The Rich, The Famous and Me

•January 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

 

 

 I walked in, the low dim lighting filled my eyes, the serene music passed my ears and the smell of new carpet and peppermint crept into my nose.

 

“Now anyone under the age of 35 may hit on you. These people… well these people are not like us. You may come across some very right winged people, but I trust you will take it in stride,” my teacher warned as he prepared me for the private book launch event of the richest woman in the country and perhaps even in the world. I nodded as I clutched at my hijab making sure it was in place.

 

“Surname?” asked the immaculately dressed blonde, “Al Ubudy,” I replied. It was easy for her to find amongst the Smith’s Bartholumeouth’s and Edelstein’s. “Oh, you’re a V.I.P member,” she surprisingly said. I looked over at my teacher and giggled at her inability to hide her shock and awe at how someone like me managed to land a V.I.P seat.

 

As we walked in the waiter approached us, “light refreshments Miss?”, I looked at the tray and the offerings it had, of course there was your expensive wine, Champaign and sparkly. I opted for the orange juice, as did my teacher.  We found a quiet corner and stood there watching as the other half mingled and threw their heads back in laughter.

 

While talking with my teacher an elderly man walked towards us. His suite was no doubt a custom made Montagio, I can tell a fine cut suit from a mile away. His shoes polished to a t and his receding hairline was just as shiny as his grey slicked back hair. But it was the accessory on his arm that captured my attention.

 

A beautiful woman with her long brunette locks falling by her shoulders, her low cut black sheer dress flowed behind her as she politely smiled at me, her teeth beamed. “How are you young lady?” the old man greeted me, “fine, thank you Sir. How are you?”  I asked, “Oh you know same old, same old,” he said as he scanned me from head to toe. I nodded and fake smiled knowing he was probably wondering what I did for a living. He most likely thought I was either new money, married to a rich Saudi investor or inherited my father’s millions… I was none of which.

 

He continued talking and making jokes I didn’t understand, nonetheless I giggled and sipped my drink like a natural as if I knew exactly what he was talking about. The woman with him turned to me and complained about the pain she was feeling from her heels but she too glared at my long dress and Hijab, “they are worth it though. Aren’t they pretty?” she asked. I looked down and as a shoe lover I couldn’t deny the beauties that her perfectly pedicured toes squeezed into. “they are beautiful,” I said wondering how much they would have cost.  I reached for my Hijab adjusting it again, she flicked her hair away from her face and chest revealing her cleavage and oversized breasts, which probably cost more than my car I thought.

 

When we finally made it to our seats, the speeches commenced. I looked down at my table; three forks and a spoon were on my left and two knives and some other cutlery object that I hadn’t seen before which looked like a letter opener, was on my right. I suddenly felt like Jack Dawson in Titanic when he was dining with Rose Dewitt Bukater’s family not knowing where to start, “Start on the outside and work your way in,” I remembered. 

 

After the congratulatory speeches were done they served dinner, mine was barramundi with potatoes and veggies. I began to eat as I delicately made tiny incisions into my fish and ate silently with my mouth closed. I so desperately just wanted to use my fingers to get rid of the bones; ‘I’m Arab for God’s and who eats fish with no Lebanese bread?’ I thought to myself. At the end the waiter came around offering the choice of red or white wine, he reached my end. But he wasn’t one of them, all it took was one glance at me before he smirked and said, ‘would you like me to top up your juice?’  I agreed. After dinner, the richest woman in Australia was introduced… as the richest woman in Australia, as if we could forget it.

 

Gina Rinehart took to the stage and began her speech. She spoke about her father’s legacy and what she thinks the government should do to un-tap the untapped potential that was available in Northern Australia. She spoke about the mining industry and how it saved Australia from feeling the wrath of the Global Financial Crisis and how hard people in the mining industry work. After her speech and standing ovation the floor was opened to questions. As an Arab woman who never misses an opportunity to speak her mind, I raised my hand. A woman handed me the microphone and I stood.

 

At that moment I remembered Jack again when he was trying to be like them dressed up in his suit and practicing his greetings. I knew they all thought I was one of them, someone how I had made my millions, somehow I was privileged enough to be amongst their prescience. “Hello my name is Widyan Al Ubudy. I have two questions. First, what advice would you give to a young migrant who wants to add value to Australian society and secondly, do you think there is room for migrant women in the mining industry?” I gave myself away.

