Your voice matters!

Take the lead!
Support the cause!

From Akka to Tehran... Motherhood in the face of injustice

From Akka to Tehran... Motherhood in the face of injustice

Join the discussion

We’d like to hear from everyone! By joining our Readers' community, you can access this feature. By joining our Readers, you join a community of like-minded people, thirsty to discuss shared (or not!) interests and aspirations.

Let’s discuss!
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

من عكّا إلى طهران… أمومة في وجه الظلم


I have not written a single article since the genocidal war began against my people in Gaza. For months I have avoided writing.

When I started writing in my late teens in Akka, it was out of my conviction that writing is more than just putting pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard. Even creating a personal text can have wider implications in the outside world and can affect change. For me, writing is an act of resistance in the face of injustice, an attempt to raise the voice of the oppressed.

For me, writing is an act of resistance in the face of injustice, an attempt to raise the voice of the oppressed.

But the Israeli killing machine that exterminates Palestinians in Gaza—children, women, and men—in front of the world’s governments and their justifications, has created a space for doubt regarding the efficacy of writing.

I am a Palestinian woman whose identity, feelings, and choices were shaped by the injustice that befell her family during the Nakba of 1948, as well as what she experienced inside Palestine for more than thirty years. While I left, my people were still there. Naturally, writing was the first action in the face of whoever and whatever was trying to erase our people’s narratives; their diaries, fears, dreams, and resilience; and their insistence on life.

Most importantly, writing is an attempt to reclaim the stolen home, or at least, to belong to it, inside a state that has done everything since the Nakba to make Palestinians feel like strangers. Ghorbah is a harsh feeling we know all too well.

Most importantly, writing is an attempt to reclaim the stolen home, or at least, to belong to it, inside a state that has done everything since the Nakba to make Palestinians feel like strangers. Ghorbah is a harsh feeling we know all too well.

Ghorbah” (غربة) comes from the Arabic word “Gharb” (the West), the word “Tagharraba” (تغرّب) means to move to another place away from home, to be removed or alien. “Ghorbah” (غربة) not only designates a geographical location but also implies the emotional distance from one’s home, even for someone who never physically moved away.

I decided to leave Palestine nine years ago, looking for another home abroad. It was a choice that at its heart was a privilege, as I am a Palestinian holding an Israeli passport, which allows me to move freely in Europe.

I did not expect that this search in Ghorbah would lead to actually establishing a home, forming a family, and becoming a mother.

But now that I have, I was taught another lesson: Motherhood is not an identity that is given to you at once, it is a practice that you have to acquaint yourself with every day, learn from, and even unlearn things through it. Motherhood is a practice that started with me giving birth to my daughters, an event that happened far away from my first home, Palestine. In the days, months, and years that I grappled with this new identity, Palestine experienced the “May Uprising,” the killing of her journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the genocidal war on Gaza, and so many other events that put her as well as me—the distant Palestinian mother—before the question: How can I continue to do anything, even if it is a simple act, in the face of injustice?

In my life, the personal is a space for shared grief, but it is also a space for difficult questions, for the legitimacy of a complex reality that does not want to make the grief of one party in the house more important than the grief of the other.

Some weeks ago, I was preparing myself to leave the house to join a demonstration for Gaza in Amsterdam. One of my daughters asked me where I was going. When I told her, she did not understand at first. Then I said, “Free, Free Palestine!” As a family, we had been to a demonstration a few days before, so I thought the chant would clarify my point. She responded by putting her hand to her ear and saying “Mama, owie”—she remembered being disturbed by the loud chants. I told her, "It's okay, my dear. I have an old owie. It's more than seventy years old." She smiled at me, even though she didn't understand anything.

I became a mother to my twin daughters at the end of March 2021. I had always wanted to be a mother, even when I was still living in Palestine. But whenever I would think about motherhood, I never imagined the father of my kids would be a non-Palestinian, or even a non-Arab. What we imagine is inconsequential, as the heart always has other plans. My heart turned toward Persia. More precisely, toward an Iranian who was forced to leave Iran and flee to Amsterdam. When I told my mother about our marriage plans, she said sarcastically, “We sent you to Europe so you could marry an Iranian? What’s wrong with the Dutch?” She laughed, and I laughed, and I said to her, “But, Mama, my heart always goes to the one who has the same pain.”

