Veiled Truths

She was shrouded in many layers that defined her in a manner that suited others. Her name carried the weight of heavy, hyphenated labels that pretended to know her better than she knew herself. People looked at her and saw her as an outsider, forgetting that they themselves often did not belong. She didn’t know how to explain to them that she came from a place where the best of friends could suddenly turn against one another, once they were old enough to understand politics, a place where children died before they could understand the concept of death, their laughter interrupted with an act of ruthless precision.

She had been that child once. She remembered the Damascus of her childhood as one filled with high-spirited street vendors who winked at her whenever she went to the market with her father, the smell of roasted sunflower seeds always present in the thick, summer air. She remembered standing on the marble floors outside the Umayyad Mosque at night, watching her reflection stare back at her toothlessly as she held both her parents’ hands.

People wouldn’t believe her if she told them that she also felt afraid. She walked past them everyday and recognized the anger and caution in their eyes. Sometimes there was hatred; mostly, there was indifference. In her black veil, she had an advantage, and this is what unnerved them the most. They couldn’t see anything except her dark, unwavering eyes, so they said nothing. But their thoughts were anything but silent, and she heard them all. In the same way little children pointed and their parents whispered, she learned to decipher the unspoken word. She wondered if they could do the same, if they could hear her even when she hadn’t spoken. I know I don’t belong here, she thought, just in case they could. But I don’t belong there, either. Tell me, then, where should I go?

“The Things They Carried”

“For the most part they carried themselves with poise, a kind of dignity. Now and then, however, there were times of panic, when they squealed and wanted to squeal but couldn’t, when they twitched and made moaning sounds and covered their heads and said Dear Jesus and flopped around on the earth and fired their weapons blindly and cringed and sobbed and begged for the noise to stop and went wild and made stupid promises to themselves and to God and to their mothers and fathers, hoping not to die…afterward, when the firing ended, they would blink and peek up. They would touch their bodies, feeling shame, then quickly hiding it. They would force themselves to stand…frame by frame, the world would take on the old logic—absolute silence, then the wind, then sunlight, then voices. It was the burden of being alive.”

From Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried

When War is Fought for Justice

“Servitude kills, but just war brings every soul to life” ~Friedrich Hölderlin~

Fighting for a cause is seldom black and white, never easy. But then again, nothing ever is. Many people who are wont to advocate peace wish for matters to fit into neat and tidy boxes, each labeled with its respective name. They long for a Utopia in which government does not exist and yet chaos never manages to take over. But such a world does not exist, and never will.

We live in a world that has depended on the false rings of liberty since the first governments tolled the bells of freedom, sure of the long-lasting impact that such an establishment would have on the emerging world. As such, we yearn and look for liberty in every aspect of our lives; in the way we expect to be treated by others, in the way we view our own philosophies, in the way we see government and what we think its role should be. As soon as we realize that a freedom has been taken away, that we are denied our rights, that is when government becomes a separate entity, a threat.

As soon as leaders decided that government needed to exist in order for chaos to be extinguished, freedom became – ironically – a privilege and not a God-given right. If our governments allow us to maintain these liberties: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion – can they not then be just as easily taken away? Like a monetary fund, something to be given and taken at will? How, then, is this freedom?

It must be recognized and believed that governments exist to serve and protect their people. The opposite should never be true. Once a nation’s leaders have decided that they are invincible, untouchable – that is the moment when freedom becomes jeopardized. Then governments become ever-hungry piranhas that feed upon the fear and weakness of their citizens, citizens who realize too late that they have become prey.

What, then, is justice, if freedom can be compromised and stolen? Do the two not walk, hand in hand, on the same foundations that wished to rid societies of anarchy and injustice? We perceive strong, stable and fair governments as just, we watch criminals in courtrooms, where justice is meted out in the form of a vote. Innocence blurs with guilt, fairness with unfairness, until it seems impossible to determine the truth. To our friends the optimists who see life as the black and white, the right and wrong, this is a rude – and disheartening – wake-up call.