 

I sat down as the room remained silent I could feel them starring at me. I listened to Gina’s response, but in the back of my head I knew that they knew and realised I wasn’t one of them nor did I want to be.

 

At the networking session after dinner, while I lined up to get my book signed by Gina a man approached me and began talking about his work in the mining industry. “So you want to consider a future in the mining ha?”, “No Sir, I don’t have any desire what so ever to consider a future in mining,” I responded. “Well it pays well. Hard work but it’s worth it. I make 30 million dollars a month! What do you do?” I almost choked on my drink, “Well Sir I certainly don’t make 30 million a month. I make just over $3000 a month. I’m a public servant and a writer,” his smile somewhat deteriorated after that revelation and so did too the conversation.

 

After the event I kept thinking “do these people realise that their money won’t be taken with them in their grave?”, I think they knew but didn’t care. As Coco Chanel once said, “There are the rich, then there are the wealthy.” I was definitely the wealthy. Wealthy in Iman.

 

Widyan Al ubudy. 

 

As published on MuslimVillage 

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Avel’s spoken words

•September 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

He was in stark contrast to the tranquil backdrop of the flowing river, bright sun and waddling ducks. With his arms folded, defenses up and a stern look, he appears to be your average macho 21-year-old but after talking to Avel Isra his intimidating persona begins to slowly shed. Revealing  a man of raw emotion, inspiration and drive.

Just when you thought the music industry was saturated with artists who appeal only to the screaming teeny boppers of the world, Avel Isras’s music, humor and humility appeals to all ages and senses.

Anoujoum has this exclusive interview with up-coming local new artist and musician, Avel Isra.

Tell me a little about yourself

Basically I’m into music. I love anything creative… most people might consider me weird. I have a natural and unique taste in music and everything else… for example I love nature. I’ve also got a really strong sense of culture and exploring those cultures and reflecting that through my music.

You’re still at university, what are you studying?

I’m currently doing geo-physics which is basically geology with applied physics. I don’t know how I got into that… like I said I love nature so I thought it would be a good thing to do.

You consider yourself and artist. Can you tell me what your fondest memory of music is?

The best thing I can remember was when I was five, I just heard Michael Jackson and…he was one of my biggest inspirations. I was always dancing to him even from a young age, my mum use to tell me I would have the headphones on and just bumping to it. I… I also like Usher. The first time I ever sang was in grade five and it was a cover of ‘Let It Burn’ (laughs) …one of my teachers started crying… I don’t know why. I think they must have been proud.

At what point did you decide to get into music?

I was always into music… like my dad play Turkish instruments, my mum sings, one of my uncles sings and the other plays guitar. So we are all a pretty musical family. I first got into producing around the age of 13… it’s pretty much a family tradition. My family had a huge impact on me especially growing up with a musical family… I think it was meant to be.

Musically who is your inspiration, you mention Michael Jackson and Usher…who else?

At the moment I’m listening to a lot of Florence and the machine, Lana Del Ray, Frank Ocean, the Weeknd… he is probably one of my favourite artists at the moment. I also went through a huge Carlos Santana phase. I actually started guitar because of Carlos Santana… so I have a huge range of inspirational artists not just your typical ones.

You mention the guitar, what’s your favourite instrument to play?

My favourite instrument is the guitar. I play the piano and a couple of other instruments but my favourite is the guitar because when I first started that was the first instrument I started on … I was playing the flamenco … it shaped my music over the years and then I drifted from genre to genre.

What’s your family’s reaction to your music?

My family was just happy with me doing music in my room. My dad even made a few guitars, he is a custom guitar maker. I then started focussing on my voice and then… um… it was all like a hobby until it took over school. My marks started dropping and my dad said, “you know you are going to have to boost your marks, so put them away.” I went through a period of my life with no music and it was very stressful. I remember while I was studying for the HSC I use to write lyrics in secret. Any ideas I had I use to sing them into my phone and record it or wrote the lyrics somewhere.

