PG 3: LETTER FROM THE EDITOR PG 5 ART BY FAIZA RAMADAN
PG 6: SEVEN YEARS OF SILENCE BY ZEIN SA'DEDIN PG 7-8: U TEXT NOTHING LIKE U LOOK LIKE BY LAMIA ABUKHADRA PG 9-12: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE REVOLUTION IN LIBYA BY MALAK ALTAEB PG 13: PHOTOGRAPHY BY HIBA SHALABI PG 14: SKIN AS CRATERS BY TASNEEM MAHER PG 15-16: ART BY FAIZA RAMADAN PG 17-18: THE FINAL CRY BY ALAA LAFTA PG 19: FIRST BULLET BY ZEIN SA'DEDIN PG 20: SELF PORTRAIT BY SAMIA SALIBA PG 21-22: THE NAKBA NEVER ENDED SECTION PG 23-4: MISSING BY LAMIA ABUKHADRA PG 25: JERUSALEM BY ZEIN SA'DEDIN PG 26: ART BY LAMIA ABUKHARDRA PG 27: LINEAGE OF BY MALAK SHAHIN PG 29-31: INTERVIEW WITH JUMANA AL-QUWASAMI FROM WATAN PALESTINE PG 32: END OF SECTION PG 33: ART BY FAIZA RAMDAN PG 33: SELF PORTRAIT BY ALAA LAFTA
CONTENTS PG 35-6: NARRATIVE TERRORISM BY LAMIA ABUKHADRA PG 37: ART BY FAIZA RAMDAN PG 38: YOU WILL BIRTH A WRITER BY TASNEEM MAHER PG 39-40: SHAHRAZAD BY ZEIN SA'DEDIN, PHOTOGRAPHY BY HIBA SHALABI PG 41-44: TEAR IN SPACE TIME BY FAIZA RAMADAN PG 45: BAS ENTY BINT (YOU ARE A GIRL) BY MARIAM SALEH PG 46: ART BY FAIZA RAMADAN PG 47: PHOTOGRAPHY BY HIBA SHALABI PG 48: POEM BY RYAH FREIH PG 49: ART BY FAIZA RAMADAN PG 50: AHLAM BY MARIAM SALEH PG 51-2: VALIDATIONS BY LEILA AMMAR PG 53: GENDERQUEER BY NADEEM PG 54: ART BY FAIZA RAMADAN PG 55: BINT BY ZEIN SA'DEDIN PG 56, 57: ART BY FAIZA RAMADAN PG 58-9: A7LAM BY LEENA ABOUTALEB, ART BY FAIZA RAMADAN PG 60: PHOTOGRAPHY BY HIBA SHALABI PG 63: ART BY FAIZA RAMADAN COVER ART: WE HAVE NOTHING LEFT BY LAMIA ABUKHADRA
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR As th e sayin g goes: al sawt al m ar a th awr a ? th e voice of wom en is r evol u tion . Th e fol l owin g m agazin e is fil l ed with ar t by tal en ted Ar ab wom en an d n on bin ar y Ar ab peopl e. Th ou gh th is is tech n ical l y an iden tity based issu e Thawr a seek s in stead to be an an th ol ogy of ar t by en by Ar abs & Ar ab wom en r ath er th an a r edu ctive issu e of wh at it m ean s to be Ar ab. Of cou r se, th er e is n oth in g wr on g with an issu e abou t ou r iden tity; h owever ,as ar tists of col or ,it seem s l ik e th at?s al l we?r e l im ited to. Not on l y is th is l im itin g bu t it often ser ves an agen da by expl oitin g th e oppr ession we face in or der to ju stify W ester n im per ial ism in th e M iddl e East. A h u ge ten et of Ascen d is to tel l ou r stor ies by u s an d for u s, an d as an Ascen d Special Pr oject, Thawr a is sim pl y a con tin u ation of th is m ission . Th is issu e featu r es in cr edibl e visu al ar t by Faiza Ram adan , H iba Sh al abi, Lam ia Abu k h adr a, an d Sam ia Sal iba. A section focu sin g on Pal estin ian ar t with wor k fr om Lam ia Abu k h adr a, Zein Sa?deddin , an in ter view with W atan fou n der Ju m an a Al -Qu wasam i, an d m ysel f is in cl u ded as a com m em or ation of th e Nak ba, or th e Pal estin ian catastr oph e. 2018 m ar k s 70 year s sin ce. Th is issu e al so featu r es poetr y fr om Tasn eem M ah er , Zein Sa?deddin , Al aa Lafta, M ar iam Sal eh , Ryah Fr eih , Leen a Abou tal eb an d Leil a Am m ar. M al ak Al taeb r efl ects on h er per son al exper ien ces with th e Libyan r evol u tion in a sh or t essay. In a beau tifu l piece en titl ed ?Gen der qu eer ,?Nadeem r efl ects
on th eir str u ggl e with gen der iden tity. It h as been an absol u te pl easu r e to pu t togeth er th is issu e an d wor k with th ese con tr ibu ter s. If you l ik ed th is issu e, th e en d l ists a n u m ber of oth er pu bl ication s sim il ar to Th awr a in m ission an d/ or con ten t. You can al so ch eck ou t Ascen d's pr eviou sl y pu bl ish ed, an d absol u tel y stu n n in g, issu es.