Suddenly reality is staring us all in the face with her own Truth, and we are forced to re-wire our minds to consider this, to angle the camera from an entirely new perspective. We realize that we are “born free, and yet everywhere we are in chains.” This sparks a heat in the depths of the soul, a flame that ignites with furious determination, with renewed vigor acting as the gentle breeze that feed the spark until it transforms into a roaring fire. Suddenly we are acutely aware of the facts, our minds and bodies buzzing with the thrill of knowing the truth, our will pushing us forth until we choose to act, subconsciously and by default.

The moment in which our body and soul are at harmony, reaching a unanimous and final decision to act, this is the moment, the pinnacle of potentially reaching true Freedom. For when we are willing to fight for justice, that in itself is a liberty strong enough to transcend every fallacy that existed beforehand. But actions suggest responsibilities, and once the decision is made, once plans are enacted and positions delegated and a vision kept in mind – once the problem is addressed from all angles and scrutinized with depth and understanding, only then can justice be found and freedom attained.

It is with utmost pride that I say it gladdens me the Sudanese people have finally opened their eyes to the truth, that they have acknowledged the dormant government and its inactivity in all matters that are relevant to the growth of the country. It has taken a quarter of a century, but the bells are once again tolling, this time with a louder echo. They call upon the angry businessmen, the exasperated store-owners, the excited youth. I hope that they continue ringing, until the streets are free of bloodshed, until the last shot has been fired, and the people realize that violence is never effective.

To fight a war against injustice, we must strip away all tendencies toward brutality and understand that justice is born only from just means. With our words, with our creative imaginations, we need only to drive our forces through the walls that use corruption and deceit as their mortar.

Join in the call that has become a universal appeal for freedom:

الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام

Indeed the people have woken themselves from a long hibernation, spanning a period of more than two decades, and they are prepared – I have every confidence – to rise and stand up for their personal liberties, so that they may elect an effective government.

As a Sudanese youth growing up in the United States, it has been a personal struggle for me to accept that the Sudanese people have sat back and taken this abuse of power in complete silence. I harbor the most enthusiastic of thoughts that this decision to take initiative will have a lasting and positive impact on the future of Sudan.

Let no one say that our people are lazy, that they don’t have the ability to stand up for what they believe in. September has marked the beginning of an end and the start of a new beginning. God willing, the outcome will be both productive and peaceful.

A Call To Rise

I call upon the people of Sudan, of that nation which has endured the effects of an ineffective regime, its people always reluctant and hesitant to stand up for their freedom. Until now. Now we see that revolution is that contagious effort that so easily spreads like wildfire from nation to nation. We have seen the Middle East over the extent of two years acquire its own voice, its own demands, its own freedom. By way of that reserved right that is democracy, we have witnessed the birth of new governments and the fall of outdated regimes.

And now? It is our turn. It has taken a long time for Sudanese people to realize that it is their duty to bring down a regime that has been idle and ineffective for the better part of 25 years. Since its division in 2011, Sudan has become an unstable country, gas prices skyrocketing due to government-initiated subsidies and the public becoming increasingly aggravated with inflated prices and a weak economy. Part of the problem, a significant part, is the fact that there was no vision in the past, no unanimous vote to take action against Al-Bashir’s government. People were hesitant to start uprisings, as they saw the consequences that followed such actions in neighboring Egypt and, of course, the horrid reality of Syria’s revolution.

It is past due that the Sudanese people have finally decided to speak out, to let their voices echo in the streets of Khartoum and Omdurman. While violence is sure to follow such actions, it is a necessary step forward toward the inception of a new reality, a new Sudan.

It is absolutely vital that we each do our part to ensure that this first step is not smothered by the government. Now that the flame has been sparked, it will take every necessary effort to keep it from extinguishing. I call upon the youth, the elderly, the teachers and the poets, I call upon the disgruntled and the furious, the saddened and disheartened. I call upon my people to stand firmly on the foundations of liberty, so that we can build a formidable barrier that will keep injustice at bay.

It is not enough to chant that the people want the fall of the regime — we must push and fight and resist until it crumbles.

Nihal Mubarak