HAUNTED

She is sitting opposite me, partially obscured by the huge computer between us. She is wearing a white scarf beneath her black chador, a style popular with the religous and more modern youth. She has metal frame steel wire glasses. She is not wearing any make-up, but her skin and features are good, her skin is fairer than what is usual for Arabs. Not one strand of hair shows. She leans towards me, passionate and intense, speaking Farsi with a holy Arabic accent. Her mother and sisters are waiting outside, I can see them in the reception room. She is the most vocal person in the family. She wants to get out of Iran, where she has no permanent civil status. and she doesn`t want to return to Iraq, where she has never been (so she claims), and has no links, which is unsafe and ravaged by war. She wants us to get her settled in a foreign country which takes refugees and gives them the full range of civil and social rights. She is arguing, pleading, insisting, not giving me a word edgewise. We HAVE to send them to another country, or else they will die, they will be killed, murdered, raped, tortured, denied work, denied basic living condition, discrimnated against. If we do not send them and they come to harm, we are the ones responsible. So she says.

I know I`ve interviewed her before. I know there is a valid strong reason why this family doesn`t qualify for this particular programme, but I can`t remember it. Frantically, I type her name in our database, trying different spellings, different permutations, her mother`s name. I keep getting the `no such record` message. But I know I`ve interviewed her- I keep repeating the search, while she keeps up her impassioned irrelevant fiery speech. I interrupt her, asking her if she hasn`t interviewed with me before. She doesn`t give a straight answer, continues insisting that we get her and her family out of Iran. I repeat the question, feeling pressured, feeling my precious time getting wasted. I try to explain to her why she isn`t eligible, but my words have no effect. I can see her mother`s shrivelled face through the window. (which is weird, because in real life our interview rooms had no windows on the reception room.  I keep repeating the search, typing `sey*`, `fakh*`, `nab*`. No results. She leans closer. I wake up with a jump. I am in Halifax. The white windows are above me.

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