Bl ess, M al ak Sh ah in Editor in Ch ief of Ascen d
SEVEN YEARSOF SILENCE Zein Sa'dedin ar t by Faiza Ram adan
After I left, I would unroll my ?r ?s ever y mor ning, tr ain my letter s to lie flat against the bottom of my mouth. I would smoothen out ever y syllable, soften my ?s?s and speak in a slow dr awl. I would pr actice my ?p?s in the bathroom mir ror, careful not to cr ack it with my accent. I would r inse the guttur al ?dahd?out with mouth wash and force myself to love the emptiness between my teeth. Before I left, I would recite Dar wish ever y evening, and watch my teta fall to the floor five times a day in devotion. She told me Ar abic is the mother of poetr y, counted her pr ayer beads ninety nine times with our names. She told us stor ies of Jer usalem?s olive trees, showed us the scar she car r ies on her wr ist from a broken fence. Two weeks after I left she died of a collapsed lung and since then my tongue has become a foreign entity. I?ve for gotten how to make it speak of her.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE REVOLUTION IN LIBYA M alak Alt aeb
There was tension in the atmosphere. We could all sense it in the middle of our daily rituals. My dad came from work, and we all sat together for lunch. We turned on the television and switched to the first news channel. I saw people flying Libya's independence flag, which I was unfamiliar with. I never knew it existed. I asked my dad where this was, and he answered with a shallow sound, ?This is here in Libya.? Libya's former regime restricted freedom as a tool to rule the country. It worked for 42 years. Following revolution in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyans rose against the regime. Libya was not the same when it came to revolution. I was only 17 when it happened. I was just a teenager who lived a normal life and that was it. I didn't know what freedom meant and why we needed to attain it. On March 19, 2011, I celebrated my birthday with the sound of NATO jets. I remember it vividly; when I heard the roaring sound of it, I carried my little brother, Hadi, and rushed into the basement. I only thought of my little brother. The sound of war rushed in, and I felt lost. After a few weeks, we left the country to Tunisia. We left without knowing when we would come back. I looked at our house, and I wanted to remember every little detail in case we never came back. I didn't cry because I kept telling myself that we would come back to our memories, to our home.
The situation escalated in the country and day by day, another city joined the procession of the revolution. The circle tightened more and more around the regime and Libyans were united to bring it down no matter the cost. The cost was very high, though. We spent eight months in tension and fear. Men were lost in battle fields, and children were orphaned.
I grew up in those eight months; they felt more like eight years. I got eight years older and wiser. The revolution made me feel things I never thought I would ever feel. I felt free and empowered. I discovered "I wish to se the love I had for my country when war was Libya I have over and we returned home. I could sense the dreamt of se love Libyans have for each other; it was contagious. The revolution made us closer as a hope to see population. We understood and knew more of of pride and the cities around the country. I can now confirm that I am aware of the geographical scene in Libya. The former regime suppressed us in an unbelievable way. Our hopes were high. If you would tell me that the country would turn out this way, I wouldn't believe you. We hoped for democracy, equality, respect, unity, and peace. We hoped for better education, employment, health, and fairness. I didn't know that selfishness would poison the society. Greed took over and all the sacrifices were in vain.
