IT WAS FROM SYRIA, MY EX

my_rainbow

 

 

I was still awake trying to write this article about love, excited and afraid at the same time. Excited, because LOVE is always my hot topic as I believe that all that human beings need is love, but it seems that we need more than this.

At midnight, in my bed and my mobile phone in my hand, checking up my social media. I was about to grab the glass of water on the bedside table a WhatsApp message popped on my mobile phone.

 

09 May 2016, 3 minutes after midnight:

x: I miss you. 

If you knew how much I loved you, you would never think of leaving me.

This message shocked me and took sleep away. I did not know how to reply, but after 40 minutes I did.

 

Me: I didn’t leave you; I left my home.

x: I was your home.

 

 

 sorry no it was a joke 😀

 

(silence)

x: you know? Let’s play a game. Let’s talk like I am Syria, your home.

&  I will ask you a few questions, and you have to answer.

Me: I like the idea, but I have one condition.

x: Tell me.

Me: I ask you questions too, and you need to answer as Syria, my home.

You are still in Syria, Damascus, and I guess that you know the answers to the following questions.

x: Deal.

x: Why did you leave me?

Me: A big question, but I will answer.

I was not born to be a soldier 

x: Why not, you had to defend me.

Me: They did not want me to defend you; they wanted me to kill your sons and daughters, your children.

 

x: But they’re already dying every day. 

Me: But I am not the killer, or at least I don’t witness? the scenes of death.

x: You are so hard.

Me: I am afraid.

x: Do you miss me?

Me: So much.

x: What do you miss?

Me: I miss your mornings, the sun on my face when I am still in bed, the smell of Syrian coffee coming from all windows, balconies, and my mother’s kitchen of course.

x: What else?

Me: When I throw the basket down from the window to the vegetable seller, I  used to put a paper inside the basket, written on the paper was all that I needed for the day.

 

Tomatoes from Daraa, 

Melon from Reef Dimashq, 

Okra from Deer Ezzor 

and grapes from Sowaydaa.

x: You sound hungry, all you are talking about is coffee and food.

Me: No, I am not hungry, but I don’t feel satisfied.

x: Good to hear that you are not hungry, because my sons here are hungry, especially those who are under siege.

(Silence)

I miss you too.

Me: What do you miss about me?

x: The mornings, when you wake up and turn on the radio when Fairouz sings. and you go to work, and you start your morning show on the radio and say GOOD MORNING SYRIA.

Do you know? I stopped listening to the radio after you left.

 

(Silence)

 

It is not about you; the radio stopped being for music; it became a device to mourn people.

Only sad and bad news, the radio became a platform for politicians to lie.

Me: stop, stop, don’t tell me this, I know that.

x: I know, but I wanted you to read it.

Me: I don’t believe that you love me.

x: If I don’t, why am I texting you?

Me: because you are feeling alone?

x: And what about you?

(Silence)

 

Me: I am still in love with you.

x: I know.

Me: You look confident.

x: I am. I was your partner, and I know how you think.

Me: Sorry, you are breaking the rules of the game, the idea is that you are writing as my home, not as my ex.

x: I don’t break the rules. I am your ex-home; you are starting a new relationship with a different country, isn’t that the truth?

(silence)

 

x: What are you telling your new partner about me?

Me: about your love. I know that nobody loved me like you.

x: Sorry, you are breaking the rules now.

Me: no.

x: excuse me, homelands cannot talk, how did you know how much I loved you? As a country 😉

Me: since I left you and I lack love.

x: 😦

me: Goodnight.

(last seen of my ex 09 May 02:45 am)

On the 14 May 19:17 pm.

me: Hey my homeland, could I publish our conversation?

x: You’ll never change, Journalist effffff

me: hahhahaha

x: An Article or programme?

Me: Article.

x: What will you name the article? I am curious to know.

Me: IT WAS FROM SYRIA, MY EX

 

Khaled Alesmael

 

Published in Artikel14 magazine in Spring 2016.

Kalles, Kalled, Khaled Kaviar

KALLES
(C wikipedia)

By: Khaled Alesmael
Nice to meet you Kalles!

I met Kalles inside the supermarket for the first time. It was, precisely, on the day before I applied for asylum at the migration office – June 2014 in Malmö.
Let me briefly tell you what happened on that day; “I am looking for cheese to buy for Sweden is well known for cheese. Kalles is a blue-eyed blond boy dressed in white. It starts with eye contact followed by a smile that shows his healthy white teeth. I greet him as it is cheese! But I am not sure!”.
A voice comes from behind: “It is not cheese!” points out Kalles: “This is typical Swedish food. You will never find it except on the food tables at the Swedes’”. That man can read my mind! He is a man in his thirties. He still looks like Kalles after twenty years from now. He grabs Kalles from the shelf and tosses it in his shopping basket. I feel sorry for Kalles; he still looks at me from the top of the basket and smile until the man goes behind the shelves. Kalles has just disappeared.
Poor Kalles! He wanted to talk to me and integrate, but the man took him away in no time. Anyways “Nice to meet you Kalles” I said to myself.
Kalles is everywhere!

