Dear Marta- a Letter Written on the Wall of the Arab Camps
I was thinking last night of what I should prepare myself for in these days, fever from the flu that I had snuck up on me, and my thoughts were mixed with hallucinations and nightmares. I used to only have nightmares of being deported back home, or not being allowed re-entry, now I seem to have adopted the nightmares of getting beaten to death by a hate mob in a dark alley or being led in chains toward concentration camps after having missed the chance to leave this country.
What I’m writing here is not the future for sure; the knowledge of the future lies in the future. This is how I imagine the future expecting history to repeat itself.
It’s just another day at the Arab camps. I haven’t been sleeping very well and my neck still hurts as I haven’t yet gotten used to sleeping with shoes as a pillow. But that’s only one of many things that I have to get used to. Yesterday I ate a fruit, you know how much I dislike eating fruits, but they didn’t serve anything else for breakfast, and I didn’t dare to ask. Two weeks ago, an old man dared to ask for a creamer in his coffee and the guards forced him to drink it after they spat in it.
Everyone treats us bad here, even the non-Muslim Arabs. Yes! they are here as well. They thought that the government is only after the Muslims, but the government took all the Arab Christians and the Yazidis and the Ex-Muslims along with the Muslims to the camps. They gave them supervisory roles over the Muslims to divide us. It’s so unfortunate that people don’t seem to learn from history. They couldn’t see that when a government views certain people that have a certain skin color or a national origin as suspicious, society will eventually treat them with suspicion as well. And there’s nothing you can do to not be treated without that suspicion. I can’t wake up in the morning and decide to wash out my Arab looks, nor I can decide that I wasn’t born and raised in Iraq. Any kids that I may have will be treated as suspects until proven otherwise. That’s probably why I haven’t declared myself in the national Muslim/Arab registry as an atheist for that I would be ashamed to live with myself having added to the legitimacy of the propaganda that is segregating Muslims and Arabs from the rest of the society.
Since no one has paid for the wall, Trump has now declared that he’d make ISIS pay for it, his crowds still chanted his name. He instructed the army to set up the Arab camps near the borders so that the Muslims would work on building the wall.
This happened so fast yet so gradual that I can’t believe I can’t remember making the decision that I am staying here. When the hate speeches against Muslims started, some Muslims had already started leaving the country to go to Canada (had they only known that Trudeau will lose the elections to the Right, and that Canada would join Trump in his plan to persecute Muslims). Some of the Arabs went to South America, and some of them went back their homes. I still don’t know which group of us will survive as war is imminent when the air is polluted with so much hate. I don’t know either how Arabs will be treated in other countries now that they’re officially labelled as second class citizens by the United States. I don’t even know if surviving in this world is a measure of success anymore and that seeing next day’s sunlight is of any value to me, now that it’s mixed with the bitter taste of coffee and the gooey unwashed fruits we shove down our throats.
I am sorry I haven’t written to you in a while, I have ran out of papers an. I finally admitted to myself that you won’t be getting these letters anyway as I am merely throwing them through holes in the fences around our camp. So I decided to write them on the walls of the showers behind the door, few words at time so that the guards won’t get suspicious.
I hope you and your family are safe in Italy. I’m glad you renewed your passport in time, and I hope that some of your classes are transferable to some good schools there. I heard that a lot of the Americans are immigrating to Europe. Isn’t it ironic that Germany is the safe haven for immigrants in this era! Maybe now they’ll get to play the savior role and return the favor by saving America from current day Hitler (Maybe Italy will be its ally!).
Dance some good tandas for me! I forgot what dancing with a partner feels like. I still pretend dance around the camp, with eyes closed, imagining that I’m at Bacchus dancing with my favorite partners. I dance here by myself however, the camps are segregated by gender, so there’s no women to dance with, and Arab men won’t dance a partner dance with a man as they are scared of being labeled as gay (I miss Chris, I miss our dance practice…I hope he’s OK). The army didn’t demand that the camps get segregated by gender, but the Arabs segregated themselves into men and women. Isn’t it baffling how people sometimes choose to further segregate themselves within an already enforced segregation?
I feel lonely here Marta! And although most of the people around me look so much like me, I have so little in common with them other than our dark features and facial hair. I used to think that the more I travelled the more I could relate to more people but the more I travelled the harder it became to relate to people who willingly held on tightly to the grips of the social and cultural labels that they grew up with. They couldn’t talk to me either, as they couldn’t fit me into any of their stereotypes, I wasn’t their stereotypical man, nor the stereotypical Arab, and I didn’t utter a word to entertain their religious discussions.
I can’t help but wonder, is this rock bottom? There have been times in my life where I thought that I was at rock bottom. You remember when I told you about the time when I was a teenager and I thought that being grounded by my parents after being beaten was the worst thing that could happen to me. I was so sad then and so hopeless. It felt like I will never grow up fast enough to leave the house and to not have to abide by my parents’ unfair rules. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel back then, and it’s funny that what kept me from ending my life back then was the religious belief that people who commit suicide will go to hell. I just didn’t want to escape the hell I was living on earth to go to the one up there (you know … the sky). I wonder now why do I still have the urge to stay alive, and how come I’m not thinking of ending it? The closest thing I have to an answer is that I am just curious to see where this is going. In a way it’s craziest chapter of my life time, and I do want to see what the next chapter in it is. In a way, it feels like I’m not living this but as if I am reading a book that is telling my story as I am going through this. It’s like I have no fear going through these chapters and that what’s happening does not affect me. In a way it can seem like surrender, but deep inside me it feels like trust. People strive to have control of what’s happening in the world, but taming this horse to me is like chasing a mirage, an illusion, and I realized that I can only control who I am in in the face of what’s happening. And that who I am can not be hurt or killed even when I am.
I also wonder what’s happening in Iraq! I know that in American news they still talk about ISIS as if it’s in control of six countries, not knowing that ISIS was kicked out of both Syria and Iraq, and that the Trump news channels are only using ISIS to further legitimize their persecution of Arabs and Muslims on American soil. I hope that my family is OK. I’m somewhat grateful that they have gotten used to living without me. I am also grateful that they got to get over their frustration with me and accept me as a son again. I just wished they could appreciate the beautiful parts of me that I hold so dearly that do not fit in with their religion. Those parts within me that were not designed nor inherited, I hold them dearly because I chose every single one of them, and I embraced them after I let go of what I had inherited. But I think I have enough of their love, and that they are free to choose what they appreciate in me.
I know that this letter is getting too long, it’s as if I keep writing to avoid something, something inevitable, as inevitable as ending…. as saying goodbye. I’m afraid that I won’t write anymore if I end this letter. That the repeating nature of life here will make me think that I should wait till something new would happen before I write to you. Somehow writing this letter has made the time go by faster. You wouldn’t expect it, but writing this letter has taken me over 4 months already. I wrote it 10 words at a time and they let us shower once a day before we go to bed, so I’ll let you do the math.
I guess there’s no way around it Marta, I’ll say goodbye for now. Till we meet one day for a coffee that I know you’ll insist on meeting me for. Who knows where, or when, but if the odds are in our favor you’ll be Dr. Marta by then, and I’ll be the cover story survivor refugee of Trump’s regime. I can totally see that now that I have wrote it down on a concentration camp’s wall. I guess that’s the first glimpse of light at the end of this long tunnel. High five!
Stay warm Marta, warmth is life.