Is it really ever different?

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Before I start saying anything, I want to note that I don’t mean to drag down any government or country, this post is purely about my feelings.

I will start briefly by going back to early 2016, when I was living in Dubai, I somehow always felt threatened by the idea that I am a Syrian there, not because anything happened to me personally, but probably due to the visa restrictions that my cousins were going through, and even though there was never any discrimination that I personally went through in Dubai, I felt like I needed to be in a place where maybe just maybe I don’t require a visa in, being unhappy in my job, and bored with the corporate world were also leading factors to why I decided to move to Lebanon.

Beirut, I was head over heels in love with Beirut. The people, the atmosphere, living independently, having a new job in the humanitarian field where I actually felt like I am accomplishing something, I was so happy. However, this happiness didn’t really last, as racism started coming at me from all sides, not a single day would pass without me feeling like an intruder in Lebanon, like an unwanted guest, like someone that definitely doesn’t belong.

Little by little, Beirut started chocking me, the happy road beach trips were trips where my eyes would haunt racist signs, and the journey to work in the morning turned to fights with racist taxi drivers, you get the picture, also the fact that my organization was soon to be closing down, and that I felt the need to pursue my academic knowledge in Humanitarian work played a big role in why I decided to move to Europe.

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As I applied for an Erasmus programme, and started raising funds to go to a place where humans are respected and treated with dignity, little did I know what’s coming my way. When I got the acceptance, I was over the clouds, but not half as happy as I was when I reached my funding target, I knew that for once after 2 years, being a Syrian won’t be a reason why I will be discriminated against.

The first time I realized that wasn’t really true, was when I visited the “aliens’ office” (yes its called aliens not foreigners) I went in there with a smile on my face, waited in line until I got to the old lady that was working, and here is how the conversation went:

Farah: good morning, I am a student that just arrived in Germany, I was told by the consulate where I got my visa from that I need to visit you to get my residence permit.

Old lady: *says something in German*

Farah: I am really sorry, but I just arrived here, and I don’t speak German.

Old lady: *says something in German*

Then the security guard approaches me and speaks to me in English saying that the old lady is saying that they are not operating anymore today, and I should come back tomorrow at 6 am.

Farah: oh ok, thank you, can I please know the operating hours as my first day of university is tomorrow and I won’t be able to come this early.

Old lady: *hands me a piece of paper written in German*

Farah: again, I am really sorry, but I don’t understand.

Old lady: Translate it!!!

I was so pissed off, I felt hated and belittled, and like my dignity is worth nothing, but I convinced myself that maybe she is old and grumpy, and it’s an individual act.

It was only 2 days later, when I was walking with my Danish friend, he is blond with blue eyes, and I am dark skinned, with brown eyes, and brown curly hair, we were speaking in English, when a woman walking passed us actually hit me, she had her hand in a fist and hit me on my thigh as she walked past me. I honestly laughed it off, I thought maybe she’s not that sane.

Later on, when I went to register my apartment in the city council, I went there with a young Syrian man that speaks German, trying to avoid the previous experience, we sat there in front of a young man, who was processing my papers, and I had a few questions regarding opening a bank account, and so I asked the young man if he speaks English, and he looked at me and replied “yes” but before I could respond he turned his gaze towards my Syrian friend, and continued to speak in German, later my friend explained that the young man told him that he wasn’t allowed to speak to me in English.

That was when I realized that in order to get anything done in Germany, you need a German speaker by your side, and that was literally how it went from there.

To open my bank account I had a German with me, to get a mobile sim card I had a German with me, to recharge my phone I have a German with me, to get my health insurance I had a German with me, to order at the bar I need a German with me, to ask for directions I need a German with me, and so on.

After checking with the university, and some other international students, I managed to figure out what are the required papers for me to get my residence permit, and so I went to the website of the aliens’ office, and booked an appointment I received an auto-reply saying that they will come back to me the soonest, but to make sure I also called them, the answering machine told me to send an email.

And so that’s what I did, and I waited, after 2 weeks with no reply, I went there (with a German of course) the security didn’t let me in, he said that I have to send an email, when I told him that I did, he responded with “then wait”

After 5 weeks with no response, I went there again, and they told my German friend that they take time to reply, and I should be patient.

