"My misfortune led to my fortune." - Zainab Salbi
Zainab Salbi Early Life
When she was growing up in Iraq, Zainab Salbi probably never envisioned herself becoming a activist, much less the co-founder of an organization devoted to promoting the rights of women. Salbi was the daughter of Saddam Hussein's pilot, and as such, had an inside view of the Baathist regime. She learned first hand how war affects women, how women are used and abused in war, how war crimes such as rape, leads to silence and the robbing of women's voices. Salbi herself was protected by her mother who promoted independence, encouraging Salbi to be her own person, not to find her value or identity in the role of the wife of a man.
Zainab Salbi's life turned sharply in 1990. Her mother, the mother who had promoted independence throughout Salbi's life, inexplicably demanded that Salbi be joined to a man in an arranged marriage. Unbeknownst to Salbi, her mother's actions were intended to protect Salbi from the Hussein regime and the situation in Iraq that was destabilizing by the moment.
Salbi did as she was told, moved to the States, and married the man. Only one month later, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and all communication between Salbia and her family was terminated. As if isolation from her family and life in a foreign country were not were not enough stress, Salbi began to suffer the trauma of abuse at the hands of the man she was forced to marry but whom she did not love.
Although Salbi's mother had insisted upon her arranged marriage, something that seemed in direct opposition to all that she had taught her daughter, Salbi's mother's words and teachings regarding independence never left her. Salbi refused to stay in an abusive marriage and despite living in a foreign country with few contacts, Salbi had the courage to leave her marriage behind and start a new life. Salbi not only started a new life for herself, but discovered a way to enrich the lives of other women. Salbi married again, this time to Amjad Atallah, a man who was as concerned about women and women's rights as Salbi.
Salbi and Atallah were both concerned about the abuses of women in war, specifically concerned about the use of rape as a weapon and the treatment of women in concentration camp environments. They wanted to volunteer for an organization devoted to this cause but they could not find one that had this issue at its heart. So, Salbi and Atallah founded their own, the organization known as Women for Women International.
Salbi has written two books, Between Two Worlds, an account of her childhood, escape from Iraq, and inside look at the regime of Saddam Hussein. Her other book, The Other Side of War: Women's Stories of Survival and Hope, looks at the devastating effects of war, especially how it effects women and how women can take action to give these women back the voice that war has ripped from their throats.
*~Aisling Ireland~* is long time human rights activist, a active member of Amnesty International, a One Campaign supporter, writer, and an ordained Spiritual Counselor.
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