During my first nine months in Småland; I met Kalles very often in the supermarkets, on the bus between Åseda and vaxjo, at the migration office and everywhere. He had never been on my food table or even talked though.

After I got my residence permit, I moved to Gothenburg in April 2015. As a journalist, I was looking for a bigger city to work and integrate. My first contact was with the freelance journalist’s office. I dropped my telephone in my coffee after he called me. What a coincidence?! his name was Kalle!! “Finally, I would get the opportunity to talk to Kalle and learn about him.”

The journalist Kalle was a kind and welcoming person, and he looked like Kalles in the forties. He invited me to have a fika with his colleagues at his office.
Eventually, we met. I introduced myself by my Arabic name Khaled. Immediately, we were engaged in a discussion about the pronunciation of the initial letters (K &H) and how it should sound.

In the end, they all thought that my name could be Kalle too. I smiled and turned sarcastic: “Oh! With my dark and thick beard?! How it could be?!”. Before I left the free-lance journalist’s office, Kalle invited me to give a lecture about The Syrian Journalism at the folkhuset in September 2015. By then, I had only three Swedish friends, and they liked to call me Kalle, and I enjoyed it.
Is My Name Kalles?!
In September 2015, I started working for SVT as a journalist. I was sure that I would start working in the most prestigious investigative programs in Sweden and the Nordic countries ” Am I lucky?!”.

On my first working day, I wear my favorite blue shirt and grey vest. I was excited to go to my first meeting. At the conference room, I closed my eyes and remembered the blue tube of Kalles to get inspired by him, then with my little Swedish I introduced myself: “Jag heter Kalled.” I wanted my name to sound very familiar. No more K+H crisis!

I was not sure whether I succeeded or anyone cared. Guess what happened?! The name Kalle was mentioned over and over and over during the meeting. Each time I heard the name Kalle I thought that they were calling me or talking to me. As my new job was a great incident for Uppdrag Granskning!!! Until I knew that they were talking about another Kalle. He was working for UG years ago, even before the war started in Syria.
Very Close to Kalles!
In March 2016, I did it. I was the cover boy of the well-known Swedish magazine JOURNALISTEN as a newcomer got a job for Uppdrag Granskning. During that month, I was in the main cultural news in Göteborg Posten with two big posters. I became famous.
All my friends felt proud of me. My success story went viral.
One March evening, I was sitting on my sofa. My mobile phone was on the table between chips bag and beer, and suddenly, a message lighted its screen. I grabbed it and opened the message. A photo of the blue tube Kalles popped up in my face. He was smiling at me showing his white teeth. I felt shocked! I have almost forgotten about Kalles. The photo took me back to my first day in Sweden.

The caption of the photo said: “One day you will be famous in Sweden like Kalles and they may write your name Kalled instead.”
Good to Eat You Kalles!

Kalles is something special in my life. It is the first face I saw in Sweden. So far, it has been three years for me in Sweden, but I have never had the chance to taste it. Such a shame!
Do you remember that man I met at the supermarket-who kidnapped Kalles- in Malmö? Was he right when he said to me that Kalles is only for Swedes?
I rushed into the supermarket, excited like an adventurer. I grabbed the red shopping basket and walked towards Kalles’ shelves. I smiled at it like how it always did, and carefully carried the blue tube and gently put it in the basket. Kalles is at my house, in my fridge, on my food table, in my mouth, in my stomach and finally in my blood. Have I become Swedes?

Khaled Alesmael

It’s translated and published in Swedish in Artikel 14 Sept 2017

THE IRAQI BEAR

 

Khaled Alesmael is meeting the Iraqi Bear.

“Today and after two years in here, I don’t recognize myself. Even the mirror doesn’t”

 

irakisk
Illustration: Jenny Mörtsell (bilden är beskuren)

 @Growlr!

The gay bear social networks are almost empty in Sweden. Sometimes, I reach the bear gays in the neighborhood countries particularly Norway and Denmark. But it seems that there are many interesting hidden bears nearby. Once, in August 2016 –I was already in bed – I have got a notification that I received a message on Growlr. I opened the app to find this message:

“I am so much into the middle eastern guys. Where do you live sexy?”

It was from a hidden account, and without a profile photo or any information Furthermore, it was 100 km away from my house in Gothenburg.  I did not give any attention. Sometimes, I get this kind of messages in the weekends from drunk people they are looking for a  casual intercourse. I was about closing the app; his photo popped up below the text message. It was a picture of a typical Middle Eastern guy. Thick black eyebrows, dark long beard and Turkish style mustache showing his hairy shoulders.

