When I was a child, I knew I had superpowers. That’s right.
「You make me forget my story.
「I had thoughts about him…I hardly knew what to do with. And he read
every one. Whatever I felt, whatever I wanted, he gave himself up to.
And in that moment, everything I knew to be true about myself, was gone.
I was acting like another woman, yet I was more myself than ever
Her post, raw, fearful and full of regret, touched many people who had
experienced the shocking contrasts between the intense, burning
adoration of young love, and the cold ashes of realism that remain once
the fire has faded.
I thought I was absolutely amazing because I could understand and relate
to the feelings of brown people, like my grandfather, a conservative
Muslim guy. And also, I could understand my Afghan mother, my Pakistani
father, not so religious but laid-back, fairly liberal. And of course, I
could understand and relate to the feelings of white people. The white
Norwegians of my country. You know, white, brown, whatever — I loved
them all. I understood them all, even if they didn’t always understand
each other, they were all my people.
「I don’t know if I can do this. Try to cram in a whole lifetime between
now and Friday.」
My father, though, was always really worried. He kept saying that even
with the best education, I was not going to get a fair shake. I would
still face discrimination, according to him. And that the only way to be
accepted by white people would be to become famous. Now, mind you, he
had this conversation with me when I was seven years old. So while I’m
seven years old, he said, “Look, so it’s either got to be sports, or
it’s got to be music.” He didn’t know anything about sports — bless him
— so it was music. So when I was seven years old, he gathered all my
toys, all my dolls, and he threw them all away. In exchange he gave me a
crappy little Casio keyboard and —
「If I’ve done anything to make you think that what we have between us
is nothing new for me, is just some routine, then I do apologize.」
「When I think of why I make pictures, the only reason I can come up
with…It just seems that I’ve been making my way here. Seems right now,
that all I’ve done in my life, was making my way here to you. And if I
think about leaving here tomorrow without you…」
A lot of people ask me what my biggest fear is, or what scares me most.
And I know they expect an answer like heights, or closed spaces, or
people dressed like animals, but how do I tell them that when I was 17 I
took a class called Relationships For Life and I learned that most
people fall out of love for the same reasons they fell in it.
Yeah. And singing lessons. And he forced me, basically, to practice for
hours and hours every single day. Very quickly, he also had me
performing for larger and larger audiences, and bizarrely, I became
almost a kind of poster child for Norwegian multiculturalism. I felt
very proud, of course. Because even the newspapers at this point were
starting to write nice things about brown people, so I could feel that
my superpower was growing.
「No matter how much distance we put between ourselves and this house, I
carry it with me. I feel it every minute we’re together. And I will
start to blame loving you for how much it hurts. And then, even these
four beautiful days will seem just like something sordid and a
So when I was 12 years old, walking home from school, I took a little
detour because I wanted to buy my favorite sweets called “salty feet.” I
know they sound kind of awful, but I absolutely love them. They’re
basically these little salty licorice bits in the shape of feet. And now
that I say it out loud, I realize how terrible that sounds, but be that
as it may, I absolutely love them. So on my way into the store, there
was this grown white guy in the doorway blocking my way. So I tried to
walk around him, and as I did that, he stopped me and he was staring at
me, and he spit in my face, and he said, “Get out of my way you little
black bitch, you little Paki bitch, go back home where you came from.” I
was absolutely horrified. I was staring at him. I was too afraid to wipe
the spit off my face, even as it was mixing with my tears. I remember
looking around, hoping that any minute now, a grown-up is going to come
and make this guy stop. But instead, people kept hurrying past me and
pretended not to see me. I was very confused because I was thinking,
well, “My white people, come on! Where are they? What’s going on? How
come they’re not coming and rescuing me? So, needless to say, I didn’t
buy the sweets. I just ran home as fast as I could.
「Do you think that what happened with us just happens to anyone? What
we feel for each other? We’re hardly two separate people now. Some
people search all their life and never find this. Others don’t even
think it exists.」
That their lover’s once endearing stubbornness has now become refusal to
compromise and their one track mind is now immaturity and their bad
habits that you once adored is now money down the drain.?
