My Story, From the Outside, and the Inside.
We all have two stories... The story from the inside and the story from the outside.
My story... from the outside I’m a woman from Saudi Arabia, so I must be oppressed. But from the inside there’s this love, cherishment and empowerment that I’ve experienced growing up in Saudi Arabia.
From the outside, I’m the daughter of two beautiful generous people, the oldest sister to 8 incredible siblings, from the inside I feel the love, the obligation, the shame that who I am today doesn’t meet their expectations.
From the outside, I was covered up head to toe when I was in 3rd grade, I was too young but I cried to my mom over and over to buy me the full islamic cover, the abaya, the hijab, and the face cover. From the inside, I just wanted to do what the grownups were doing, I wanted to embody the strong historical women. I wore it, and I wore it with pride.
What did you do when you were in third grade? And how much of that was influenced by what the adults were doing?
From the outside, I'm a divorced woman from a fixed marriage I got into when I was 18, so I must have escaped an unwanted marriage, But from the inside, I know that said yes to getting married at 18, and during the four years I was engaged and married to this man, I loved him and he loved me, he spoiled me, and he’s still one of the funniest guys I’ve met. During the four years I was engaged and married to this man, I dreamed about what our future would look like, and the small family I’ve always wanted, and by small I mean 4 kids and he would usually protest and jokingly say “but I want a full soccer team, so 11 kids!”, I dreamed about how it work if I wanted to build a career and not just stay at home mother. During the four years I was engaged and married to this man, I sat on my prayer rug every night and prayed to God that our love only grows for each other.
But one day, I packed my stuff and left.
A year after we were married, we learned that he can’t have kids. To that news I cried, crashed on the floor and wealed; grieving a life I may have had. the mom I may have been, my image of a small family is replaced with both of us old and lonely, in the empty big house that we were already saving up for and building. To that news, we walked around like a zombie, not eating, not sleeping, not talking. For a man, attaching his identity and worth to “providing the sperm”, he seemed to be suffering. I was in so much pain, but it pained me more to see him suffering, so I parked my grief for his..
A years and a half after that day, I accidentally found a document in his closet, a medical report from a fertility clinic, I frantically open the report, read it, over and over, it was about his inability to have kids, and while all sorts of questions were popping into my head, my eyes landed on the right corner of the report, on the date, that report was TWO years before he even proposed to me. (Pause) Yes, he knew. To that news, I crashed on the floor and I wailed, knowing that I was leaving.
Adversity does not discriminate. it matters not your gender, where you were born, your social status, your sexual orientation, ethnicity, or your religious background, we’ve all dreamed and desired one thing and the outcome was chaos.. we've been lied to, cheated, maybe separated from somebody that we truly loved. We all face struggles, and there’s no certainty ahead, or what the future holds.
We do, we do crave that certainty, that our love would be met by love, our honesty would be met by honestly, and our devotion, our hard work, our dedication, won’t be for nothing.
I knew the consequences of being a divorced woman, and I had no certainty about what leaving holds, but the only thing that was certain to me, is that that staying does not serve me. So with courage, and support from my family, I took that leap into the uncertainty, the unknown, and left.
5 months after I filed for divorce, I I got a job and moved to a different city, I lived in a women-only compound, we had a male guard, Osama, who monitored our movements, .
One day, I came back from work, and less than 5 minutes later, the apartment phone rings, I answered and it was Osama, he said: Amal, I have this man who says he’s your husband. And in the same time the blood was draining from my body, my mind was trying to comprehend what Osama just said
I don’t know how he found me, but the Osama begged me to come down, as he was threatening to call the police if I didn’t.
He tells me that he only wants to talk, and after we are done, he will drive down to my hometown to go to court to divorce me before they close.
So we talked, we drove the 4 hours. But we never made it to court.
He tells me that he’d rather cause me to be a handicapped and for him to take care of me for the rest of his life, then to divorce me.
He chucks my phone and ID through the window into the middle of nowhere in the desert.
He tells me that he told my parents that we are trying to figure it out, and that they shouldn’t contact us.
He takes me to our house, where he locked me up for 7 days.
Doors in the middle east are with rim lock, and you need a key to open it. One day he came back from work, I was crying, screaming, shaking, telling him that I can’t breathe here anymore, and that maybe we should go somewhere.
He took us to a hotel, where the door had knob lock, that night laid in bed, wide-eyed. Waited for him to be in deep sleep before I got up, crawled to his side of the room to grab my Abaya, crawled back to my side, towards the door, slowly opened it… ran away. As I left the hotel gate there was a cab coming from the corner, I flagged, and got in right away, I asked him to drive me to the mall nearby. When we got there, I told him that I had no money on me. He told me that it was okay, and that he prays for me. I found another stranger in the mall, asked to use their phone, called my dad, and asked him to pick me up.
Do you want to know the crazy part about this? None of this mattered in court. Because he was my husband, and I was his wife, in his house.
Don’t look at me and Saudi Arabia, muslim women in the Middle East and around the world, I invite you to have the courage to look at your own backyard...
The missing and murdered indigenous women, the %40 of sexual assault cases dismissed by the Kelowna RCMP, the hundreds of cases at Elizabeth Fry Society, Hope Outreach and the women shelter.
Choose to be a HERO
Here is my lesson, I can stay a victim of the adversity, but I also can choose to be a hero.
So... From the outside, I'm a divorced woman from a fixed marriage I got into when I was 18. From the inside, it feels like destiny. Because of all what happened to me, and those vivid memories when I spent over two years in court fighting for that divorce, where I met women who were oppressed, defeated by the system, and some had no one to stand up for them. This is when I found my calling - when I knew that I needed to stand up for women’s rights.
From the outside, I’m short, well, very short, but from the inside I feel mighty.
In choosing to be a hero, I found something larger that carried me through, and helped me tolerate the uncertainty, the pain, the helplessness until I found myself at the other side.
Today, I know that he was there to serve me, and be the catalyst to many beautiful things in my life. I see his pain, his shame, his shadow and his beauty, and with all the love I had for him, I let him go.
Choose to be a HERO
I invite you to rewrite your story, with you as the hero of what happened to you, not the victim. What’s your story? From the outside, and the inside? Remember, your recovery from adversity can include an increased This new sense of meaning in life moving us from coping to thriving.