His pain, although not exactly the same as mine, is also one of losing his home. I did not lose my home directly, but my grandparents did lose theirs after Zionist militias ethnically cleansed their village Iqrith. They lived their lives as refugees in their homeland, and died before their dream of returning to their village of birth ever came true. A fact that shaped my life, my identity, my dreams, and my fears. The so-called intergenerational trauma.

When I told my mother about our marriage plans, she said sarcastically, “We sent you to Europe so you could marry an Iranian? What’s wrong with the Dutch?” She laughed, and I laughed, and I said to her, “But, Mama, my heart always goes to the one who has the same pain.”

My husband lost his home directly. He was a three-year-old child when his father first fled to save his life from being killed after the Islamists took power in Iran. He escaped through the mountains and reached Turkey. Then his toddler son and his wife followed him on the same road until they met up in Istanbul to finally arrive as a family of refugees in the Netherlands. My husband, who grew up in exile, cannot visit his home city, Tehran, and his mother, who suffered from dementia for many years, died in exile while dreaming of returning to her country.

The question of confronting injustice at the intersection of motherhood has expanded since I became a mother of Palestinian Iranian daughters. Perhaps answering it would have been easier if I did not wake up every day at home to the pain of Palestine and Iran. This pain is present and lives in two pictures hanging on our wall. Our own gallery of deceased exiles expelled from their lands but with a place in our home is on display: my grandmother Salma, and my husband’s mother Parvin.

In my life, the personal is a space for shared grief, but it is also a space for difficult questions, for the legitimacy of a complex reality that does not want to make the grief of one party in the house more important than the grief of the other. Most importantly, confronting injustice, that seed that moves me, does not come at the expense of another injustice.

The question of confronting injustice at the intersection of motherhood has expanded since I became a mother of Palestinian Iranian daughters. Perhaps answering it would have been easier if I did not wake up every day at home to the pain of Palestine and Iran.

I do not talk much about Palestine to my daughters. More specifically, I don't talk to them in words. I have found other indirect methods to do so. I try hard to prepare the Palestinian food that I learned from my mother, and together we listen to Palestinian songs, from the traditional ones to those that were released yesterday. I speak to them in my hodgepodge dialect, which is a mixture of the mountain (my mother) and the sea (my father), and every night I sing to them Palestinian lullabies before sleep.

Last November, after a day of watching pictures and videos coming from Gaza, and with the feeling of guilt eating away at me as I compared the safety of the roof that protects me to the ones above the heads of Gazan mothers and their children, I threw myself between my daughters; The first held my right hand and the second held my left. I asked them, “What do you want me to sing for you?” They answered together, "Ya Siti! (Oh my grandmother!)." It is the lullaby closest to their hearts. In the middle of the song, the house bell rang. “Mama, don’t be scared,” one of my daughters said, which was her way of actually saying that she is scared.

I told them it was the postman, and went back to singing until they fell asleep.

Just as I do not tell them directly about Palestine, I also do not tell them that I am often really scared of many things; of a world that does not see the Palestinian child as valuable as other children. I am scared that Iranian girls and women are still being killed because they don't wear the hijab "properly." I am afraid that Israel will not be held accountable for its crimes, the old ones, the new ones, and the ones to come. I am afraid that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not be held accountable for its continued execution of young people… the list goes on.

I return to writing today, in the midst of what is happening, to say to myself and emphasise, that my motherhood, indeed, is a thread extending toward thinking about justice for Palestine in my home, through food, scents, songs, my voice, my face, and my inherited sadness that floats to the surface strongly these days. However, it is also a thread extending toward thinking about justice for Iran. Because Tehran should be a home for my daughters one day as well, just like Akka. The pain is the same, even if the “gatekeepers” of our countries are different, or claim to be enemies.



* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22

Join Join

Raseef22 is a not for profit entity. Our focus is on quality journalism. Every contribution to the NasRaseef membership goes directly towards journalism production. We stand independent, not accepting corporate sponsorships, sponsored content or political funding.

Support our mission to keep Raseef22 available to all readers by clicking here!

A platform for the brave, bold and courageous

We in the Arab world have long avoided addressing a large number of taboos. This has left our hope for change teetering on the brink of despair.

At Raseef22, we fearlessly scrutinize certain delicate concepts and highlight the journeys of the courageous individuals who have dared to challenge the corrupt status-quos.

We seek to provide a platform where brave and honest voices are heard, undeterred by efforts to silence or censor them.

Website by WhiteBeard