Being me [Archives:2005/861/Community]

July 21 2005

By Lamya Zain
[email protected]

Sitting anxiously on board of Al-Yemenia Airlines, the mixed feelings I had were indescribable; thrilled to have new experiences and obtain knowledge, anxious to see what the future hides, and afraid of leaving home, my country that's torn apart suffering in the silent ruin.

Being one of many who hate flying, after a painful ear-pressure during the first touchdown, I raced towards the window seat during take-off to take a look down at beautiful Rome, but the airplane gave me the wing!

Landing at Frankfurt, my enthusiasm drew a smile on my face even as the German airport personnel with their army-like uniforms frowned at my passport photo and handed it back to me.

The irony of it all is, as there was a Muslim prayer room in that airport, the only scarved Muslim woman gets selected for search and interrogation.

While everyone else was on board the flight heading to Detroit, I was standing by a booth where two Germans sat on long chairs staring at me from behind the glass; probably bullet-proof.

“Do you have any electronic device that could be dismantled to be later reassembled into an explosive device?”

“Where was your luggage while you drove from your house to the airport?”

Reading this, I find it ridiculous, but being in that position was absolutely horrifying; I felt so small standing in front of the huge Germans.

It could have been a bit easier hadn't it been my first time to travel on my own towards the unknown, then being stopped by men three times my size with fierce looks and a scary tone. Not just asking me if I had a bomb, but asking me if I “HAD A BOMB.” It is really surprising how different the same words could sound, and the affect they could have on you. Doesn't sound pretty, does it?

The last American to get on board before me- and while I was still under the “investigation”- a redneck; cowboy hat et all, yelled with his southern accent: “Why are you not letting this poor little girl on the plane you dirty Nazis!”

Well, you don't hear that everyday, not from a redneck!

Finally on board, I settle down in the uncomfortable seat and fall asleep. I wake up and find out that my scarf had slipped down. I got alarmed at first, and then I started thinking: If I keep it off, I might not be treated as badly when I reach the States; I wanted the easy way out.

I have never had such a conversation with myself, nor have I ever experienced such vulnerability. I have always thought that nothing and no one could ever talk me out of something I believe in, which probably explains why rarely anybody argues with me about something that aggravates my passion.

Two African-Americans searched me and my luggage after I was selected in Detroit Airport; they couldn't have been nicer. But I would never know if that was just how they are or was it because I wasn't any different than any other woman with no scarf on.

Three days of busy class schedules and the overwhelming amount of work, my mind wasn't at ease. I didn't understand what was wrong, I didn't feel that I was myself; I looked at the mirror and didn't recognize that figure. I felt even smaller than when I was interrogated at Frankfurt airport.

It must be the weather, I thought, fooling myself.

During the US Foreign Policy class at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Cyrus Partovi mentioned something rather controversial about the Arab regimes that the US government supports. My Bahraini friend, Zainab and myself fired back, arguing about it relentlessly. Suddenly it struck me; I was not about to let anyone in that class change my belief of the necessity of freedom for the Arab public, on the other hand, I let a couple of uniformed Germans intimidate me out of one of my strongest beliefs; my scarf.

The next day I went to class with my scarf back on. And let me tell you, I have never felt better nor bigger; this is me, take it or leave it.

Is it going to be hard? The people's stares on the street, the parents' calls for their children to avoid the girl with the cloth on her head tc. It probably would. But you know what? Unlike the ignorant few- or many- I have a scarf covering my hair, not my brains.

Now at least when someone is nice to me, I would know they do it for me and everything that I am: a Yemeni girl with a scarf on, a Guevara picture on her T-shirt, and an attitude!