Seven years later, the country faces turmoil. Our hopes faded in the sky like a cloud. What citizens hope for now is the simplest life needs. We, as youth, try to stay hopeful in the midst of it. It is not an easy task; I assure you. I won't blame it on the revolution but on the people. A girl told me, and I quote: "We started a revolution without knowing our rights and duties." When interests conflict, it will lead to two parties fighting over the same thing, and they will never be on the same page. Unity is not a phrase in my community now; everyone is looking out for their own interests, not for the community. When, in fact, looking out for each see the other is the answer. People failed to make this work. always They brought the worst of freedom. It is not desirable eeing. I to be free if the outcome is this. I wish to see the Libya I have always dreamt of seeing. I hope to see it full of pride and unity. Libyans must work together in order for the country to stand back on its feet. We must spread love and hope. Revolution meant sacrifice so we must give back to balance the equation. Tomorrow is unknown, but we pray for the best. I know that good dreams are here to stay and bad dreams will go away.
e it full d unity."
ph ot ogr aph y by Hiba Sh alabi
t asn eem m ah er
SK I N AS CRATERS
bruises like the tide pain rises with the night the presence of the moon skin and nerve-endings caved in calling to crater-home on the moon craters calling to the half-moons nestled in my palms like a radio signal or soulbond i, too, appear best in darkness i, too, am large & round & lonely i, too, shine blunt next to glimmering stars know that i am here, the milky spotlight said, know that i listen.
The texture of tear in space time. Painted in 2014 using p
print ink and acrylic on canvas. Size 120 x 100 cm
small secrets gather in your sleeves, like pockets of dust. words feel like olive pits wedged in your throat / and the air settles like sand on your tongue? soon, you are left with no language. fingers, wisps of dandelion smoke / cold like bone / dig through fabric to find something to give to the stall owner? secrets here are currency. the story of your first bleed scorches him, your whiteness not white enough. so you apologise, needle his blistered skin and tell him of your sister who drowned herself. you are too unholy now, nothing but stone on his path to redemption. so he feeds you watermelon seeds. taps your underbelly. feels for your ripeness / there / just like how his mama taught him. peel her skin apart. tear open her vessels. if she is too shy, swallow her freshwater scream.
sick dogs strewn in dusty alleyways map out the ruins of the city. bullet holes read like morse code? empty shells moating emptier bodies. girls in foreign cities try to find their way back? slick their thighs with oil, swallow birds like prayers, & spew out avian kisses. eventually nothing but salt-breath remains. keep me away from the water edge. tell me what happens to our bodies when we die / / the words are too foreign for my mouth
t he f inal cr y alaa lafta
i h id e el a c c en t u g ly w a g u t t u r a l b et w een m y t eet h ev er y w o r d a m a c h in e g un w a g in g w a r b i the b ack of m y throat
b i el h u b w a el h a r b c o lla t e r a l w a c r i m i n a l v i c t i m w a v i lla i n b i h a r b e l la n g u a g e f i r e a w a l b u lle t b a r r el a im ed d o g h r i a t m y s k u ll
Fir s t Bu l l e t z ein s a ' d ed in
MI SSI NG By :Lamia Abuk hadr a These prints analyze the ethnic cleansing taking place in Palestine by examining the history of the orange industry. In 1948, Zionist military forces seized the land and belongings of Palestinians and expelled the majority of Palestinian citizens into neighboring countries. Today, Israel continues to bulldoze and occupy Palestinian land and claim aspects of Palestinian culture, identity, and economy as its own. Jaffa oranges are now sold to benefit Israeli people and economies and the Palestinian farmers who owned orange groves in Jaffa cultivate their own stolen lands as low wage workers. The advertisement describes the nature of Palestinian culture and the moment of abduction, just as a milk carton advertisement would: ?Have You Seen This Culture? Name: Palestine Date of Cultural Abduction: 1948-Present Appearance: 1.4 Million people embroidering, picking olives, tending orange groves, swimming in the sea, attending weddings and funerals, eating za?atar, dancing debke, smoking cigarettes in a local cafe. Age: Centuries Witnesses describe cultural abduction as violent, ongoing, major cities, villages, homes, possessions, traditions, destroyed or stolen. Onlookers reported to have done nothing. Possibly complicit in abduction. Last reported appearance of culture: Displaced, scattered, malnourished, defiant, resisting Zionist occupation. Cultural abductor goes by the name ?Israel.?Was last seen bulldozing, appropriating, stealing, killing, and denying existence of Palestine.? Persons having any information requested to contact local narrative terrorists.? Contrastingly, the front of the milk carton features an idealistic scene of workers picking oranges and a brightly colored logo for ?Jaffa Orange Juice.?Looking closer, one can see the humorous remarks I included to criticize the socioeconomic deprivation and colonialism embedded in Jaffa Orange Juice?s idyllic orange groves: ?100% juice - Not from concentrated acts of genocide,??Colonial narrative perishable - Keep refrigerated,? and ?Less Pulp - Less Culture.?These humorous phrases playfully address the violent political and historical acts of appropriation, occupation, and oppression that take place in Jaffa and throughout Palestine.
