By Reem Al-Awadhi
At six, a morning during Ramadan, I decided to take a look at what the streets outside my grandparents’ house held in the early hours. I took my camera with me and went up to the roof of the house. The sun was out, a cold morning yet to be warmed, and a lonely street with no people in sight. It was a calming yet mysterious scene. While everyone was asleep, the only waking souls that were sharing that moment with me were the chirping birds. On rare occasions, a car would pass by far away, even though the streets were mostly deserted.
Almost an hour passed by. Then, I caught a glimpse of an old man, hunched over with a large sack carried over his back. He walked closer and closer to my curious eyes, and I used my camera to take a closer look at him, hoping he would not see me. The old man stopped, looked around, and then sat down against a wall. He opened out a red plastic bag and began, to my surprise, to take out food from that bag and eat. At that moment my heart began beating uncontrollably and my hands started shaking, struggling to hold the camera still. I was scared, because I knew that I was not supposed to see what had taken place. I was intruding on someone who thought no eyes were watching him. This man was doing something that he would not dare do if he knew anyone was watching. I feared not for my safety, but for his.
That sight truly opened me up to the harsh reality that many people in this country suffer through. What was this man’s story? I wondered. Was he eating for survival? Or did he lose his faith? The man would pause his eating and look around every few seconds, making sure nobody saw him. He would never look up, was he scared of God? His state was very discomforting. His clothes were worn out and dirty. His face, filled with sadness and desperation. His body was thin and fragile. Did he have a family? A house? How did the world look like from his perspective? What I saw was truly disheartening.
I see people like this man everyday when I go out in the streets of Yemen, but they were always in public, watched. Even though this man was in public, his experience was very private. I saw someone for who he truly was, and not who he wanted people to think he was. His grieving face told stories of hardship and misfortune. He was born to become anyone, but he became a product of injustice. A country where there is large gap between the poor and the rich. Where some people sleep safely in their warm beds, stomachs filled, while others begg and suffer to live another day.
We as a society have failed this man, and many like him. We left no space for other people in our hearts, even though we can. If there is one meaning in life, it should be to live, to live fairly and be human. This man is not living like he deserves. His miserable life is a result of other people’s greed. Those who choose to use their power to abuse the rights of others. Those who can, but would not, respect him as human. If we want to change our country for the better, we need to start by helping people like the man I witnessed. We need to restore this man’s faith in humanity.
Reem Al-Awadhi is a youth activist and a media student at the University of Surrey in England.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect La Voix du Yémen’s editorial policy.Français
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