Home > Islam, Middle East > >The follow up to the poem ‘When’

>The follow up to the poem ‘When’

>In February, 2007, reformist Saudi author Wajeha Al-Huwaidar published a satirical poem titled “When” that lamented conditions in the Arab world; now she has written a sequel, which was posted on the Arab liberal website Aafaq on May 13, 2007. The following are excerpts:

“When your neighbor throws trash in your path, and calls you foul names, and urges his sons to accost your sons at school and in the street, and incites the men and women of the neighborhood against you so that they will harass your wife and daughters – and the reason [for all this] is that you are from a minority that doesn’t belong – this is ugly racism that has taken root. And you can be sure that it is not a Western conspiracy that has been hatched against you; this is a product of your own country.

“When you feel that whenever you leave your house there are hidden eyes that spy on you, follow your movements, watch you with suspicion and misgiving, and make you return quickly back from where you came – this is part of the culture of fear. And without the least bit of doubt, it is not a Western conspiracy that was hatched against you; this is a product of your own country.

“When your young children come home from school and tell you that they learned that day that the ‘others’ are despicable people who do not deserve any respect, acceptance, or appreciation, and that God commanded them to hate [‘the others’] and to fight them, at all times and everywhere – this is an institutionalized plan for disseminating hatred. Don’t worry, this is not a Western conspiracy against you; this is a product of your own country…

“When you are banned from many of the opportunities given to others, like studying, working, and the basics of living in dignity, just because you do not make hypocritical displays [of loyalty] to corrupt high officials and do not flatter the clerics who enjoy the favors of the regime – beware not to think that this is a Western conspiracy that has been hatched against you; this is a product of your own country.

“When all the years of your life are stolen from you… and your vitality, your mind, and your soul are wrested away, all in the name of religion, customs, traditions… and an outmoded heritage – and you know that this has usurped your right to life – don’t weep and don’t cry, and don’t imagine that this is a Western conspiracy against you; these are actions and behaviors that are a product of your own country.

“When everything around you, around the clock, reminds you that you are a worthless human being in the view of the political or religious powers, and that you and the soil on which your shoe treads are equals, for the sole reason of your being the citizen of an Arab land – this is the height of arbitrary [rule]. But know that this is not a Western conspiracy that has been hatched against you; this is a product of your own country…

“When the number of those wanting to emigrate is twice that of those who wish to live in the country, and everyone [who can] takes up their belongings and leaves, and there is no place for intellectuals, artists, or even for regular people – you should be very sad, because this is premeditated debasement and deportation. But please don’t think that this is a Western conspiracy that has been hatched against you; this is a product of your own country.

“When your diligent university-student daughter informs you that she received a one-week suspension from her studies because she did not fully cover her face when leaving campus – something the country’s laws [consider] disgraceful – whereas in the palaces of high and influential officials there are evenings of debauchery, where whores and harlots are brought in from all over – well, this is ‘mastery of one’s soul’ and ‘breaking [the desires of] one’s soul.’ This is not a Western conspiracy that has been hatched against you; this is a product of your own country…

“When everything you hear, see, feel, and perceive tells you that women were created to be a receptacle for you, and that [a woman] is an incubator for your pure offspring, and that you can replace this receptacle whenever you want, and do with her whatever you see fit, and when your friends add a harem of miserable women to their lairs, and think of them as their very private possessions, like hens in a coop or ewes in a pen… don’t be surprised. Know that this is not a Western conspiracy that has been hatched against you; this is a product of your own country.

“When you see poverty and hunger gaining ground… and the ruler tells the people to tighten their belts and to not waste electricity and water, claiming that the country has been going through an economic crisis for [several] long decades, and then all of a sudden you hear that the venerable ruler, may God keep him, has bought an island, with all its palaces, in the Indian Ocean, for millions of dollars – this is theft of the country’s resources. But don’t take it hard, please, don’t take it hard. Just believe that this is not a Western conspiracy that has been hatched against you; this is a product of your own country.

“When you, an adult in your full senses, have your pen intentionally taken away from you, and are treated as a person not responsible [for their own actions], and you are not allowed to be under your own charge, and everyone becomes your legal guardian, and it is they who determine your political, religious, and national morals – this is abasement of a human… And this is not a Western conspiracy that has been hatched against you; this is a product of your own country.

“When the political and religious establishment ignites your feelings over things that take place beyond the borders of your country, and urges you to demonstrate your rage… over what is going on here or there, and you hold up signs, and organize marches, and walk in long demonstrations throughout the day and the night, and you forcefully condemn and criticize – and then after the event ends, you feel tired and sluggish, and you go home to your sagging, broken-down house, and there isn’t a slice of bread there to give to your young children – but you don’t have the right to go out and protest, or march, or even to write a two-line petition – this is the worst kind of iniquity. And this is not a Western conspiracy that has been hatched against you; this is a product of your own country…”

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