jer usalem has fallen dead silent ya teta el adhan deemed a disturbance of peace jer usalem ya teta sar r at sentenced la kaman sixty- nine lifetimes wa hushed tones
Jer usal em ZEI N SA'DEDI N
allah said bi a dream ya teta to kiss your palm nineteen for ty- eight times to be el adhan duhor
ever y fajr ever y
ya teta myself ever y 3assir
lamma el sun sets I will tattoo el adhan?s notes on my chest wa
I will hold you teta tear s cr ushing you zay waves
Ar t: Lam ia Abukhadr a
you can tr ace my lineage through my name Malak
is my father
is his father AbdulQader AbdulQader
is his father
I did not know my gr andmother ?s name until
she died patr ilineal names mean women disappear disappear like I will disappear in my children?s names in the name of tr adition I don?t know came from where tr aditional name that marks me as Palestinian Palestinian the ar t of remember ing names for things that were taken of finding names in the r ubble of naming those that disappeared like I will but they will remember my name
lineage of Malak Shahin
In t e r v i e w w i t h
J u ma n a Al - Qa w a s a mi f r o m Wa t a n Pa l e s t i n e b y : ma l a k s h a h i n
MS: How is your experience in t he diaspora shaped by exile? JAQ: I?ll be honest, I?m still not quite sure how I approach this and don?t feel especially comfortable on saying things that I?ll very likely look back at and think ?oh my god, I was so naive, magically idealistic, condescending in ignorance, etc. MS: How does exile and diaspora influence your art ? JAQ: I think diaspora, for one, influences the entire main motive behind Watan and my art: that these pieces serve as a sort of totem (Ă la Inception) that reminds you of and connects you back to home, no matter where in the world you may be. MS: Do you view art as a form of resist ance? W hy or w hy not ? JAQ: I?m still conflicted by this, I think. On one hand, art can definitely be an affirmation of existence, a preservation of culture, a form of resistance, and more; it can be used as a tool, like science and organizing can be for others. But on the other, art is something many of us can create because we are at a certain level of privilege. Here I reference the idea of Maslow?s "Hierarchy of Needs?, or the idea that humans have certain prerequisite needs they need to reach before they are ?fulfilled?enough to reach higher levels of self-actualization. Simply, we need to be feel safe before we can be able to create and innovate. So I suppose it comes down to context and intention, to put it generally. MS: On t he about page on Wat an, you say t hat your aim w it h creat ing t his shop is to reconnect Palest inians w it h t heir cult ure, how do you go about t his? W hat does t hat look like, exact ly? JAQ: I wouldn?t say that Watan is a way of reconnecting Palestinians with their culture that comes off as assuming they aren?t connected to begin with ? but how can a person be entirely disconnected from a culture? Instead, Watan operates at a few levels: 1) it aims to create a visual archive of bits of Palestinian heritage (think an Instagram-version of W ikipedia), 2) it encourages individuals to go beyond the surface of images and icons and really research on their own history, and 3) compiles resources for something easily accessible (both on and offline). From what I?ve seen, just presuming to ?reconnect Palestinians with their culture?in the scope of a shop tends to be manipulative (i.e. ?buy our [insert item] because it?s in honor of Mahmoud Darwish!?) and I want to do my best to ensure Watan stays far away from becoming anything like that. MS: Wat an means homeland in Arabic, do you consider Palest ine home? If so, how does t hat shape your experience in t he diaspora? JAQ: W hen I think of home, I inevitably think of ?community?. For me, to say that Palestine is home automatically subsumes everyone I?m lucky enough to count as part of my community. Do I dream that one day I can go back and live in Palestine?
