On a day US inaugurates violent misogyny and racism into its highest office, I remind myself I am strong, beautiful and defiant.
Shortly before the New Year, a work email I received brought smiles to my face. It had been an extremely rough year. In my old room in Istanbul, where I was born and raised, I felt burnt out, tired and sad. I desperately and urgently needed information, strategies and tools to uplift and re-energise myself.
The email was about a blog post by the Transnational Institute where they beautifully put together snapshots of 12 social movement struggles which inspired us in 2016. From Black Lives Matter to #Czarnyprotests I had a chance to remind myself not only achievements of many committed social movements actively striving for justice and equality, but also the mere fact that we, those of us who speak truth to power, are plenty.
The very same night, my city once again bled when a gunman stormed into a popular night club in Istanbul and killed 39 people. The aftermath was equally depressing as the attack itself. Not only politicians but ordinary citizens from around the world once again spoke the language of Islamophobia and became active parts of a machinery that exports xenophobia and hate. Those of us who held decades of US foreign policy accountable for the blood and pain it brought to the region with consecutive faux wars and violent interventions were not heard.
I once again felt burnt out and deprived of the will to struggle.
This is why I am writing this article today. To remind myself and whoever reads this article, that people of the world who speak truth to power are strong, beautiful and defiant. We are plenty in numbers. Everything this administration will actively demonise and ostracise is exactly what makes us beautiful.
Let me illustrate.
I am a woman. Most importantly, I am a woman who actively engages with gender justice struggles at home and around the world. This makes me so powerful. The mere fact that I feel a part of wider social movements break the feeling of alienation that is so deliberately designed to disrupt sustainability of social justice advocacy.
I am queer. I love, desire and care for people from all genders. Can you think of anything more beautiful? Our capacity to radically love and care for one another irrespective of the rigid boundaries cast upon us requires celebration, not demonisation.
I am an immigrant. I no longer reside in the city I was born and raised. I work in a language that is not my own. Those of you who do not on a daily basis communicate in a language that is foreign to you will never be able to understand the complexities behind the active thinking process required to convey your thoughts in an eloquent manner. But I do acknowledge that labor, thus celebrate myself.
My name is two Arabic words combined. The occasional “inshallah” that comes out of my mouth when I strongly wish for something, and the “Allah Allah!” when I am genuinely surprised is more of a connection to my childhood and upbringing, than any religious commitment. The fact that I was raised by devout Muslim parents who identify as secular, is a rather strange concept to many who still think Muslims come in one shape. I am resentful towards a social order which requires me to justify who I am, my upbringing and the kaleidoscope of identities that make me who I am.
My loved ones, people I genuinely care about in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere have been hurt by an America that was “never great”. As Cornel West accurately pointed out in a recent article our world even before Trump was “suffocated by entertaining brands and money-making activities that have little or nothing to do with truth, integrity or the long-term survival of the planet.” So forgive me when I do not join in cheerleading Obama’s legacy.
It is also important to note the reflection you read here today is one of the many intersecting personal accounts which are actively defied by Trump and his cabinet. This reflection in no way represents the totality of the many complex struggles that defy institutionalised racism, violent misogyny and the money worship at the expense of the majority. Oxfam recently announced just eight men hold the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of humanity. Irrespective of who the President is, an urgent collective conversation which holds policy makers to account for aggressive neo-liberalism is long overdue.
Therefore quoting Black lives matter and saluting the visionary leadership our aspiration for justice and equality “will be harder, but the work is the same.”
So celebrate yourselves today. Hold on and love complexities, vulnerabilities and anxieties that make each of us so uniquely beautiful.