Saturday, April 26, 2008

Story of my banishment

I had written all the details of my ban on my French speaking blog but Rime Allaf suggested I write the story in English. She wrote an introduction which you will find here

Here is my report :

"Six months ago, on October 27, 2007, in the bleak hours of the morning I was about to board a flight to Brussels at the Damascus international airport. I was leaving for a holiday, or so I thought.

I had cleared the emigration service and was about to proceed to the boarding area, when a policeman caught up with me, asked me the name of my father, and shortly thereafter came back and announced in a very neutral voice : you may leave but you’ll NEVER come back. “ABADAN ? What did I do? I’ll die !”

I phoned a friend thinking that my poor Arabic was responsible for misunderstanding this horrible news and the friend confirmed the sentence.

Upon arrival in Brussels, I went straight to the Syrian embassy and they told me they had no file about me, that my visa was valid and that it had not even been cancelled in Damascus. So, as far as they were concerned, I could go back. I wrote them a report about what happened and it was translated and sent to Damascus.

Back I went on January 9 after a friend with “wasta” had assured me that there was no obstacle to my return. I spent 20 hours in Damascus in the transit area of the airport before being shipped out. I was not allowed to see my friends or to leave them the presents I had brought with me.

A new Syrian consul arrived in Brussels and I went to see him. He asked me to write a letter. I wrote it in Arabic and he forwarded it to Damascus. He never got an answer. So, I applied for a new visa and I obtained it; nevertheless, according to other sources in Damascus, I am still blacklisted and not because I was part of an expelled shipment of University students who were mere listeners as I had thought so far. Where is the hitch?

Usually, when people are expelled, they are given time to pack. Not in my case. Fortunately, I had just paid 8 months of rent and my possessions were safe. My wonderful Syrian friends did all the sorting, disposing, packing and shipping of what I had accumulated during five years in books, records, clothes.

So, now I am in exile, pining for Damascus trying to rebuild a life elsewhere, but where? I cannot complain: I have a country and a house, things which most refugees are without.