Of course! It?s a beautiful place (and I dream of building a public library surrounded by olive and orange trees in Akka) and a place I plan to one day live in inshallah. But when I dream of that day, I always envision my friends and family living around me as well. MS: W hat is your al-Nakba story? JAQ: My grandparents on both sides of my family were born in Palestine. My mother?s side came from Yaffa. My grandfather?s family left Palestine for economic reasons and moved to Kuwait; he later came back to Palestine, married my grandmother, and went back to Kuwait. As consequence, my mother was born in Kuwait and later moved to Jordan in 8th grade. My father?s side lived in Barkusia in Al-Khalil when the Nakba happened (though my family is originally from the main city in Al-Khalil). My grandfather fled on July 9th, 1948, which was the first day of Ramadan that year, if I remember correctly. W hen they fled, they couldn?t take anything with them so my grandfather actually ended up starving to the point of temporary blindness. It wasn?t until my great-grandfather got his hands on a bit of animal fat a few days later that my grandfather got his sight back. Both sides of my family still live in Jordan. MS: Does Wat an seek to preserve Palest inian cult ure t hrough art or is it also a new form of expression for a new generat ion of diasporic Palest inians? JAQ: W hy not both? :) Watan is definitely interested in archiving Palestinian history in our own way. So, in a sense, we?re hoping to preserve Palestinian heritage in a kind of online catalog. At the same time, it?s done so with an intention of serving the diaspora. But for us to really get to that point, we have to get through a lot of old first. Imagine a paper you have to write. You can?t possibly get to the new, your arguments, without going through the old, yes? You can?t possibly synthesize a vision of the new without knowing the old. MS: Tell us about your library project . JAQ: So we finally opened our first studio storefront.. We aim to use this space as a studio space for our work, a storefront for people to be able to visit and buy things in person, and as a community space to hold events, workshops and more. In essence, what we?re trying to explore is the possibility of building a Palestinian institution here in the Chicagoland area. Though this community here is the second-largest community of Palestinians in the US, there really isn?t much in the way of Palestinian/ Arab institutions here (though this isn?t to detract from the wonderful work already happening, of course)! The library, then, is a part of the effort to build something for the community. The idea for the library actually came from SJP UCLA and their Alex Odeh library! Watan?s library, the Palestinian Women?s Library, aims to collect any and all books on Palestine. I hope one day that it numbers in the thousands of books; we can dream, right? This library is free to the public and builds on our hope to create something permanent for our community. MS: W hat is your favorite piece from t he collect ion and w hy? JAQ: Oh gosh, this is always so hard to answer. I think, at the moment, it has to be either the Qabbeh tatreez crewneck sweatshirt or our Kuffiyeh phonecases. Suffice to say, I?ve always got a bit of Watan on me at all times.
F ROM T HE RIV ER T O T HE SEA PALEST INE WILL BE F REE
this is how i will die milky teeth sinking into the gap between my legs my body a weapon of mass destruction in the aftermath of a war mama still lives through & i swear one day the wolf in my throat will die to make space for hungry men & i will sit like egg-yolk in the sun mouth open to the birds let them pick at my fig-tongue till it stains the colours of my country blood and black & i will peel my legs open to watch the sand spill out whitewash my walls peel the skin till i am fish swimming in my own watery warmth & i will sing like my voice is not split in two dilate my words crumple my obituary between my gums to stop the oil from leaking & i will not haunt my own body or make prayers to the sky with sunf lower hands instead i will make space inside of my softness for a wet gun to bury its seeds into my gut & i will love myself like a memory drag a knife through my hair let it spill onto my thighs knowing this is how i will die by collecting the hairs & weaving them into a noose so that i can bury the meat let the alien eclipsing my body die so that i may survive
sel f por t r ait al aa l af t a ART BY FAIZA RAM ADAN
th e bl ood of m y m oth er ?s you th / cir cl ed th r ou gh h er & / bl ed in to m e so fr om h er i get: / a l ove for m yster y / a taste for r espon sibil ity & / i won der wil l h er l ifel in e even tu al l y / m el d in to m in e l ik e / so m an y oth er th in gs h ave? / wil l i ever gr ow to k n ow / th e ir on tan g of bl ood / th e fl u ctu atin g feel of l ife in ster il ized wh ite & / th e cr u sh in g stam pede of / a m il l ion get-wel l -soon s? / am i a m er e piece of h istor y / r epeatin g itsel f / dr own in g in th e pr im or dial sou p / in sign ifican t? / per h aps, bu t i k n ow th is: / i did n ot in h er it th ese wor ds / th is sick l e-cel l sick n ess of / ser if l etter s cl oggin g u p / m y capil l ar ies as th ey bu r st / car vin g r estl ess in m y bon es & / th e in side of m y sk in th at / wil l br in g m e to wr itin g th ese wor ds / at 2 am . / th e bl ood of m y m oth er ?s you th / cir cl ed th r ou gh h er & / bl ed in to m e so fr om h er i get: / a m in d for th ou gh t & / a pair of h an ds / wh ich sh e u ses to pu t / peopl e back togeth er & / i u se to br eak th em apar t / with th e h ope th at th ey / wil l fal l back , col l ected again .
