It’s been a turbulent week for Warwick University. A peaceful sit-in organised by ‘Warwick for Free Education’ turned ugly when West Midlands police beat, CS sprayed and threatened to taser students – the first time, incidentally, that CS spray has ever been used on students. The footage was shocking: I was sitting in the library as Facebook erupted with jaw-dropping videos that gave me goosebumps. Within hours, the Guardian and BBC were covering it and students, (in true fashion) mobilised quickly. A protest was planned for the next day. On a cold Thursday afternoon, over 1000 students gathered outside the place of the incident to express solidarity with those who were attacked, injured and arrested (observed by the Beeb, Channel 4…and police – this time soothingly dressed in eggshell blue). Speeches were read and slogans were chanted, culminating with a group of about 100 students occupying part of a university building.
I have many mottos in life: you reap what you sow, is one. Don’t wear a blue bra and white T-shirt if it looks like it’s going to rain, is another. But the one that defines me most is ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. It’s been a recurring theme that, of late, has consumed me completely. In short, it is the idea that words, though zephyrs of air, are more powerful than spilled blood. It’s the motto that keeps me writing poetry, articles and engaging in (reasoned) debate.
Since Israel started its third incursion into Gaza in 7 years – this one costing more lives, homes and sanity than either of the other two, I have been feeling indignant and powerless in equal measure. What can I do? The more focalised my anger became, the more impassioned I was to do something. When I spoke to my Palestinian father about the slaughter – a man who has endured two ethnic cleansings and a generation’s worth of pain – he just smiled wryly and said it was ‘aadi’ – normal, and that ‘Gaza will be ok’. I didn’t believe him and didn’t want to bargain on that flippant (if resilient) assumption. As an impotent observer, as a girl who neither elected my leaders, nor chose to be born into privileged security, I sought to change opinions with my words. I started reading, writing for Infita7 and recording poems (watch Palestine). I started talking openly to friends and strangers alike. My words were stronger than I gave them credit for and I’m gradually discovering more and more of my friends are seeing other side of the coin. This was my purpose: to use my tongue to articulate my anger, not allow frustration to fester into aggression.