Jul 12, 2010

Watheeqa: A true-life tale of horror

What is that dreadful looking thing in the below picture, you ask? Why it’s a Watheeqa.

In English, a travel document that has suffered a neurodevelopment disorder and could not fully mature to become a passport. Sad? Not quite there.

I, disgracefully, was born with one.  I didn’t ask for it. I don’t care for it. But I’m stuck with it.

I am not unpatriotic. I love Palestine. But this hideous excuse for a passport does not identify the nationality of its holder. Neither a Palestinian, nor a Lebanese. I am labeled as a refugee. Tragic? Not quite there.

The story began when my grandparents were ‘shortlisted’ to be amongst the 1948 Palestine Exodus ‘elites’. Yes, that was a joke. They were actually expelled from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. They fled to Lebanon and were given the Watheeqa, a you-have-no-rights-whatsoever-except-to-live-here gift. My father inherited it and so did I.

It’s been sixty years since the exodus and  leaders of the world still can’t figure out what to do with us.  Our issue is apparently beyond any level of intelligence or attention. The world sees us as the plague or as the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s. No one wants to deal with us. No one wants to acknowledge us. No one cares to help us.

Oh, did I mention there are several version of the Watheeqa? There’s the Lebanese one, which I hold and the Syrian one. But the worst of them all is the Egyptian one. If you hold that ungodly Egyptian Watheeqa, you might as well give up and pray there’s a better afterlife.

What are the perks of holding a Lebanese Watheeqa? We’ve covered that already. You get the right to live in Lebanon. Oh, and you don’t need a visa to get into Lebanon. Joy!

Now let’s cover the other side of this cosmic souvenir. The drawbacks.

Holding a Watheeqa instantly makes you the lowest common denominator. You and livestock share the same privileges.  

Let me shed some light.

Disclaimer: The below list is based on a personal experience. Your garbage bin experience might vary.
  • I was denied the college major I desired because my choices, as a human being nobody Watheeqa holder, are limited. See my previous post.
  • In Lebanon, I cannot be a white collar employee. I once applied for a job and the company owner did not shy away from saying: “You are qualified but I would rather give this job to a Lebanese.” Charming, isn’t he? I was waiting for him to say, “if we ever needed to paint the office, we will call you.” Nevertheless, I managed to get a job in a different company through a family connection. When I asked for a Letter of Recommendation, the request was denied because I was working ‘illegally’ and the owner did not want any legal hassle. If I had gotten a legal work permit, I wouldn’t hold a white collar position. You see, as a refugee, I am only allowed blue collar jobs.  That’s $50,000 worth of university education down the drain.
  • I mentioned earlier that Watheeqa holders are avoided like the plague. Example: If you plan to get married, forget it. No father wants to give his daughter to a refugee. I have been told this to my face. Even women holding the same document don’t want to marry a Watheeqa man. Which is fair. After all, why should they and their future children suffer?
  • What’s worse than a Watheeqa holder? A Watheeqa holder in the Arab world. Except for the United Arab Emirates (bless them), not one single Arab country will give you a work permit and a residency. Most Arab countries won’t even grant you a visit visa. When my parents were living in Kuwait, I couldn’t visit them. I tried for two years to get a visit visa. It was denied every single time. On the other hand, the USA granted me a 5-year multiple entry visa in five seconds, but Kuwait still refuses to recognize me as a person. Another example, when my ex-boss in Dubai offered me a position in Qatar, the opportunity did not come to life as my Qatar visa was denied. Similar incident with Saudi Arabia.
Arab countries will grant westerners visas on arrival. I have to suffer. Shame on you Arab world. You deserve every word of criticism. And you pretend to care and wonder why most Arabs migrate to Canada, Australia and the US. When in reality, you are thrilled to wash your hands of our issues. You are labeled as ‘weak’ and you will be weak for centuries to come. 

