A small chair and filthy walls were all I had in a cell barely larger than I am. The dyspnea that choked me wasn’t a sickness or a pain as much as a longing for the landscape of life outside this living grave. I defied them many times and forced myself to conceal my tears. I thought only of my four children whom I had left behind and who were snatched away from me.
When my mind succeeded in leaving that dark room, it would fly to Sandy innocent’s face, Mohammad’s childhood, Ra’fat’s features, and Donia’s hair. They, their names and images never left my heart. I never forgot my four children who eased my body’s pain even as torture covered me in bruises.
Their pictures in my mind’s eye gave me the patience to endure the bitterness of my interrogation, which lasted three months. When my chained feet lost their feeling, I imagined I was cooking their food in our warm house. As jailers prevented me from sleeping for hours, I remembered the moments of their lives, and how they enriched my own. Even when my interrogators threw me to the floor, trampled me underfoot, and covered my body with the signs of torture and racism, I left them behind by praying and shouting to be where I wanted to be: among my four children.
A year later, I was told that two of my children were going to visit me. This news made my spirit fly into the sky, casting aside everything that constrained it. Something inside me, though, grabbed my heart. I felt it was the longing to see them, but as the visit came, I knew what it was. I looked at my two innocent children, full of questions, behind a dirty iron-barred window. I wiped the glass with my clothes, thinking I hadn’t recognised them yet. My mouth fell open with surprise. When I saw their faces, I remembered our beautiful past.
They were my children Mohammad and Ra’fat. They were older, and so sad they were crying. I asked them to be calm, and not to make my tears fall. “Don’t worry, I’m here, I’m okay.” My words increased their river of their tears and cries. Oh my God, what had happened to them? And why did they look like this, as if they didn’t have a house to live in?
When I realised that the visit would end soon, I shed more tears, wiping my eyes on a sheet. I mumbled sentences to make my children feel easier and more comfortable, assuring them that the coming days would bring better fortune. I said things to raise their spirits and make them feel better about my condition, however bitter it was. They smiled at me, kindling new life in my heart.
We awoke from these beautiful moments when the voice of the officer announced the end of the visit. I saw them off as if I were losing a part of my body. I waved my hands, my eyes gazing into theirs, trying to follow them as far as possible.
Kahera Als’adi with her two sons after her release.