Apr 13, 2015

On migration and silence

I had written one of those mystic Facebook statuses of mine. Migration as a silencing experience, it goes, with only one or two likes. It was a surprise anybody liked it at all. It was that kind of Facebook status you put out there because it has been harassing your brain cells for a while, hoping that it will touch someone, annoy someone, or reach out to someone. Isn't that how it usually goes after all?

I have been thinking about migration, because yes, rumor has it that I became a migrant. Rumor is true in this case.

I should probably take this chance to say sorry for my lack of proper goodbye behavior. It has been occupying my mind since I left Egypt, and maybe before I left too. I wasn't sure what was going to come next when I leave. I am still not sure what's going to come next.

Amidst the instability and the lack of familiarity that engulf most migrants, I am lately pondering where I stand from the current state of affairs, whether at home, Egypt that is. It is my home. Or the current state of affairs in Germany, my unlikely and unexpected new home.

I guess it matters to have a say on current affairs, not just because I'm an opinionated person, but it's important for me to be engaged in my surrounding community, in a way or another. This desire for social engagement is not a mere result of high moral standing, but also of a deep curiosity. Thank you curiosity.

I do grapple with questions of belonging. Questions of meaning. That's a natural part of migration I guess. I also grapple with voice. My own voice. How should I use? What should I do with it?

As many people know, I talked about Egypt all the time. Like most of the time. Now, I feel I cannot really talk about Egypt. Not because I think I shouldn't, but others seem to think that I shouldn't. The fact that I don't live in Egypt seems to impact people's view of me. That's understandable. I don't have to go through most of the trials and tribulations Egyptians have to endure on a daily basis. Having acknowledged that, should I just cease to care or worry about my home's state of affairs? But maybe these people are right. Maybe I should remain silent on Egypt. Or maybe not.

Then there's a similar yet different dynamic on Germany. Language barrier is a factor. After all, we always ridiculed those pundits who don't speak a word of Arabic yet always had the nerve to educate us on our countries.  Then there are those experiences of marginalization and racism that are just hard to spit out. And even when you want to speak about them, there's a fear that sharing the personal will just turn into an exercise of quantifying and measuring suffering or mere belittling.

I mean in general, it's not exactly easy being a killjoy*. A killjoy as you may be aware, is the person who tries to be conscious of power structures or how privilege works, and tries to talk about these things, in an effort to achieve a more just way of living, and as a result kills the joy of those who go on living their lives willfully or inadvertently overlooking issues of privilege and injustice. The killjoy is not free of privilege or occasionally of discriminatory behavior, for that matter. She or he tries to be aware of those privileges and not to act them out. At least that's the plan.

Why did I digress into that? I am off the topic now. Or is that the actual topic?

My question is what do we do with our voices? How do we share our opinions and experiences as migrants? As in-betweeners. As people struggling with identity and shifting surroundings. How do we find our voices in these situations? Why does it get taken away from us? 

Why are we being shamed? Being shamed for leaving home. This leaves me feeling as if I should completely uproot myself. And being shamed for coming to the new home, which makes me feel I should have never left and will never be part of this new home

Whether we choose to leave or not, life is full of complicated choices. Migration, whether forced or voluntary or in-between, should never another reason for making people's lives harder than already is.

*inspired by Sara Ahmed's writing



  1. Migrants have often done great things, including writing extraordinary things about the places they left and the places they settled in. Being a migrant can give you a perspective that's hard to get in any other way. I hope you'll write about Egypt and about Germany.

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