War, forced my grandfathers’ out of Palestine to Jordan in 1948. Shortly after, they migrated to Kuwait, where both my parents were born and raised. In 1990, the war in Kuwait forced my parents and toddler of a brother out of Kuwait to Jordan again, where I was born in 1991. In 1994, my parents left Jordan and moved to the United Arab Emirates. Somewhere lost in this narrative, is the story of my pregnant mother’s journey from Kuwait to Jordan, where she was stranded at the borders of Syria; and not easily granted access into Jordan due to the fact that she was not a carrier of the Jordanian passport like my father was. This, among many reasons, became strong enough reason for me to hate Jordan. Is it okay to hate the country of your birth? The place where you began your journey as a human being on this earth. I did, and still do, shamelessly. It will always be that place I was unwelcome in when I was in my passport-less mother’s womb. A place where politics matters more than morals or ethics, a place that never meant home.
Home, in the mind of a child is always relative to their mother. This is why we call our homelands, our motherlands. To me, the two constructs, home and motherhood are congruent, but at the age of 24, my construct of a motherland is still an abstract one. When asked about where I am from, I identify as Palestinian-Canadian. A hybrid identity, with each part faintly retracting. In Canada, I will always be an immigrant, and in Palestine, I will always be that girl who does not know the true meaning of being Palestinian. A girl who never heard the sounds of bombshells outside of her television screen, a girl who never truly felt the meaning of the word struggle. But to believe that is to say that my story is an inadequate representation of my identity. To believe that is to believe that all Palestinians are made to struggle in life. It is to say that if you have not lived through war, that you do not qualify to be Palestinian, but to me, being Palestinian is much more than living through war.
War, means much more than struggle. I know that I have not lived through war. My struggle has not been one of living through bombs, loss, poverty, or misfortune, but rather in accepting the fortune of some over others; a reconciliation between why, and why not. The struggle of accepting that change, like all good things, takes time. Understanding that the unfortunate outnumber the number of years we are given to bring about change. Accepting that I must live in the presence of injustice, but not live in the comfort of injustice. The struggle of a constantly guilty conscious; we are all Palestinian, why do they live in war, while I live in peace? Why are they dying in the place that I call home.
Home became something I decided not to think of anymore. When I moved to Canada in 2008, I learned that telling a story that never happened, is not always called lying. It depended on whose story you were telling. I realized that when this world’s criteria for determining the validity of a truth, is based on a lie, then giving up your story, becomes the only way to survive. So I gave it up in my heart and prayed for peace. The difficulty in finding peace was accepting that grievance is not the only way to get over your loss. In 2012, I learned about a mental pressure point that I never knew I had. I learned that sometimes, crying required more cardiac than facial muscles. And that screaming cannot always be heard over the laughter of men who know that they have completely defeated you; a test of true patience. I learned that I needed to wait a minimum of seven hours stranded at a border, without getting frustrated, to be granted access into my motherland. I learned that humiliation may be some people’s hobby and that not everybody loves a good heart. I did not see my motherland that day, three years later, I have not seen her yet either. So I wrote, I wrote in years, not words, and my journey became defined by my art instead of my struggle. I loved telling the world about people they had never heard of. Telling the world about my own abstract construct of war.
War never just meant one thing. My first journey with Art begun at the age of 16, I learned of a battle between what was on my head, and in my head. My hijab. I learned that wearing it was a journey, not a decision, or a final destination. I thought that I had touched every fabric as I wrapped it around my head every day, that I knew it like it was my very own, but ten years later I am still learning. My journey of art started on a small stage where I stood with my eyes pinned to the ground and read my poem off my page, and that was the best thing I had ever done. From that day, I began to share everything my mind found troublesome about this world, and that was when I started finding peace between war and home.
Home, became a space where there was a mic. And my journey was very much like these paragraphs, marked by searching for beginnings of home and ends of war. Instead, I learned that beginnings of war only ended home. And I still struggle, my mind still needs convincing that war and home are NOT just two different words for the same place. And even though it seems like home is my end, there is no end to the space that I learned to call home.
Sara Al Souqi