The Experiences That Made Ayaan Hirsi Ali an Activist


3 years ago



Ayaan Hirsi Ali

1 appearance

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a human rights activist and author of the new book "Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women's Rights."


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Is this particularly offensive to you because, I mean it must be because of your background and you briefly talked about that but for people who don't know you I would like you to explain your upbringing, where you came from and how you had to literally risk your life to escape that So I was born in Somalia in 1969 and growing up in the 70s my family went to Saudi Arabia we went to Ethiopia, we went to Kenya that's where I learned English and then finally in 1992 I ended up in the Netherlands but if you ask me in the context of science to tell you about those years between you know when I could walk and talk and understand what was going around me until about 1992 when I left I come from territories where superstition is it's the thing to do you know my father left us in 1982 he left us in Kenya he went back to Ethiopia to fight for what he felt was his calling a democracy and a just system for the Somali people but in Kenya my mother who was with my grandmother her mother's mother they felt abandoned in a strange country and they didn't understand what was going on and they had the three of us the three of us that is my older brother and my younger sister and as children go we were terrible and I remember my mother going off to see witch doctors and ask them how do I deal with my daily life and those witch doctors would want one thing which was whatever money she could give them and if she couldn't give money then it would be her goat or it would be something that they treasured and in Kenya I'm 10 11 12 13 14 years old and all the time when she goes to these people all I want to say to her is this is superstition you're wasting your money you're wasting your time leave them alone my mother couldn't read or write so I didn't know a way of expressing that and then soon after in 1985 I was 15 years old when members of the muslim brotherhood came along and they finally convinced my mother and grandmother and all the women in our neighborhoods do not reach out to the superstitious don't go to the witch doctors come to god one and only read the quran they can't read the quran so they have to trust in what he tells them the hadith muhammad's way of doing things and in a way I felt I felt grateful to the people who had shep had the women of the grown-up women of my life away from these superstitious people to the one and two and only god it just happened to be another superstition better organized more slick but at the time you didn't think so at the time I didn't think so of course at the time I completely believed in it why did you why did you know that the witch doctors were just superstitious and that it was nonsense that's such an early age I'm in fourth grade I had the fortune to actually go to school and be taught such things as science to the science class biology cause and effects the way things happen one of the things that ravaged us was malaria I got malaria everybody I know got malaria most people had families where people died people got sick really very sick and then died and the witch doctors were supposed to make these people well and they were at any rate supposed to stop them from dying so going to the biology class when we were told they literally to look at an insect called a mosquito and dissect it and look at its behavior and how it sees still water lays its eggs and what happens when that mosquito comes and injects its what do you call it that little piece of itself into you draws your blood and leaves something in you which is the parasite once you understand that and this is I'm in fourth grade fifth grade once they teach that and they show how it works you go home and you say don't give any more money to the witch doctor actually what we should do is go around to all the little puddles and pools of water around us let's drain those dry those keep our windows shut we had this big can of pesticide called doom and I would say let's spray those after we had done all of that and we wouldn't have malaria because that's how we did so I found myself even at that age confronting grown-ups who were established who are well-respected and who were taking money from my poor mother because they would cure malaria and I come in I mean with the most superficial level of education you can think but objective education to say I actually get what's happening and that I can't explain to an American audience the confrontation the just the boundaries that you're crossing and and the people you're making angry the toes you're stepping on when you you know you breeze into the house and say and now I know how it works so you as a as a young woman were going to be forced into an arranged marriage and this is what made you flee and and head to Europe and wind up in Holland correct that's correct yeah can you explain how that was going down so this is 1992 and by then I'm 22 years old so we've been in Kenya from 1980 to in my case 1992 my father left us in 1982 and I was about 12 years old and all this time he was gone he was gone for 10 years and he comes back and he says it's time for you to get married you hadn't seen him in 10 years I hadn't seen him in 10 years how do you communicate with him at all he used to write letters and after a while the letter stopped but the point in terms of these him taking the duty upon himself it's his duty so the way it works in Somali culture in many parts of the world that culture is the father's responsible for who he's your guardian he's your male guardian he's responsible for who he's going to pass you on to that's finding you the right husband but because he was gone from 82 to 1992 I was able to get on with age and get stronger and wiser but also see some of my classmates and my friends who were forced into these arranged marriages and my takeaway from looking at their lives was I don't want my life to unfold that way because it was really a replication of my own mother's life and my mother's life was miserable every country we went to my mom didn't speak the language she didn't want to learn the language but she felt betrayed she felt out of depth she was angry she was full of resentment and she took it all out on us so watching what was happening to these young women I thought surely life must offer more than that and I to this day say I am grateful that my father left us when he did and came back when he did because had he been with us earlier he might have taken this initiative to force me into marriage at the age of 15 16 17 and at that age I'm not sure I would have accomplished what I did at 22 and when he was gone I missed him and I was miserable I wanted him to come back and be with us but then again everything is about hindsight in hindsight I think what if he had married me off at 15 or 16 or 17 or 18 you know what kind of future would I have had the environment that you lived in you felt like women were second-class citizens and you felt like they were the property of men and they were at the beck and call of men and they were they weren't allowed to speak up they weren't allowed to do many things that men were allowed to do and they had to know their place yes how frustrating was that it was hugely frustrating also I'm not trying to defend where I come from but Joe when I listen to you talk like that what I want to say is I know you've got an American western attitude so you're observing them through that prism through the lens of oh these women are oppressed they aren't allowed to do anything and it's it's objectively true I wholeheartedly agree with you and there's so many women in that in those positions who agree with you but being on the inside being raised within that culture when you complain about the absolute obedience that you have to show to your father and other male relatives when you talk when you object to the fact that you're not supposed to have a will of your own or desires of your own or things you want to do the put down was always that you are the rebel you're sinning you are you're breaking the rules and the laws and the norms and the customs so you are wrong and there would be conversations between my mother and her relatives on how can we bring her back into the straight path if you will the religious edicts the tribal and clan edicts and that's where things when things get out of hand because from one day you are the insider they try to mold you into the insiders beliefs and norms you fail to do that and if you're not careful you'll be made the outsider were you unique amongst your friends and the people in your family in your beliefs that this was wrong no i was not alone there were girls and women around me whom i i really consider them to be so much smarter stronger more informed in many ways wiser more informed in many ways wiser who i would look up to they might be two or three years older than me and i would say well i'm really having a hard time right now with my mother and sticking to the rules how do you do it how have you done it and the answers i would get most often would be you're young you will learn there's no way out of here so what you need to do is show willpower show strength show commitment everybody goes through this for some it will be harder than others but the constant the thing i've solved constantly is it's as hard as you make it in other words the sooner you submit the sooner all these hardships go away and then you're just one of us and you're doing what you're supposed to do what you were created to do by god you're taking your place the more you say i'm not going to do this i'm going to read this novel it's not my turn to do the dishes it's someone else's turn you start fantasizing about where you think you could be then you are stepping on so many toes at that point and you know there's nobody who's going to be on your side so you can make the pain as long as you wanted it to be catch new episodes of the joe rogan experience for free only on spotify watch back catalog jre videos on spotify 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