Over mint Morrocan tea oured from ahigh into rainbow coloured glasses from an embossed silver pot, a glazed look comes over his eyes as he sits with OPNO.
OPNO is shaded by a tassled curtain in one Muscat restaurant, hidden around the corner from prying eyes. He sits her here purposefully, as he is always protective of her, this Omani man, disguised as he is in Western clothing, afraid that she talks too loud, afraid that her actions attract attention. He knows she was once a writer, and he has read all her works, but what he doesn't know is that she writes this blog.
OPNO isn't an attentive person by nature. She isn't a good listener. She doesn't like to sit still or be quiet, but something haunted in that man's eyes, something of a distant guilt, makes her sit back quietly and sip her tea. Trading secrets for secrets, they talk about women bought and sold, of freedom, and of threats from afar. OPNO knows this story. She too once knew a woman, a group of women, she couldn't save. If only she'd spent less money on souvenirs, she could have saved more... But this wasn't her story. It was a story about an Oman she hadn't known for a long time.
OPNO's companion tells that once he knew a Morrocan girl who was a dancer, and not a very good one.
The girl had just come from Morroco, signing a contract for 400 OMR/RO so that she could feed her family.
He knew she was different from her actions. She could not leave her work and accomodation. And she was not being paid her salary, despite having paid for own visa and airfare. Her boss, a dirty man, gave her the option of switching her visa to another man for another line of employment, which she was no longer naive enough to hope well of.
In case you do not know what I am speaking of, the girl was going to be sold to some influential but heavily corrupt members of Omani society with too much wasta for even OPNO as protected as she is in her present sphere of influence, to write the names. May Allah curse them!!!!!
And the man who fears for her without knowing what she does and what she knows, made OPNO promise not to ask for them or speak them if she guessed.
The Omani who earns OPNO's respect and admiration further (as undeserved as OPNO is of any confidence or respect from this man) went out of his way to find the poor tricked Morrocan girl a respectful and decent job (not that as a dancer to be sold into nigh prostitution) and went to her wicked boss with the money to buy her freedom.
Attempting to do so, he was turned down, then threatened, and his family. He was told to forget the girl, forget the place, forget the names. But he could not forget.
The girl was smart. She went back to Morroco. True, she left with less than she had come with, but she escaped. Now, she does not have enough to feed her family, but she is not a plaything for sale to some of our rich and corrupt and evil beyond measure in Muscat.
Now things like Morrocan slippers and djellaba, takchita, and mint tea in jewel-toned glasses bring unshed tears to OPNO's confidante's eyes. He thinks he is wicked for something that was not his sin.
OPNO, who does not touch hands with men who are not her relation, wants to hug this man, who took her to eat her favourite food even though it conjurs ghosts from his past, as she sits there in her bejeweled silk pants, legs crossed, sipping her tea. What OPNO asks for, of men, is nothing, and it is alot.
That they be brave as this one.
The choice to try to do the right thing, the choice to speak the truth when it is easier to keep silent, that is the only freedom that OPNO believes there is in this world.
I apologize for the melancholy post. These things break me. OPNO's definition of modern slavery: a slave is someone who has no choice to do the good thing, the right thing, over a wrong.
Allah help all the Muslims be strong enough to free their slaves, the slaves their lifestyle inherently creates, even if they are not slaves as before... Ameen.