In The Story of Zahra, the Lebanese war invades the heroine’s private space. Her brother’s weapons occupy a significant section of their house, yet she doesn’t touch these foreign, male, objects, though they’ve invaded her home. Some would argue that she does worse…she takes her romantic feelings back into that public space, falling in love with a sniper and sleeping with him on the same rooftop he uses to target civilians.
Yet how is this fictional story line related to our theme of women’s rights in Lebanon today? Well…frankly…because I find the hypocrisy when it comes to women’s status in Lebanon quite disturbing. While war is thrown into our faces every single day, invading every facet of our private and public lives, some still consider us “gentle” creatures that must be protected (only by our husbands or family members of course!). It pains me to have a discussion with a university student, a member of the student council to make matters worse, who’s against the proposed law to combat violence against women. My jaw dropped when I heard him make such a statement in complete and utter conviction. Al shou al… the law doesn’t respect the privacy of the home and allows police officers to intervene in a private matter.
This is the hypocrisy I wish to address.
When it comes to war and conflict destroying everyone’s carefully laid private plans, that same person might consider it a woman’s duty to fight alongside her male counterpart. If that private, domestic, house were harboring a so-called terrorist, that same person might consider it a police officer’s duty to interfere and arrest the perpetrator(s). When it comes to an athlete who chose to participate in a photo-shoot near nude, that same person might consider it our duty to interfere.
Yet…all this talk of positive interference and duty disappears when we consider the topic of domestic abuse. Suddenly, we’re in the private sphere…suddenly, we need to leave the family alone… suddenly, we need to wait until the man breaks every single bone in his wife’s body, and even then, we debate whether we should interfere in such a private matter.
In the section on “Crime and Punishment”, Gibran’s Prophet says: “And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,
So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.”
When it comes to moral responsibility and justice, let us not hide too long behind the cloak of privacy and domestic sensibility. Let us be silent no more.
Published in Mish Jareedi February 2014 Printed Edition – click here to view original publication