My initial 3 months entry visa expired on the 30th of November, my family are residing in Dubai, and my residence permit in Dubai expires if I don’t enter the country within 6 months, I left in September so it would expire by the end of February.

I have a month and a half to get my residence permit in Europe, but I was also informed that after I submit my papers, they would take 7-8 weeks to give me my residence permit.

Which means I don’t even know if it is possible for me to see my family anytime soon, considering the visa restrictions on both of us.

Now going back to my Erasmus programme, as my first semester in Germany, my second semester has to be somewhere else in Europe, and I chose the Netherlands. Last week I receive an email from the immigration desk telling me that considering I still don’t have my German residence permit, I need to apply for a Dutch visa, and that makes sense theoretically, except for the fact that whatever funds I raised were in a German blocked account to prove that I can sustain myself throughout my one year stay in Germany, and the Dutch now needed a proof that I can sustain myself in the Netherlands too. So technically, I can’t do it, I can’t apply to a Dutch visa.

And then I look around, at my German, Dutch, Danish, Australian, and American classmates, only worrying about paper submissions and exams we must study for, and it all comes back to me.

I will never not be treated like a Syrian… I am stuck and I don’t know what to do anymore… and Europe doesn’t really give you the feeling that you lost being treated inhumanly in developing countries.

And the truth is, I am not okay…

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I thought he was trying to help me

anony 6

My story might not be as extreme or intense as other girls’ stories but it affected me deeply I was only 18 at the time.

I just moved to a new country for college and even though sexual harassment is common there I didn’t think it would happen to me, no one really gave me the talk ahead of time anyway.

I was in a crowded metro station and suddenly we hear gun shots, everybody started running in different directions pushing me around (I’m 5’0 and skinny and I’m sure at the time I looked even younger)

Then out of nowhere I feel this old man pulling me to the side I thought he was trying to help me since I looked like I needed help!

But no he cornered me and started touching my groin, and at the time I thought he was going for my phone since it’s in my front pocket.

Sexual harassment didn’t cross my mind at all!

I tried pushing him off me but he was taller and stronger than me I yelled for help and even made eye contact with several people, men and women, but no one said anything eventually I pushed him away.

But it scarred me and for many months I would flinch if a man got too close, I’m okay now but I get emotional when I remember that no one in the crowed stood up for me that day.

Anonymous 6

I might actually kill him

anony 5

I think I was around 7-8 or something. I don’t remember the exact age because you tend to block this kind of memories for the longest time possible and everything associated with it.

All I know is that I was too bloody young to understand what was going on. I used to visit my uncle’s house to play with my cousin who was my age. His older brother would be there too.

Sometimes he would insist on playing with us. He was like 17 but for some reason he insisted on playing with us.

He would send his brother to another room or pretend to play hide and seek and take me to hiding with him. I was so clueless back then. At first it started with groping and touching. I knew it was wrong and he should stop but fear and his physical superiority meant that I really couldn’t do anything.

Add to that that he would take me to “hide” in a dark bathroom or closet so it was more than scary. It went on for some time. My parents completely trusted him in taking care of me when they were away, little did they know.

Every time he did it he would go a step further, started with touching, groping and pretty much done everything a fucking sick predator would do to a little kid. It went on outside the house too.

Sometimes he would offer to take me to the barber or buy me ice cream or some shit, my gullible parents would agree. He would drive to a secluded or out of the way road and proceed to rape me. I didn’t even know what it was then. I was too young to understand anything about rape, sex, and all that shit. One time I refused to do what he wanted and ran away.

He stopped afterwards.

They left to live in another city. I never really told anyone or confronted him. Very few know about this.

Other than the physical pain the psychological and emotional pain is what kills me. At that point I didn’t know what he was doing to me.

I was just a little boy.

As I grew up and realized I got so angry for not being able to defend myself. I am in my 30s now. I’ve been carrying this inside me for that long, not one day passes without me remembering it. I doubt I will be able to tell anyone about it in person, or even confront him.

I might actually kill him if I attempted to.

