“War is peace; Freedom is slavery; Ignorance is strength” by Hawra’a Khalfan and Quamar Al-Mumin

War is peace.

“Abu Osman, trust me on this- people implode when you control them. It is only human nature,” her mother pleaded as she watched her husband explode with rage. I can’t believe this, I can’t believe this. I CAN’T FUCKING BELIEVE THIS. Is he actually putting up a fight? Seriously? There is no logic behind anything he is saying. What does he mean women shouldn’t drive? ALL women shouldn’t drive? Yeah. Sure.  Like he would be where he is without the women in his life. He is a fucking tyrant. All I want to do is depend on myself. All I want to do is be able to take my life into my own hands. He of all people should realize that. Aggravating little shitty tyrant.

“Baba, this isn’t fair” I looked at him as my eyes filled with tears. “Osman turned eighteen last week and he already has his drivers license? What reasons are there that I as a twenty-one year old can’t drive, but Osman can?”

Her father looked at her tearful eyes, the wrinkles on his face got deeper and deeper as his snarky smile erupted. “Because your father said so. Osman is now a man and doesn’t need me to show him right from wrong. But you? You will always need my guidance.”

Her mother stepped in, she was starting to get angry but knows better than to raise her voice to Abu Osman. “Honey, just listen to her reasons for wanting to drive. I am advising you to let her do this because people do not take kindly to being restrained. Trust me on this. Trust me, please. Trust me for her sake.”

“I have told you a million times, Um Osman! I will not change my mind. This human nature you speak of doesn’t apply to Shurooq. We have raised her well, she has never disobeyed me, what makes you think that she will start at the age of twenty one?”

Um Osman closed her eyes, she knew exactly what he would say but she hoped that for an instant he would take in her words and truly listen to them.

This isn’t over. “Baba. Can you please just give me a reason as to why I shouldn’t drive? Just convince me? And ‘because I said so’ just isn’t a good enough reason for me, please Baba.” I pulled down my bottom lip as far as it would go and widened my eyes to look up at him.

“Well, for starters- how will I know where you are at every moment?” He gave a disapproving look. “You think I will let my daughter out in the streets ALONE?!”

“You know Baba, I can always send you a whatsapp location of wherever I am? There is no other way to send the location other than from the spot you’re in!” I lied. Finally, dad’s technologically challenged self is good for something!

“Men will still harass you in the streets, what will you do then?”

“Erm, well- I can call you or Osman to come bail me out of these situations because there is absolutely no way I can fend for myself.”

“Okay but you are a girl, you’ll definitely have many car accidents, what then?”

“Yeah I know I know, we’re terrible, but! How about you get the car fully insured and you won’t have to pay a fils to fix it???” Having to be a misogynist just to be able to get a little freedom around here, the irony.

“Shurooq I want you to have all these nice things your friends have, but the only time a girl can start calling herself a woman is when she is married with children. I think it would be better if you didn’t drive yet because who will marry a girl who has this much freedom?” He looked at me with a face full of worry. “Girls with freedom never become women because they are never chosen to be wives. What will happen to you then?”

Holy shit that escalated quickly! “Baba, I know that’s way too much freedom, and I am so thankful for it. I assure you, times have changed and a female driver isn’t a bad thing. It shows strength, and stuff.”

“And stuff? What stuff?”

“Well, you know, I’ll be capable of driving my six children to school and back. You know! Stuff!”

He smiled. “You never fail to make me smile, Monkey!” Monkey? That’s new. “I will think more about this problem you have, and will tell you my decision when I have one.”

Problem I have? That’s rich. Don’t get my license and it’ll be a problem YOU have. “Thank you, Baba! That’s all I wanted from you!”

Freedom is Slavery.

