By: Asma Al-Mohattwari
Ahlam led a comfortable life with her parents, sisters and brothers. She was smart, kind and loved by everyone at her school. At the same time, she was very sober-minded and mature, and her actions indicated that she was an adult and not a teenager. She was different. Ahlam didn’t like to waste her time on something unbeneficial; her companions during school breaks were not friends, but books.
When she heard some of her classmate talking about men, she directly advised them to focus on their studies rather than engage in such idle conversation. When she was asked about her ‘lover’, she ignored the questioners with an innocent smile on her face, but insulted them in her heart.
Ahlam graduated from secondary school with high marks. Her dream was to be a doctor, but her family initially didn’t allow her to attend university because she was a girl. But after many efforts by her aunts and sisters, her father finally consented to allow her to do so.
She was so happy. She joined the collage which she wanted, and from then on further developed her intelligence while remaining active and serious. Ahlam certainly wasn’t hesitant about offering answers in the classroom. Ahlam finished her first year having gained the highest marks in her class. Tragedy struck in her second year, when a classmate named Emad asked her to lend him her notebook. Ahlam did so, but couldn’t have known at the time that her life would later turn upside down because of this same notebook.
Emad gave Ahlam her notebook back, and when at home, she opened the book to find a message inside. The message was about Emad’s feelings towards her. It was full of words about love, poems; he had also included a picture of himself in the notebook. She felt a strange unfamiliar feeling in response to such words, and it was in fact the first time she had directly encountered them used in such a way. Surprisingly, though, she found she liked the message and soon began thinking about Emad.
Emad continued sending her messages through a girl in their class. One day, he asked her to give him her phone number. After lengthy deliberation, she finally gave in and gave it to him. Their love story developed, and became stronger. As the days went by, Ahlam started to neglect her studying and her grades began to decline. She loved Emad so much and now found herself feeling she couldn’t live without him or without hearing his voice.
“Three years have passed; there is only one year left, and I will then come to ask your hand from your father and we will get married,” Emad soon told Ahlam.
Their last year studies arrived, and Ahlam felt happy when she thought about how in a matter of months she and Emad would be living in the same house. One day, Ahlam went to the college to look for Emad but found that he was absent. She called him, but his phone was closed. She began to feel worried.
“What’s wrong with him? Maybe he’s sick, or something bad may have happened to him,” were among the thoughts which streamed through her mind.
“Emad got married and he’s now spending his honeymoon in Aden with his wife,” were the words Ahlam heard, nonchalantly delivered by a friend of Emad’s.
When she finally reached him, it turned out that Emad’s sole excuse was that his father had forced him to marry his cousin.
Everything was dark in front of Ahlam, and she could hardly believe what had happened. She neither cried nor spoke, but simply remained silent. Everything in her life changed; her smile left her face, and she stopped studying. Ahlam felt that her future had been destroyed because of one word – love.
“I wish my father hadn’t allowed me to join the university,” said Ahlam.
New ways, different takes
The youth have different opinions on love relationships at universities. Ali, a business administration student, believes that mixing between the sexes is necessary, especially as they had been separated until the end of secondary school. “I lived out a love story for four years and then we announced our engagement amongst others; but we then discovered that practical life is quite different from the emotional life, so we broke off the engagement,” he said.
For her part, Fatma, an English language student, said that true love in college doesn’t exist. She prefers not to socialize with men to preserve customs and traditions. She said that it is better for the girl to be far away from this type of thing in order to protect her reputation. She sees the university as a place to take in new information, and not a place for couples to come together.
On the other hand, engineering student Mohammed has a different perspective. He said he doesn’t want a traditional marriage, that he will marry a girl whom he knows and loves. “If I found the girl that I want and we fall in love, I will not hesitate to marry her,” he said.
Jamila, an M.A. student at Sana’a University, said that men look at girls in an uncaring way and under the cloak of love, and that they often have no intentions for marriage.
“We should be realistic… marriages formed in this way won’t be successful. It’s about a man thinking of how to get this girl or that at the present time because he is not ready for marriage,” she said.
Najla, a social worker, said that the issue of love among youth is very dangerous, not only so on campuses. She observes that a new openness has entered into Yemeni communities, but feels this openness doesn’t comply with local customs and traditions.
“Successful marriages should be based on respecting religion and the community; otherwise, they will be unsuccessful,” said Najla.