It’s always déjà vu.
The constant sense of foreboding. The constant drums of war.
The Gulf War: 1990
Sirens outside. The cartoons on TV turning into a red screen with a banshee-like wail. My dad checking the taped windows. My uncle showing my parents gas masks. Sitting in the backseat of the car for hours, watching the desert go by, as my father drove us from Riyadh to Amman, which was safer.
I was five years old. I don’t remember feeling fear. I was too young to understand war, after all. Too young to understand death. The fear translated to adrenaline. I remember the adrenaline.
The Second Intifada: 2000
Dead children on Al-Jazeera. More dead children on Al-Jazeera. More and more dead children on Al-Jazeera.
My dad calling his family in Palestine. The bad news, the bad news, the bad news from everywhere.
I was 15. I think that’s when I started becoming desensitized. That’s when death started feeling like déjà vu.
Riyadh Compound Bombings: 2003
It was my last year in highschool. It was past 11:00PM. I was trying to sleep. My dad receives a call. Bombing in Al-Hamra Compound! Al-Hamra compound, where we know so many people. It isn’t just death on TV anymore. It’s death of people we know.
The Palestinian community in Riyadh grieved. My mother’s face was yellow, when she came back from the funeral. Even the “Americans” in the statistics and in the news were actually Palestinians. Palestinians we knew, or Palestinians who knew someone we knew. The Palestinian community of Riyadh is tight-knit. The Palestinian community of Riyadh grieved.
My highschool was across the street from Al-Hamra compound. The windows of the school were broken. That’s how I finished my last year of highschool. Amidst cracked windows.
America’s Invasion of Iraq: 2003
My highschool graduation was 3 days away. My friends and I were happily planning for what was then the most exciting day of our lives. Then America invaded Iraq, and nothing was happy anymore.
I had Iraqi friends graduating with me, after all. We watched the news with sadness. We watched the news with pain.
Terrorism in Nablus: 2003
My father packed a bag and went to Nablus, and that wasn’t something he did often. A good friend of his was murdered, Baraa Al-Shakaa, in a booty-trapped car targeting his brother the mayor, Ghassan.
My brother was called Ghassan after a Ghassan Al-Shakaa. Not the mayor. His uncle, I believe.
I never saw my father as sad as he was that month.
Terrorism Strikes Amman: 2005
It was horrifying. Amman! Peaceful Amman. My city. My home. Three places, all within three kilometers of my house. Places I’ve been to so many times. In someone’s wedding. Fuck them.
Life changed after that.
Israel’s War on Lebanon: 2006
Misery. So many friends in Beirut. All panicking. All trying to escape. Fear. Misery. Hatred.
Israel’s War on Gaza: 2008
My father was dying in the hospital. I was sitting next to his bed, watching the news of Gaza on Al-Jazeera.
So. Many. Deaths.
I wondered what was easier. Knowing that your dad will be dead from cancer in a few days, or losing him suddenly in a bomb.
My dad died before the massacre was over.
Civil War in Syria: 2011
You know, your heart freezes. I guess it’s self-defense mechanism. But of course no mechanism is fail-proof. Especially when you’re talking about something that is SO CLOSE TO HOME. Too close to home. It’s painful. It rots your heart. Rots your soul.
This list doesn’t even include the revolutions of the Arab Spring, that have also claimed hundreds of innocent lives. Yemen. Bahrain. Egypt. Sudan. Libya. Tunisia. This is just the non-revolutionary list. The list that I witnessed with my own eyes, with my own friends, with my own family, and not the list that was always there on TV, still close to home.
Strange being Arab in these times.
I was a child once. An Arab child.
I was an Arab child who was told that there were Arab children, like me, dying. My Arab brothers and sisters.
I am not a child anymore. I’m still Arab though.
The Arab children still die by the hundreds. Arab children young enough to be my Arab children.
In times like these, I want to be here: