Something Calls On Memory

September 2000

The public sentiment was on the rise after the Palestinian uprising (Intifada), which came as a reaction for Sharon’s provocative visit for the holy shrine of Al-Aqsa mosque.

I was still at high school back then. Students at school were trying hard to get a permit to take the demonstrations out of the school gates, but not everyone was taking it seriously enough.

However, the situation at universities was taking a rather ferocious course. Students were raging and the security forces were having a hard time containing the flood of the outraged youth.

My sister was quite active at that time, Despite my parent’s constant warnings.

All these demonstrations are in vain, you are not helping” My father would say.

Well, that is the case with many parents; they don’t want their sons and daughters to get involved in any trouble. I think it was the fear of having them expelled of college, or of being dragged into a fierce interrogation by the national intelligence.

The funny thing is that those parents themselves, who keep instructing their children about staying on the safe side, were not on the safe side all the time.

My uncle who gave some typical safety instructions for his daughter when she was admitted to university, was himself sneaking into the ditches were the fighters stayed during the civil war in the 1970’s. He was only 10-11 years old at that time.

I never participated in those demonstrations, though the public sentiment was intensified by the Anglo-American aggression on Iraq. However, I once found myself willingly trapped in one.

I was leaving university when I saw crowds of people heading towards the main gate. Suddenly, someone started to shout: “The security, go back!”

The demonstrators started to run in the opposite direction, and as I turned to go back with them I saw a young man foisted into the crowd, lying half low and holding his mobile phone as if it was a microphone, and saying: “They are at the main gate.”

A secret agent!” I thought immediately.

The students then headed back toward the main gate, which was locked by the security. One of the demonstrators climbed up the gate and broke the chain that was tying the gate closed.

The voice of the crowd grew louder and louder, as I left the university thinking of what might happen next.

Based on what my cousins told me about the previous demonstrations, we should’ve expected everything.

At the first demonstrations following the Intifada, a girl fell and down and broke her spine. She was announced dead soon after. Let alone the tear gas that was used sometimes to shatter the crowds. Once, the demonstrators took refuge in the basement of the presidency building, the place was suffocating with people that one girl passed out and caused panic among the already panicked students.

However, demonstrations were not the only from of protest. People would express their solidarity through the revived trend of Hatta ( a traditional headscarf worn by men).

The black and white Hatta turned into a symbol of resistance. People, especially young men and women, wore it around their necks, tied it on their car seats and clang it to their bags.

Sadly, the Hatta turned from a symbol of solidarity to a symbol of racism, when the black Hatta vs. red Hatta thing started to spread around.

My father refused to get my enthusiastic sister a Hatta. He was, as many parents were, afraid of the consequences. Consequently, she sought the help of my grandfather.

My grandfather probably wasn’t aware of the use of the Hatta at that time. But, as usual, he wanted to help. He brought his black and white Hatta and gave it to her. He was proud of his Hatta’s. He had a black-and white Hatta, and a red-and-black one, and he wore them alternatively. Apparently, there made no difference for him.

Till when are you going to wear this Hatta?” My father asked her one day as she came home, pale and fatigued.

Till they lift the tyranny off the poor people.”

The tyranny wasn’t lifted, but the Hatta still hangs in our guest room.

Originally posted on February 7th, 2006 on http://oeliwat.jeeran.com/archive/2006/2/19609.html

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