Hesham Zakai

I am a British-Yemeni writer with an interest in refugee and migration issues, race relations, combating sexism, and global geopolitics. An Associate Director at a media company by day, I have previously worked at the Special Reports team of the Financial Times and in the Communications department of the European Parliament. I am also the former editor-in-chief of London Student, Europe’s largest student newspaper, and have published essays on topics from imperialism and the UK student movement to the history of the Middle East.

I am currently based in Tripoli, Lebanon.

Permission to Narrate 

There is a particularly painstaking scene in Shakespeare’s experimental tragedy Titus Andronicus: having been raped, Lavinia’s tongue is cut off to prevent her from being able to tell of the crimes visited upon her by Chiron and Demetrius. So her screams and protestations went in vain as the play reflects on the frustrations of being in possession of world truths yet unable to articulate them.

Elucidating similar themes in an influential essay for the London Review of Books, the late, great Palestinian-American academic and activist Edward Said explicates the ways in which this reality has confronted the people of his homeland for decades. Faced with the inexplicable horrors of expulsion and exclusion, he says, they were moreover denied the platform from which to project these horrors and hold them up to the world. They were, in other words, denied the permission to narrate.

It is a crime that has been thrust upon oppressed and dispossessed persons the world over. Against this backdrop, Said’s phrase encapsulates the importance of narrative and the right of every person to narrate their own.

Accordingly, as well as this website being somewhere for me to archive my output, this site is also a celebration of every person's self-permission to narrate.