I hope whoever reads this and has kids or little siblings sees the lesson in it. Predators and rapists are closer than you think, please take care of your little ones.

 

Anonymous 5

 

What if the one who did that to you was your brother?

anony 4

Its embarrassing you know…

What if the one who did that to you was your brother?

So my dad got married twice, so technically he is my step brother, anyway it was on a Christmas eve 24/ 12 / 2013 and we were having dinner at his house, he is married with 3 kids.

Someone wanted garlic for one of the dishes and my mom suggested that I go upstairs and grab a few from my apartment, and so he tagged along.

While we were getting there, in a casual conversation, I told him how lately my back has been hurting. So he said that once we reach upstairs he will try to crack it for me.

And so we got there, he carried me to crack my back, but nothing happened to my back, so then he took me to the living room and asked me to lay down.

That was when he got on top of me and started moving so I felt very uncomfortable and I immediately asked him to move away and get off of me but he didn’t.

I tried pushing him and when he moved I tried to run away but that didn’t work out so well, he got me and forced me to sit then he grabbed my boobs.

I tried running away again and I went to the kitchen.

He followed me there and tried to kiss me, so I pushed him off again, and left the house.

On the way downstairs he apologized and said that he was sorry, his excuse was that he’s tired and depressed.

You have no idea how disgusted I was and I still am.

I tried to act normal that night when we came back to his house and around the family, while he didn’t speak to anyone after we returned to his place.

Anonymous 4

“Is it good enough, is it big enough?”

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Mine was a year ago. It was my male cousin, he asked me to join him to play futsal with his friends so I agreed. We took the car and I was the one driving.

On the way to the futsal court, he wasn’t fully ready with his sports gear, so he took off his pants (he still had his boxers on) to wear his knee guards. But I was confused why, when he was done, he didn’t put his pants on right away.

He kept saying he’s cold so I lowered the air-condition temperature yet, he still didn’t put his pants back on and I noticed he kept on touching his private parts and then he started asking me about my boyfriend.

I was very uncomfortable and I tried to change the topic so many times.

He didn’t do anything weird until after the game, on the way home, he kept on saying that he felt itchy and kept on scratching around his private parts and again, started to ask about my boyfriend.

He asked about how big was my boyfriend’s penis. I was so shocked and feeling extremely uncomfortable.

Why would someone ask me that kind of question?

Then he suddenly took his dick out and decided to show it to me and then asked “is it good enough, is it big enough?”

I didn’t answer of course.

I tried to focus on my driving and tried not to crash my car. I was shaking so much.

Then he suddenly pulled my hand and tried to put it on his dick but fortunately I was strong enough to pull back my hand. He said “I just want to know if it’s good and big enough to you”

I said “l don’t know and I don’t want to know. This is wrong and you know that this is so wrong.” He said sorry many times but he didn’t look serious at all.

I was so scared.

When we reached home (grandma’s house), I immediately went out of the car and went into my room without talking to him.

He texted me saying sorry but I was too scared to reply.

Nowadays, he just acts normal around me.

But whenever I’m alone with him, I always feel uncomfortable and sweat so much.

Anonymous 3

I believed it was my fault

annony 2

I haven’t really told more than 3 people about this and I’d rather it stays anonymous.

Near the end of last summer, my family and I went to our hometown and there was the yearly festival there.

I was so tired that I decided to go home but my parents decided to stay.

I went back home by foot since it’s in the mountains and our hometown is very safe.

It was very late at night when I left the place; I felt a presence following me but I wasn’t scared at first because I thought that it was someone from my hometown and whoever it was wouldn’t hurt me.

As I continued walking, he approached me, I tried to walk faster and use my phone but he came running to me and asked me about my number, I told him I don’t give my number to strangers.

So he started begging me for my number and I didn’t want to give it to him, so he stopped me, grabbed me by the shoulder and removed my strap.

He caught my boob and squeezed it.

I told him that if he wouldn’t remove his hand I’ll scream and I grabbed his hand and took it off.

He tried again so I screamed and he ran away.

I knew that screaming wouldn’t have helped because of the loud music coming from the festival and no one would hear me.

To this day, I haven’t told anyone because I believed it was my fault for wearing revealing clothes, after my dad told me to wear something more decent because it was an old town.