@WhatsApp!

It was hard to go further with him and get his phone number; it cost me weeks. He was afraid to speak about himself as he was an asylum seeker in Asylboende near Ullared., especially when I introduced myself as a journalist and looking for friends or cases for my work. I read fear, loneliness, sadness and sexual suppression between his words.

I, as a gay man came from the middle east, totally understood his fear of the media. I was patient until he felt more relaxed and revealed his real identity. He decided to add a photo to his bear gays social media and named the profile “Iraqi Bear”.

We both had somethings in common, gayness, the background, culture, language, race and mainly the life in the asylboende with homophobic roommates. We became friends. I invited him to my house in Gothenburg to introduce him to my partner and our friends.

@Gothenburg September 2016!

It was his first time in Gothenburg, September 2016.I waited for him at central station, he waved hello from between the trains. A chubby guy dressed an XXL shirt and blue jeans; nothing can tell that he is gay except his dark sexual humour about men. That visit was just three weeks before his main interview with the migrationsverket. He needed someone to listen to him and make him feel safe in this exile.

 

The Iraqi Bear used to work as a makeup products’ salesman in his homeland. He is too much into fashion and beauty “I used to spend all my day in front of the mirror combing my hair” he said. He used to have long hair and very different style as a chubby guy in Baghdad. He was obsessed in accessories and colourful hats. Suddenly, he cut his hair and stopped wearing his accessories. Unknown groups started in 2014 to hunt the male guys with long hair, girlish clothes, and tight-fitting clothes. He was afraid to get a threat or to be killed.

His roommate in Ullared was a 55-years-old conservative man from Iraq too. He did not like The Iraqi Bear, he found him effeminate and too much. He always commented on his behaviour and bothered him with his questions; Why do you use a beauty full set hair like girls? This question took the Iraqi Bear to the homophobic environment that he run away from it. He started to act as a straight man as much as he could. “I am a stranger and feeling lonely in a crowded place” He described his life in the asylboende. The Iraqi bear lives in two exiles; the first is the homosexuality in a place like the asylboende and the second in Sweden.

He was in a far distant relationship with an Iraqi guy. They both made the journey together, but for a reason, his boyfriend decided to apply for asylum in Finland. They were in touch every day exchanging photos and talk about their new lives and dreamed of their future.

During that visit, he was very excited and happy, He was already in touch with his lawyer, and she promised him that she would help him to get three years’ residence permit in Sweden. His main interview with migration case officer was on the 27th of October 2016.

@Helsinki October 2016!

I met his boyfriend in Finland. He was already integrated and had a lot of Finish friends. I met him at his work; he was working as a waiter for a coffee shop and bar for bearish gays in Helsinki. I was impressed by his personality, very sociable and kind person and I knew from my Finish friends who always attend the coffee shop that he was a hard worker and extremely friendly. He obviously had better life and opportunities than the Iraqi Bear.

He was waiting to be granted the residence permit too; this would allow him to visit his partner in Sweden.

 

@Home July 2017

I was at my place in Gothenburg reading the news about the Iraqi model Karar Nushi who was brutally killed in Baghdad ‘because of his good looks.’ He was found covered in stab wounds in the middle of the city. Karra’s friends said on social media they believed he was killed in ambiguous circumstances because of the way he dressed, his long hair and his friendship with female actors. I immediately thought about the Iraqi Bear and what he told me about killing the young guys (who had different styles or high fashionable, girlish clothes like models)  in Baghdad. I phoned him.

His voice was broken on the mobile phone, as the connection was very bad: “The migrationsverket rejected my asylum application, and I broke up with my boyfriend.”

@Halmstad October 2017

The migrationsverket moved him to a different asylboende, the nearest city was Halmstad, and we met there. He took me to his favourite coffee shop. The door of the coffee shop was covered with the Welcoming phrases with several languages it was a sign that they are open for all nationalities Välkommen, Welcome, Marhaban, Witamy…etc.

I could not recognize him; he lost weights. And when he took the sunglasses off, his eyes were different to before; they were very sad and tearful. “I lost everything” he started the conversation.

On the valentine’s day “14th of February 2017” he was sitting in his room at the asylboende, feeling lonely and sad. It was the first Valentine after the boyfriend broke up with him. “The love has been vanished because of the distance,” he said. On that day, he received a post from the migration office with a negative decision. “such a love day” ironically, he said.

 

Two years in the asylboende are enough to make him lose his way; he is acting like a straight man to protect himself in a homophobic environment. “I am always playing a role, I am an actor” He lost his identity, personality, and the confidence”. “Today and after two years in here, I don’t recognize myself. Even the mirror doesn’t” he said then he followed: “The migrationsverket did not believe that I am gay. That was the reason they rejected my application.”