y ou wi l l
bi r t h a wr i t er Tas neem Maher ar t :
f ai z a r amadan
Zein Sa'ded in
ya mama shahrazad is dead a thousand wa one silences linger between her lips ya mama shahrazad twaffat a pale portrait of flesh ya mama throat stuffed with sand shahrazad minna almond eyed hareem
Ph ot ogr aph y: Hiba Sh alabi
fa you tell me ya mama to keep her jasmine voice a memory between my lungs another mother of breath ya mama coat my tongue in her words la ino like a birth mark mama she will never come off our skin
bas enty bint (you are a girl) Mariam Saleh
?you are a girl? the answer to many questions why can?t i walk alone like my male friends? why can?t i wear shorts like my brother? why can?t i take part in my country?s revolution and protest like my father? yes i am a girl i am a girl, i am a flower, i am an ocean, i am a sun when you tell me i am a girl, you mean it as a synonym for weak, lesser, prisoner but when i say i am a girl, i?m saying i am a warrior
ar t : Faiza Ram dan
UNTITLED BY RYAH FREIH
PHOTOGRAPHY: HIBA SHALABI
i feel like a latte spilled on a monday morning shoes wet from an unexpected rainstorm emergency alarms blaring on a stalled subway car a laptop crashing before a deadline forgotten keys on a night stand "your card has declined" the rat crawling out of the sewer drain plant stems shooting out of sidewalk cracks crushed by the soles of our shoes glass shards that injured my mother the night she threw my father?s gaslight at the wall and broke my family into a million pieces i covered my baby brother?s ears to make sure his first words weren?t screams a frog in slow boiling water, my mother would not leave until it was too late and neither can i to you hearing my name sigh out of your mouth feels like blood spattered baby teeth i'd spit out when my brother would punch me in the face
Ah l am Ma r ia m Sa l e h
heard you in a birdsong and i hope that you are fine the melody brought me to tears and they tasted like salt and sun am i allowed to love you after you?re no longer mine the bittersweetness lingered on my tongue for days and weeks to come heard you in the rustles from within a cherry tree the branches felt like they were twisting round my knees and elbows in the chilly shade i dreamt that you were holding me i tried to kiss you but you disappeared outside the shadows
art: Faiza Ramadan
I do not believe that God cares for me, but I asked for something, anyway. You know me, I wish to look at the bright side in black vacuums, but nonexistence is dejecting. So, I said to Him, I said, ?If I do die, and I hope so very much that I do, please give my best to everybody.? But, forget that. Let me tell you a secret from earlier today. I was trying to button up my shirt, but my fingers kept slipping and you know the slit is just long enough and the button just small enough, so the problem was me. And, I wanted to call you for help, but you know me. I don?t like the way you smile when you think I need you.
I don?t remember how that story ends, but I have my shirt on right now and you?re smiling, so I don?t think I want to. But, forget that. Let me sing you a song I heard yesterday on the radio. It was your turn to sleep, but you kept putting it off and I kept nodding off and in a grand gesture of nobility and protectiveness, you crushed my independence and stuffed it inside the trunk where you keep the other useless things and empty rifles. Did I deserve that? Maybe.
But, forget that. Let me remind you of my earliest memory. It was you. Of course, it was. It was you and a hopeless, hapless me with those eyes I make whenever you fix something. You know me, you?ve always been the hero and I?ve always been that silly little kid in perpetual distress. Do you even love me? I?m sorry, that was out of the blue. I didn?t mean to make this all about me. But, forget that. Let me tell you how all I wish for is a peaceful death. A clean death. All I want is to be dead and I?m sorry about that. I?m sorry you don?t feel that same way. I?m sorry it might break your heart and I?m trying to live for you, but, you know me. It won?t stop raining until I go inside and the moon won?t shine unless I close my eyes and you don?t sip whiskey for the fun of it. But, forget that. Let?s talk about you. Was that movie you stayed up to watch last night terribly boring? Because you fell asleep on the couch and I almost didn?t put the gun down.