And now, every time someone tries to touch me, I get scared and I feel uncomfortable and chills go up and down my body.

I’m still scared to walk alone at night.

Anonymous 2

His name was Mohammed

anony 1I would have never been okay to share this, but I found courage after I saw all those people come out with their stories on the trending hashtag metoo.

So here is my story:

14 years ago I was working at a 24 hour event, it was shift based so we all got time to rest and get some sleep at some tents that were pitched around.

While I slept, I was told that a group of men were huddled up around me taking photos of me while I sleep. They apparently sexualized the idea of a teenage boy with long hair.

One man saw this happen and got them to stop while I was still asleep. This ‘white knight’ told me what happened after I woke up, and told me to stay away from that group of men, who continued to take photos of me during the day. But this wasn’t the end of it.

After the event finished, and in the months and years that followed, this ‘white knight’ would try and befriend me, and I felt indebted to him, so I did. He was much older than me. I was 16; he was in his late 20s at the time.

He gradually began to take me on drives in the desert at night, and showed me pornography on his phone. I wasn’t okay with this so I told him to stop, and he did, but then he started to question my masculinity.

Sometimes later, he would do it again, and he would molest me to see if I was aroused by the videos. I told him flat out to stop, but none of this registered to me, I was in shock and tried to brush it off by telling myself that this is what all guys do, and it’s normal.

I only realized years later. I started hiding a switchblade in my shoe whenever I went out for his drives. I couldn’t find the courage to tell him that I didn’t want to see him anymore, I felt unsafe whenever I was around him. But I couldn’t tell him that I didn’t want to see him.

He knew where my house was. He’d come over and call me and tell me he was outside, surprise me with the pressure of him being there and him knowing I was home.

I felt that I had to oblige. He continued to do this until I finally left the country for studies and I managed to get away from him.

A few years ago I bumped into him again, and I felt that he was trying to restart the cycle. I also overheard his coworker questioning why he always had friends who were kids, which meant that I wasn’t his only victim. His name was Mohammed.

Anonymous 1

Sharing our voices

It’s been a while that I haven’t been posting, but moving to Lebanon the past year has been an eye opener to me to so much.

However not to the topic of sexual assault, as I have been there many times through out the past 15 years of my life.

But it is just until now that I decided to write about it, not just my experience, but others’ as well.

I asked random strangers if they are willing to share their stories anonymously, and some agreed, and shared a part of their past that I know is so hard to shed light on.

So many of us feel ashamed, feel disgusted, feel silenced, but we all found our voices to share our stories in order to raise awareness.

If you feel like joining us, you can send me a message here, or an email on farah.faisal89@gmail.com

Thank you

Letter to Anonymous

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So last week I received an anonymous message, from an account that used my name, this anonymous person, wanted nothing other than calling me names and highlighting how they think I became a horrible person in the past 10 years (which they claimed they knew me then)

Now let me start off by stating how ironic it was that this hateful post, was signed off with the word “peace” and used to be long time friend.

I am turning 27 in a month, so this person have known me when I was still a teenager, and yet they claimed that they have known me and that I should go back to the person I used to be, and also managed to claim that one person that once was in my life “ruined” me.

Let’s say, anonymous was correct, X person in my life, ruined me and I couldn’t fix myself, how on earth do you, anonymous, think you have the right to remind me of a “very painful” experience and ruin my progress?

Well dear anonymous, just to help you get better sleep at night, that X person you claimed to have ruined me, is actually a normal distant friend, that didn’t ruin a single thing in me, so rest assured.

It was a great shock to me, that anybody on this earth can possibly allow themselves to send someone so much hate in one message, how can anonymous have nothing better to do that stalk my daily life, and see how I changed in the past 10 years?

