Marhaba <<First Name>>,

I've had some wonderful conversations with amazing people. People like you; taking the time to read my letters and supporting me through this journey. 

I found myself saying to them "I'm so excited, but I am terrified."

I understand the bravery behind sharing cultural stories, since they are intimate details of a persons life. So it's important for me to create a safe and positive space for people to feel empowered to share their experiences in.

I truly believe that we have to embrace others in order for them to embrace us. With the full support of my husband and family I am choosing to put myself out there, to help people find the goodness in each other and bring awareness to cultural diversity.

Why am I afraid?

Unfortunately, my greatest fear being on this journey projects inwards. I am a strong and independent middle eastern woman from a very conservative background. By putting myself out there I am taking a huge risk; one you might not understand and I will try to explain, in the following story.

A few years back I created my first Instagram account. I happened to be visiting my family in Jordan and so were many of my girl cousins. We hadn't seen each other for a while and I was going through a fashion photography phase and needed to build my portfolio, so my beautiful cousins agreed to be my models for a day.

We had the best time experimenting with makeup, outfit changes and hairstyles. We were so determined to have fun. It didn't matter that we were fasting for Ramadan (which meant we weren't eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset.) Knowing that the images were going to be public we made sure that all the outfits were conservative. Basically, a lot of business casual outfits.

I started posting on Instagram once a day trying to build my fashion photography portfolio. Everything was going great. I was starting to build a following and my cousins were happy to see their professionally edited images. We had a lovely summer together then we all traveled back to our respective states in the U.S. 

One unfortunate morning, I get a phone call from my cousins dad begging me to take down the picture of his daughter from my Instagram page.  Since I had gotten permission to post the image I was taken a back so I said "sure uncle but can I know why?" He goes on to explain to me the situations and I am so ashamed and disgusted with the reason, I decide to delete my whole account.

What had happened was, someone decided to leave a very sexually vulgar and inappropriate Arabic comment under my cousins image. For some reason I didn't see the notification and the comment was sitting there for days. Until, my cousins dad got a phone call from an extended family member telling him about the comment. 
Right about now you might be thinking why would my cousins dad and I have such an extreme reaction to something you can easily solve by simply deleting the comment and moving on with your life. But it's not that simple.

In my culture a persons honor and reputation is everything. My cousins dad was simply trying to protect his daughter and her image. And since the comment was sexual and it was in my space I felt guilty and ashamed for subjecting my cousin to such an insult. Even though I am fully aware that I was not the one who wrote the comment, but it doesn't matter.

So why am I terrified?

Launching this project is equal to me posting my own picture on Instagram and not having control over what people are going to comment under it.

My honor is my husbands honor, and its my families honor. So I'm terrified because I am taking the biggest risk on behalf of myself and my family. I ask that you respect that I have a right to feel this way and I am simply sharing.

But my eye is on the prize, and the prize is to spread goodness and cultural awareness. So, I thank you again for being so wonderful and supporting me through this tough and exciting journey.

This email might not make sense and I'm sorry, I tried to explain it to the best of my ability. If you'd like to read more cultural stories like this, please reply to this email and let me know. I promise they won't always be this dark or confusing.

If you've gone through a similar situation, I would love to know what you did and how you handled the situation.

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Much Love,

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