Grain Of Salt: Naeem

Grain Of Salt: Naeem

A story on captivity, torture, and internal trauma.


An infinity of love,

An infinity of grace,

An infinity of pain,

An infinity shaped like 2 chains.

Mother used to always mutter this.

Like a verse that helped her keep her sanity, a verse of hope, a verse of reason; I never really understood what that meant until...

To be born a girl is the worst thing that could happen to you.

I overheard them say this to Nadia the person standing two feet away from me.

The only difference between a girl and a boy, I remember mummy say, was that a girl had two private, always closed parts--up and down, and the boys had two too--down physically and one metaphysically--their ego. Both of which are never hidden sadly. They dangle it to continuously prove that difference.

But why mummy? Why them and not us? Why do they do it?.......

At the tender age of 15 not only was this physically proved over and over again but I was made a participant as well. Mummy didn't prepare me for this. I might as well save you the grace of them not ripping the identity I give you as you will invariably take on the identity they give you of being nothing more than a girl. What you don't have in the 1st place they can't take. I can protect you to that extent.

But physically I'm helpless. She said all this with a straight face, showing nothing more than resilience.

Nothing more than a girl? But mummy you already told me that we are better than boys as we have greater control and power over ourselves and don't seek it externally to be proven to us on a continuous basis like those, what was the word she used? ah yes! Nycompoops.

Ever since daddy left us to join a cause of the greater good and getting a better seat at the hand of "God", mummy got even stronger. He was basically protecting himself, coward! These tiny snippets of wisdom keep coming back to me as "they" hose us down, yet again to prepare us as they keep shouting. None of the girls around me know what that entails and resort to crying to keep them company and give them a kind of shelter, but my mind doesn't stop whirring around the what of it all. Mummy had definitely included it in one of her talks.

A new/fresh batch was brought in today. There were 40 this time. The batch keeps getting bigger and bigger and the room more jammed making no room for the physical. The men in black trash-can clothes give us the command to strip, hose us down, scream long live God, throw morsels of food at us and leave us in the dark as we fight for whatever tiny bits of life we can grab, like ravenous ravens. Yet again!

Day 5. Either my time hadn't come or I was a log for the common pyre to burn harder and brighter to send a strong message to the “non-believers”. The stubborn. But not until your purpose is fulfilled they kept reassuring us with the smug grin of a trained assassin.

We were SPECIAL they told us, every aspect our physicality having meaning. Hair to be used as a handle, our faces beautiful to remind the perpetrators that what they were doing in the form of rape/child bearing was a beautiful thing for the larger purpose of breeding a new generation of militants. And our bodies devoid of souls that we gave unto them for the greater good of purifying their land. We were the catalysts they kept reminding us, as they threw us out to either bleed to death or cry to death or even starve to death as we were crumpled like tissue papers after they wiped themselves on us.

Coming from a small town in Iraq-Silcus, I was named Naeem by my parents as an anti-symbol of turmoil, struggle and war surrounding us always, even as the greatest struggle stared them in the face over and over again—I was a girl. And girls more or less had the same path laid out for them even before they were born, to be Khums—tax money, if the family ever wanted to live with the peace of knowing that they would be kept alive and they should be glad as there is no greater purpose in this world than to be a vessel of pleasure unto God and His loyal “sons”. And my mother took a combat to this line of thought by raising me in strict Yazidi traditions and cultures, using the fire against fire approach as she refused to give me any other identity other than this one that I’ll need when the time comes. And so I was Yazidi, a Yazidi with an uncertain future but a definite end.

Lumm Sayaaf reminded me of my mother at times as she tried her best to be a strong protective mother-hen of the coop, protecting us whenever she could from abuse and sometimes even offering herself up as sacrifice--but the “they” made sure that the division between married and unmarried was as demarcated as the distinction between men and women--rescinding to the rooster of her husband as he pecked at us from the orders of the “them”.

Sayaafa abba entered that day with three girls who looked like they came from another part of the world, white as milk, dressed in the garb of men of trousers and a jacket, they had their hair pulled up into a bun on top of their heads as opposed to veil covered heads that I was used to and spoke in a tongue that I couldn’t make head or tail of. Abba spoke to one of them in our language who seemed to get the gist of it as she translated the same to her friends in the foreign tongue and accent. Even though they clearly were the crème of our existing group and exotic as Nadia whispered to me, the one thing we all had in common was fear. Not fear of the unknown but fear of the devil in what was about to come. And the only thing that stuck as I strained my ears to listen was the word Nina.