Things were still OK, though, I thought. As time went on, the more
successful I became, I eventually started also attracting harassment
from brown people. Some men in my parent’s community felt that it was
unacceptable and dishonorable for a woman to be involved in music and to
be so present in the media. So very quickly, I was starting to become
attacked at my own concerts. I remember one of the concerts, I was
onstage, I lean into the audience and the last thing I see is a young
brown face and the next thing I know is some sort of chemical is thrown
in my eyes and I remember I couldn’t really see and my eyes were
watering but I kept singing anyway. I was spit in the face in the
streets of Oslo, this time by brown men. They even tried to kidnap me at
one point. The death threats were endless. I remember one older bearded
guy stopped me in the street one time, and he said, “The reason I hate
you so much is because you make our daughters think they can do whatever
they want.” A younger guy warned me to watch my back. He said music is
un-Islamic and the job of whores, and if you keep this up, you are going
to be raped and your stomach will be cut out so that another whore like
you will not be born.
「Nobody understands when a woman makes a choice to marry and have
children, in one way, her life begins, but in another way, it stops. You
bulid a life of details, and you just stop and stay steady, so that your
children can move. And when they leave, they take your life of details
with them. You’re expected to move on, but you don’t remember what’s
that moved you, because no one’s asked you in so long, not even
yourself. But you never think love like this will happen to you.」
Again, I was so confused. I couldn’t understand what was going on. My
brown people now starting to treat me like this — how come? Instead of
bridging the worlds, the two worlds, I felt like I was falling between
my two worlds. I suppose, for me, spit was kryptonite.
「Now I want to keep it forever. I want to love you the way I do for the
rest of my life. But if we leave, we lose it. And I can’t make an entire
life disappear to start a new one. All I can do is try to hold on to us,
somewhere inside of me.」
Their spontaneity becomes reckless and irresponsible and their feet up
on your dash is no longer sexy, just another distraction in your busy
So by the time I was 17 years old, the death threats were endless, and
the harassment was constant. It got so bad, at one point my mother sat
me down and said, “Look, we can no longer protect you, we can no longer
keep you safe, so you’re going to have to go.” So I bought a one-way
ticket to London, I packed my suitcase and I left. My biggest heartbreak
at that point was that nobody said anything. I had a very public exit
from Norway. My brown people, my white people — nobody said anything.
Nobody said, “Hold on, this is wrong. Support this girl, protect this
girl, because she is one of us.” Nobody said that. Instead, I felt like
— you know at the airport, on the baggage carousel you have these
different suitcases going around and around, and there’s always that one
suitcase left at the end, the one that nobody wants, the one that nobody
comes to claim. I felt like that. I’d never felt so alone. I’d never
felt so lost.
「I’ll only say this once. I’ve never said it before. But this kind of
certainty comes just once in a lifetime.」
So, after coming to London, I did eventually resume my music career.
Different place, but unfortunately the same old story. I remember a
message sent to me saying that I was going to be killed and that rivers
of blood were going to flow and that I was going to be raped many times
before I died. By this point, I have to say, I was actually getting used
to messages like this, but what became different was that now they
started threatening my family.
「For a moment, I didn’t know where I was. And for a split second, A
thought crossed my mind that he really didn’t want me. That it was easy
to walk away」
Nothing saddens and scares me like the thought that I can become ugly to
someone who once thought all the stars were in my eyes.
So once again, I packed my suitcase, I left music and I moved to the US.
I’d had enough. I didn’t want to have anything to do with this anymore.
And I was certainly not going to be killed for something that wasn’t
even my dream — it was my father’s choice.
「The words were inside of me. “I was wrong, Robert, to stay, but I
can’t go. Let me tell you again why I can’t go. Tell me again why I
should go.” I heard his voice coming back to me: “This kind of certainty
comes once in a lifetime.”」
So I kind of got lost. I kind of fell apart. But I decided that what I
wanted to do is spend the next however many years of my life supporting
young people and to try to be there in some small way, whatever way that
I could. I started volunteering for various organizations that were
working with young Muslims inside of Europe. And, to my surprise, what I
found was so many of these young people were suffering and struggling.
They were facing so many problems with their families and their
communities who seemed to care more about their honor and their
reputation than the happiness and the lives of their own kids. I started
feeling like maybe I wasn’t so alone, maybe I wasn’t so weird. Maybe
there are more of my people out there.
「I know you had your own dreams. I’m sorry I couldn’t give them to you.
I love you so very much.」
The thing is, what most people don’t understand is that there are so
many of us growing up in Europe who are not free to be ourselves. We’re
not allowed to be who we are. We are not free to marry or to be in
relationships with people that we choose. We can’t even pick our own
career. This is the norm in the Muslim heartlands of Europe. Even in the
freest societies in the world, we’re not free. Our lives, our dreams,
our future does not belong to us, it belongs to our parents and their
community. I found endless stories of young people who are lost to all
of us, who are invisible to all of us but who are suffering, and they
are suffering alone. Kids we are losing to forced marriages, to
honor-based violence and abuse.