I don?t know what a genderqueer person?s body should look like, nor do I know if mine could fit within that frustratingly obscure criteria. All I know is that my body?s overt femininity has always felt like a betrayal. I?ve come to scorn my naked body so much that I hide from mirrors; I twist myself to uncomfortable angles. I avert my eyes so as not to glance at this body?this mess of sinew and tissue and fat and skin?I can?t make sense of. I often stare at my mother and study all the similarities between our bodies. We have the same pale, long legs and the same irritating pouches of fat on our waists, yet I've never been able to forge a home out of my own skin like my mother has. Our bodies may be nearly the same, but, unlike my mother, I fear my body rather than trust it. Most days I yearn to exit my body and fall into another one I can make sense of. All I know is that when people think of words like genderqueer, bodies like mine do not come to mind. Instead, they?re more likely to think of pale, thin, androgynous figures. All I know is that people from countries like mine don?t get to be genderqueer. When you live in a geopolitical area mired with war and strife and dictatorial regimes, it seems futile to worry about things like gender identity. When your mother tongue traps you between the rigid lines of he or she, male or female, man or woman with no words for anything in between?anything that?s neither?designating they/ them as your preferred pronouns seems like a ridiculous bid at willful ignorance. People from countries like mine?with bodies like mine?don?t get to be genderqueer. That doesn?t stop every inch of me from striving for it, nonetheless. I still wear clothes that are two sizes too big, hoping that all these layers of cotton and flannel render the softness of my body indistinct. I still pull my hair back, searching for the suggestion of a jawline, for angles which take away from the roundness of my face. However, I?m starting to think that I don?t need to highlight my nearly nonexistent masculine features for my ?genderqueerness, for lack of a better word, to be valid. I?m starting to think that my body, round hips, thick thighs, breasts and all, doesn?t need to be defined by how others perceive it. My body is whatever I feel it should be, and I can use whatever words I want to describe it. I will still be father?s habibti, and my mother will still introduce me to people as her daughter?benti?yet that won?t necessarily make me a girl or woman. I can exist as Arab and genderqueer, and these two things can be reconcilable.
Gender q ueer Na d e e m
ar t : Faiza Ram adan
i lie in my new grave a good girl drink the dirt you throw at me like milk
your beard grey with dust hanging between us i reach for your face
art: Faiza Ramdan try to brush the sand off your lips bas you refuse me hands wrapped around my throat please lie with me ya habeebi baba min shan allah
h e h ol ds m y waist tel l s m e jism ik poetr y wh il e h e fu ck s m e tel l s m e h ow h e?l l l ay m e on m y stom ach spr ead l egs an d til l i scr eam h is n am e h an ds gr ipped h ips too h ar d wan t you to l ove m e for m e swim in zaytu n e eyes dr eam of you r soft l ips k issin g with l ove an d n ot --th igh s in h is h an d h e tel l s m e h e?s dr eam ed of m e u n der h im al l i th in k abou t is h is sh ou l der s an d h ow i don ?t feel gu il t u n der n eath h im / h im in side / th r u sts in an d ou t / feel dam ascu s tr em bl in g in h is sh ou l der s / h ead back / h ead til ted back war ds / h air is fal l in g / h e is pu l l in g it / i am sh r iek in g / feel n o gu il t / i feel n o gu il t / h is fin ger tips br u sh m y / h ol d m y waist / dips h is h ead / l ips pr essed again st m y / between h is teeth / r om an r u in s col l apse see h is city?s bu il din gs str etch ed acr oss h is sk in th ey?r e th e sam e col or s th e fir st tim e h e tol d m e h e wish es h e gr ew tal l in h is cou n tr y i won der if h e r eal l y u n der stan ds l ife u n der dictator s. th er e is an in tim acy in ch ok in g, m a h ayk ?