Cover Image Credit: pexels

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Sometimes God Doesn't Open A Window When He Shuts The Door, But It's All So You Learn To Trust Him

It’s okay to not know what the future holds, so long as you know who holds the future.

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”


Except, what about when He doesn’t? What about the times that He pulls your heart and your mind in a 180 and you feel for a fact that you aren’t supposed to do something anymore—But doesn’t show you what you’re supposed to do.

I’ve been there. I am there. And (as I keep telling myself) it’s okay. Sometimes God keeps us in the dark and in the unknown so that we become desperate for Him and His comfort. I can tell you I have. I don’t have my life plan to fall back on anymore. I have always been the person with everything mapped out. With no plan in place, sometimes I feel like I’m in a tailspin and the only thing I can reach out and grab is God.

I’ve been in this place for almost a year now, and I’m still standing. I’m still pursuing a doctorate degree. I’m still seeking God in all things. I’m still doing all I can to make myself a better person. I may have no clue what I’m going to do with the skills I’m developing along the way, but I know that God knows.

It’s okay to not know what the future holds, so long as you know who holds the future. Cheesy, I know, but it’s incredibly true. God has a plan for each and every one of us, so at the end of the day all those plans I had were useless anyway. Maybe He has me in a place without a plan so that I can learn to be flexible. Maybe I need to learn to trust Him more.

God doesn’t put us somewhere we can’t learn. So, if you’re locked in a room with a shut door and you’ve yet to see a window, don’t feel alone. God is in the locked room with you. He is there to comfort you and hold your hand. And, I have to trust, that when I’m ready He will spring open a window I never could have even imagined.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isa. 55:9

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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This Holocaust Remembrance Day, Do Your Part To Stop The Spread Of Hatred

No one listens to Jews when we talk about antisemitism, but now would be a good time to start.

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, specifically the remembrance day for the Jewish victims of genocide, is tomorrow. Every year that passes takes us further away from the generation that witnessed and experienced such horrors.

For many people, the Holocaust is something that happened a long time ago and is not particularly relevant now. When Jewish people bring up the Holocaust, we’re often told that we’re unnecessarily dredging up the past, trying too hard to be oppressed, or distracting everyone from the “real” problems going on in the world. Antisemitism, apparently, is just a case of a lot of Jews being too sensitive. It’s not a real thing.

For something that’s not real, antisemitism sure happens a lot around here. According to the FBI, the majority of religiously motivated hate crimes are committed against Jewish people. On Western Washington University’s campus, anti-Semitic incidents occur on a regular basis, and the administration rarely does anything but shrug its shoulders. Maybe religiously motivated hate crimes don’t matter as much as racially motivated hate crimes.

Oddly enough, the discrimination I’ve faced on campus for being Jewish wasn’t about my religion. It was about my race.

The Holocaust is often painted as a religiously motivated crime, but to describe it in such a way is to ignore the true intentions of the Germans who orchestrated the genocide. Jews were seen as inhuman by the Nazis. Not subhuman — inhuman. We weren’t people to them, and our existence threatened the purity of the German bloodline and the strength of the German nation. The Holocaust wasn’t about religion so much as it was about racism. And that same toxic mix of religious and ethnic hatred still exists in the Western world today.

I talk and write about antisemitism so often that I’m starting to sound like a broken record. I’m sure it’s become easy to tune out, just like it’s easy to tune out other Jewish people when they sound the alarm. Most people don’t even know that the second Holocaust Remembrance Day, the one for Jewish people, exists — and if they do, it’s likely because they have a Jewish friend who posts about it.

Jewish people are treated like we’re being hysterical when we bring up antisemitism. We are treated like we’re overreacting when we admit that we’re scared by the uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes.

"What are you afraid of? The Holocaust can't happen again!"

Nobody thought it could happen the first time, either.

This year, for Yom HaShoah, learn something about the Holocaust. Listen to survivors. Talk to Jewish people about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences of antisemitism in an age that’s supposedly left that behind. Learn about a victim. Remember their names. If you have a Holocaust museum or memorial nearby, visit it.

If I said that history was repeating itself with regard to antisemitism, I’d be labeled as a hysteric and an alarmist. That said, another Holocaust won’t be prevented by telling Jewish people to sit down and shut up. The only way to prevent such an atrocity from taking place is to take the responsibility for preventing it into your own hands.

I take responsibility for the survival of my own people and of the other groups targeted by the Nazis. This Yom HaShoah, I’d like you to do the same.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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