The silver gleamed brightly against the light of my room as he held the keys in front of my eager eyes. “You want them?” He asked, knowing the answer. I nodded my head, but kept my mouth shut in fear of saying something that might change his mind. I was scared that even an uneven breath would trigger something that would make him pull away the keys. “You have never disobeyed me before, this should not encourage you to start disobeying me now.” Nod. “This car is a privilege and not a right.” Nod. “You may drive, but under a few circumstances.” Pause. Nod.

“The circumstances are as follows, the sun goes down, your car must be already in the garage.”

Fair enough, better than not driving at all. There were plenty of fun places to go in the morning and afternoon anyways.

“I will have your car shaded to the maximum legal shade so that you will not attract the attention.”

I wanted to drive to places and back, I never thought of driving as a way to seek attention. But now that I think about it, it’s the perfect opportunity to check out what all the fuss ‘gizzing’ is about!

“No, and I mean absolutely no, music while driving. It will distract you and will summon the devil. There are enough devils already out there driving around, you do not need one in the car!”

Now that’s just pathetic. But, whatever.

“You are only allowed to look ahead of you, if you really need to look at your side view mirrors, you have exactly half a second to do so, there might be a boy next to you who will assume you are staring at him.”

And I swear to God he actually shivered towards the end of that sentence.

“Does that sound fair to you?”

Nod.

Obviously I wasn’t going to complain, I’ve been waiting for this moment for three years. I was not going to ruin it for myself now.

“Ah yes, and one last thing. I hired a new nanny who will be your driving companion. You are not allowed to go anywhere without her. If you are in your classes she will wait outside for you. I will be calling her every hour to make sure you are near her and safe.”

My eyes widened for about a nanosecond, but I quickly inhaled and forced a smile on my face. “Of course Baba, anything you say Baba.” I could probably pay this ‘driving companion’ to go off somewhere and leave me be. How embarrassing would it be walking around at my age in university with a nanny at my foot.

“Good girl, now take these keys and be very careful.” He carefully lowered the keys into my now sweaty palms, smiled at me confidently, and walked out of my room. I finally exhaled and sat on my bed, my eyes glued to the beautiful key to freedom at last. Of at least the closest to freedom I’ll ever have.

Ignorance is Strength.

It’s been a few months since Shurooq started driving, she followed all the rules religiously and everything was going according to plan. She managed to gain her father’s trust and confidence, while proving to him that driving did not change her life as drastically as he had expected. If anything, it has made his life easier by not having to waste his time driving me back and forth. Tonight, everything was going to change. She mentally prepared for the worst, but expected the best. I’m going to take this risk.  Instead of having to explain to explain to her father that it is her friend Sarah’s birthday party, she is just going to throw a few white lies his way. A mixed birthday party. All she had to do was convince her dad that she had to go to a tutoring session at university and that would buy her about two hours of freedom past sunset. More than enough to dance with a handsome stranger. She saved up quite a bit of cash to pay off her driving companion, dropping Marie off at the souq on the way to the party. Flawless plan! Nothing can go wrong.

Abu Osman was watching the season finale of Arabs Got Talent as he rocked back and forth in disbelief that his favorite person on the show just got voted out. Arab’s Got Talent was his one and only guilty pleasure and he invested a lot of time and energy rooting for the contestants.

“Babaaaaaaaa,” Shurooq innocently smiled at her dad with her eyes wide open. “I’m going to be a little late at university today, don’t forget!” He brushed her off as he motioned for her to be quiet. She took this as a good sign and tip toed out of the house, Marie, her nanny was already waiting for her in the car with the engine running.

“Marie, don’t forget! Keep watching your phone in case anything happens. If Baba calls- don’t answer the phone and call me as soon as he hangs up and I will pick you up. I will only be gone for two hours so be at the door waiting for me at exactly 8pm. OK??”

Everything went smoothly for Shurooq that night, she met a handsome stranger named Qutaiba who turned out to be a terrible dancer, but she couldn’t care less because at that moment in her life she knew that she could do whatever she wanted, and her family’s ignorance would be her bliss.

 

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