To Beirut, Where I Was Born a Refugee: Why Do You Disown Me?

Wednesday 1 May 201911:18 am
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

إلى بيروت التي وُلدت لاجئة فيها صدفة: لماذا تنكرينني؟

Good morning Beirut,

I know you know me well; my face and my features are familiar to you, even if you say otherwise.

I have decided to write to you, unnerved by our recent distance. Our days were enough for me to miss the roads which I marked with my steps, and your sea that summons me home; Oh, Beirut, I miss your congestion streets in the morning, and your daily power outages, I have missed your weather, a mirror to my own turbulent moods.

I return to you eagerly, almost forgetting the suffering I have felt through you; you were the first to embrace me, I was born on your soil, I grew up within you; you educated me, and fed me with your fruit. And on the walls of the UNRWA school, built on your land, my dreams are painted, and from your land also, I drank from your sweet waters. I fell in love for the first time with one of your sons, and my speech is entrenched with your words. I bare the scars of the wars you lived, growing up amidst the July War, and then explosion after explosion, I learned your history by heart: from the day of your creation, to Lebanon today.

I know a lot about you, and I think you know everything about me. You know, Beirut, that I did not choose to be here of my own accord, nor did I choose my way of being. I was born here, with the title of refugee, inherited from my parents, inherited from their parents. All of this fell out of my hands.

You know, Beirut, that I did not choose to be here of my own accord, nor did I choose my way of being. I was born here, with the title of refugee, inherited from my parents, inherited from their parents. All of this fell out of my hands.
Dear Beirut, she knows a lot about me, though all that she knows, she cannot do anything with. She knows that the house I call home is rented, because I do not have the right to own it. Beirut also knows that, by chance, I was born to her, and so became a refugee.

A week ago, my plane landed into Beirut International Airport, and with it, my heart landed within your embrace.

I held my blue passport tight, as though my only possession in this life; everyone knows that I belong to you. I carry a blue passport, with a Lebanese cedar on it, but we, my dear, know that we are from you and return to you. At passport control I stand confused, not knowing  which lane to pick: on my right, stand the shapely blond women, who know not how to speak your language, and on my left, stand your children.

I stood in the middle, I did not know in which direction to walk. I wanted a security officer in the middle, to help me, to introduce me to you, and remind you of me. On the left, a sign reads "Lebanese only". But who are the Lebanese, Beirut? Are they the children born from your womb, made yours and you theirs by sheer chance? Are they those in possession of your identity papers, and those who introduce themselves to the world as the descendants of the Phoenicians, those who say they belong to every one of your streets? But what about us, those raised in your arms?

A strong voice jolted from my dream, and towards the lane of Blondes. Then, I realized that I had to shout out loud when I stood in a row with those who visit you for the first time and do not know you... "

Dear Beirut, a strange city that embraces everyone, I choose my words with care and share them here. I do not want to chastise her – she knows a lot about me, though all that she knows, she cannot do anything with. She remembers the four years I spent at her universities, so that I could graduate, and own a certificate that I would hang on the wall, because I do not have the right to work here. She knows that the house I call home is rented, because I do not have the right to own it. Beirut also knows that, by chance, I was born to her, and so became a refugee.

To not find a place to belong is hard, to find yourself deprived of security and stability, in the place where your life was built and your future lies, and then with only one incident, you realize that you cannot dream in a country that is not your country.

As it stands across our vast Arab lands, I need a visa to journey between two towns, separated only by 20 kilometres. We did not address the issue of obtaining a visa, and the impossible conditions imposed on us. But who divided the earth between humans in this way and gave them authority over it? I always ask myself, if the dust of Acre is like the dust of Beirut, and if it extends across the Levant, Oman, and across our Arab lands, if the dirt itself joins us, then why should we divide with borders that do not exist?

Beirut, only you know my times of weakness and of defeat; only you bore witness to my weeping after I lost my job, because I am not your national. You stood with me, alone, when my grandmother was buried in your soil. Within you I cherish my childhood, youth and the body of my grandmother. Only you know that I love you as I love my country, I belong to you as I belong to my country.

A Mother cannot deny her children, my dear, so why do you deny me?

Here, I finish my words and leave this letter on a cold seat at an airport gate as I prepare board my flight.

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