Again, it is truly shocking that after 60 years, the Watheeqa dilemma still exist and no one is willing move a bone and find a solution. How much longer do we have to endure this unjust and appalling hardship? Is there anyone strong enough to answer that?

For the record, as a Watheeqa holder, I am not allowed to visit my home country. Heartbreaking? Yes.


Stephanie Nour said...

Excellent post, thank you for sharing. I'm glad I came across this...

KJ said...

I admire you for you ability to write despite your contained and apparent anger.

The diabolical discrimination against Palestinians and the associated hypocrisy by Arab regimes regarding the subject matter is abominable. Stripping citizens of common rights based on an exodus imposed upon them generations ago speaks nothing but of the backward mentality this regime adopts, the same force that drives the "legal" citizens - excuse the term - out of their own countries to become refugees-by-choice in other countries with opportunities that would accept the talent and appreciates the labour and contribution to economy these people provide.

This quote summarizes the situation best: “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” - James Arthur Baldwin

Arabianism said...

@Stephanie: Thank you for your sweet comment.

@KJ: After few good punches, you come to deal with the unfairness. Words are the only salvation. Excellent quote btw.

Micheline said...

"Hearthbreaking? Yes."
That summarizes the whole issue in two words!
So very well put and explained. Thanks for writing this. :-)

Nadeem said...

We Arabs are stuck in a circle of backwardness. It is only getting worse.

Ahmad Moussa said...

I love this post...i wouldn't have been able to describe how "privileged " I am for being a "Watheeqa" holder better than that. I would just like to highlight that being denied visa's to most "Arab" countries have limited my job opportunities to jobs that do not demand frequent traveling. I was born in KSA, and lived there for 12 years. Instead of being granted a Saudi passport, I'm not even allowed to think of getting a visit visa.
Moreover, my wife is Jordanian. For me and my son to visit Jordan, I have to pay a refundable deposit of 50,000 AED (25k for me and 25k for my son). To visit Egypt, i have to wait until i am 45 years old, or else it's almost impossible.
This is why, saying "No more there exists an Arab Nation" might be a slogan or a statement said by many people when they are having their shisha's....but for us, privileged refugees, we know exactly what it means.....

Arabianism said...

@Nadeem: Agreed. God help us.
@Ahmad: We are in the same boat. I lived in Kuwait for 16 years and I can't go back to visit now. I have many relatives & friends in Jordan who I would like to visit someday but a wasta is needed and forget about Egypt. It's next to impossible. Pathetic Arab world.

Arabianism said...

@Micheline: Thank you for the comment and the constant support :)

Nadeem said...

We Arabs are so broken. If you come to think about it, I could have ended up a refugee if my grand father decided to move to Palestine. Close to a hundred years ago my grand father and many Arabs were forced to leave Mardin. He went to Aleppo then to Tripoli then to Beirut and finally settled in Damascus in the 40s. Look at me now, I call my self a Syrian when in fact I could have ended up a Lebanese, an Iraqi or a Palestinian Refugee. I am half Syrian Half Lebanese, my wife is Palestinian of Algerian decent and my children will carry blood "menna el mo7eet lel khaleej".
Shame on us and only us. Don't blame the US or Isreal or "El Este3mar"

scillaME said...

I feel your pain.

Its about time a step is taken to abolish the fate that seals the future of the young Arab.

Anonymous said...

I would not be able to put my feelings so lucidly if i was suffering the same injustice... thank you for sharing! and you will be in my thoughts and prayers.....

Anonymous said...

Doesn't all this sound so familiar???????? I was born in Kuwait and I can't get a visa to visit.My mother is Lebanese and I lived there for 8 years, but I was locked up once when I was in my last year in Middle school because I was late 4 days to renew my temporary residence permit.I was 14. I had a Jordanian passport that was denied renewal because I married an Iranian. So I was left with no documents to prove my existence except a Kuwaity birth certificate. Now I have an Iranian passport, when I am not, but maybe, I should be grateful that some country on this Earth has recognized me as an existing pest.I had to apply for permits to live and work in all the countries I lived in, and those are many ranging from Tunisia to Malaysia,till finally I got an immigration visa to the US, and immediately upon arrival I was granted a green card.Would I think to go back to visit any Arab country???? Never again.

