At the International American School in Cairo (IAS)
“Like all of us,
Â you drew Cupid and an arrow with two letters
and waited for knight and horse.
Just like every dark-skinned girl,
you dreamed of high-heel shoes
and transparent stockings.
Hair ribbons and plaits bored you.
And like us -if you had stayed behind-
you would have had children
and would curse the absurdity of men.
Like us, girl,
but we did not stop in front of a bulldozer to be crushed
to speak with God!
We did not stop a cannon
that wanted to snatch a child
from his laughter!”
That girl was Rachel Corrie, an American girl, who traveled to Palestine as a peace activist and stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer to protect a Palestinian house from demolition in Rafah. The bulldozer crushed her! Ms. Fatma Naout titled this poem “Your Name is Rachel Corrie.”
Those words were beautifully written by an Egyptian woman Fatma Naoot, describing another womanâ€™s political activism for social justice. Today I am honored to introduce to the audience this influential poet, translator and architect. Born in 1964 in Cairo, she later graduated with a Bachelorâ€™s degree in Architecture from Ein Shams University in 1987. Moving away from her â€œdegreeâ€, she has published 17 books to date: six poetry collections, seven translated anthologies from English into Arabic, and three books of literary criticism.
Empathy put yourself in someone elseâ€™s shoes. Feel the feelings of someone outside of you. Think the thoughts of someone other than your own. Many of her poems advocate for social justice and cover deep topics that some people refuse to address, such as religious intolerance, as can be seen in a poem entitled “A little imagination will do us no harmâ€. This poem, asks Muslims to put themselves in the place of the Christians who find themselves facing discrimination, even in simple acts such as drinking water from the same bottle! Her choices of words force the reader to imagine themselves as others as they are reading. To some it may seem exaggerated, but these references force the reader to realize the seriousness of this issue, even though many believe that its resolved and the silliness in which some try to defend their closed minded perspectives and actions towards the other. In this poem, she asks the â€œmajorityâ€ Muslim society to think about how Islamic culture is currently being forced onto to the Christian minority, and how this is a form of intolerance in of itself. I personally didnâ€™t recognize the extent of the religious intolerance that exists even in the things we take for granted such as the force of the call to prayer. Even more importantly, we have learned that throughout history, Egyptian people have not allowed religion to divide its citizens and have risen above such attempts to divide society, using slogans such as â€œReligion for God, Homeland for allâ€
On this point specifically, in an article in which this poem was published, she stresses that this intolerance is not something that comes from the Egyptian culture, but rather a distraction from the real chaos, telling people â€œLets be smarter than our government, although our government is tyrannical together, it likes to win by getting the majority to tyrannize the minority, Are we obliged to act this way? How long have we behaved this way? Since the 70s, only a few decades, a blink of an eye across history.â€
In her poetry, she is commenting on the current political, economic, and social situation, questioning the peopleâ€™s actions, and documenting it. In doing so, she proves Louis F. Markertâ€™s paper, which states that throughout the ages, poems and lyrics have moved and informed people of all ages
Â Poetry has always been a means of expressing peopleâ€™s thoughts and feelings along with documenting history. Many poets such as Hafiz Ibrahim and Mahmoud Sami El Baroudy poetically communicated with the Egyptians about denouncing imperialism and their feeling of nationalism that moved people to bring alive sentiments that existed within them. Their poetry brought people closer, more unified, and expressed something many could not express themselves. Then, and still today, poetry is a medium that has given a voice to many who do not have a voice, as can be seen with poets such as Ahmed Fouad Negm. And for us today, gives us a reference and an impression about what was experienced in the development and formation of a modern Egypt, the Egypt we have today, as we can see in a poem Hafez Ibrahim wrote about womenâ€™s participation the 1919 Revolution: Beautiful women marched in protest/ I went to observe their rally./I found them proudly/Brandishing the blackness of their garments./They looked like stars,/Gleaming ain a pitch-black night./They took to the streets;/Saadâ€™s home was their target.â€ Each poet has contributed in a way to our culture, Ms. Fatma Naout chose to publish many of her works that have influenced the readerâ€™s minds with a message of dignity and respect for all, regardless of race, religion, or creed. There are different ways in which people could play an active role in the society. It is obvious that Ms.Fatma Naout has chosen poetry as her main means of awakening people to the ugly truth.
In this we, would like to thank her for everything she has done and continues to do for the development of our Egyptian culture with this token from us.