Be young and shut up

A blog about student activism.

Speak the Truth

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Guest post by Khadija Basit.



Speak the Truth, even if your voice shakes…” (Anonymous)


Two weeks ago, there was a protest against the arrival of Ron Prosor, Israeli Ambassador to the UK, at the University of Edinburgh. I was there with a few friends chanting, “Free, Free Palestine!” “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” “Occupation is a crime!” and the likes of it. I swayed with the crowd following them in their actions and manners, carrying a banner that said, “Freedom!” I recall it being terribly cold that evening as we stood outside the gates of McEwan Hall while Prosor delivered his talk in a heated room. I could feel the stiffness in my fingers and the numbness in my toes to an extent that I began to lose sensation in them. I had to gulp a cup of hot chocolate to keep myself warm and to be able to regain the feeling in my fingers and feet.

I want to share this with you because aside from the protest, something else happened that day, something I was entirely oblivious of until it actually occurred. However, telling you straight away would entirely ruin the significance of this writing leaving you confused and doubtful.

My grandmother once told me that there were fairies that lived in the Swat Lake in Pakistan. She said a fairy had tried to rescue an elephant from poachers but the elephant had died in the encounter. He was risen to the heavens, she told me, by all the fairies in the Lake. I remember imagining the elephant ascending from the waters surrounded with fairy dust. So fairies were real just like mermaids and why I couldn’t see them was because they hid deep beneath the waters. I suppose these anecdotes seem real when you’re a child with very little knowledge of the world. It’s a strange affair. Just when you start believing in such things they tell you it’s all imaginative and unreal and that is when you cross the golden gates of innocence. Finally you’re able to distinguish fact from fiction and truth from falsehood- or at least to an extent.

I’m not sure when I crossed that bridge or if I ever crossed it but I know things are changing. I can sense it, feel it; it’s sharp and it’s spreading all over me but things had always been changing. I only began noticing it now.

Day by day I find myself immersed in the conflicts surrounding Palestine and Israel and the rest of the world. Suddenly, everything has gone terribly wrong. The leaders of the world are trying to play God with the lives of innocent civilians to exert their authority. Everywhere, the world is veiled in a blanket of death and devastation. Suddenly, life has lost its meaning and value. People are massacred and killed like parasites which have infested the fields. In times like these, it is easy and convenient to lose faith. It is easy to let go…

I stood there amidst the crowd yelling for justice and freedom. These are big words levied with significance and meaning but hardly exercised properly. I gazed around the plethora of voices that encircled my own and yelled again. A seven year old girl was leading the protest and I felt a lump in my throat. She was just a small child but she was so absorbed in the protest that it brought about a feeling of eeriness as though something really had gone wrong. That girl has perhaps already crossed the golden gates of childhood and innocence by forming part of the cry for justice- the gates that I only crossed a few years ago. Millions of children wear her shoes and die in them and I wonder how life can be a gift or blessing for them when it is only in death that they find an escape and solitude.

I first felt this when I watched “Arna’s Children”- a documentary on Palestinian children. Arna, an Israeli Palestinian, provided shelter to orphaned children. She taught them to express their anger through the theatre and other creative means. Arna became an inspiration for the children who had lost everything that means most to all of us- a home and family. The children were raged and the theatre became a means of protest for them. At numerous points, the documentary revolves around the childhood of a few children and their years after the death of Arna. It leaves one grief-stricken because only two of the five or six children -the documentary focuses on- survive when they grow older. The rest die.

Bapsi Sidhwa once asked her mother (as an 8 year old growing up in Lahore when the division of India was imminent), “Mummy, can one break a country? What if the English break India where our home is? How will I get to the park then?” Breaking a country, it is as easy as breaking a plate. You can glue the pieces together but the cracks become prominent because the cracks become boundaries and the plate is never the same again.

Something magical did happen on the day Ron Prosor came and the crowds expressed their frustration. I held the megaphone in my hands and yelled, “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry! Palestine will never die!” For the first time in my life, I addressed the public and the crowd followed. I thought my voice would shake but my voice came out loud and clear. It was a magical moment and a moment of great awakening. I don’t know how to explain this to you, but I am forever indebted to God and I know that I don’t have to be afraid of speaking the Truth anymore.

I found a great deal about myself that day because even though it was freezing and I did not have many layers on to protect me from the cold, I stayed. I stayed and I did not walk away. I am not sure what I want to accomplish after I graduate but I do know that perhaps this is the beginning of my journey to fight for the cause of humanity. I understand this will not be easily attained. Several have perished on the way. Perhaps the same awaits me and perhaps not. All I know is that I’m no longer a bystander watching life go on without me. I want to be part of the generation that stood firm for justice, freedom and equality and I am hopeful that there will come a time when children will begin to believe in fairies again because it is just as Arudhati Roy puts it, “A new world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”



Khadija Basit is a Sociology student at the University of Edinburgh. She is involved in the Students for Justice in Palestine society and is on the committee of the Islamic Society.


Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

March 10, 2011 at 11:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. Good piece. Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work!

    Mohammad Ali

    March 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm

  2. Thanks Mohammad. It’s good to share these experiences with others and it’s important because things can’t runt he way they are. I’m glad you liked it :)

    Khadija Basit

    March 14, 2011 at 10:34 am

  3. Nice article. Emotional and educational! You are doing well with your life.


    March 15, 2011 at 8:14 pm

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