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods…
There is a rapture on the lonely shore…
There is society where none intrudes…
By the deep sea and music in its roar…
I love not man the less, but Nature more…
From these our interviews, in which I steal…
From all I may be, or have been before.
To mingle with the Universe and feel…
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal. —Byron」
Eventually, I realized after several years of working with these young
people, that I will not be able to keep running. I can’t spend the rest
of my life being scared and hiding and that I’m actually going to have
to do something. And I also realized that my silence, our silence,
allows abuse like this to continue. So I decided that I wanted to put my
childhood superpower to some use by trying to make people on the
different sides of these issues understand what it’s like to be a young
person stuck between your family and your country.
「There has not been a day since that I have not thought of him. When he
said that we were no longer two people, he was right. We were bound
together as tightly as two people can be. If it hadn’t been for him, I
don’t think I could’ve lasted on the farm all those years.」
She had no idea the post would take off this much, so she wrote a
follow-up post to clarify a few things about the class and the love
lessons she learned.
So I started making films, and I started telling these stories. And I
also wanted people to understand the deadly consequences of us not
taking these problems seriously.
「I gave my life to my family, I wish to give Robert what is left of
So the first film I made was about Banaz. She was a 17-year-old Kurdish
girl in London. She was obedient, she did whatever her parents wanted.
She tried to do everything right. She married some guy that her parents
chose for her, even though he beat and raped her constantly. And when
she tried to go to her family for help, they said, “Well, you got to go
back and be a better wife.” Because they didn’t want a divorced daughter
on their hands because, of course, that would bring dishonor on the
family. She was beaten so badly her ears would bleed, and when she
finally left and she found a young man that she chose and she fell in
love with, the community and the family found out and she disappeared.
She was found three months later. She’d been stuffed into a suitcase and
buried underneath the house. She had been strangled, she had been beaten
to death by three men, three cousins, on the orders of her father and
uncle. The added tragedy of Banaz’s story is that she had gone to the
police in England five times asking for help, telling them that she was
going to be killed by her family. The police didn’t believe her so they
didn’t do anything.
And the problem with this is that not only are so many of our kids
facing these problems within their families and within their families’
communities, but they’re also meeting misunderstandings and apathy in
the countries that they grow up in. When their own families betray them,
they look to the rest of us, and when we don’t understand, we lose them.
皇家88平台，So while I was making this film, several people said to me, “Well,
Deeyah, you know, this is just their culture, this is just what those
people do to their kids and we can’t really interfere.” I can assure you
being murdered is not my culture. You know? And surely people who look
like me, young women who come from backgrounds like me, should be
subject to the same rights, the same protections as anybody else in our
country, why not?
I never expected this to be my most popular poem out of the hundreds
I’ve written. I was extremely bitter and sad when I wrote this and I
left out the most beautiful part of that class.
So, for my next film, I wanted to try and understand why some of our
young Muslim kids in Europe are drawn to extremism and violence. But
with that topic, I also recognized that I was going to have to face my
worst fear: the brown men with beards. The same men, or similar men, to
the ones that have hounded me for most of my life. Men that I’ve been
afraid of most of my life. Men that I’ve also deeply disliked, for many,
So I spent the next two years interviewing convicted terrorists, jihadis
and former extremists. What I already knew, what was very obvious
already, was that religion, politics, Europe’s colonial baggage, also
Western foreign policy failures of recent years, were all a part of the
picture. But what I was more interested in finding out was what are the
human, what are the personal reasons why some of our young people are
susceptible to groups like this. And what really surprised me was that I
found wounded human beings. Instead of the monsters that I was looking
for, that I was hoping to find — quite frankly because it would have
been very satisfying — I found broken people. Just like Banaz, I found
that these young men were torn apart from trying to bridge the gaps
between their families and the countries that they were born in. And
what I also learned is that extremist groups, terrorist groups are
taking advantage of these feelings of our young people and channeling
that — cynically — channeling that toward violence. “Come to us,” they
say. “Reject both sides, your family and your country because they
reject you. For your family, their honor is more important than you and
for your country, a real Norwegian, Brit or a French person will always
be white and never you.” They’re also promising our young people the
things that they crave: significance, heroism, a sense of belonging and
purpose, a community that loves and accepts them. They make the
powerless feel powerful. The invisible and the silent are finally seen
and heard. This is what they’re doing for our young people. Why are
these groups doing this for our young people and not us?