Aysha Taryam's books on Goodreads
The Opposite of Indifference: A Collection of CommentariesThe Opposite of Indifference: A Collection of Commentaries
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Sunday, 9 February 2014

Farewell my father

Forever has the pen been the crutch I leaned on, the sword I fought my battles with, today I curse it. I curse the pen that is forced to write these words too soon. The same pen you put in my hands and taught me how to use is now bidding you farewell.
I search for the words to describe my sorrow, to make meaning of the emptiness but I fail. I fail because the words are no longer within me, I search for them and find them all around me flowing from the masses that have come to pay respects to a man they once knew, a man who has at one point touched their lives and helped change them forever.

Through teary eyes I hear stories of the man you were and I realise that it was not only me who has lost a father, an entire nation did. People from all walks of life speaking in different tongues told of your generosity, your patriotism, your wisdom and love for life. Each one of them came holding within a memory, a story, a moment that will live with them forever. For that we are grateful, for it assures us that you are in the hearts of all who knew you and in the minds of those who did not have the chance to.
Throughout my childhood I heard you speak of the importance of Arab unity and witnessed your sleepless nights over its slow deterioration. During our time together you instilled in us a love for this country that shall never falter. You spoke of your time with its founders, explained how the United Arab Emirates was birthed against all odds and insisted on the grave importance of protecting this nation at all costs. You loved this nation until the day your heart gave out and I can only hope you are able to see how much the nation loved you back.

The Arab world mourns your death and feels burdened by your loss for you were one of its greatest fighters and its strongest voices.

You were the patriot who gave his entire being to the foundation and future of this great nation. You were the man who fought to give a generation of women an education. You were the man who penned the truth when our world was surrounded with lies. You were the patriot who wanted nothing more than to see the Arab world united and flourishing.

Amongst all the responsibilities you shouldered and the endless quest to uphold the media ethics you respected, you were ever present as a father. You never failed to notice the slightest grimace on our faces, coming to our aid with your witty sense of humour and warm embrace assuring us that all will be well.

You made sure that you were never absent, our daily conversations and light banter were your most cherished moments. You always said family comes first and we are forever grateful for that.

Your legacy will live on within us and through the work your beloved Dar Al Khaleej will continue to give for years to come. We will carry the torch and run with it to the ends of the earth for there is no better way to show you that our hearts grieve your loss every day but to live by your ethics and shout out your beliefs. Your words of wisdom and advice, your political and media prowess have been instilled in us and with them we shall continue on the road that you have paved.

Farewell my father, my mentor and my best friend. You are never gone for you are in our hearts and the hearts of all who knew you. You are here, heart and soul. Thank you for all that you have given us and all that you continue to give in spirit even after you have gone. 

Rest in peace my father, may you find in heaven your eternal resting place.

This article was published in The Gulf Today on 9th Feb. 2014

And Arabic version was published in Al Khaleej newspaper

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Caught between a war and a cold place

In two years a humble revolution has turned into a raging war whose parties’ have become unrecognisable through the smoke of bombs and poisonous chemicals. For two years the world has watched and played the blame game, for two years Syria has bled.

In two years the United Nations Refugee Agency reports that over two million Syrians have been forced to flee their country, their status changing from citizen to refugee. 

Syria is now a battleground for the egotistical and the power hungry, for the religious extremist and the hired hit man. The rest has turned into rubble.

Lying in a warm bed one cannot shake off the image of the Syrian child who tries to fall asleep as the freezing wind cuts through his frail body. How can one enjoy this cool air wafting across the scorching Middle East after it has murdered children in refugee camps? 
Tattered tents are their shields against the harshness of winter, which seems to grow more ruthless as the years go on. 

In 1948, during the Jewish exodus approximately 725,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes by Israeli forces, they tied their house keys around their necks and fled for their lives with hopes that one day they shall return, they never did. The world remained silent.

Today, two million Syrians have been driven out of their homes by the very people vowing to protect them and the world’s silence is louder than ever.

As politicians weigh courses of action against their political agendas the death toll weighs heavy on the conscience of the world. The once vibrant Syrian streets are now haunted by the souls of the innocent and the historic monuments that told of an unrivalled Arab civilisation no longer stand tall.

As refugee camps face one of the harshest winters in the region’s recent history it becomes ever clearer that international aid is an immediate answer but it is not the final one. The war in Syria must end, the people of Syria must return to their homes and begin to rebuild. 

Governments must seek a peaceful solution, for Syria has seen enough bloodshed. We have seen both the Iraqi and Libyan experiments fail as hundreds of people are still dying there every year, we have just become desensitised to the numbers. Military intervention and the injection of weapons only add to the conflict by creating more fighting factions than one can count, each with its own agenda. 
Political compromises must be made so that enemies turn into allies in order to create more pressure on the Syrian government to act. 

