"Pièce de Résistance"


I was invited for dinner. I thought to myself why not. I deserve a break after all.
It's not like am getting paid or charging anyone for sitting behind this computer . So why not indeed.

I was hoping to find that razor, knife, that would cut me away from it all- a bit like the surgeon's or midwife's knife that cuts the umbilical cord of the new born and proclaims it free and independent...

Alas, no such luck...

I might as well get used to the idea that I will never fit in. I might as well get used to the idea that I will remain a foreigner. I might as well get used to the idea that even though the "other" may temporarily accept me - he/she will make sure I will never belong.

In the West, they told me "Oh, so you're a Muslim Arab?!" And here they tell me "Oh so you're an Iraqi?!" And soon they will tell me" Oh, so you're a woman?!" and soon after I will be told "Oh so you're still alive?!" and shortly after I will be told "Oh so you're breathing our air now?!

One of them said "Why don't you return ?" I looked in his eyes for a long time and replied " Have you not heard of the Occupation?"
He replied back "Well, it has always been violent" and he continued picking on his salad leaf with great nonchalance...

He might as well have told me you don't exist, it would have amounted to the same.

Clearly, I was an excess. Clearly, I was at best tolerated and basically not wanted...

So why was I invited? Was it out of pity? Like someone took pity on me and said "Hey let's ask her over." Or was it to prove to themselves that they were above it?

Am not sure. I am a guest after all and will remain so, for as long as...

Then the topic changed- I could breathe easier... They talked of business, losing a couple of thousands, making them, the house, the christmas trip, the kids and also the anxiety about the future and its uncertainty...

I still could not get it. What were they complaining about, exactly?

Their universe had shrunk to their belly buttons, their navels. I think their universe was always limited to that. Nothing had changed - except me.

I have changed. Actually change is not the right word. I have been transformed, metamorphosed into something else... A place of great vulnerability yet one of great strength. I am not sure I understand it myself...

Maybe it's the battle for survival and beyond...Maybe it's a struggle to remain and count...I am not sure anymore what it is. All I know is that there is something going on and it's not over yet...

It may take some time for me to get used to it - this business of loss and being occupied. Every fiber in me rejects it though...

I have never accepted the "fait accompli." Specially not when it has been imposed from the outside by force...

Now it's a question of finding that place for me...that elusive place and starting all over again. I shun from the idea. I find in it, a great injustice, an impossibility, a deliberate unforgivable slight, like a slap in the face.

It curiously reminds me of when I was a little girl at school and the teacher had the habit of slapping us and say "Now do it." And I would feel her hand fly across my small face and leave its red hot marks...and every cell in my body would shout back "I will not."

I will not succumb to you, I will not bow, I will not surrender to your might and force...I will not.

It was a question of survival for me then, and it is now. Not just physical survival, but a moral and spiritual one too.

You try to forcefully shape my identity with your slaps and I will resist you - no question about it.

You will not make me into something am not supposed to be.

And despite your best efforts, I will not let you steal, rob me of who I am or who I took great pains to construct... This is my "pièce de résistance."

Whatever it takes, it does not matter... I shall not be broken.

Because this is what you want deep down - break me. Break that spirit, dampen that fire so you can finally extinguish it. And you will try several ploys.

Threats, torture, rape, money, exile, hunger, poverty, brutality, humiliation, rejection, abandonment...and death.

None will work. I stand firm. Today, more so than ever. I owe it to Her and to myself...

And so it shall be.


Painting: Iraqi artist, Ali Al-Mimar, 1990.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Hello, dear Layla, thank you for this brilliant piece and keep up the fighting spirit. In many ways, I can identify with you!

I'm sorry I've been away for a while, but it's been due to something wonderful I've been doing, (tending to someone who was very ill and who needed me around)- just to make it clearer, not abroad but here at home....

I hope that all is as well as can be.

Take care and God bless.

In solidarity
Layla Anwar said…
Hi Little Deer,

Nice to "see" you again. I pray that this person recovers soon.
God bless.
Anonymous said…
You will always be welcome to my rooms in Ireland. jocelyn
Anonymous said…
[Layla Anwar said...

