Rising

by

Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouaziz was publicly harrassed by the police, and feeling utterly hopeless he lit himself on fire December 17th, 2010, later dying on January 4th, 2011. On February 21st, 2011, an unwed mother who was not given rights for housing, Fadwa Laroui also lit herself on fire. These two events set into motion a revolution across the Arab world: Arab Spring. In Moroccan author Laila Lalami’s 2005 novel Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, a glimpse of this simmering revolution is seen through fictional characters in need of change. The character of Halima fights for human rights and the character of Aziz for economic rights. Halima is abused by her husband and wants a divorce but he won’t sign the papers. She goes to the court to do it herself, but with no success. Her mother encourages her to visit the sorceress in order to manipulate the husband, but again, no success or change in her situation. Both traditional practices and the government have failed her, and she is desperate for the fate of her children and herself. Her last hope is illegally crossing the Gibraltar, which endangers her and her family. It is not unlike the story of Fadwa, where hopelessness and desperation can send someone to great lengths to be heard, to let their voices rise above the corrupt government. Aziz reaches this point of hopelessness, too. He went to technical school yet he can’t get a job and can’t provide for his family. In Lalami’s other novel, Secret Son, the main character Youssef goes from rags to riches and back to rags. He lives in the slums, gets a degree, applies for jobs, tries to go to America, but he ends up nowhere, due to the nature of the system in which the rich stay rich and the poor get poorer.

We toured the Medina (old city) in Fes one day. There were alleys about arms width with concrete living areas. People were curled up in a few blankets sleeping on the cement. There was an elderly woman begging outside a mosque; her foot was swollen with flies circling it. Along the streets of the Suq (market) young men followed tourists around, showing them the stores and sights, in hopes of making a few dirhams as a pretend guide. The market is a community. Everybody knows each other. Our guides were always stopping and chatting with people on the streets. They rely on each other for food and money, essentials needed to survive.

I can see how there is revolution in the air. The government isn’t doing anything to help the poor, or give more human rights, and isn’t listening to the majority of the population’s voices. So it seems only natural for the people to rise up and to make their voices heard. Author Laila Lalami wrote about desperation in the Moroccan people seven, eight years ago. The Arab world has been a simmering pot of frustration and hopelessness for some time now and Arab Spring will most likely continue, fighting for human and economic rights, hopefully bringing about change for many of the Arab and Muslim countries.

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