After the HSC I locked myself in the room for two weeks and finished recording all the material I had saved up . My dad always use to say, “Do it for fun but I’m not going to have a son who is a producer …what are people going to say?” (he impersonates his dad’s voice and laughs) But after that he saw me keep at it, but I knew deep down he was always supportive, he was just scared because it’s such a competitive industry and is risky. I don’t count on it (music) to make a living but it’s what I love to do. He understood that and said, “Alright he is going to uni for a career but is still doing music,” he got that. After that when I got signed to a production team he was happy for me to persue it. He gave me a talk one day and said, “so many people told you not to do it, but the good thing is you kept doing it and you actually got somewhere.” I even get my dad to record with his instruments sometimes.

You just released your first album, ‘The Words Not Spoken’. What has the process involved and what’s the journey been like?

This album was two years coming. I went through different stages of my life. The first year of producing was adapting and learning new sounds and this last year has been trying to come up with my unique sound and make my music reflect who I am. I went through 30-50 songs and actually re-arranged the album. At first it was suppose to be RnB and Hip Hop… I thought, “No I want to mix it.” So I scrapped the whole album and started from scratch. I was mostly happy with this one. We produced the songs with my friend Mark who has a dance track on there. I have another collaboration with Christian King who is doing a lot of acoustic pop. I did the lyrics in the spur of the moment. I always do the instrumentals first. I usually come up with the song concept first then go away with it and think of lyrics and the vibe.

What song from the album is your favourite and why?

My favourite song would have to be ‘Unplug’… that song is pretty much my raw emotion. I put in everything I had into that song. I was in the studio with my eyes closed and signing the lyrics and…yea it was very emotional.

When will you be releasing the video for ‘Unplug’?

Well I am in talks with directors at the moment. One of the people who is collaborate with me for the video clips and photography is William Tune, he is a really good mate and is very talented. We are probably going to do 2-3 clips, and definitely unplug will be one. There is also a secret one too, but all will be revealed.

What has been the worse advice you have received?

(Laughs)The worse was from my dad… (laughs) I spent about two weeks on a track. I put everything into it and everyone loved it. It had great reviews and was a very emotional song. When my dad heard it for the first time he just said, “It’s too repetitive, scrap it, just throw it out.” I thought, “Wow, no I’m not throwing it out.” My dad has very good musical taste and likes complex sounds so he knows what he is talking about. He doesn’t give criticism to be annoying he is trying to teach me that not everyone’s music is the same. I don’t want to appeal to the teeny-boppers I want it to appeal to everyone of all ages and backgrounds. It made me readjust my direction.

So we have spoken about music, family and studies… I can’t let you go without asking…what about women? Are you single?

(Laughs) Yes I am single…. In a woman I look for the eye shape… I don’t know I like everything else. If a woman is beautiful she is beautiful but for me I have something for the eye shape. It’s also about the connection if we talk and we connect then that’s important. Saying that, most of the girls I meet we end up being friends anyway. If I am friends with a girl, that’s it. I wouldn’t try anything else.

Can you give me five quick facts about yourself?

I’m a perfectionist.

I don’t sleep much.

I’m a strong believer in equality. Nobody is more superior to anyone else. No one should be looked down on.

I’m honest- straight up.

I’ve always wanted to go somewhere random where I haven’t been. Like Canada or Spain.

What do you want people to take away from you as an artist?

For other artists I would advise that because everyone is different and unique you need to reflect that in your music. That for me is the most important thing. I want to make my kind of songs and music that speaks to different people not something that is already out there.

…and by the looks of things Avel Isra’s unique sound seems to have found its rightful listeners.

If you want to hear more about Avel Isra and listen to his music, including covers you can find him on facebook Avel Isra or follow him on twitter @Avelisra.

Widyan Al Ubudy.

As published in Anoujoum magazine

The Irony of Social-Media

•August 3, 2012 • 1 Comment

Their silence was deafening. The only sound that could be heard was the train swaying side to side as it sped along the tracks. There I was sitting in the carriage with a handful of people, all of whom were frantically texting, facebooking and tweeting. The awkwardness consumed me, the sense of belonging vanished, my hands empty while I nervously looked at all the glowing phones…for the first time in a long time I felt out of place, uncomfortable and somewhat alien in a familiar environment. Yes, I was experiencing a severe case of ‘Oh My God my phone is dead and now someone on the train, heaven forbid may want to actually spark up a conversation with me.’

