“It is a hard life,” my mom always said, “and it is even harder to be a Saudi Arabian woman and live a no-face life.” And now I stand here turning sixteen while my mom is a new life form just for standing up for what is right. I still remember the day when my mom marched in the street and was taken away by the police while the others who marched got shot at and killed. I watched from inside my home in terror, but the fear was like a straight jacket not letting me go because I knew if I went I would be as good as dead. When my mom was taken I was paralyzed in sadness with tears slowly running down my cheek into the darkness below, ruining my hijab that tightly covered my face. The pain I felt that day was worse than Jahannam; it was like the sun burned out on my life. But still I went on with the miserable life of Saudi Arabian womanhood.
That horrible night I could not rest, I just spent the whole time wondering what happened to my mother and if she would ever come back. I then saw the breaking of the full moon and that was the moment I knew my mom was dead. That morning when I saw the newspaper hit the cracked street I went straight to the obituaries and as I quickly examined it I read out the last name and crumpled the newspaper in my hand; all of the color went out of my life. I screamed at the top of my lungs in the street and didn’t even cover my face with my hijab; I did not care any more, in fact I wanted the police to come and take me away, that way I could be in the same form as my mom, but no such luck occurred. It was at that moment I knew I was going to live the rest of my life on the streets.
I wasn’t even sixteen yet, not even mentioning the fact that I live in a country where I have no rights. I felt like I was digging myself into a rabbit hole I could never get back up from and slowly living a painful life where the air became thinner and thinner until I wheezed my way to death. My only hope was to cope with this sadness and convert it to positive energy, by making lives for other women in Saudi Arabia better and following in my mother’s footsteps. However, that goal was far from reality, for first I would have to find out what the real world was actually like.
The day after my mother’s death I saw some things that could never be unseen, such as women being beaten as they had to walk on the dangerous streets, for there was no public transportation, and had to take so many risks to be able to get a single riyal. I realized how much my mother had hid from me, all the pain and suffering the women of Saudi Arabia have in their daily lives and the obvious wealth gap between the sexes. I could not believe I was so oblivious of this conspicuous situation. It was that day that the raincloud left the atmosphere that was my consciousness leaving the open gates of reality and adulthood.
I started my quest for making better lives possible for the women of Saudi Arabia by enacting random acts of kindness. I will never forget the first of my acts, giving food for the poor; I know it is ironic because I am the poor now but it is the acts of kindness that count. I worked for 24 hours everyday until I understood and adapted to the way the other side lived. There was something still bothering me though, I wasn’t doing anything for women’s rights, and soon that changed. I saw a woman in one of the crowds of poor people and she caught my eye because she wasn’t wearing a hijab; she had tattoos from head to toe. I prudently approached her and asked, “What are the tattoos about?” She then glared at me and gave a smirk; she had tears in her eyes and was rocking back and forth.
“What is wrong?” I asked, she gave an inappropriate gesture and went back to rocking; I then left the area and went back to work, but little did I know I just made a new friend.
I was determined to start a women’s rights campaign, but yet my mind was still on that lady with the tattoos. why is she defying the government rules? Why was she crying when I mentioned her tattoos? I then saw a little note on the desk I was working on and I heard a startling swish. I opened the letter, frightened and with wonder. The letter said, ”If you want to know about my tattoos meet me at midnight in the cafeteria, but if you were setting me up and trying to make me cry, don’t think about coming. I am warning you though if anyone finds out about me they will kill you and me.
I closed the letter and saw the sun set and it reminded me of my mom. The sunset set me back to a happy time where my mom and I would wake up early to watch the sunset. It reminded us of father and how maybe if the sun set my dad would come back maybe for a second but it would count. We thought about how the sun would represent father’s form and the moon would represent our form and that when the moon and sun became one we would be able to see him. I used to squint my eyes as hard as I could thinking that I might just be able to catch a glimpse of father.
At last it was midnight and I went discreetly to the cafeteria. When I went to the cafeteria I saw Habiba standing and she was oblivious of the fact I was there. She looked solemn and was in an entirely different world, I snapped her out of it with a fake cough and she jumped in fear reaching for a concealed weapon in her belt. She then let go a sigh of relief and exclaimed,” oh it’s just you.”
“You sound disappointed,” I said.
“No…. I’m not…I’m just uh…. cautious I guess,” Habiba said, “ I’ve been dreading this talk because it is about a touchy subject. What I wanted to share with you is I used to have a baby and when I first lived on the street a man came and took my baby and killed it. I then killed the man and got away with it, now I don’t wear a hijab on my face and have tattoos all over my body because I want the police forces to take me away and kill me so I don’t have to live with this horrible emotional baggage that no one should bare.”
“Wow that’s a lot to handle I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah it’s a lot to handle, I’m sorry I told you.”
“Its ok, I have lost some people too, my mother and father died too.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, you must feel so lonely with no person to look up to.”
“I’m fine though.” We had a long conversation afterwards about our pasts and our childhood. We then came up with an idea where both of our hopes and dreams come true. We were going to protest out on the street. It was the perfect plan; I would be hopefully improving women’s lives in Saudi Arabia and see my mother again. Habiba would also lose the horrible burden she had through death.
The next day, the plan was enacted but it would take months and months of planning. We found new people like Beth and Miriam but then Habiba became sick. She was vomiting all over the place and was sleeping three times as much; the protesting idea was going to be delayed. We spent weeks and her health was only getting worse we needed medicine but that was never going to happen, we were all homeless people. After three more weeks Habiba was getting better and we made our battle plan every thing was set.
We have now caught up to the present, it is my sixteenth birthday and I am here with no mother and no father. I have no presents and no one even knows it’s my birthday but the only present I need is for the plan to work and for me to be free.
We are now moving out to the streets, it is a long walk of two steps but we can handle it. The looks on everyone’s faces are forlorn as we begin our walk. We walk for about a mile all of us not saying a word just holding up signs. We all have our hijabs covering our sweaty faces; it is the perfect crime because there is no crime. We have finally made it to the capital building and we just stand there. The people we face have blank expressions; they literally do not know what to think. I then grab the megaphone; and it is time for the last part of the plan.
I say, “Hello, most of you know me but you don’t know the real me. I come from Jeddah just like you and my father died when I was a very young girl. My mom recently died from protesting against the women rights problems in Saudi Arabia, which is what has inspired me today to run my own protest today so I can see her again. A long time ago, my mom and I would wake up early to watch the sunset. It reminded us of father and how maybe if the sun set my dad would come back maybe for a second but it would count. We thought about how the sun would represent father’s form and the moon would represent our form and that when the moon and sun became one we would be able to see him. I used to squint my eyes as hard as I could, thinking that I might just be able to catch a glimpse of father. Now today, all three of us will be reunited like the sky, the moon, and the sun. So lead on and we will stand here on the doorstep of the people that control how we live and suppress us so now we will have the power for a change and stand there until they change the law.”
The crowd is now shouting, “Reema! Reema! Reema!” “Give us our rights! Our freedom! And our Liberty!” over and over again and then the deadly blast of a shell was released. I was hit. I am feeling so much pain in the lower back where I was hit and then another gunshot went off and I went right to the ground. What I see now is what is truly worth the pain. I see people making a change and it was me being shot that made them become the activists they needed to be. Habiba pushes me over onto my side, but it is too late. I can now understand my mom’s saying, “It’s a hard life, and it is even harder to be a Saudi Arabian woman and live a no-face life,” it is saying that the government can control some things in your life but they can’t take your human rights away. As I come back to real life I realize that my sight is slowly fading as I see the connection between the sun, the sky, and the moon, and if I look closely enough I can see my parents.