i tel l h im h e isn ?t fr om n ot r eal l y zey e7n a h is voice is coated with a for eign er s accen t bor der s bu il t h e tear s k ol sh i down fal l in l ove h e is n ot i am with boys fr om ou r cities an d i can on l y th in k of h is l ips an d m y h an ds on h is sh ou l der s cities spr awl in g in ou r sk in s bu il t h om es fr om m y r ibs eshta2atlk albi we ar e pr eten din g ya?abur nee h e waits u n til i l eave th e cou n tr y. i th in k of h im in cair o. fajr sin gs between cr ack in g ston es i am coated in th e su n you ar e h an ds h ol d m y waist dr eam s of m e in you r bed dr eam s of m e in you r you dr eam of a cou n tr y i can n ot give you you dr eam of
CONTRIBUTOR BIOS Samia Saliba is a Lebanese-American college student from Washington state who is working on a history degree. She spends most of her free time working for her school chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. Because her father is white, Samia has struggled with her mixed identity and sense of belonging to the Arab community, particularly growing up in a place without a large Arab community. Her Arab identity has always been deeply tied to politics and resistance, spending much of her childhood alongside her parents in protests against the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and fighting for Palestinian liberation. Art Instagram: @tones_notdrones. She goes by she/her/hers pronouns. Malak Altaeb is a Chemical Engineering graduate from University of Tripoli, Libya. She is the founder of SheWrites, an online initiative created to empower Libyan women through writing. She participated in two exchange programs in the United States of America; the first one was Space Camp 2010, and the Middle East Partnership Initiative MEPI 2015. She participated in civic society projects in different fields, such as, people with special needs, youth and women empowerment, climate change, and art. She is now a member of the Libyan Youth Climate Movement LYCM and content creator for The Metric organization. She is a blogger and she wrote for different domains and magazines. She wrote for sister-hood magazine, climate tracker, Libya's Herald, Libyan Express, Libya investment. She is an advocate for women empowerment, youth, education, climate change. Hiba Shalabi is a Libyan photographer, raised in Tripoli, Libya. She was previously known as Photographer Hibo before finally feeling safe enough to use her real name. She has participated in exhibitions in Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco. Much of her work focuses on the role and suffering of women in society. She is interested in filming Street Photography and architecture photography, in addition to graphic digital art. She has been campaigning for months to demand the rescue of the old city of Tripoli from neglect, through publication of photographs of historic buildings and alleys and monuments. You can find her campaign on Twitter under these hashtags: #SaveTheOldCityOfTripoli #Saveourhistor_raised_culture Nadeem's preferred pronouns are they/them. Their favourite things to do are wandering around Cairo and trying to make stories out of everything and anything. You can follow them on twitter @BOlSTROUS (with a lowercase L instead of an I). Leena spends her time writing her cities out and documenting her states through photography. In between her constant movement, she works on nurturing her emerging arts-focused group ?youm el?. She is a Kuwaiti-raised Egyptian and Palestinian ghost currently based in between D.C. and Cairo. Her instagram is @leena_jpg.
Tasneem Maher is a bisexual Arab writer who enjoys theatrics in all forms. She has worked with or been featured in Ascend Magazine, Tenderness Yea, Sooth Swarm Journal, and more. She tweets sporadically @mythosgal and tumblrs more consistently @honeyhusk. Lamia Abukhadra is a Palestinian American artist pursuing her BFA in Minneapolis. She is interested in the idea of art as a vessel of expression, communication, identity, and culture for and between disenfranchised communities. Her art aims to dismantle harmful dominant narratives that cultivate and celebrate acts of colonialism, occupation, and genocide in Palestine and the Arab world through personal stories and historical events. She draws inspiration from various folk art styles like voodoo art flags, tapestry weaving, and embroidery, traditional textiles from her homeland, and the idea of collective memory. Her work has been featured by Altered Aesthetics, the University of Minnesota T.R. Anderson Gallery, and the Quarter Gallery. You can follow her on Instagram @lamiaabukhadra Ryah Freih, pronouns are she/her/herself, is a queer Jordanian woman who recently graduated from New York University with a BA in English. Instagram: @likearitual and Twitter: @tenderlimbs
Zein Sa'dedin is a Jordanian poet born and raised in the city of Amman. She holds a BA in English Literature with Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Zein is also currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Some of her poems can be found in 'Sukoon Magazine' and 'Breakwater Review.' Leila Ammar is a half Palestinian non-binary lesbian. Their pronouns are she/they. Leila is 19 years old and lives in Philadelphia where they attend Drexel University. Their favorite thing to do in the world is to read; it?s definitely their form of escape. You can find them on twitter @khazbrekker and on tumblr @safonas. Mariam Saleh, pronouns she/her, is an Egyptian sometimes writer and always reader. She feels most at home on a beach after sunset. You can find her on twitter, instagram, and tumblr @wearyriver Alaa Lafta (@grlkind) is an 18 year old Iraqi Muslim girl - pronouns she/her - living in the UK. Her work is often quite unapologetic in its aggressiveness, and she enjoys writing about lost identity and the female experience as she knows it.
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