By: Emil Brikha. September. 1, 2008
Last Friday a woman’s life changed forever, but it started three months ago. I had written an article about my life in Malta and this woman read it. She decided to look me up on the internet and email me some questions about my choice to move, the life here and the sacrifices it took to actually make it happen.
About three months later, last Friday, this woman moved to Malta. She took a year off from her very successful carrier in Sweden and with a helping hand from me she got in touch with recruiting companies in Malta and was able to find a job within my area of business, iGaming (online betting, poker, casino etc). The company she got a job with even pays for her apartment and picked her up at the airport to take her to her new place. To top it off, it turns out she lives on my street, so we went from complete strangers to close friends and neighbors during this time.
The other day we were sitting on my balcony, watching the sea and talking about how she went from reading an article to literally rebuilding and redefining her life from scratch. She told me about her fear about what her family and others would say but at the same time the pride she took in being responsible in her choices and plans. Every move she made was carefully planned, leaving very little to coincidence.
She was telling me how many times she had been crying, panicking and mumbling “Damn you Emil” because what “I had gotten her into”. But she knows it was her choice so she laughs about it now, I just gave her the tools to fulfill a dream. In writing this I hope she can now bring inspiration and be a tool for any other woman in a similar situation. I am hoping more people will take after her. Despite all her insecurities and pre programmed behavior she knew she owed it to herself to be the very best person she could be, not necessarily what her parents or traditions dictated for her. While her friends are settling down and getting married she is going through a rebirth, finally on her way to find her real self.
This Assyrian woman was born and raised in Sweden. Like many other Assyrians she was raised a certain way with a very conservative upbringing, basically moulded to wait hand and foot on her family and future husband. I’m not saying this is the typical Assyrian way but it’s not an uncommon way how girls are raised. Constantly put down and reduced to a symbol of perverted honour for the family to watch over at all times.
I don’t call it perverted honour just because it’s destructive for a person’s soul to be put down and controlled. I call it perverted because the boys are not treated and brought up the same way. For instance, surely if one believes in “no sex before marriage” that should apply to both genders. This is just one example of the many things that I dislike about some of my people’s mentalities and many things just like this has made me distant from my people through my upbringing. It is also these very reasons that drove this woman away from Sweden. She has been controlled her whole life to the point where she doesn’t even know what is her will and her own morals and what has been forced upon her by her surroundings.
I look at her now and compare her attitude to the person I got to know over email and I am bursting with pride over what a big step she dared to take. I know she is still battling inside, trying to find out who, what and why she is. I know this goes on in most of us but I also know that the sacrifices we make in life are rarely as great as the fear that prevents us from achieving them.
I have written numerous articles about and for the Assyrian people and most of the time I try to internalize the various problematic situations we are in by shifting the focus from pointing fingers outwards, to pointing a mirror at ourselves. I feel this is necessary because while we are screaming from the top of our lounges, demanding our political and human rights from the oppression and genocide in the Middle East we forget about the problems that we have in our communities where we can speak freely without fear for our own safety.
There is very little tolerance for liberalism and feminism. You can even put those two big issues aside and just look at basic fundamental things like materialism, ignorance and sexism. How are we supposed to survive as a people when we don’t even honour our girls and women? What honour is there in depriving your own daughter, sister or cousin from her God given right to make her own choices in life? I’m not saying you shouldn’t care or not set limits for your children. I’m simply saying, give them room to grow into individuals and be fair and equal because equality is the very basic form of respect we owe each other as people.
If we throw that out the window we can never have strong, independent women. We can never have free thinking, opinionated female leaders. If we are to survive as a people we better start picking up the trash in our own backyards and revaluate our moral compasses and teachings from our grandparents.
There is no shame in renewing, exploring and expanding. You can still keep your culture and traditions. But don’t fool yourselves. It has never been our culture or tradition to oppress our women or to force them into lives they don’t want. Not only that but you have no right because if you are religious and believe in God, God gave us free will so that we could make mistakes and repent from them and while we can express our concern and opinions about the choices our loved ones make, it is still their choice to make.
I know many girls and women who have been mentality enslaved by their families wishes. I know many boys and men who have been pushed into choices in life that were not theirs to begin with. I know some of my people (and in situations like this it’s hard to call them MY people) worry too much about what others might say or think. They should spend that energy loving and nurturing the people around them because there are some really beautiful choices being made, even if it goes against their families’ wishes and orders. It is the families’ responsibility as loving people and human beings to look beyond what was dictated to them when they grew up.
Take this woman for example. She was miserable in Sweden with her controlled life shattered around her ankles, forming a ball and chain, allowing her no freedom. No evolution of herself, simply maintaining an illusion, a smoke screen of what her parents wanted her to be, at the price of her own life.
Look at her now. She has a new job and a new apartment in a new country. She has a new life where she is actually smiling, laughing and from the bottom of her heart. Maybe it’s not the life her parents wanted for her but that is beside the point and beyond their control. If she is a strong, intelligent, righteous and responsible person they have nothing to worry about or criticize her for. The only responsibility she has towards her parents and God is to be the very best and most fulfilled version of herself that she can possibly be and I believe that is exactly what she is doing by making these choices for herself.
So, rather for her family to bow their heads in shame because they no longer have the power over her to tell her what to do, they should celebrate her strength and independence and the rest of us need to make sure that not one more generation of our girls and women grow up doubting their abilities and give them the freedom they truly deserve.