March 3, 2007

A Forbidden Love.

Have you ever been in Love?

Do you remember those moments when you were willing to cross oceans to meet your lover?
Or when you drove miles just to see her?
Or the anticipation of meeting her and your heart pounding away, flying out of your chest and your mind getting foggy and you just could not wait to hold her in your arms again?
Do you remember your longings and your yearnings? Do you remember how everything seemed tasteless, so bland without her?
Do you remember being stuck in memories of your togetherness, replaying every single instant over and over and how eager you were to relive them in full intensity?
Do you remember how every minute in the waiting felt like an eternity and the relief when the waiting was over and you finally saw each other and you felt brand new all over again?

Well, Nayla and Sami are terribly in Love.
They met in 2004 in Baghdad. She is a sunni, he a shia. That was never an issue for either nor for their respective families.
They are both young adults and knew that this is "It". The search is over.
They got engaged and were eagerly looking forward to their wedding, their final union.

Sami needed a little more time. He needed to sort himself out financially so he can start a family and Nayla was willing to wait a little longer.
The important thing is that they are together, so they thought.

In early 2006, Nayla's family received several death threats and were forced to leave Baghdad. Her father an ex-government employee understood that he was targeted.
He decided he was not willing to turn his wife into a widow. They packed some of their belongings, took the little savings he had put aside for his daughter's wedding and escaped to Amman.

Nayla was devastated being far from Sami, so was he. But he promised he would join her later on that year. Nothing was going to stand in their way, so they believed.

They kept in touch, through phone calls, text messages and emails.
Their love just grew with the distance and Sami could not wait for the day to be with Nayla again in Amman.

About a month ago, Sami decided he could no longer bear being away.
And true to his words, he took leave without pay from his work, bundled a few things in a suitcase, hired a cab and headed to Amman. It was going to a be surprise for Nayla. Her wedding gift, the only thing he could afford.

He finally made it to the Jordanian border after a long and hazardous drive.
Stuck at the Jordanian border for 5 hours - passport control.

No restaurant, no restroom, crowds and endless number of men, women and children waiting to cross that line and Sami is one of them.
Patience, he said to himself, it will soon be over and he will feel brand new again the minute he sees Nayla.

His turn finally came. The passport controller looked at his passport, stared at him, looked at the passport again, shook his head and said in a stern voice "No entry".
"What, why?" exclaimed Sami, "this passport was issued in 2005, it's brand new. I have a clean record. Here is a letter from my employer, this is my I.D, this is where I will be staying in Amman...."
"I said No entry, it is not possible, yalla next!"
"No, wait. What do you mean it is not possible, I have been travelling for 11 hours and waiting in line for over 4 hours...please don't do this to me".
"I said it is forbidden. Orders."
"What orders? What are you talking about?"
" Forbidden, means no entry...yalla next!"
"But please, understand..."
"Don't make me lose my temper, your passport is an M category. Your goverment gave us clear orders that no M category gets in. Only passports issued in 2006 are valid. Government"
" But..."
" I said NEXT or you will be held up for interrogation!"

Sami's world crumbled. His hopes, his longing, his yearning, every single moment of anticipation in joy, evaporated.
He called Nayla. Explained to her what happened and how sorry he was to spoil the surprise for her...But he promised her he will return to Baghdad and head to Syria the following day.
And this is exactly what he did. There was no time to issue a new passport, the waiting list was too long. He hired another cab and headed to Damascus.

Finally after another long drive and another wait at the borders, they stamped his passport and he was in ....and now it was a question of days before he could meet Nayla. She had decided to meet him in Damascus since he was not allowed entry into Jordan. He calls her. They are both ecstatic.They will be reunited again soon.

She has everything ready, tomorrow she is taking a cab and heading to Syria to meet the man she adores, the man soon to become her husband.
"There is hope" she thought to herself "life is good after all". "I will feel brand new again when I see him, my weariness from distances and separation will soon be over, it's only a matter of hours."

With this strong belief and a firm faith in their Love and in Life, she embarks on a 5 hours ride to the Syrian border.
Again, the same scene repeats itself, endless queues and she waits and waits...
Finally it's her turn.

The passport controller flips through her passport, looks at her, flips again, looks at her again and says "Sorry no entry."
"What? Why? All my documents are in order. Please..."
"No, sorry, no entry, forbidden. Next!"
"Please, please ...why...tell me why?" Nayla is tears.
"Government regulations" he replies abruptly "Next!"
"What regulations? I have a valid passport"
"Don't make me lose my patience" he snapped back "Your passport was issued in 2004, it is no longer valid"
"But it is valid, look at the date"
His voice grew louder "I said it is no longer valid.Government orders. Next!"
"But please, I beg of you."
"NEXT or else..."

Nayla returns to the car sobbing. "Take me back to Amman" she says to the taxi driver.
She calls Sami and breaks the news. A short exchange of words, followed by a long silence...then a parting sentence and they both said: "Inshallah, maybe one day"

Love was denied entry, prohibited, forbidden and all it needed was a stamp.
But Love remained stuck at the borders, unable to take root anywhere, unable to flower, unable to reach its ultimate destination.
A Love under occupation, a stolen love...a reflection of the land it emanated from.
Each of the lovers returned to their prisons, away from each other, feeling old and used, with broken dreams and hopes, as broken and as hopeless as the "new" Iraq.

PS: An article appeared confirming this new "government order".
PSS: By the way you have not answered my question. Have you ever been in Love? Yes? Lucky you, you are not an Iraqi. It's forbidden. Next!

Painting: Iraqi female artist Betool Fekeiki