Friday, June 22, 2012

Untold tales of courage: Shelters and dyed hair

Our mothers brought us up to be strong, independent and responsible. They did a great job and the proof is the amazing number of wonderful, accomplished and activist women I see around me. The problem is that to do it, they had to pay dearly. Not only did they have to prove that they could juggle a career and family (because at that point, men would not hear of domestic responsibilities), they had to be politically and socially engaged. If they were to maintain that freedom, they had to become super women. At least that's how I saw the mothers and women around me. And one of those exceptional women is Vali. She is the topic of this latest post in the Untold Tales of Courage series I've been working on.

Vali is a pediatrician,

a fearless fighter,

and a mother of 5, one of whom made this post a whole lot more interesting by creating this wonderful comic based on her life (Thanks Lena for giving me permission to use your work: "Mrabba wo Laban, or how my mother became Lebanese").

Oh and she lived through the Lebanese civil war, having to dye her hair brown to avoid the kidnappings that were rampant in Beirut in the 1980s.

Of which she experienced once... in 1979. When stopped at a militia check point (anyone who moved around in Lebanon at the time knows how ubiquitous those were), Vali - and her car - was abducted. But for Vali, as for many other women of her generation, the immediate reaction was not fear and despair. It was anger, anger at the young men who may as well have been her sons, and who were ruining her country with their macho cowardly behavior. She basically shamed them into letting her go. The car, they kept.

Vali says that every time someone close to her passes away, she reads a history book, because history gives her a broader view of her existence. And she overcomes her sadness by comparing it to that of people who's countries faced wars and devastation. She says that the atlas was her greatest breather, as she could travel on the map from city to city.

During the Gaza siege and bombing, Vali was furious and frustrated about the lack of access to health care. "If my eyesight was still OK (she suffers from a condition seriously compromising her sight), I would go to Gaza", she declared. I believe her.

And so, to the super women of that generation, I remain in awe of you. I may never live up to your accomplishments, but it's the challenge that will make it worthwhile.