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'I don't know how to celebrate': Girl without citizenship dreams of a happy Aidilfitri

Nurul Akashah has never truly celebrated Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Azzman Abdul Jamal
2 minute read
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Nurul Akashah tears up as she recalls her childhood and her experience growing up without citizenship.
Nurul Akashah tears up as she recalls her childhood and her experience growing up without citizenship.

During the month of Ramadan ahead of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, most Muslim families in the country are busy gearing up for the biggest celebration on the Islamic calendar. 

Parents shop for new clothes and plan the menu for family get-togethers while children eagerly await the trip back to their "kampung" to meet with relatives from near and far. 

But for 25-year-old Nurul Akashah, the days of celebration will pass with no acknowledgment of the occasion. 

Akashah, nicknamed Yuyu, has never celebrated Hari Raya Aidilfitri in her life. 

As far back as she can remember, her family never showed any excitement about the occasion or made any preparations to celebrate. 

"We just stayed at home," she said. "We didn't visit anyone and we didn't make any kuih or rendang. 

"We didn't even go for the Aidilfitri prayers. Now that I'm grown, I don't know how to begin celebrating. I don't know what to do." 

Akashah recalls a troubled childhood, with frequent fights between her parents due to her father's hot temper. 

Her family lived in constant fear that they would be hit by her father, a former member of the police force. 

When she was eight years old, her mother, fed up with the abuse, packed her bags and left. 

"I haven't heard from her since," Akashah said. 

She and her three siblings remained with their father until 2019, when he died of heart failure. 

Now, Akashah lives with her friends in Sungai Besi, and cherishes the hope of reuniting with her mother one day. 

In the meantime, though, she has a more pressing problem to deal with: a lack of citizenship. 

Akashah has been trying since she was 17 to apply for citizenship but without anyone to guide her, her efforts have always failed. 

Her last attempt was in March, when she wrote to Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, hoping that he would personally review her application. 

"I had to do everything on my own as my father never cared," she said. 

She googled the process herself, scouring the internet for information and tips on how to apply for citizenship. 

Without citizenship, Akashah has no access to the facilities available to other Malaysians such as education and healthcare. 

"I have no education and I can't find a permanent job," she said. "I need to pay a lot of money if I go to a government clinic or hospital."

Of her three siblings, two managed to get citizenship after being adopted by other families. 

The third, however, is still waiting together with her. 

"I hope that one day, I can be acknowledged as a Malaysian so that I can live a normal life in my own country," she said. 

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