Every day you switch on your television, phone, computer or radio and you hear the word “terrorist” in all types of news flashes. It will be used in connection with any act of violence committed against a government or a country, or on a group of people by another group of people. We hear about demonstrations and protests and tear gas and violence and non-violence and rebellion and oppressing governments and public uprisings. We hear about sit-ins in public squares, of students being arrested and of protestors being shot at. We hear about air strikes in other countries, about dictatorships being brought down from the inside and from the outside, about dictatorships being pandered to and blind eyes being turned. Public uprisings become acts of terrorism and lawful mass murder gets swept under the carpet. Acts of terrorism are stopped in their tracks while others are successful. Successful democratic elections are held in war-torn countries while at the same time in others women are still not allowed to leave the house without a male companion. One day you will hear about the Palestinian terrorist who blew himself up on the bus on the way to Tel Aviv, but the people who in return pounded Gaza with an airstrike are called soldiers. Gaddafi called the rebels seeking to bring him down terrorists, but to the rest of the world they were portrayed as saviours, and were given the help they needed to fight for and win their cause. Where can you even start discussing this topic? Words are open to a different interpretation by each individual. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter; one man’s popular uprising is another man’s violent revolution. The main keyword here is “violence”.
A few weeks ago I posted about the uprising in Bahrain and how it was quashed by the Bahraini government and pretty much ignored by the rest of the world. If you watched the Al Jazeera documentary that stemmed my original post you probably shed a few tears in the same way I did and wondered why Bahrain was ignored when other countries weren’t. The answers to those questions are pretty self-explanatory, even to an idealist like myself (cynical idealist is probably a better way of putting it). In any case, out of this uprising came a young woman who should be a source of inspiration to us all. No matter what your religion, skin colour or personal beliefs are, we all have the right to live in freedom, to speak freely and to be able to live our lives without having to constantly check our backs to make sure we are not being followed or spied on.
During the popular uprising of Bahrain in the spring of 2011, Ayat Al-Gormezi, a 20 year old student and poet recited a poem that criticized the Bahraini government and its policies. She was subsequently arrested, subjected to psychological and physical harassment and most possibly torture and sentenced to a year in jail. Her family was also subjected to major harassment before and after her arrest, and they had no idea where she was being held or what had happened to her. With other vocal public figures that had been arrested during the uprising turning up dead, I assume that her family would expect the worst every day. Ayat was eventually tried without any type of representation (not even allowed to represent herself) and charged with a year in prison for "incitement to hatred of the regime", "insulting members of the royal family" and "illegal assembly” – all because she used freedom of speech to express her views on the way the government was treating the Bahraini people.
She was subsequently released, but remains on house arrest, and was forced to make a public apology on television to the king and the prime minister. All for using her creativity and art to express how she, and a whole nation, feels about the way they are being governed. Imprisoning her and subjecting her to abuse just because she spoke her mind is to me a form of extreme censorship and dictatorship. Ayat Al-Gormezi continues to advocate her thoughts through other channels outside of Bahrain and will not be silenced.
I don’t think I need to explain why Ayat Al-Gormezi is an inspiration to me, as well as to many others – without fear she walked on stage and spoke her mind in front of thousands, and consequently was imprisoned and suffered for speaking her mind against governmental injustices. I doubt that she will ever really be silenced, and for this she should be celebrated. I feel that if we all stood up and spoke our minds a little more there would be a little less suffering in this world and a little more activism.
Here is Ayat reading her poem on stage last year, with English subtitles:
Here is a blog about Ayat: http://ayat-algormezi.blogspot.com/
Here is the forced apology on national Bahraini TV (with English translation):