One of them said "Why don't you return ?" I looked in his eyes for a long time and replied " Have you not heard of the Occupation?" He replied back "Well, it has always been violent" and he continued picking on his salad leaf with great nonchalance...]

He said/did that because you're old and ugly (i.e. demonstrably unfuckable). No guy has ever told me that. And generally have a hard time getting guys to keep their hands on their salads ! Hahahahahahahaha
Anonymous said…
Dear Layla,
Congratulatons!
Todd said…
Very well written piece. Keep up the good fight. You WILL survive! *HUGS*
Anonymous said…
Hi Layla,

Thank you, especially for the prayers. I am happy to inform you that my very special friend has just been discharged and is on the way to recovery.

Keep up the great work, Layla.

Much love.
Anonymous said…
Welcome back little deer. JR will be very pleased.
Layla Anwar said…
fugly zainab,

hahahahahahahaha- I bet they spray you with DTT and Dettol first and get dead drunk before.
Eat your heart out bitch - Am stupendous.
Layla Anwar said…
Thanks Jocelyn,

Never been to Ireland before. I only saw pictures of Cork and Carrie? It was from a film I believe it was called Ryan's Daughter? You know the Irish woman who falls in love with the English soldier?
Anyways, it looked beautiful.
Layla Anwar said…
Thanks Rambleman,
What do virtual hugs look like?
Layla Anwar said…
Dear S,

Thanks - It's hard work though. Am sure you know what I mean.
xxx
Anonymous said…
"Whatever it takes, it does not matter... I shall not be broken! ...None will work. I stand firm. Today, more so than ever. I owe it to Her and to myself...And so it shall be."

You reminded me of my fighting spirit...and I had almost forgotten it. Thank you.
fem
Anonymous said…
JR, remember that one day you'll die...
Anonymous said…
Hello Layla;

Just read your blog for the first time, finally an intellectually Strong Arab woman. Used to read Riverbend (Baghdad burning) but she, unfortunately has given up. You seem a highly educated, strong willed no nonsense women who is so very very (and rightfully so) angry. Layla, a suggestion if I may, rather than just venting your anger, how about mixing it with some news about what the true situation is in Iraq, as I am sure you knew the western media are a bunch of liars…But please do not change your style…I love it.
Anonymous said…
"I have been transformed, metamorphosed into something else."

2nd time i hear an iraqi say these words...

are you sure you were not working as a moderator on a well-known patriotic web site and forum around two years ago ?
Layla Anwar said…
Fem,

Hello and am sure your fighting spirit now that you have touched it again, will re-emerge like a phoenix out of the ashes.
Layla Anwar said…
Hello Mohammed Ashruff,

I do write about the current situation - you are new to this blog hence you have not had the chance to read the previous articles.
I am not a journalist. I try to combine personal thoughts and current events. Sometimes I stress one more than the other. But I believe the personal and the collective are flip sides of the same coin.

I also do my utmost to touch upon every single aspect of the occupation. As you may well know there is a lot to cover.
American presence, Iranian presence, Israeli presence, social devastation, sectarianism, unemployement/poverty, exile and refugees and their problems...
So it's a big endaveour indeed.
And am doing what I can. I only have two hands and amongst Iraqi bloggers, I feel very much alone.
Thanks for visiting and your words of support.
Layla Anwar said…
tunneller,

Ask no questions and I will tell no lies...
Anonymous said…
"Ask no questions and I will tell no lies..."

better your "lies" than the "truths" of some others...

please keep around.
Anonymous said…
"...And am doing what I can. I only have two hands and amongst Iraqi bloggers, I feel very much alone..."

Some I have read are wanabe Americans; others do not have your style. Yes it’s a massive endeavor indeed but we, who tried our outmost to prevent this unjust and criminal war would really like a intelligent voice from Iraq to be heard here in the US.

