(This is cross–posted from Sameeha Elwan’s blog Here, I was Born)
This is how we planned it: I get my Schengen visa to attend a Peace conference in Geneva and then we fly, together, to France, where we first met, for a honeymoon, his university registration and to be reunited with our friends there. “It’s going to be your gift” He promised when he emailed me the copies of our flight tickets to Switzerland.
On our wedding day, he, who left all those invited to attend the wedding, and instead of celebrating, lined in a queue under the burning sun at the Rafah Crossing demanding a number and a date to go out, didn’t come back for the wedding before insuring we do have a place. He managed to come back to the wedding in time, thankfully.
While dressed in his groom’s suit, his hands extending to help me on the stairs as I was stumbling on each staircase, and awed by the dreamy promising atmosphere of a new life ahead of both of us, and when every thing looked too beautiful to be stained by the ugliness of occupation, borders, or checkpoints, and where the worst scenario of what he would have to say when he first sees me in the White dress, white as a free cloud and coloured as happiness was “You look beautiful”, he didn’t even say that. He smiled in relief and whispered in my ear, “ I booked us two places at the Rafah Border for the 8th of September today.”
“But the 9th of September is my sister’s wedding.” I shouted in disbelief. He said, “We’ll sort that out later. It’s our wedding day. You look beautiful.”
I smiled, tried to forget that we’re going to be talking about the Rafah border, tonight in bed. I tried to forget that the border is going to interfere in the most intimate moments of our life, and that I would be getting married and think of borders at the same time. I tried to forget that for the past month , it’s all what we’ve been talking about, whether we’re going to spend our honeymoon, together, somewhere else, or not.
A week after our wedding, Ayman managed to get a permit to go out through Erez. I did not. I joked to him about it. “I am not a humanitarian case,” I bragged. As a PhD student whose academic life was threatened in case of not registering for the new academic year, Ayman had to head to France for his registration process. He applied for a permit and Gisha pushed for his case.
The next minute when the thought of thousands of students who are stuck in Gaza and the tens of friends I know who are living between the hope of leaving for their scholarships and the fear of losing them, I thought rather accurately, “ I am not a ‘privileged’ humanitarian case.”
Ayman refuses to see freedom as a privilege.
Now that he is away, I try to convince myself every day that I am not stuck here, that I am not imprisoned, that I should not involve myself in the discussion over the borders. Who amongst all this suffering would feel for me when I say I lost a chance to travel for a conference or to spend a honeymoon with my husband in a place where I can actually breathe, and that I should have been with him tonight, not here, stuck between the borders and my consciousness of my own imprisonment, and that I have a stamped visa on my passport that is painful to look at because it’s absolutely useless. I see all this pain around me and feel ashamed of my own pain.
Today I passed by the Registration Office and I tried hard to figure out how to describe the crowd I saw lining in front of the registration building to register to travel through Rafah, and I first thought of the queues of cars in front of gas stations, but this is a simile only “we” get. What about UNRWA queues for food rations, that’s too a simile only “we” get. Anyway, they were queued in a very dehumanizing way, as usual! And I wondered whether it was hope or despair that kept them standing.