Story of a woman in 2014

She’s my friend.

She looks at me and she tells me that she’s looking into separating from her husband. In her words, she has bore the burden of his aggressive behaviour and his violence for too long.

To get a divorce, she’ll need to go back home. For now, she can only physically separate from him.

‘When it came to beating me and hitting me and my kids, it became too much. Everyone has a limit’.

She met him at work. Now he doesn’t want her to keep working.

She tells me all of this as we’re chatting outside, seemingly having a pleasant conversation.

She’s so beautiful and graceful, always smiling, you’d never think, not in a million years, that so much pain is hidden behind all that grace.

Yet when she tells me she needs to be strong for herself and for her kids, she breaks out crying.

She’s looked for an apartment, she’s planning her escape.

I ask about her husband’s reaction.

He doesn’t know yet.

She’s scared of what he will do to her when she tells him.

‘I don’t sleep at night, I keep thinking about it’.

Fear is etched on her face, in the quiver of her voice. Fear is contagious, it gets to me, as I scramble to try and find ways of protecting her.

‘Did you ask a lawyer? Can you tell the police?’

Can’t anyone protect her?

She has a lawyer, she ‘s thinking about alerting the police.

She’s planning her escape.

She has to go back to work, and I leave, wondering how we’re all supposed to plan our escape from a patriarchal society that sends the message to men that women are their propriety, that they can dispose of us the way they see fit.

I leave, and I ring another friend, a female lawyer, someone who can help, someone, anyone, who could provide a sliver of protection.

I leave, and my blood boils at the mere thought that no man has ever been kept awake by pure, unadulterated fear of what the woman in his life might do to him if he decides to leave.

I leave, and I can’t wrap my head around the fact that my friend, the well-educated, poised, strong woman that I know, doesn’t get sleep at night because she’s afraid for her life, for her safety, and the life and safety of her children.

I leave, and I find myself thinking that in a way, she’s better off where she is than at home, where some religious leaders and society at large would tell her to just stick it out, that it’s her duty to stick it out, that men will be men and all that. I shamefully think that at least where she is, there are laws, and rules, and more men in suits and robes forced by law to put a distance between her abuser and her.

I leave, and I’m helpless, and useless, fully aware that being a feminist, in our day and age, is not a mere luxury, a brand we can use to look cool.

It’s a necessity for survival.

If you’re a woman facing abuse living in Geneva and looking for help, you can find it here or you can call this number 0840 110 110


I’ve been told to write about what I know.

Well at the moment, what I seem to know is loss. The bewildering emptiness that comes with that phone call in the middle of the night. Why is it always at night? Is death afraid of the brightness of the sun?

You feel what that phone call will be about, a few split seconds before anyone tells you anything, you know.

Then you hear, and it’s like crashing in a wall of cotton, everything just goes silent at your core for a while, as in your whole body was folding in a ball of darkness.

They call it shock. Apparently, you go into shock. That’s a nice word to say that you can’t wrap your head around the fact that you will never see that person you love again, never hear their voice, never see their smile again, except in your sleep.

It’s a nice word to say that your whole body, mind and spirit are fighting against the dreary stillness of death, its definite inexorability, the slashing cut it makes on your soul.

And yet you try to keep hope. You try to believe, really believe, that when it’s time for you to go they will be waiting for you on the other side, whole and happy, their spirit alive and blooming, having tea with John Lennon and Karl Marx, as if these years you were apart never happened, and never mattered.

But until then, you sit down, and you cry, you smoke and your drink, you look for some light in that ball of darkness, and you carry on living, because life, and love, and light are your best weapons against the revolting stillness of death.  You choose to carry on with your life, because that’s one life that death has yet to claim.

You choose to carry on with your life, because the people you lost were fighters, and the only way to honour them is to keep up the fight.

After all, you don’t want them to shame you when you’re having that tea with Marx.

For Nicolas and Bassem, may your shining souls keep leading our way