Until then, Syrians will continue to choose life over death. They will brave the bitter cold for the whiteness surrounding them remains gentler than the redness the artists of death chose to cover their homes with. They will continue to survive in the hope that while their winters might get colder, our hearts will not.

This article was published in The Gulf Today newspaper on 22 Dec., 2013

Arabic version of this article was published in Al Khaleej newspaper

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Broken hearts inspire minds

The creative mind is in constant search of emotion, forever on an insatiable quest to feel. If not for joy, a painter’s brush would never stroke a canvas. If not for love, musical halls would echo only silence and if not for heartache, one’s pen would never run dry. 

Of all the emotions a soul might experience it is the most painful that creativity craves. It is only when one hears his heart shattering into a thousand pieces that the urge to create seizes control. Loss, betrayal, a love that never was, all have at one point fuelled the talented, the gifted among us to create masterpieces some of which adorn the world’s museums today.  

Sylvia Plath penned her most memorable poetry, the words her entire fame rests on, only after hearing the shattering of her heart upon learning of her husband’s affair. She spoke of a burst of inspiration of which the source could only be the agonising pain of betrayal. 

The most famous of those who wallow in despair, the artist Edward Munch, painted many self-portraits but none reached the height of morbidity until he came to the realisation that he could never commit to the only woman he loved. From this suffering Self-portrait in Hell was birthed. A painting depicting Munch surrounded by flames, burning in an eternal fire of grief. 

The French author Stendhal was tormented by his unrequited love for a woman who treated him cruelly, for her he wrote his book De L’Amour (On Love) in an attempt to find logic in the illogical spirits of love. His lover’s ruthless rejection of his passion compelled him to dissect the anatomy of love. Having tired of looking for reason behind loving one who carelessly tramples over your heart, he finally wrote: “A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love.”

The world is strewed with monuments to loss, grief and guilt. The Taj Mahal is a wonder of our world, yet is it a wonder because it is unfathomable for us to imagine a love so great as to outlast life? Or is it so because we wish to believe that it could? Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built this magnificent tomb in memory of his wife so that she might be remembered till eternity, this monument took sixteen years to construct. The world believes it was built by love but reading Shah Jahan’s own words on the Taj, one could say it was grief that built the Taj Mahal and it was sorrow that saw it through sixteen years till completion.

Shah Jahan’s own words describe the mausoleum:

“The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs; and the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.” 

People flock to witness this monument to love yet all that is truly there is the physical manifestation of love being overshadowed by sadness, for it is the feeling of loss that raised the walls of this world wonder.

We have reached the age of denial, we have become happiness seekers, afraid to feel. We are told to think positive, to seek only joy. Stores overflow with books selling you ways to rid yourself of ‘negative’ feelings. Assuming you could package and sell happiness and that indeed you can be taught to rid yourself of unwanted feelings, what happens to the process of creation?

What happens when we willingly diffuse the power of other emotions? It is unfair, one could even say naïve, of us to deem all emotions that do not leave us relaxed, negative. We must continue to build, paint and scribe, channelling the intensity of our pain and sorrow instead of allowing them to consume us.

Not intending to seem dark, but I am a firm believer that only when engulfed by darkness can we appreciate any source of light no matter how minute. I do wish you a lifetime of happiness but should the inevitable happen and sadness rears its head, I wish for you the strength to gather the scattered pieces of your shattered heart and a burst of creativity that shall bring you true fulfilment, who knows maybe even enrich our world.

This article was published in The Gulf Today newspaper on 8 Dec., 2013 
Arabic version of this article was published in Al Khaleej newspaper 

Monday, 2 December 2013

UAE, always united, always ahead

Here is the United Arab Emirates today celebrating its 42nd year of unity. Continuing to prove to the world its founders’ vision, that a union does not only bring power, it reinforces harmony. 42 years later the UAE’s political experiment has become one to be emulated. The 2nd of December is not just a day celebrating the passing of time, for the people of UAE it is a celebration of monumental achievements taking place year after year. A young nation it may be, only by years, certainly not by accomplishments.
The UAE’s visionary founder, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, foresaw a boundless future for this nation. He was a man of the people and a firm believer in the betterment of all nations. This we continue to witness today through charitable work the UAE has done all over the world since its inception.

History has proven that a true leader never dies if he secures a future for his nation through a coming generation who shall carry the torch further.

Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Ruler of the UAE, continues paving the path laid by our founders. Along with his brothers the Rulers of the Emirates they have formed a leadership entity that has empowered the people of UAE to seek new heights in whatever they choose to do, all the while reminding them that coming to the aid of nations in need is not only the government’s prerogative but that of the people as well.