AF said...

I am not a Watheeqa holder. I was born and living in the West Bank, and because of a blessed ambition of the Jordanian king then, to expand his kingdom into the West Bank, I was granted the Jordanian passport. However, after the Oslo agreement we were all, together with the Gazans who held an Egyptian Watheeqa, granted a Palestinian passport. I thought, finally, the people og Gaza, and soon, all the palestinian refugees all over the world can be issued one, and be saved the humiliations you mentioned. But just yesterday, over a phone call with my sister living in the UAE, I got to know that it was too good to be true. She informed me that UAE no longer grants visit visa's to Palestinian passport holders. My son who is 19 years old, wanted to visit his aunt there and he cannot. Jordan doesn't issue any more Passports to those who didn't have one prior to Oslo. This way, Oslo screwed us in too many ways.

Arabianism said...

Dear AF,
I've been hearing the same about the UAE from different sources now. I think they might have stopped granting visas to Palestinians. Another blow for us Palestinians. What a shame.

Anonymous said...

i agree with all that has been said.
we can blame Lebanon and the lebanese. we can blame Kuwait and Qatar, ans KSA.
and then we can thank the Europeans, and the Canadians, and the USA.

but then again, the exodus was initiated by the Europeans, and the Canadians, and the USA. they created Israel. they have every reason to fell guilty and compensate.

and while we are at it, let us all remember to blame Israelis.


AF said...

@ anonymous July 21, 2010 12:05 PM
did you hear any of us say the cause of our plight is Lebanon? just be wise and think for a moment!! our Arab neighbors, who are our extension in history, religion, language and culture, should be supportive. But what's happening in some cases is that they're not even abiding by the human right laws, especially in the case of Lebanon. Egypt is another example: the siege on Gaza is equally established by both Israel and Egypt. Both are Equally guilty. But Israel has a declared war against the Palestinians, and want us either dead or away. Does Egypt have the same agenda?

The Gulf states do chip in money. No denying!! But it doesn't solve anything. The problem doesn't go away, and people are still killed. Things could be changed if the Arab leaders intended to.

NWT said...

You couldn't have said it any better! You have my absolute respect for writing a piece that precisely describes my thoughts on the matter.

If I wrote that article, I would probably end it with one more sentence. The Only Good Thing that came out of the Watheeqa is that it allowed me to become a Canadian Citizen, and a Canadian Passport Holder.

Arabianism said...

NWT, thank you for your comment. I would have loved to end the article with that sentence. Someday, I might be able to :)

Talha Aziz said...

Thanks for publishing this post that clearly entices a great emotion in your heart. I live in Qatar and i still find it hypocritical of some Arabs when they don't understand the appeal to go to Western countries.

Honestly, i hope something really wonderful happens in your life to make up for all the suffering

May God be with you dude :)

AM said...

Just a small remark about who is to blame..to be honest i thought about this question many times now; Zionist's role is obvious, western countries as well, and Arab leaders' support to them is also clear. Especially when you read "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" you will get a better idea about reasons for their blind submission to western countries policies.

But then i remembered the quote "kama takounou yuwalla 3alaykum", meaning "You will be led by people who are just like you". Think of that and you will reach your own conclusions. I will not elaborate more, but just something to think about, Arabs in the middle east read an average of 4 pages per YEAR!!!! This might be an important indication of our education, seriousness, and eagerness to reach our goals, one of which is freeing Palestine and ourselves from our dictators.

This is only one aspect of the conclusions that you might reach, however even though it might look a bit far from the topic, I believe that it is in the center of it.

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