2016 – You Denied me a Year of my Daughter’s Life. 

“When I speak, my every word speaks of You. When I am silent, I ache for You.” Rabia 

I first knew real pain when I lost my first born to a list of congenital anomalies. Ozzy was diagnosed with the Warburg Micro Syndrome at the age of one. This genetic disorder snatched my baby and my dreams for him away- for good. I picked up the pieces, I learnt from the loss and I healed through loving and nurturing a child with no tomorrow (in the conventional sense). My goal became – to simply keep a smile on his face.

Three years later l was blessed with a beautiful and healthy daughter – a new love and different hopes: Taya. She enriched my life. The years passed joyfully; each of my children challenged me and taught me new things everyday.

I never had any other job (although there is nothing wrong with that). But I changed every nappy, prepared every meal and did every school run. I never missed an assembly or a birthday party. Taya and I scooted together to school everyday, cycled on weekends, messed up in the kitchen in the evenings- or she messed up and l shouted.

December was a special month for us. We went to every Christmas Fair, debated over the second hot chocolate she wanted, and took every opportunity to do what we do best together -Ice skating –  over the many rinks that adorn London during this festive month. But December has always been extra special for us because Taya’s birthday falls on Christmas Eve. She is my Christmas baby.

Life changed by the end of 2015. After living for 9 years in the UK I no longer had the right to stay for reasons out of my hands.

Beginning of 2016 I moved with my best friend and decided to put a fresh application for me and Ozzy who desperately needed to be in the UK. for his feeds, schooling and medical care. (While regular medication is missing in Egypt, the feeds on which he is dependent are completely unavailable. Not to mention that there are no facilities for blind children or there is any support for his complex needs). For Ozzy his life in the UK is a matter of survival. So I separated from Taya – for a short period – I had hoped.

A year has passed and my papers are still processing. I feel stuck because if I leave now I won’t be able to come back and I would be putting Ozzy’s life at risk. Taya was denied a visit visa three times, and every time we gave the home office extra guarantees of financial support and of her return- they still harshly refuse. They refuse an 8 year old the right to come visit her mother and disabled brother.

A year has passed I have not put my daughter to bed or woken her up in the morning. A year has passed without holding her in my arms, kissing, tickling and teasing. And for a year I have been sleep walking. That’s my second encounter with real pain – my distress as a mother is unimaginable. But that’s not the problem – the problem is that my child suffers too.

2016, you showed me the pain of separation as much as (I hope) you taught me the value of empathy and appreciation. But one fact remains – the lights of your festive season sparked no life in me.

2017 May you reunite me with both my children – without having me to choose between my love for one and the health and wellbeing of the other.

Help us by signing and sharing the petition please https://www.change.org/p/home-office-let-my-9-year-old-see-her-mummy-for-the-new-year?recruiter=false&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=whatsapp

The Day I Met a Guy who Killed

Sketch; Courtesy of my friend Marian Moravek

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live” Norman Cousins

Here he was sitting right next to me in an outdoor cafe on a chilly London night. His face was illumined by the heater that burned right above him. He was handsome, young, with glistening eyes and a charming smile – and he smiled a lot. Nothing about his looks or demeanor suggested blood, in any way.

An ordinary conversation evolved into a deeper one. Ideas exchanged and questions were asked. He had worked for the police forces. Yes – he has mentioned that at the beginning of our meeting. And suddenly it slipped out of me. Did you ever have to kill?  

 

The First time

One of the first missions I was assigned to was to arrest a suspect in a terrorist attack. Attempting to flee, he dashed through the desert as I chased after him with my regiment. But he suddenly disappeared. You don’t vanish in an open desert. As we stood bewildered and looking around, we suddenly heard gunshots from a distance. One of my guards fell to the ground as more gunshots were fired in our direction. Instantly and with outmost precision I fired back at the moving figure. I hit him and he dropped – dead. I did not have a choice….

‘I did not have a choice’ he repeated.  

 I lost my sleep and appetite completely for a week as the events of that day replayed in my mind over and over. I rethought and reevaluated the situation countless times – it could have not ended otherwise. Colleagues came and talked me out of my depressive state. Reminded me of those who lost their lives because of radicals like that man I just killed.  

 

Not a moral judgment, just my thought: The man came to represent an idea and the death of an idea is much more digestible to the mind than the death of a person.     

Killing as a group

The following two times he killed, death did not have a face.

These were confrontations between our forces and a group of terrorists. We don’t know who fired first. But there was an exchange of fire and human causalities were inevitable.

My thoughts:  A group conscience is probably more immune to the pain of a lost life. A group represents an ideology and an ideology is oblivious of the individual. 

Accidental killing
Leaving home for work one day, I stumbled upon two guys rushing in a motorcycle as one of them snatched a bag from a passing lady throwing her violently to the ground. I drove after them and hit their vehicle with mine – as they both fell, one got up and swiftly ran away. The other slowly got up and reached for a pistol that he pointed in my direction and fired. I reached for mine as quickly as possible and shot at his leg hoping to tip him off balance and to the ground – to arrest him. The bullet went right into his thigh rupturing his femoral artery, blood burst out and he died almost instantly.

My thoughts: Nothing!

As the stories unraveled with their intricate details, my mind numbed to the horror of killing – to the idea of a lost life. I numbed just like he numbed to it bit by bit. The first killing took its toll on him mentally and physically, the second less and less so.

“It chipped away a bit of the person you are; and that’s why it affected you less and less everytime. This is scary,” I finally said breaking the silence.   

In his mind there were good reasons, a ‘higher cause’ as he put it. As for me, there was nothing easier than to sit back and morally judge his actions. But I was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling that that would be extremely unfair. If I did not enjoy a sense of security – one way or another – I would not possess the luxury of thought and contemplation. There are parts of life that are gruesome and someone has to deal with them after all! Hence, I decided to share his experiences and my thoughts free of a moral judgment – hopefully.

I faced death right in the face. I had to kill to defend myself and others, and I had to witness the death of colleagues with whom I shared meals, jokes and dreams of the future. And in a strange way it made me appreciate life – being alive – more.

“A thousand times we die in one life. We crumble, break, tear apart until the layers of illusion are burned away and all that is left, is the truth of who and what we really are” Teal Scott

Death may be the only truth in our lives, but when it touches us so closely, we inevitably change. Some people face situations where they must put their lives on the line, whether for duty or belief, but along the risk of losing their lives, and the innate urge to defend it – they lose pieces of themselves along the way. What fascinates me most about my friend’s experiences is how the mind works itself through the distress of taking a life.

The ‘mind’ is an interesting tool in devising reasons for what we want or have to do. While rationalism is much defended in this age, I could never solely trust a rational process. As young children we are fully reliant on our feelings to know, but as we grow and are socially conditioned, we learn to suppress our emotional intelligence. We learn fear. And fear disables both mind and heart, blurs our outlook and potentially enables us to hurt ourselves and others.

Terrorism is the byproduct of fear – but so are the means to ward it off.

As we go on in life, life leaves its scars on us; and the scars should teach us and liberate us from fear and limiting patterns of living, enabling us to live fully as mind, heart and soul- all in balance. It is an individual journey that does not complete without going inwards. 

Our journeys are different and some are rockier than others. Having to repeatedly face life or death situations and make choices accordingly, is not a path that everyone will walk. My friend did what he had to do at the time- but the choices inevitably left their scars on him. If he is content at heart with his choices I know he would continue to heal and evolve – for as much as he rationally justifies his motives, he still needs to reconcile his actions to his emotions. True self-nurtured emotions remain the more dynamic part of our human experience and inevitable to our learning journeys. May we all continue to learn.