It’s true technology and the proliferation of smart phones, apps, and anything else that requires a wave of your index finger has indeed made life somewhat easier, but it is also undoubtedly producing anti-social behaviour. Take a look around you, everyone is on their phone and it has become so prevalent today that it’s almost uncommon for someone to not be on some form of technology drumming away at the screen.  You may even be reading this on your phone.

But this anti-social behaviour is not limited to trains. We now have the ability to ‘check-in’ wherever we are thanks to facebook applications adding to our anti social behaviour.  Because let’s face it everyone should know that you are at a local coffee shop with a friend, drinking a latte oh and don’t forget to take a photo of your coffee and slice of cheese cake for Instagram because everyone needs to know what a latte and slice of cheese cake looks like. And yes, I like millions around the world are guilty of this pointless phenomena that has consumed young and old.

Although the digital age has intimately connected us online, we have never been so physically disconnected than at any other time period in history. The irony is laughable; social-media has in fact turned us into anti-social beings. The use of smart phones and the desperation to capture every moment seems pivotal to various environments like:  When dining with friends, taking a drive around town, at the beach, in the movies and even study… because everyone needs to know exactly how your study space looks like.  

Now I’m not anti- technology but smart phones and other forms of technology are increasingly making us introverted, and it’s only a matter of time where our face-to-face social skills further deteriorate.  What’s worrying about this revolution is that it is not necessarily only the technology that is making us anti-social but also people’s choice to be anti-social. I and undoubtedly millions of others prefer to wear our headset on the train because we know no one will interrupt us by wanting to talk. The freedom of this choice has allowed smart phones and other technologies alike, to be used as a tool for avoiding awkward situations and nervousness by offering a simple solution… just pull out your phone,  log onto facebook and post a status about the awkwardness and it should be cured.

We are living our lives online and are neglecting our physical surroundings but don’t worry its okay because everyone is doing it. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to post a status about the completion of this article.

 

Widyan Al Ubudy

 

 

As published in Anoujoum magazine.

The Forlorn and Forgotten

•July 30, 2012 • Leave a Comment

It was the first day of Ramadan; the sun was shining and I was just another face in the crowd as I scurried along the footpath making my way to work. Whilst pondering what my mother was going to make for iftar I noticed a crowd gathered near the street where my work building was located. I asked an onlooker what had happened.

“Some homeless man committed suicide, he jumped off there…poor bugger,” he said pointing at the building opposite my work. His words sent a chill down my spine; I immediately remembered the homeless man I had been seeing at Town Hall station everyday for the past six months… The man I would always give a warm smile to, only to realise that today I had not seen him. A burning sense of guilt grabbed hold of me and my eyes glazed over. Trying to stop myself from crying I continued walking to work.

My reaction surprised me. How could this homeless man who I had never spoken to affect me so much?  As I went about my day he remained on my mind and the nagging guilt persisted. After arriving home, I promised myself that when I returned on Monday and he was still there I would talk to him.

It was Monday morning and I was already feeling nervous. Not knowing what to expect, I frantically made my way to the corner of the street where I was hoping the man would be… And he was. He was sitting with his arms hugging his knees as the wind blew the rain towards his face. The sense of relief that flooded through me was indescribable. I approached the man and introduced myself, he looked at me with a weary smile.

“Would you like some breakfast?” I asked crouching down to the floor. He looked at me with a stunned look and softly said, “Yes please”. I returned with his McDonald’s breakfast meal and a coffee. I placed it beside him and told him to eat it while it was hot; he looked at me with his bright blue pleading eyes and thanked me. For the rest of that week I bought him breakfast each day.

On the last day the man asked me why I had gone to the effort of buying him breakfast that week.

“No one cares about us,” he said.

“I care,” I replied. I told the man that it is the holy month of Ramadan and explained what that meant.

“Well in that case everyday is Ramadan for me ‘cause I’m always satrvin’,” he laughed.

I  told him how I was appalled at myself that it took the possibility of death before I helped him in any small way.

“I felt terrible for not helping you before and when I thought you jumped…well… I felt somehow responsible that I had contributed by not helping beyond a warm smile,” I said.

He asked, “Would you have bought me breakfast if it wasn’t for Ramadan?”

His questions surprised me, and admittedly I wouldn’t have.

