Have you ever felt too accustomed to something because you’ve thought about it too much? Like being alone at home with no one around, deep in thought, suddenly aware that the causes of your stress, hurt, and sadness clouding your mind as a headache have all vanished. Maybe you haven’t yet solved this problem, you just accepted it, dealt with it, because you got used to it. The problem may only affect a few people like at work, something personal with your partner, or maybe they’re bigger than society itself. You know you can’t do it alone.
What about getting too accustomed to being careless about the world we live in? At this point, the problem isn’t a lover’s quarrel or a spat between friends. No, those small problems can be safely ignored. The problems we can’t ignore are those affecting millions, affecting our human family around the world.
What should we do then? Should we go home and sit in front of the television, drinking our coffee and tea, pretending nothing happened? If we step out of the way, toward our chairs and away from the challenge of doing the right thing, we only succeed in empowering those cruel people who wouldn’t have it any other way. The moment we stop caring, those cruel people will fill the void of our inaction with their injustice, their inequality, and their inhumanity. Those people may be your boss, your parents, your partner, or they may be unknown strangers never met. They are also world leaders, criminals, and ideologues, drawing their power from our silence.
My new book, A Lullaby in the Desert, stands up for those who cannot defend themselves. It speaks for those women, children, and men who still fight for their freedom, whose struggles are answered with the cold steel of bullets, with the masked face of the executioner. If we become accustomed to accepting their fates in silence, we produce those fates for them.
Susan, our protagonist in A Lullaby in the Desert, believes in justice, equality, and humanity. She seeks the freedom that we are born with but lost as soon as our eyes open. Borders and innocence are both a mirage for Susan as she makes her way through the maze of Iraq, Syria, and Iran while everyone, from her uncouth boss hiding behind his position to depraved smugglers hiding behind their guns, attempts to wield an unjust power over her in her state of weakness and helplessness.
Writing helps me to stay vigilant and aware of those injustices occurring all around me in this world. I am repeating the words I hear, yes, repeating them, but in a way that ensures they are not forgotten like so many news stories flashing across the screen. I write to ensure we not only bear witness to what’s going on, but also to take steps to be responsible for the good we can do in the world.
We are all affected by our environments, whether good or bad. This reminds me of a saying in Persian uttered when we encounter someone by accident after years of not seeing one another: “It’s a small world!” Our world is so small and sooner or later our actions will affect everyone, including ourselves and those on the other side of the planet. Violence is just like the COVID-19 pandemic affecting all of us. We are struggling, millions have died, untold others suffer. Many have lost their loved ones; many have become homeless. This has really shown the connectedness we share as humans.
We shouldn’t let borders divide us, and they certainly don’t keep us all safe. Sometimes they trap us. Borders sift us into groups and make us sit far away from one another, creating animosity and otherness. It’s time to stand up and come together.
Let’s come together as one, using our connectedness for positive change to make a better world for us and for the generations to come. Let’s give voices to the voiceless, let’s show our care and put our hope into action. Let’s be someone our children will be proud to emulate.
MOJGAN AZAR was born in Iran and lived most of her adult life in Iraq. She was living in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2014 when the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham swept through the area, displacing millions and trapping Mojgan in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Her harrowing experiences have inspired her writings, and for the first time, she is making that story known to the world.