Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chapter 8a: Could anything be harder?

Remember Majid, the [fictional] young Iraqi man living in Damascus with his mother, sisters, brother and grandmother? Well, he's back, now, to tell some more about life as a refugee.

I'm not even yet twenty years old and it seems like I have lived enough to be an old man. Back in Iraq, I quit school early and worked. I saw the war start, the violence continue, and the suffering all around me grow. I became the head of my family at an age many men like me would be just starting their university studies, then I led my mother, grandmother and the younger ones to a foreign country that doesn't want us. It is I who keep the security police from entering our house when they want to threaten us with deportation. I do the best I can to protect my family from knowing just how tight money is and just how insecure our residence here is. I know my job is to look out for them, and especially to protect my sisters. I need to be like the leaves on a flower protecting the petals until it is time for them to bloom.

I have been called nasty names, snubbed and even beaten up on the street. I can handle it all and more if I have to. Sure, I dream of a life somewhere someday that's comfortable, where those things don't happen. But this is my lot in life. What I can't handle is the thought of surviving another incident with my sisters.

They are young and innocent, with their whole lives before them. They still have a chance at a future and happiness. Only a truly evil person could think of doing the things to a girl that my landlord wanted to do to my sisters. And only a truly heartless person could sit by and watch it happen to girls he loves.

But... I almost agreed, didn't I?

Because I was faced with a choice. This all happened about a year ago. We'd been living in Damascus for almost a year. I had found my job at the restaurant, but seriously, anyone who thinks that a busboy's salary would be enough to support the family must be naive. Or not care. Because Iraqis pay a lot for rent. I don't know how much Syrians pay but I've heard a rumour that we pay three times what a Syrian family would pay for our same flat.

So we came to Syria with a couple of thousand dollars in savings, and we thought that would last us until we moved to Canada, but everything just cost too much! Our money seemed to just sift out of our hands like sand. Mama asked around with the neighbours and found some people who would pay her to do some sewing for them. That lessened the tension a little bit.

But the Math still didn't add up. We were stuck.

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