Although I had left the man and said goodbye, his question remained with me. Here was a non-Muslim man who had just truly made me realise the value and benefit of Ramadan. I kept wondering, why did I wait till Ramadan to help? Although our good deeds are multiplied in the holy month, that day I discovered that for me Ramadan is not just about fasting, feasting, praying taraweeh and understanding the meaning of the Quran Al-Kareem.

Ramadan is about going beyond your comfort zone and about challenging yourself to do something you would otherwise not do. But most importantly, this homeless man with his ragged clothes and cracked hands taught me that Ramadan should be a stepping stone at bettering yourself beyond the days of fasting and restoring hope for those who have lost grip on it.

So I challenge you to do something you wouldn’t normally do. It doesn’t have to be buying breakfast for a homeless man if you are skeptical of homeless people, but find something you have always wanted to do and do it, because this life of ours is temporary and as I learned there are people all around us, Muslim and non-Muslim that fall into our daily backdrop and remain forgotten.

So look around, take notice and see where you can make a small contribution that can result in a big impact… an impact on both them and you.

Widyan Al Ubudy.

‘Hit her Baby One More Time’…just not with a camera flash

•July 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

‘Hit her Baby One More Time’…just not with a camera flash.

‘Hit her Baby One More Time’…just not with a camera flash

•July 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

[WARNING: Not for the haters]

So before I get into this article there is something I would like to clear up. Yes,  I am a Britney Spears fan. I know what you’re thinking, “wait a Muslim woman who is a Britney fan…HA?” Odd right? Well I have grown up with Britney music like any 90s kid and no I don’t look up to her as a role model nor do I have any desire or aspiration to break into the entertainment industry, however (and this is the part where you will probably shake your head), I believe Britney Spears is one of the most influential pop artists of all time. I have been captivated by Britney not simply because of her music, dance abilities and her ability to pull off flawless hair flips, but it’s because of her ‘breakdown’,  ‘comeback’, Britney Inc and of course the media’s obsession with her. Her legacy is unprecedented and yea she has done some pretty stupid things but there is no denying that she has left her mark on the industry, not to mention has made the biggest musical comeback. She has paved the way for many teen stars in today’s industry and as a lover of popular culture I must give credit where credit is due. So this piece is not about praising her (as some of my friends would like to believe) but an attempt at giving you an insight into the frenzy that plagued Britney’s life and had the world watching in horror. As a fan I am interested in Britney Spears, the superstar but as a journalist it is Britney the person whose story is one of media scrutiny, insanity, heart-break and humility that has captured me.

This article is dedicated to all the Britney stans (stalkers/fans) on breatheheavy.com

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When Britney Spears was beamed onto our television screens, at the age of 17 with her Catholic school girl outfit, strawberry blond hair tightly gathered in pigtails and her smouldering eyes, seductively pleading, ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’, the pop and Britney’s world was forever changed. Britney re-created the ‘tween’ industry and it didn’t take too long before she shot to stardom. By 2002 Britney Spears was declared by Forbes Magazine as the number one most powerful celebrity. Spears became the American dream. The combination of Britney’s teenage innocence and her bubbly yet alluring personality made her the quintessential pop phenomena. But, despite her musical and personal acclaim, Britney the American dream turned into Britney the American tragedy.

When Spears famously declared in 2000 that she was a virgin and wished to remain one until marriage, she became a role model for millions of young girls around the world. But, in 2003 a non-married Britney exclusively revealed that she is no longer a girl, but a woman (referencing her single ‘Not a girl not yet a woman’). Her revelation changed her innocent representation and the media’s attention shifted to Britney’s sexuality. While Spears’ innocent image began to shed, so did too her clothes, beginning her personal decline and the media frenzy that was soon to follow.

The teen dream wasted no time in infiltrating her new found sexuality into her profession. Audiences began to see a new provocative Britney. Her self-titled album ‘Britney’ featured sexually titillating lyrics and seductive vocals. Britney morphed from innocent school girl to sex icon. But, it didn’t stop there. It was in 2006, the year of her divorce, when the world and the media watched in horror as Britney Spears tragically spiralled out of control. Spears’ private life became the focal point of the entertainment media industry. From being photographed with no underwear, drug and alcohol abuse, losing custody of her children, being held in psychiatric care to even the head shaving incident, Britney Spears’ life became a live broadcast of fame and fortune gone wrong. The general public became hooked on the latest Britney mishap and society’s craving for exclusive paparazzi shots grew.

