“What are you asking for? Didn’t you hear how a five year old got butchered last week? There’s no future here. Everyone’s trying to run away, I have dreams that my children will become something in their life, and then they’ll get away from here. Not end up a wazaa (wedding chef) like me.”
“In my marriage, we had planned for a big tent, at least 500 guests, and typical ‘wazwan’ food. The situation turned sour, and we had to call it off, and invite the most immediate family members only. I remember the militants came in to check how much meat we had. They told the butcher “use only 25kg of meat”. Yes weddings still happen despite the situation here, but it takes something away from the atmosphere of celebration.”
“He thought he was going to work as a tailor, that was his trade. Instead he was forced into some labour camp, and called us after six months. He said he was trapped, and just managed to escape. I think he’s working a job he’s happier with now.”
“That’s human trafficking.”
“Yeah…but would you be able to help me get a real job in Malaysia?”
“Very good. Purely good. People could go out, they could walk around freely, they could be out late at night. There was no tension, no fear of what you were speaking about and who you were telling it to. There was no curfew. Now everyday somebody dies, somebody is blinded. You hear about it, and you pray that everyone you know is fine. Just yesterday the military broke the glass, the windows, ran after the small kids who pelted them with stones. They take them, they torture them. I worry for my son when he goes out late for his duties, I worry if they’ve taken him. I have four daughters at home, and all I can do is lock my windows to protect them. Poor people like us don’t have anyone we can go to for help. We can’t go to the police. We can’t leave the country.”
I thought they would be safe. That same night some army men came in. They crashed down the doors, they started shouting, and one told my mother to get on the bed.
She begged them, she pleaded, she tried everything. My kids saw everything. Finally a Muslim militant came in and she appealed to him as a Muslim woman. He gave her the signal to slip away with my kids from the house.
We are not even safe in our own homes. Our children are not safe in their grandmother’s house even. There are weeks where they cannot go to school because of the rioting, the protesting, the violence. I tell them to sit at home, sleep the day off. Better they sleep than hear what is going on outside. They miss their education, but at least they stay alive. I have dreams for them too. I have dreams that they get a good job in a good position. I had dreams for myself once.”