Imagine a house that is literally falling apart. The windows are broken, rain leaks through the ceiling, and the furniture is worn out.
Imagine that this house is the responsibility of a man who cares only about himself. He has a nice room in this house which is air-conditioned and maintained very nicely. He has no idea about who is in the house and who is not. He does not even know the number of children who live there or their names. He does not care whether they go to school or not, whether they have eaten or gone to sleep hungry. He could care less about their health or wellbeing. He isolates himself in his nice room and interacts with the neighbors as if everything is fine.
But the children are tired, distressed, and some of them have gone astray. Some have dropped out of school, and some become drug addicts. Some have become bullies and are terrorizing the younger ones to obey their orders. Some are trying to live a decent life and are trying to keep it together, but they are fragmented and lack resources. They are afraid if the man of the house sees that they are grouping the children around them that he would feel threatened and think that they want to take his place and his very nice room.
Now imagine that this man has a rich next door neighbor. The neighbor sees that this house is falling apart and suspects that through the cracks a terrorist has entered this damaged house and is lurking among the poor children, waiting for an opportunity to jump into the rich man’s house and influence his own children.
The rich man cannot risk having a terrorist living next door, and he is haunted by this threat. He can’t sleep and his family repeatedly reminds him that he should do something about this problem.
The rich man goes to the neighbor and says:
“I have reason to believe that your house is a haven for a terrorist. My sources and intelligence show that he is among your children. I am concerned that this terrorist will come and threaten my interests or blow up my house. I need you to get rid of it.”The selfish man says:
“But I am poor. I can’t do it. Look... I have too many children. I don’t have time for this. I have to feed them, and I have too many broken chairs I need to repair and we have no water and the power will be disconnected soon as we have not paid the bill…”The rich man responds:
“I will give you money, you just make sure you get rid of this terrorist or I will!”So the man goes inside the house. He looks around and starts to shout at his children: “One of you is a terrorist and I will find out who.” He turns the children against each other. He promises that the person who tells on the “terrorist or thief” will get a nice reward from the many treasures hidden in his room. He also beats them up to make them speak, and he destroys what little furniture is there. He disrupts the life the children were trying to make for themselves, but eventually he does find the terrorist and hands him over to the rich neighbor with a grin.
In the process of hunting down the threat, this man has terrified and angered many of the children who were not involved in this issue. They decided they don’t like how they are treated. Someone from inside and others through the window start saying that they should do something about it. And although the head of the house has captured one terrorist, he has created many more in the process.
The children are unhappy, the neighbor is unhappy, and the man is using their mutual annoyance to make more money.
The riddle is: What should be done to make things right? Please send me your suggestions. I really want to know.
Nadia al-Sakkaf is the Editor-in-Chief of the Yemen Times, the most widely-read English language newspaper in Yemen. She is an active advocate for SAVE, and has been instrumental in exposing the issue of child brides in Yemen to international media. Al-Sakkaf was awarded with the first Gebran Tueni Award for journalistic integrity and demonstrated excellence in leadership, managerial, and professional standards. The Yemeni Times is considered one of the strongest forces in Yemen today for checking government corruption and influencing public policy.
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