The paparazzi became enthralled by Britney’s personal life and entertainment reporters and the world were captivated by the ‘Britney breakdown’. In 2007 Britney Spears made the paparazzi industry $60 million dollars in images and was unfailingly on the cover of every single gossip magazine from January, 2007- March 2008. Headlines which read, ‘Oops she did it Again!’ were used and severely re-used, paparazzi stalked Spears and followed her every move in hope of exclusively capturing the next Britney calamity. The media turned Britney into a prisoner of her own fame and fortune, losing her children, fans, privacy and sanity.

At the outset of her career, Spears was worshipped by the media placing her on a pedestal as the Queen of Pop. But, as soon as she began to reveal her imperfections, the entertainment media, particularly the paparazzi and celebrity journalists saw the perfect opportunity to treat what would later become a mental illness, as a ‘Fall from Grace’ story. This fall produced reports and images which positioned Spears as a drug and alcohol addict, who was now more famous for her forgetfulness to wear underwear than her musical talents. But, more importantly Britney was labelled as a bad mother and to the media’s delight the Queen of Pop soon became the joker of the entertainment industry.

However, in 2008 under the control and conservatorship of her father, Britney the phenomena, awakened from her deep slumber and was about to make the biggest musical comeback in pop’s history. Spears released her sixth critically acclaimed album, ‘Circus’. This ‘era’ as fans like to call it, saw Britney sell over 500,000 albums in the first week, making it her fifth album to debut at number one. The album was followed by a sold-out world-wide tour, re-crowning Britney as the Queen of Pop. In 2011 Britney’s ‘comeback’ continued when she released her seventh studio album ‘Femme Fatale’, yet again debuting at number one on the Billboard charts in its first week. Following the release of ‘Femme Fatale’ she announced another world-tour.

But two successful albums and world tours since her ‘breakdown’ isn’t enough for Britney. Continuing her reign, Spears has recently signed on to become a judge on the U.S ‘Xfactor’. So far her judging, self-confidence and physical appearance seems to be everything a star of her calibre should be. But it seems the tabloid media is not yet ready to give Britney a break. Stories continue to flood gossip magazines and celebrity websites claiming that Spears’ shiny, new and improved life is cracking. Rumours are surfacing that Britney is unable to handle the pressure of a live show and is walking off set. In response Britney tweeted, “.#Britneywalksoff??? LOL was just taking a little break people. I am having the BEST time!!!” But what cost has the old Britney had to pay for the new one?

Britney’s life is back on track regardless of tabloid magazines attempting to suggest otherwise, but the young, confidant Louisiana girl is no longer the same. With the paparazzi and media frenzy that had surrounded her, Britney no longer lives her life in freedom. In her documentary, ‘For the Record’ aired on MTV December 2008, Britney revealed that,

“I’m under a lot of constraints and if I wasn’t I would feel so liberated…even when you go to jail, y’know, there’s the time when you’re gonna get out. But in this situation, it’s never ending. It’s just like Groundhog Day.”

Entertainers-in-the-know and fans are observant of Britney’s lifestyle change as a result of her psychotic breakdown and the paparazzi obsession. To ensure Spears never spirals out of control again, her management team will go to any lengths to continue to preserve her squeaky clean ‘comeback’ image and protect Britney from the outside world. Whether it may be pre-recording and editing interviews or suing paparazzi for invasions of privacy.

The paparazzi over time have only grown in numbers and their photography methods are becoming increasingly extreme. However, regardless of the distaste towards the paparazzi, it is undeniable that they are responsible for many celebrities’ success and popularity. With that being said, they are also equally responsible for the destruction of numerous celebrities’ personal and professional life and a fitting paradigm of this is the life of Britney Spears.

It is therefore, pivotal to ask how celebrities like Britney Spears end up the way they do. She is a by-product of the industry where the toxic cycle begins with a wild dream and ends as a nightmare. But society will not learn from its past mistakes. Entertainment reporters will maintain their sensationalised and exaggerated stories and consequently the lifestyle of celebrities like Britney Spears will continue to be drastically altered. Making it a challenge to avoid the prying lenses of the paparazzi and to their delight, opening a window of opportunity to capture many more ‘Oops she did it again’ moments.

Published in Anoujoum magazine

Widyan Al Ubudy.

