Friday 25 January 2008

Wombs in Exile...

What a strange, weird, title...I am shocked myself.

How did it come about?

Not only am I shocked by the title that has flowed from my unconscious, pressing and imposing itself, despite or in spite of its apparent crudeness...I have also been very hesitant as to which blog it should be posted on.

The uncensored one or the other one ? I finally settled for this one.

I am not sure why. Maybe because what is about to unfold on this still quasi-virgin page is very personal, or maybe because am touching on something very sacred, very profound, and publishing it on this blog that does not allow direct comments, is my own attempt to safeguard its sanctity...

You and I shall find out soon. For I have no idea what I am about to write.

Like everything that flows directly from the unconscious, one has to hold onto a thread, a cue that will lead you to the real story...

And as I am typing this, I am secretly hoping it shall be revealed to me. I am ready and prepared. OK, maybe not prepared, but definitely ready to have it cracked open before my eyes.

Two things that prompted this. One came about whilst reading something about exile, and the other came up whilst remembering a tv program. And they are very much linked.

The TV program first.

I remember at some point during the ongoing American occupation of Iraq, or was it during the Israeli agression on Lebanon - I am not sure anymore. I think it must have been the former. Al Jazeerah invited some psychoanalyst to talk about the repercussions of occupation on Iraqi women. The subject dealt specifically with women who lost their homes due to bombardments or forced exile...

And I distinctly remember this analyst saying that "home" or " a home" carry a heavy symbolism, for women in particular. A woman who has lost her "home" feels she is naked, as if stripped of her clothes. Her "home" is her security, her cloak, her blanket, her cocoon of safety...For women to lose their "homes", is a trauma in which you can add all the other traumas, of loss, abandonment, poverty, bereavment, grief, violence, death...

A woman who loses her home feels totally abandoned. I believe that is very true of most women and in particular Middle Eastern women who are very attached to their homes and what a home symbolically represents to them - husband, family, children, nurture, nourishment, safety, points of attachment, points of reference, points of grounding and anchoring - in their own feminine reality.

It is not only a physical construction for a women, it is an inner edifice, around which she has constructed her life. It has become her center. It can be a house, an appartment, or a hut, it does not matter...

The other piece was an article I was reading - Robert Fisk's latest. Not that am terribly keen on Fisk, but he was talking about this Iraqi Armenian family, whose mother figure was riddled with bullets by some Australian security mercenaries in Baghdad not long ago, killing her son and herself on the spot and leaving behind her 3 orphaned daughters.

The Jordanian authorities refused to let the daughters in and put them back on the first plane - back to the hell hole that has become Baghdad.

Robert Fisk talked briefly about this Armenian family who arrived to Iraq during the Ottoman empire's reign. How this family's elders walked on foot from Armenia through Turkey all the way to Iraq....

And suddenly, I found my tears flowing down and I could not understand why.

Then I remembered...

I remembered all the women in my family.

I remembered both the women on my paternal and maternal side and their stories even though different, were the same in essence...

I recall my great grandmother who used to tell me in her broken Arabic how she walked from Armenia all the way to Mosul, burying her husband and her son in the snow with her own hands.

I remember my grandmother aged 12, telling me how she would carry wood for miles and miles, and fall exhausted...and how she helped her mother bury her father and little brother with her bare hands in the snow...until her hands froze in the ice.

They both would choke on their tears and change subject...And in her older age, my grandmother would go into greater details but she would choke again, and stop...But I never felt any hatred toward the Turks or Muslims in their voices.

The proof, when they arrived on foot to Mosul, my great grand mother known for her beauty, married a muslim and bore another son. My father's uncle was a muslim.

I guess Love and survival are stronger than politics...

My grandmother on the other hand married a Christian, a Chaldean...Hence my Christian roots.

They suffered exile once and then again, when they had to leave their homes...
My great grandmother passed away in a quadruple exile. My grandmother, in a triple exile, having lost her home on 3 occasions...

I remember them both, and I can't shake that image of loss in their eyes. Not just material loss, but a deeper loss, something one cannot describe accurately in words.

My other grandmother suffered the same fate. But exile comes in different shapes and forms.

Anyone forcibly removed from their surroundings, from the environment that gives them security is exiled.

So my other grandmother was exiled too, when she was forced to marry someone she had absolutely no feelings for. Forced into marriage at a very early age. She never recovered from that one, till her last days, she never recovered...

Exiled, exile...thrown out, abandoned to the winds of fate and the goodwill of "men"

But it does not stop there. The other women in my family including myself, have known exile too. Finding ourselves in strange lands, with strangers, fending for ourselves...

The only word I can find for it is in French, and I am not sure what the English translation would be. In French it is a state of being called "désemparé."

The official translation- "helpless" is not accurate.

"Désemparé" is more profound, deeper than just being helpless.

"Désemparé" means you have lost all anchors, it means you are like a boat with no sails being blown away on some rough sea...It is more than helpless. It goes way down, deep into your insides and cuts your ties away, forcibly removes you from your constructed security, not just physical, but psychological, affective,

Exile is the anti-thesis of attachment. In fact, forced exile is another form of rape.

If you are not a woman, it might be prove very hard for you to understand what am talking about...It is almost biological. It goes way deep down in your gut, into your viscera...

I have just attempted to give you a few highlights from a personal story. And in retrospect, I find Exile, written, tattooed on our wombs, in our wombs...Like some destiny, we, I, have to face -- repeating it all over again...

Now, imagine the thousands of Iraqi women in exile. Imagine the thousands of Iraqi widows who lost their "homes". Can you imagine that? Can you envision that?
Can you imagine the consequences? The moral, psychological, emotional, and even spiritual consequences of that?

Men are bullies. Most men are bullies. They have no wombs and do not understand much about attachment. Not just attachment to nation, flag or cause, or even mother...Attachment to life, to a life one takes great pains to construct, like the labor pains, the pains of giving birth...Men will never understand that.

Maybe men understand nothing about Love, hence they are so quick to destroy what women take time to build...

I can see all those bullies, the destroyers of homes, of women and of Love, striking my great grandmother, my grandmothers, my mother, my sisters, my aunts...striking them with their ignorance, with their hatred, with their physical prowess, with their death instinct...and it stops there. Do they have anything else to offer? Sadly no.

Even the men who are not inclined to such acts, they understand nothing...They understand nothing about wombs in exile.

And here is a song for you--to accompany your reflections if any...(lyrics below)

This glancing life is like a morning star
A setting sun, or rolling waves at sea
A gentle breeze or lightning in a storm
A dancing dream of all eternity

The sand was shimmering in the morning light
And dancing off the dunes so far away
The night held music so sweet, so long
And there we lay until the break of day

We woke that morning at the onward call
Our camels bridled up, our howdahs full
The sun was rising in the eastern sky
Just as we set out to the desert's cry

Calling, yearning, pulling, home to you

The tents grew smaller as we rode away
On earth that tells of many passing days
The months of peace and all the years of war
The lives of love and all the lives of fears

Calling, yearning, pulling, home to you

We crossed the river beds all etched in stone
And up the mighty mountains ever known
Beyond the valleys in the searing heat
Until we reached the caravanserai

Calling, yearning, pulling, home to you
Calling, yearning, pulling, home to you

What is this life that pulls me far away
What is that home where we cannot reside
What is that quest that pulls me onward
My heart is full when you are by my side

Calling, yearning, pulling, home to you

Lorena Mc Kennitt/Caravanserai - Ancient Muse, 2006

Painting:Iraqi artist, Dr.Mahoud Ahmed.