By Asma Darwish, Head of Advocacy at Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), AAWE member and Head of Communication at FAWCO Refugee Network
*This has been written for and published by AAWE Paris, a series of 4 articles printed in its newsletter every trimester.
Bahrain, my home, became so small to me, I was almost suffocating there. I heard once that no one leaves his home until his home becomes a mouth of a shark. One only leaves home when home won’t let you stay, when it does all it can to kick you out, when home paves the way for you to leave; everything in it shouts at you to go away and never look back.
Home was screaming in my ears: leave, and rest assured that I am going to make you lose everything you ever knew, and everyone you ever loved. They will let you go; one by one, one after another. You will go so far that they would recognize your face no more, and your voice would become unfamiliar. They will forget you, whether they did it intentionally or unintentionally. They will, in fact, search for reasons to do so.
Everyone is wrong. You change so much that everyone back home start detaching themselves from you, for you are no more one of them. But I always had home in my heart, they were wrong. I didn’t have to be in Bahrain to feel like one. I had brought Bahrain with me to France.
I didn’t only escape home; I escaped a million memories, for shall they let me in peace. Home was harsh. Everyone was harsh. I wondered if they were breastfed harshness since they were newborns.
I escaped home, and it wasn’t a simple journey. New home was cold at first; strange, they spoke a language I couldn’t understand. Everything seemed unfamiliar, even differentiating salt from sugar in a supermarket. I took so much time to adapt to my new environment. I had to hang on to my name, for no one here knew who I was. I had to stay ONE and not just another someone. If only I had given in to the chaos of the new city, I would have vanished long ago.
I have put so much energy in here to be recognized and to comfortably stick my feet on its ground. This new soil changed me; I would be foolish to say otherwise. But why was it that we avoided change? I always feel like I hold this backpack all the time, literally all the time. In that backpack is everything I learnt or was made to learn since I was a baby. It’s been six years now; the backpack started a while ago to feel heavy, my shoulders are kind of bruised.
Agony on a spring day
I am writing this on a spring day, rain here pours like someone is sobbing, I kind of feel blue. I am bloated with a zillion words that I can’t afford to write or speak. As a refugee, I turn to write stories and to listen to stories, for nothing remains of us but our stories. With time, even that story will lose its sense and intensity, we become tired of repeating it over and over again like we were some sort of a case study.
Whenever I felt a chill coming over my soul out here in the world, and I start getting nostalgic and missing home, I dive deeper into that. I remember all the things I learned, good and bad, and all the times of laughter and agony. I remind myself of my mom and dad. I said to my parents the night I left: go nowhere, it won’t last for long; I will come back. Six years have passed since that night, and I couldn’t go back, nor I have seen them ever again. Many things happened in these six years, I gave birth to my daughter, and I got a divorce.
During these six years my mother died, and a few weeks ago my father died, for death couldn’t wait any longer. I prayed; God knows I prayed. But death was inevitable, stronger than any prayer. My parents passed away and left me in my exile thousands of miles away, having never seen my children. They left quickly, I only hoped they would stay a bit, just a bit longer, until I could maybe make it back home. What is home now without them anyways…?
New home, new love, new nest
I yearned for home, until I met him on an autumn day; where leaves were falling and the ground was humid and cold. The food tasted bland, and nothing sounded like fun. Then it dawned on me when I met him — he shined a sunny ray into my day and colored me a new smile. And then this place became my home and his.
Now I realize a few things to be true. I do not know where I am going, and where I have come from is disappearing. I don’t know to which shores life is taking me, but wherever it is taking me, I will get on board, for it will be a hell of a journey.
I love my new home because it’s all right here to be imperfect. I will never be completely at home again, because part of my heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price I pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.
Asma Darwish, Head of Advocacy at Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), AAWE member and Head of Communication at FAWCO Refugee Network