No More Running: Mother Daughter story

•June 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes the most ordinary people hold the most extraordinary of stories. These stories often remain untold, held close to their owner’s chest like a locked diary – unread – however on rare occasions they are told. This is my mother’s story.

Born and raised in the city of Najaf, Iraq, Hannah Al Nary lived with her aunty, an older woman who was unable to have children of her own. At the age of thirteen, Hannah moved back with her parents when members of the Iraqi military arrested and sentenced her aunty to two years imprisonment for practicing her religion. Saddam Hussein’s regime did not tolerate high degrees of religious worship.

After her aunty’s arrest, Hannah refused to return to school, “it was run by the government, so as a protest I dropped out,” she said. Two years later, at the age of just fifteen, Hannah married.

 

What seemed a momentous step in Hannah’s life would turn into a story of struggle, fear and refuge. Samah, Hannah’s new husband, was conscripted in the army right after their marriage, “it was so hard for me. I was so young and having my husband away from me made it difficult, especially when I fell pregnant with our first child,” revealed Hannah.

 

“I was so ecstatic when my husband finally came home. We could start our lives together without any interruptions,” says Hannah. By July 1990 Hannah and Samah had three children: Sarah, Mustafa and Amal.

 

In 1991, while Hannah was pregnant with her fourth child, Saddam’s government declared an invasion of Kuwait. “The second we heard the news, I knew that my husband would be needed for military duty,” says Hannah. Hussein’s oppressive regime and conflict with neighbouring countries meant that Iraq was becoming increasingly unsafe. In a bid to protect their family and unborn child, Samah and Hannah planned to escape the region in search of a better life.

 

Late one grey night, as the sound of gunshots cracked across Najaf, a heavily pregnant Hannah and her family travelled to the border of Iraq towards Saudi Arabia. “Leaving Iraq was torture – we left our parents, siblings, friends. That night was the last time I felt like I belonged somewhere…”

 

Finding refuge in the town of Rafha, Hannah gave birth to her fourth child, Widyan, and three years later her fifth, Ameera, followed. She reflects on life in Rafha,“it was bitter-sweet. The Saudi government was good to us, but the extreme Saudi weather and continual unemployment was just too much for us.” So, in 1995, Hannah and her family migrated to Australia, “when our names came up to come to Australia it was such an overwhelming feeling,” says Hannah. A year later the family received Australian citizenship, and Hannah gave birth to her sixth child, Monieer.

 

“Australia was the fresh start we needed. My children enrolled in school, my husband found a job as a truck driver and I could finally make our house a home,” Hannah explains. Despite this, Hannah missed her family immensely, finding it difficult to make friends and assimilate into Australian culture.

Hannah’s teenage years were plagued with uncertainty and fear. Her early life was spent in search of peace, prosperity and stability for her children. And she succeeded in Australia.

 

It is because of my mother that I am who I am today.

Growing up as a young Muslim woman in Australia, my life has not been without challenges. High school is a nerve-racking experience for most teens, but for me it was nothing short of hell. Being a young Muslim teenager and adorning the Islamic headscarf presented endless opportunities for other students to hurl racism at me. I was labelled a ‘terrorist’ and ‘tea towel head’, which forced me to rebel against school – much like my mother did in Iraq.

 

I soon realised, however, the power of my education and what it had to offer. So I turned my schooling life around. I studied hard. I became an A student. By the time I was in grade ten, I had my heart set on becoming a journalist.

My mother always said to me, “when people do wrong by you, do not let them bring you down, God deals with all,” and she was right.

 

I learnt to stay quiet and ignore the bullies. I encouraged myself to vent my anger and frustrations through other means like writing. Through my writing I want to give a voice to those people who are continuously silenced, people like my mother.

Growing up in Australia as a young Muslim woman has been challenging but also rewarding. Living in Australia has opened my mother’s mind, and in turn provided me with freedoms that I could not have imagined in Iraq.

 

Being a young Australian Muslim has given me opportunities that my mother never had. While my mother’s experiences are vastly different to mine, we both share our story.

 

Hannah Al Nary sacrificed the familiarity of her family and country in order to provide for her children; to give them the life she never had. Without my mother’s sacrifices I would not be at University studying Journalism.

In the years that have passed since her escape from Iraq, Hannah has no regrets, ‘I am thankful that we came to Australia. No more running.”