Ever since I was a child, I used to love drawing. I may not have been talented but I used to enjoy drawing a girl wearing an embroidered, princess-like dress and tiny shoes like Cinderella’s. I was in Grade 5 in a drawing class, and I expected to exercise my talent in this arts course. I spent half the lesson time drawing this girl in her embroidered dress and putting a red ribbon in her hair and red shoes to go with the ribbon. She was such a beautiful and elegant girl. I finished the drawing and handed it over to the teacher, expecting words of praise… She was bound to love this girl as she looked a lot like Cinderella, and we all love Cinderella.
I look at the officer and ask smilingly: “Do you think I am a terrorist because I am a Yemeni?” And he answers: “Of course not, you are no terrorist, this is just standard procedure.”Hind Aleryani
The teacher smiled and said: “You have to draw a line across her neck so she does not come on Judgment Day and demands that you give her a soul so she can live, as it is taboo to imitate Allah’s creatures. But if you draw this line across her neck, you’d be saying she is not alive and she is only a drawing.” I understood nothing back then: Why did I have to strangle the beautiful girl with the embroidered dress? Why would Allah punish me if I have done nothing wrong? I drew something similar to the cartoons I see on TV but like any obedient student, I drew a line across the girl’s neck as if I were slaughtering her.
I have had no desire to draw another girl ever since… I do not want to slaughter my dreams.
'Helping' Bosnia fighters
“Come, every student go to the schoolyard to listen to the lecture to be delivered by the headmistress,” yelled one of the teachers who was holding a long stick to scare us into heading for the yard. We stood there under the sun for hours and hours. I was in early prep school… I understood virtually nothing of what the headmistress was saying. What I understood is that there were people who hate Islam in Bosnia-Herzegovina and that we have to go fight them… I felt dizzy and my head ached under the sun’s heat so I asked my teacher: “Can I be excused and go to class? I’m tired.” The teacher replied angrily: “You cannot stand two hours of sun while someone is dying every day for the sake of religion?” What she said scared me so I recanted my idea and stood there under the sun in the hope that my standing would help those fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina…
Afraid to question
It’s a girls-only university. I was told I should study in it because it is the best one in Yemen. I am roused from my daydreaming by the voice of the teacher in one of those lectures where she departs from the lesson and starts talking about things unrelated to what we are studying, though her high-pitched voice alludes that she’s about to say something of importance. I listen intently in the hope of deriving some benefit. The teacher asks: “Do you know why, in Western clock ads, the time always reads 10.10?” We say ‘no’ and she replies: “It is because Muslims vanquished them in a battle at this specific time.” I do not remember the name of the battle but I was puzzled by something: How did they know it was at 10.10? No one said anything to her, she went silent and we remained silent as well.
In the university yard, a female fellow student says excitedly: “Do you know that the medication we take from the West is all poisoned but we do not die because we are Muslims?” I am amazed by the girls’ whoops and I can see that some of them are not convinced. One of them says: “What’s with all these myths?” The student says: “Do you mean to say you don’t believe that Islam protects us from all evil?” This sentence alone was enough to silence my comrade who was a Muslim and was afraid to have anyone question her loyalty to Islam.
The officer turns my passport over and grumbles below his breath: “You are a Yemeni…” Then he looks up at me and says: “Are you a Palestinian who holds a Yemeni passport? You do not look like a Yemeni.” I say: “I am a Yemeni born to a Yemeni father and mother.” He then gives the passport to his colleague and whispers in his ear, and his colleague takes the passport and disappears. I look at the officer and ask smilingly: “Do you think I am a terrorist because I am a Yemeni?” And he answers: “Of course not, you are no terrorist, this is just standard procedure.” I checked my watch, which read 10.10 so I smiled and said to myself: My-my, how did I not become a terrorist?
Hind Aleryani is a Yemeni activist and working as a journalist at NOW Lebanon. She can be found on Twitter @HindAleryani.