Here it is anonymous, in the past 10 years, I discovered so much about myself, I grew so much, I was able to confront myself and talk about the sexual molesting that I endured as a kid, also I was able to be in peace with the fact that I can never laugh the way my sisters do due to the fact that I have depression, in the past 10 years I have met beautiful people that helped me change my perspective on so many things in life, I became more aware of how I can accomplish anything by love only. Also I have read a lot of books that opened my eyes to new dimensions in life and made me learn about new methods. In the past 10 years, I got my university degree and changed 4 jobs, I moved countries, I have had a cat for the past 6 years, oh also I realized I want to be a cat rescuer, I went vegetarian and tried to go vegan and failed, I cut my hair really short and I’m still trying to grow it out, I got engaged and broke up, I said goodbye to far too many family members that I lost count, my visa got rejected 3 times to different cities, I visited so many other new cities, I changed my dress code, and I attended too many concerts, I found many causes that I want to stand up for, like woman rights, animal rights, gay rights, and a lot a lot more.

So tell me anonymous, did you know all of that? Did you know the books I read, and the people I lost? Did you also know where my family members left to? Do you know what were my grades? Do you have any idea about any of the battles I go through on daily bases? do you have any idea what are any of the reasons of why I became who I am today?

Allow me to tell you this, if I am proud of one thing in my life, it wouldn’t be my educational degree, nor my salary, nor my volunteering, it would be the person I am today, I am so proud of who I am, of how I handle life, and how I deal with my every day’s blessings and struggles.

So next time you decide to spread your hate on someone, just remind yourself that you have no idea what is going on in their lives. You haven’t been there, and even if you were, no one can understand or judge another person’s path.

You see, at first when I read the nasty words you used to describe me, I got sad, then I got pissed, but it only took me 10 minutes to realize that I shouldn’t even think twice of who you are, or why you did this, I marked your message as spam, and went on to take a shower.

But I felt the need to communicate with you to let you know that you have not done me a favor by your hateful post, if you do actually care enough to create an account to comment with, I would suggest you make the effort and talk to me in person and drop the anonymous cover, but considering once upon the past 10 years you were my friend, I wish you happiness and I hope you do find the peace that you signed your post off with.

 

You are your only light

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Recently, I received some very harsh criticism from someone that I considered has seen me the way I see myself.

I don’t owe anybody any explanation of what I am, and the criticism has left me speechless honestly as it tackled every aspect of my personality.

It wasn’t one of those statements that help you build yourself or fix some parts, or work on some issues, it was a long essay about the ugly side of my coin and it was in details.

I am only human, I have flaws the same way I have my strengths, I understand I am not everybody’s cup of tea, and I know I have good days and bad days, I know I have far too many issues in my personality the same applies to my looks.

But I felt that I wanted to talk about the criticism that I got, not point by point, and not to the person who said it. But of how I had to deal with it.

As much as we focus on our good sides, we are the only ones that truly see all of us, we see the dark spaces, the holes, the ruins, the scared, the empty, the hesitant, the selfish, the anxious, the depressed, the lonely, along with the happy, the confident, the smart, the stable, the friendly, the strong. We are the only ones that know their proportions inside us, how well we manage to deal with them, how good we can control them.

Criticism is not the same as compliments, compliments even when we get them on daily basis never stick around in our head or cause a major impact like criticism does (I am not dismissing the positive impact of compliments, I actually encourage everybody to compliment themselves before others). However for some reason we build our insides fragile just enough for someone to walk in and start destroying our confidence, the moment we allow someone to see our true colors, we open up to them, we strip our souls naked for them to judge, and even though there are beautiful people that tend to see the beauty of what we have built over the few years we got to live and experience life in, there are still people that have too much darkness inside of them, that they fail to focus on your success to keep this empire inside of you going and standing strong, and only see the flaws and little cracks.

But It’s you, you need to realize that all majestic creatures have a weak point, that you are allowed to have lost some battles, you have some walls that are on the edge of falling apart, and some floors that are full of cracks, you are still standing strong, and it’s your land, and no one should plant weeds where you want flowers, cause when it is all dim inside you, you will be your only light.

One of my favorite quotes for Rumi goes like “the wound is where the light enters you” So let the light shine into your soul, and take criticism with all its ugliness, but realize that as Liam Tinker said “I am not what you think I am, you are what you think I am”

Through these two sayings, I was able to accept the ugliness of the words I received and I managed not to let them hurt me or bring me down.

Always remember that you are a beautiful creature with all your flaws, and without them, you wouldn’t be who you are.