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 beingnobody 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.
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.