The unity has flourished, propelled by inspiring leadership and bound stronger by the belief of the people in its effectiveness and importance. It has indeed created harmony because this union has extended its arms beyond its seven Emirates. The UAE today is not only home for the people of the Emirates but is also home to some 200 different nationalities. People from different countries and faiths have come to live in unison under the UAE’s skies. The UAE’s embrace of different cultures has made it the country it is today. This openness made way for the intermingling of ideas and the creation of a diverse society fuelling the UAE’s movement forward.

It is heartwarming to witness the residents of the UAE who hail from different countries across the globe celebrate its achievements, realising that they too are a part of them. 

Just a few days before the UAE’s National Day the people of UAE celebrated an unprecedented feat in the Middle East, Dubai winning the Expo 2020 hosting bid. UAE nationals were ecstatic and so were its residents, we saw images of hundreds of people waving the UAE flag high and congratulating themselves on the win. The coming together in support of the Dubai Expo 2020 bid has shown us the true harmony that the UAE leadership has spread across its land.

In 42 years the unique Emirati political model and its leadership’s humane qualities have set the UAE apart from nations around the world. It has turned the world’s eyes towards the Emirates and as the world watches on it will continue to move forward.

One has to believe that had the late Sheikh Zayed been among us today he would have been proud of what his nation has achieved and that his vision never faltered. For this humble writer, this belief is motivation enough to keep driving this nation forward, always united, always ahead.

This article was published in The Gulf Today newspaper on 2nd Dec.,2013
Arabic version of the article was published in Al Khaleej newspaper 


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Celebrating the death of innocence

It used to be that for an issue to become the subject of worldwide debate it had to be investigated, fact-checked and exposed yet today all it takes is a video gone viral. This month, a video of 11-year-old Yemeni girl Nada Al-Ahdal made the rounds on social media sites and after hitting over 7 million views the story was picked up by the media and the doors of debate were flung open. 

This video showed young Nada eloquently telling the world that she has escaped the horrors of home seeking refuge at her uncle’s house because her mother intended to have her married. The passionate child addressed each and every one of us and asked, “What happens to a child’s innocence?” She expressed her wish to die rather than be sold to a man and feared for the lives of other young girls like her who have had their lives ruined. All of a sudden the child bride had a face and that in itself moved the world more than any statistic could.

The media pounced on the story based on its circulation and once again failed to do journalism’s basic requirement, that is, investigate. Turned out Nada’s video was staged by her uncle who works as a graphic technician in a TV station. Nada’s mother never intended on marrying her off and the girl never escaped from home. After the media vilified Nada’s parents in an attempt to save face the story was dismissed as a hoax and the world moved on and away from Nada. 

As this story fades away its remnants still linger on and one wonders, so what if this video is a sham and Nada was never to be a child bride? The facts remain that according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) a staggering 52% of girls in Yemen are married before the age of 18. Adding insult to injury in 1999 Yemen’s parliament abolished article 15 of its Personal Status Law which set the minimum age for marriage at 15. Simply put, Yemen has no minimum age for marriage. In a study conducted by Sanaa University it was revealed that in some areas in Yemen girls as young as eight are married off. 

Faced with these frightening figures does it really matter that Nada’s video was staged? Has the world missed the larger picture with regard to this story by dismissing it as a lie? Nada’s story might have been fiction but the crimes she spoke of are very much a reality. In 2008 the world was shell-shocked after hearing the story of 10-year-old Nujood Ali who approached a court in Sanaa asking the judge for a divorce. The words spoken by Nada, scripted or not, depict the lives of many young girls in Yemen who remain helpless because of the poverty compelling parents to sell their children to the highest bidder and the lack of laws which have aided these inhumane acts. 

Yemen is not alone when it comes to the normalisation of child marriages for the likes of these injustices are prominent in all countries suffering from endless political unrest and devastated by poverty. Countries like Niger, Afghanistan and Pakistan among many others rank highest in percentage of child marriages. This pandemic exists all over the world and must be combated. Cases of child marriages reveal many forms of physical abuse and violence, premature pregnancies and a high rate of infant mortality. The psychological effects on the young brides and the eternal feeling of isolation have led to many taking their own lives. 

It is predicted that 100 million young girls will be married in the next 10 years. Child protection laws must be enforced and greater efforts exerted in educating parents and providing a safe haven for children who have no choice but to escape the dismal future forced upon them. Adults should not be given the right to throw parties celebrating the death of their child’s innocence.

An 8-year-old girl should not be denied her childhood by living a life carrying out the duties of a wife. 13-year-old girls should not be raising children for they have yet to live their own childhood. These young girls represent our future and what a ghastly one it will be if we continue allowing these injustices to happen. 

Nada Al-Ahdal is not a child bride and we pray she never will be, but her question to the world still echoes in my mind and should do so in yours as well, when we allow for such crimes to occur she asks… “What happens to a child’s innocence?”

This article was published in The Gulf Today Newspaper on 4 August, 2013. 
Arabic version published in Al Khaleej Newspaper