst embracing their culture, the problems facing Black women will soon begin to fade away.
This is the title of a Daily mail story posted today. Whilst scrolling down to see how long it was, I noticed the words placenta, blood and haemorrhaging. Admittidely this was enough to make me not read this. There are just some details I did not want to know about.
Back to the initial question however, it is not reckless or irresponsible providing the woman knows what she is doing. Giving birth is natural and the real irresponsibilty lies with the fact that we are medicalising something of which is supposed to be natural.
It is surely wrong that the women in our society are dependent on the NHS. It is scary that they have no knowledge whatsoever of how to deliver their own baby. If a woman was to break her waters and start having her baby, and I was the only one around I would panic almost as much as she would! However, if this was to happen in a country of which does not have the medical help available, midwives and such, the people would know exactly what to do. We should at least educate people on such things, after all, it will happen to most of us one day.
Another point, let’s face it, how much longer can we really depend on this NHS the way it’s going. If we had enough money and time there would be no harm. But can we afford to allow women to have so much medical treatment for something which isn’t actually an illness? Especially in a society where healthcare and education should be focussed on the ideology taken up by some 12 year olds: the ones running around thinking it’s cool to drink, take drugs and trade STI’s as though they were Pokemon cards.
Saying all of this however, there are exceptions. This includes complicated births: [this is where the quote about haemorrhaging would come in if I had the guts to read it]. Anyone at risk of having a complicated birth would be irresponsible not to get help.
One last thing, it’s fine for me to say all this, but when it comes down to it, if I was expecting a child, I would want the healthcare available. I would not take the risk, even to prove a point.