moments of freedom

On May fifth, liberation day, we organized a storytelling evening in the Mezrab on the theme of freedom. The storytellers and musicians who participated all told us what freedom meant for them. We also asked our audiences about what freedom meant. This is what they told us:

….My feeling of liberation came for me when I did my first spinning class and realised I felt ok with my body. I fought Anorexia since I was 8 years old, went in and out of therapy, forced eating, all of the horrible things attached to the disease. But at the age of 26, I finally felt truly free from it. Safe to say I cried for the whole ride.

Liberation! The moment I first entered my freshly rented room in Amsterdam at the age of 18! It liberated me from all the conservative provincialism and above all my parents! In my thoughts I wrote ‘my palace!’ at the door!

I once went to Schiphol after an afterparty to the tui travel agency Bali to ask where we could fly at that moment in the middle of winter to go enjoy some sun. The woman told me no problem. There is a flight in 30 mins to Tenerife and the weather is lovely. 30 mins later we were on a plane and had the best sun of our lives.

As a Indian woman I was bound with some inculcated culture of restraining and restriction, not only in behaviour but thoughts as well which led me to be in a marriage, which was mentally physically and emotionally abusive. It felt a quick sand from where there is no way out, because of the fear of unknown on the other end of spectrum, making me feel highly underconfident. One day the husband came with a knife and I realised that nothing can be worse than this. At that moment I stepped out and entered an entirely unknown space of liberation and freedom. I slowly learnt what liberation word meant for me and it created a world for me, which I am extremely thankful for. This free world of mine, which I will safe guard with all my might.

always thought that once my mom accepts my queerness I will finally feel liberated… I came to The Netherlands and found the one person that made me wish I would not die soon, so that I can extend my happiness next to them. I had the opportunity to finally go back to my country and, after a decade of struggle, get my mom to accept who I am and who I love… and then I finally felt liberated, but I also found myself seeking for more liberation. Now, as a queer latin migrant, I am back at that place, waiting for that one thing to happen to be liberated… AGAIN: my belonging. I then came to realise that liberation is not that one thing we get in our journey called life… but this constant continuum that never ends. Liberation just makes us crave… seek… wish… another type of freedom…. And that… Is ok…

On my first date with my now fiancé I accidentally farted on her. 🤷‍♂️

The morning I woke up in Amsterdam after a long ride from Jordan, I walked outside without a feminine Hijab in the street, I saw my reflection on a building and it was the first time I recognized myself in a public space

The freedom to walk around naked in your apartment without caring what the neighbors think.

Is there liberation in going back to your own country?
I left it almost 12 years ago and what I needed to free myself from is very different from what it is now.
It’s funny how almost everything I despised about my own roots are now the very same things I look for when I travel. And I do that a lot as part of my job. Whenever I go somewhere new I look for those roots, though they are wearing different clothes and speaking different languages than the ones I learned to despise. It took me many years of wandering and as many of therapy to figure out that the rejection I felt in and towards my own island, was a rejection of myself. And I was looking for myself in all those new places, new voices, smells, and flavours.
I don’t know if I will find myself again back home, but I know what I need to free myself from. And that is shame. Shame of being proud of my roots. Shame of speaking my own language. Shame of wearing my traditional clothes and dance my traditional dances.

My story of liberation:

I am Arabic, raised Muslim but ironically, bisexual. My first experience with a woman was a day before my exams.
I met her on lesbian tinder: Her. We texted and met at a bar near my house, chit chatted and then I had my tongue in her mouth. After a long walk at a park, I took her down to my apartment. And then… she enjoyed it, I didn’t so much. I wanted it to end so bad, but she slept over. Next morning, I had to get ready for my exam, she asks me to get breakfast but I only offer a cup of tea (I know, shame on my Syrian self).
As I run around and try to make her the tea, I open a cabinet and an iron you iron clothes with fell with the point down onto my toe.
Long story short, I get rushed to the hospital with my lesbian hookup only to meet my mother there worried mother.
How do you even explain this situation to a Muslim mother?
I fabricated a lie,
At the end I failed my exam
Failed my mother but at least I got a cool scar on my big toe!

For me freedom showed itself in micro moments of happiness. Mostly when sitting on my bike, having the wind brushing my hair back, cold on my face – Sometimes warm. Like today, this sudden spring rain – It was beautiful. I know, people don’t particularly like the rain, I kind of always embraced it.
Last autumn I moved to this beautiful city out of complete randomness. I didn’t know anyone, didn’t have a job here (that one is back in Vienna still). But Austria felt like a cage, a corset that was tightening up with every month that passed. When I decided to move away, it was just an away – Amsterdam happened along the way. I knew, I was suddenly free when I arrived on a sunny day in October. Entering my first ever home (alone). Everything kind of fell into place. I know, many people here complain about the weather, but for me the sun has been shining since then. And I appreciate every tiny bit of it. Because it’s freedom, and freedom is live. And I wanted to share a moment of it with you. Thanks :))

My loving, amazing, traditional, religious mother passed away from covid in 2021 and until then, I’d felt pressure to find a man and have a child… as the years ticked by. When she died; along with extreme, ongoing sadness – came freedom and liberation from having to live in her idea of what a woman’s role is and who a woman should be with. I now live as a happy, single, queer, childfree woman enjoying all that life has to offer!

And often wonder what she’d make of it all…while missing her terribly!

I am russian and I have felt free only when I was protesting against government, political repressions and unfair elections. I have always had love-hate relationships with my country and spent my whole adult life in this desperate protest. Most of our co-citizens were against us oppositioners and even hated us so only when protesting I felt myself among people who share the country, pain and responsibility with me. Now after Russia invaded Ukraine I don’t feel free at all. I had to leave Russia because people who tell the truth go to jail there. And I feel even more hated by my co-citizens. But everywhere else I also feel like I don’t have a right to say anything at all because I’m from the country which started this terrible war and I am told over and over again that I am responsible for it. Like the woman from Turkey I don’t have any conclusion. And I also don’t have any hope that some day I will be able to love my country without pain and guilt.

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