In your other blog you ask "...can a blog make a difference..." Yes it can i.e. Salam Pax was quoted and covered in the New York Times in addition to other leading news papers. I do understand your anger and frustration but it needs to be tempered. I apologize for lecturing but I strongly feel if enough people in the US read you it will make a difference in 2008.
May Allah keep you and yours safe…
Layla Anwar said…
Mohammed Ashruff,

You may need to understand that am not aiming to be published in the NY times like Salam pax and the rest. This is not an honor for me.

Secondly have my anger tempered by what exactly ? The wonderful American anti war movement or the democrats? You have way too many illusions about your U.S.A.
I, on the other hand, have none.

This is my style and my truth. People who can't handle it are better off browsing the NY times or some other sympathetic blog.
Anonymous said…
I am sorry if I have offended or upset you it was not my intention...It was just that here is a person who does not give a shit what the world especially the Americans think who is both intelligent and vocal a combination lacking in a lot of the other Iraqi bloggers...
The Anti-war movement, worldwide, was and is a Joke. A bunch of Moron kids who have no clue how the world works.
I was talking more about our politicians who need to read about the true state of affairs especially by someone who tells it as it is…
As stated earlier, love your style Do Not change that…
Anonymous said…
I get very little time now to go to the sites I love. And one of them is yours.

Layla, when I read your post today I could relate to so much.

And I loved the painting you chose.

I too am alone because I have found a much larger life than many of those around me. This life embraces as much of the world as I can fit in. I can cry for Uruk. I care about what is happening there, and I care about what has happened to people all over the world. I have read old books about Sovietised Russia and the agony the Russ people went through. I'm reading about Che Guevera right now. And so much more.

One thing I would say though is that those who are anti-war are not always "a joke". Some have never believed that a country should invade another and kill its people and destroy their country. Not for any reason. Yet I know it has happened all the time down through the centuries. I try to understand why.

I have decided the world most people inhabit is very small. One day they may be forced to think about more things than making money, the latest fashions, etc. Then I will be able to talk to them.

Even though I seldom post here now, please keep writing. You have much to teach us. Daphne
Todd said…
"What do virtual hugs look like?"

It's not what they look like, it's how they feel. In other words, imagine yourself getting a warm hug, and that's it :)
Layla Anwar said…
Mohammed Ashruff,

I am not upset. I just don't understand this chronic ailment by readers who try to force/impose their own style, political agenda, wishes, desires and hopes upon me and this blog.

I understand that my style may come across as offensive and needs to be tempered...

I also understand that I can ruffle a few sensitivities here and there.

No one gave a damn about my own sensitivities or that of Iraqis when we were bombed senseless with the most advanced death weapons or when we were starved with the sanctions for 13 years or when the cancer rates are quadrupling because of Depleted Uranium, or when our women are forced to sell themselves to feed their kids, or when our men are tortured and raped in prisons, or when my country was divided into sectarian and ethnic lines unleashing hordes of criminals from Iran, Israel and every single fucking corner of this globe - bringing on the filthiest subhumans to make a quick buck out of our blood, or when our resources are pillaged, and our culture and history smashed to pieces....
Or when we found ourselves with no homes, no shelther, exiled in the millions, with no income and no jobs being scorned at daily...or when our cemeteries and morgues are so full to the brim with over 1.2 million dead that we don't know where to bury them anymore...
And I can go on and on....

Who gave a fuck about my sensitivities then ??? and who does now - on a real tangible effective level ?
You talk of politicians? which politicians dear? The Arabs or the Western ones ? And you think they do not know all of that already??? And you believe they do not have a hand in it either?

Enough !
LostHere said…
Well, well, well...
You sure know how to dish it out!
Good for you!!
Besides, although you say things in a very direct and clear way, you don't say nothing that is not known to anyone that has some degree of conscious prescience. Everything that you write about in your blog is reasonable clear to any one that reads and cares about what is going on in the world... that is, if one has a modicum of independent thinking ability.
That said, I also must add that your constant analysis of the situations are perfectly eloquent and a joy to read (well, maybe joy is not the word I should use, but it is...), and the passion, anger or not, certainly matches the situation that you are talking about.
So, once again, thank you and Kudos to you!
very interesting post and very intesting dialogue about passion anger and the sense of indentity or belonging..all the best for new year..congratulations again

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