Monday, March 14, 2011

Is There Really A Difference?

Picture :http://dampier.wa.edu.au/room13/term1,10.htm

In the summers of 1991 and 1992, I joined an army camp, Al Sabila which was under the watchful eyes of the then Crown Prince, Al-Hassan Bin Talal. I mentioned this before in my post, The Sniper. We were a group of boys and girls who left their home and went camping around the country, Jordan, for a month. For a whole month, we were not allowed to have any contact with our families and for an Arab, this is considered very hard to do, especially if it is your first time. However, they did not give us time to think of them much, our schedules were full of first aid training, painting local schools, building playgrounds, helping a PHD student gather data to complete her thesis by administering a survey to the local children and families, planting trees, scuba-diving, hiking, camping, climbing, abseiling, target shooting, running, archaeological sessions and touring our beautiful country.

There was no problem for me to join the first camp in 1991 (well, not that I know of) but in 1992 and after the Gulf War, things changed. I was personally asked, along with my friend, to join the camp even though we had attended the year before and only allowed to join once. But in 1992, there were only two girls who were selected after the 3-day selection camp and the Sharifeh (a relative of his Majesty the King) wanted more girls to join. So she asked my friend and I, whom she said were two of the best participants from the year before, to join the 1992 group. 

This created a huge debate between the organizers and it was about whether or not I, an Iraqi citizen, should be allowed to join. I had been living in Jordan since 1974 and therefore, consider myself one of them. I never thought that I was of a different nationality as I ate, drank, slept and was educated in Jordan and considered it to be my own. Besides... is there a difference between us Arabs? I mean we all speak the same language, have similar values towards our elders and family. Why on earth would it be that much of a problem? Besides, I participated in the first one.... now you tell me I Am DIFFERENT?

Well after weeks of deliberation between the organizers (one particular woman) the Sharifeh and a friend/brother of mine, I was given the green light to join the 1992 camp. The Sharifeh had to visit my parents at their home to convince them to allow me to join. My parents were a bit worried about sending me this time because of what had happened, They did not want me to be hassled or made to feel inadequate or different. They also were not sure if they should sign a document releasing the organization from any responsibility in case of injury or death (one participant  died a  few years after my camp).

You see my dad is an amazing Iraqi doctor, but he never once said that he was unless people asked him where he was originally from. If you talk to him he does not talk in his Iraqi dialect unless he was talking to Iraqis themselves. He loved and still loves Jordan and gave so much of his life serving them. So to see his daughter being segregated against just because she was of an Iraqi nationality hurt him. 

The woman who was so adamant on keeping me out and fought the organizers and board for weeks had to call me. You see, the whole board, the Crown Prince and even the Sharifeh asked her to personally apologise to me. When she called, I was ready for her. I remember my best friend, who was the other person from 1991 about to join the 1992 camp, and my mother were right next to me on my bedroom bed, when I was talking to this lady. They were smiling from ear to ear... 

I explained to her that there is no difference between an Iraqi and a Jordanian especially that I had lived there since I was 2 years old...That she should not be the one separating the Arabs especially after the late King Hussein, God rest his soul, referred to the Arabs as Arabs and not as single nationalities in one of his speeches about the Gulf War.

Then I hit her with the big one... she was getting married to an Iraqi in two weeks and so I said, "You are getting married to an Iraqi right?  And your children will be Iraqi, right? (Because the laws in Jordan do not give the women the right to provide their children with Jordanian passports... I believe that this is being revised now) Would you like this to happen to your children?"... I believe I shocked her into silence there....oh the irony of it all.


She was extremely apologetic... I do not think she liked me much but that did not matter to me... What mattered was she was proven wrong... we are the same...

We should not be differentiating ourselves based on where we come from in the Arab world... I know that nowadays, our cultures have changed and the culture in Jordan Lebanon, Palestine, Iraqi, Gulf countries, to name a few are not quite as similar to each other as they were a long time ago.... but we still call ourselves Arab based on our strong family ties, ties to religion, respect for elders, obligations towards our parents and family, and so many more... so if we are Arabs then why don't we unite? 

Wouldn't we be stronger? Why should our leaders be greedy and just focus on what THEY want instead of what the population wants? Because if you look at the population of all the Arab countries, they basically want the same thing... freedoms and rights, jobs and a better living standard.

Anyway, I promised myself not to turn this blog into a political one... and so I will not.... not because it is not a good discussion or maybe even cause to support but because I am crap at it... my views are very unrealistic... I want the whole world to be friends... I want people not to judge others based on the color of their skin, religion or ethnicity, language, backgrounds, social status, money.... I want the countries that are occupying others to realize that they are spreading poison and must stop this humiliation and occupation.... I want the people to have the freedom to decide...but I will leave these discussions to the pros who know how to write using their heads... I use my heart most of the time and believe in the power that people possess to make a difference. 

ALL I wanted to say really is that 

WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS.... 
and therefore share a similar anatomy and set of feelings.
Why can't we shed the titles that separate us
and live together in harmony.


3 comments:

Birdy said...

What a beautiful post. I am glad that you decided to write it.

I am Canadian and I am deeply grieved at what is going on in our world. My once beautiful country is no longer what it was. Why does it have to be this way?

You said that you felt you should leave the writing to the pros but I think you are a pro. You are led by your heart and that is more important than anything. We need more people to speak, write and sing from their hearts. When we do the world will start going in the right direction.

Namaste

Tabouleh said...

Oh Birdy... you are such a breath of fresh air... THANK YOU for your lovely warm words... thank you for making me feel special and for following my blog. I just joined yours and read your most recent entry... you have such a sense of humor... I will be looking at your others soon... maybe when I put my kids to sleep...
When I am more comfortable writing, i will take your advice and brush on the subjects that I am in most fear of... well uncomfortable with...
My husband is Canadian... Aurora... and he would like to go back and live there for a while but he is also afraid that things have changes since he left it in 1999.
Your words mean a lot to me... thank you again for writing them... I see that we are both avid Reiki practitioners... I am a Reiki 3 Master... what about you?
Namaste

gfbbkk said...

Great posts Lana, you are really getting into this blogging and tweeting. I am learning much more about you. It is a shame that you will be moving on to pastures new, I feel I have a lot to learn from you.
Have a great weekend