Story Seventy Seven: Dalia from Egypt

“Because you are a girl”, my mum always explained when I asked to go out with my friends like my brother or when I wanted to do anything my brother did. My mum believed that women were not entitled to freedom or to experience life on their own. I was brought up to believe that women’s role is to serve others and make men happy. She trained me to be obedient and submissive so that I can please the husband who will choose me one day. She was preparing me to be a bride to be won in a lottery.  Falling in self pity for being a girl, I despised men for being the supernatural creature. I did sometimes understand that my parents were overprotective because the streets were not a safe place for girls due to the excessive sexual harassment. I don’t remember if I was only 9 or 10 when I started experiencing harassment on one side, and discrimination for being a girl on the other side, but all I remember is that I grew up hating men so much that I promised myself I would never get married.

“If you think that he is the one for me, then I trust you and I am willing to get engaged”, I told my mum when a 25-years-old humble young man proposed to me at the age of 18. I was not attracted to this young man but I felt that he was at least respectful unlike my brothers and cousins. Disgusted by my brothers and cousins (and even all their friends) who spend all their time hunting whores and harassing girls; I felt that I was finally lucky to find myself one decent straight man alive. I was raised in a home where I felt no love, so I wanted to run away and search for affection out there so I threw myself in the arms of the first person I met. I had to accept that he will not be able to afford the same standard of living I lived in with my parents because he was not well off. I didn’t mind that he wasn’t handsome or attractive because all what mattered was his heart. But I was just too young to know that I made the mistake of my life!

I didn’t realize that living in a male chauvinistic society means that I would be moving from one prison to another. Only the new prison was crueler and any mistake was punished severely. I moved out from one house with its set of rules and regulations to a house with stricter rules and regulations. But at least I was spoiled at my parent’s place and was not mistreated! Marriage, on the other hand, made me a slave working inside the house and outside to cover my own expenses. However, I was trained to obey and please my husband so I couldn’t complain. The “because you are a girl” statement was replaced by “I am your husband” which was my cue to behave and obey keeping my mouth shut. For more than ten years, I have been thinking every day how I was paying the price of a mistake I made when I was too young to even know what I wanted to do in my life. Like Nora, the main character of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”, I felt confined inside a machismo world. I was never given the opportunity to blossom and mature on my own. I was constantly driven by my husband who took advantage of my young age to shape me the way he wanted and manipulated me like a puppet. My will was taken away from me and I was not allowed to explore my own character.

For years, I have forgotten that I am strong, beautiful and have potentials. I was shocked lately when I realized that other men see me beautiful! My marriage has made a doll out of me, because “dolls are not like people, people choose, but dolls can only be chosen”. A wise friend of mine once told me that if women do not have a free will to choose and determine their destiny, then why did God create them with feelings in the first place? Failing to find love in my marriage, I have decided it is enough to love myself. I have discovered that I have dedicated my life to love my life unconditionally, but I forgot to love one person; myself. I owe it to myself to pursue my dreams and to explore the world on my own. I want to make my own choices. I want to choose someone to love not to be chosen. I want to make my own mistakes and learn from them. I want to decide what is appropriate and what is not, and set my own measures of happiness.

Although Islam allows divorce and gives the women the right to self determination and protects her against any violations, our society disregarded Islamic laws when it comes to women and have instead placed their own strict traditions to suppress and enslave women. My family does not believe in divorce and are pushing me to serve a life sentence in my marriage for the sake of my children. But the truth is that they don’t think I have the right to ask for divorce “because I was born a woman”. Although I love my children so much, sometimes I feel that I just want to walk away from everything just like Nora. I always wondered if one day I could be have the strength and courage to stand up to my husband like Nora did and said, “You and Papa have done me a great wrong. It’s because of you I’ve made nothing of my life”.

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