Before I Left Saudi Arabia, I Almost Lost My Life

As I sit by the water, I think about my first birthday here in Canada when nobody wished me a happy birthday. I had no friends yet, and my host family forgot that it was my birthday. Here I am in 2021, and I just celebrated my 8 year “Canaversary”. I also celebrate the love and the memories of surprise parties, magical birthdays, and delicious homemade-for-me tiramisus. Here I am with friends from across this country, across the world, and on these stolen lands I’m calling home.

But it’s not just love, building community and cultivating friendships that I reflect on. But also on the pain from the past that my 24 years old self brought with her alongside her 5 bright pink suitcases.

*trigger warning*

A year and some months before I arrived in Canada, I was kidnapped by my ex-husband after I filed for divorce. I don’t remember much from the seven days with him. But, I vividly remember him telling me that he would rather cripple me, and take care of me for the rest of his life, rather than divorce me. That he would rather walk me in a wheelchair, clean my body, and change my sheets, rather than let me go, and be in the hands of another man. I vividly remember him sitting on my chest, choking me, leaving a mark on my neck. A mark that the court later never cared for or even acknowledged.

Growing up, I remember hearing my grandmother say that “a woman hits herself.” By that, she means that if a man hits a woman, it’s because of what she has done to “provoke” or “disrespect” said man. Thus, a man does not hit a woman, “a woman hits herself”.

I remember feeling my chest burn and my jaw tighten every time I’ve heard my grandmother say that. I remember glaring at her as she moved on to the next topic of the pain, sadness and misery that she had internalized. I remember refusing that idea. I remember refusing to take on that responsibility. I remember thinking to myself that I am, and we women are not to blame for the violence against us. Yet, my body as it faced that trauma, and as it carried the generational trauma, my body kept the score, and just like my grandmother, I internalized that pain.

For years, I walked heavied by the mock of fear, sha