Mariam is denied access in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is just preparing to become the shrine of modernity and liberation in the Gulf area. Competing with Dubai and Qatar, tangling with the shrine of religion under one “holy” sky.
The last months witnessed sparkles and fireworks of attention, where the Shrine of the Islamic countries is hosting music and dance festivals with tens of thousands of young Saudi men and women attending. Hosting the Red Sea Cinema festival in Jeddah is as miraculous as a discovery of a new livable planet. Seeing artists and people in contrary to what we witnessed about this country is just shocking by all means.
Parallel, was also the Riyad Book Fair, that carried the title of “Freedom of Expression.”
“Saudi Arabia is finally becoming the haven of humankind on Earth as much as it grants Heaven up there.” I thought.
Nevertheless, my flirting on the idea, as I continued my hours scrolling on News from the festival to Mecca. Artists pose in sparking earthly outfits on the Red Carpet and then pose in heavenly outfits around the Ka’ba, was interrupted when my novel On the Trails of Mariam was banned from the Riyad Book Fair.
When the publisher sent me a message last night giving the news, I made what looked like a natural reflex of “great news.” I have to say, it seems incredible to think how we cope with traumas in our lives. The way we block the traumatic feeling into a seal of pretending that nothing took place. Let’s move on and get the best out of this.
And that was what I did. “great news,” I said. “Finally, I will become famous”.
But as usual, it seemed to be only me living in my wishful land of awaited fame. “It was not funny.” The gesture of my publisher conveyed to me. I went into the practical question. The question I did not want to ask, for its answer I did not want to hear. “why.” The answer, however, was a sincere feeling of relaxation. “Infringement of public decency.” I took a sigh. I thought: me!! Infringement of decency. Well, I know I could be that infringing in person. But my writing is anything but that. I am a polite, proper, careful writer for public decency. I was worried about something else. I was concerned that radical religious fundamentalists decided to judge my ideas in my writings.
My publisher made even more of a splendid endeavor: they say that there is a term of “thighs” in describing the labor moment of a woman.” I remembered something like this, I thought. One of the Mariam’s was probably giving birth. “they said this is infringing”. Thank God, I sighed.
I slept on the issue. I sent the message to my friends and acquaintances to wake up on tens of messages “congratulating me”.
I felt in a celebrative moment for a while. Waiting for my moment of fame to arrive. Nothing happened.
I realized slowly that all the comments were secured in my inbox. Nothing took place in my social media many outlets. I did not become a trend. Mariam was left to her destiny next to mine.
I don’t know why something dropped on me like a rock in my heart. I suddenly felt alone. I felt naked. I felt stripped out of my basic sense of safety.
When my car was burnt last year, I felt the same way. It dawned on me then, as it dawned now, that I am all alone. Last year seems like an easier one; I have to say. People made some reactions, at least. Since Nizar Banat’s murder, lives have become less critical, more threatened.
I was (naively) surprised to know that some people will not publicize the banning because some have somehow a potential possibility for a future deal in cultural deals in KSA. Some expressed fears of expressing their opinions because their countries are practically controlled by KSA money. They cannot afford their displease. “we are not in any different place than that of Lebanon,” a friend expressed.
Some were sincerely worried on my own safety. How would publicity in such a case and situation do harm instead of helping.
I think of how freedom of expression turned into a self-restraining leash that we lock each time tightly around our necks. We follow, regardless of a rope or a leash. We obey. We do what they want us to do. How much has the Orwellian dystopic image become a reality? A more fictitious reality. A fact that is much better than any created movie.
Since the Khashoggi murder, the same as the murder of Nizar Banat, tyranny has become supreme and is the practiced norm.
What happened in Lebanon against George Qirdahi, that forced him at the end to resign, in nothing but another despotism of oppression and dominance of fear. A fear that is enlivening our lives and hearts. We are strangled, controlled, dominated to their rule. The rule of tyranny in any name the world is ready to give. Let it be even A Democracy.
I feel drifted into a whirlpool of an enormous tornado. There is no end to its loop. There seems to be no end to what it will continue to throw on us.
It feels agonic. It is . For what is left for us if we cannot express ourselves freely. Why do we need to aspire to liberate our lives and souls if all is meaningless and impossible?
Why did I decide to get a divorce from an abusive marriage? Why do I aspire to liberation from occupation? If, in what should be my free space, place of becoming, being, I cannot become. I cannot be. I cannot breathe.
What is left for us but to shut up and sit aside and wait until we die? Until they decide for us when we die.
It is stunning how it all feels. How everything suddenly feels relative to what once used to be the only breathing channel for my soul. Breathing freedom. Liberty. Now I don’t know if I can breathe air in the next hour.
I never thought. It never actually crossed my naïve thinking that we could be this close to being threatened by whoever is; it might be that whom I trust.
I won’t be able to breathe soon.