Published in Swedish in  Ottar Magazine Autumn 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Ramadan and enjoy the fika my dear brother!

ders
In Der Ezzor in February 2011

I don’t miss my family as much as I do in Ramadan, I feel so close to them and attached despite the distance. The only way to close to them and share the feeling that I try to fast as I can. This Ramadan, I have done a strange thing, Inspiring by a poem written by an African refugee in the UK, I dialed the number of the house of my family in Deir Ezzor although I know that it is rubble, for a reason, I have had a hope that someone will answer or someone to listen to me, it has been a long time and many things happened since I was a child in that house until today Ramadan 2019.
Ramadan in Deir Ezzor
As Ramadan moves according to the Lunar year, it comes in a different time every year. Once it came after Easter immediately, I was a child in the school. My best friend was the son of my mum’s best friend and neighbor. He was Christian, and his name was Jack. His family wanted him to fast the seven weeks prior to Easter, wherein the faithful abstain from eating eggs, meat, and any dairy or animal products. So, Jack and I made a secret deal in the school: He was eating my cheese sandwiches and cakes, and I was eating his Zaatar sandwiches and the cucumber. For that, he had to bring an extra sandwich, an apple or cake for me in Ramadan as I had to pretend that I was fasting to feel proud in front of my mum and siblings.
Ramadan in Damascus
I was fasting; I loved the idea of being an adult and made it by my decision. It was hard but possible when there were fresh food, water and a half cake in my fridge but I decided to feel the deprivation. In 2011, Jack visited me in Damascus; he was shocked that I was fasting, but respected and showed solidarity. He did not eat or drink water until Iftar., but he smoked in my yard as I was not a smoker. The purpose of his visit to Damascus was to join the daily demonstrations against Al-Assad as after Taraweeh prayers in the evenings. Jack posted on his facebook: “It is the first time I long for Ramadan more than Muslims as we will demonstrate every day not only on Fridays.” He referred to the demonstration that came out of the mosques after the Friday prayers.
Ramadan in Cairo
I used to share an apartment with a belly dancer. She used to work at nights and sleep the whole day. That is why we could not socialize or meet each other in the apartment. But every time we got the chance to meet, she was saying: “We will have plenty of time in Ramadan.” I did not understand what she meant until Ramadan came. Night clubs close their doors in Ramadan in Cairo. Belly dancers and their bands take a vacation. It makes sense; people get stuck in front of the TVs in Ramadan watching Drama and quiz programs. It is also time to tolerance, socializes, and reconnects with your relatives, and this is part of the worships in this month. I was enjoying the fasting with my roommate, cooking together and invite her friends to Iftar, they were belly dancers too. After the sunset, we used to go and sit in a coffee shop at the Nile river and enjoying watching the drama on a big screen with tons of people. Egyptians in Ramadan are watching drama and interact just like football matches.

cairo
Cairo March 2013

 

Ramadan in Istanbul
It was easier for my dear Jack to escape to Lebanon instead of Turkey. I missed him in Istanbul. I made Turkish friends, and Ramadan was a serious thing for them. They loved to volunteer to pack the meals in boxes for who needs it. I was helping them on the weekends. A funny thing happened to me once; I am smiling when I write it right now. One day I worked extra hours in Ramadan, and left my office on the Asian side just before a few minutes to the sunset, I had to take the ferry to the European side of the city. For the first time, the queue of people was so long at Karaköy ferry station, I had waited more than 10 minutes, and when I got closer to the station, I found out that it was the queue of students to get Iftar for free. Someone handed me a warm box with a smile. I laughed because the ferry was almost empty when I jumped on it and enjoyed eating my meal inside it, looking at the sunset at the Bosphore.

 

istanbul
Istanbul December 2013

 

Ramadan in Asylum House
Sometimes we end up in surreal places. Places don’t look or feel like anywhere else, and the asylboense is a good example. The asylum seekers celebrated Ramadan with emotions and tears, as we all were remoted and war-torn families. We became closer to each other. I respected the holy atmosphere in the place, and I was taking my coffee and have it somewhere in the forest with a few mates. The kitchen became more organized and cleaner as we all ate at the same time, and the forest looked empty at Iftar time. We were staying all night up, socializing, gathering, singing, we learned more about each other. Our Christian Eritrean mates initiated and invited us to Iftar once; it was the beginning of a new friendship. I got a text message from Jack: “Happy Ramadan, I am thinking to cross the mediterranean sea with my wife.”
Ramadan in Gothenburg
Fasting is fun in Gothenburg; I do feel spoiled, many invitations from friends to Iftar, tables full of the tastiest Syrian dishes, apricot juice, tamarind juice and qatayef filled with pecan or sweet cheese, following by very cozy and intimate talks and playing backgammon in a wooden box paved with shells. All that I mentioned, I used to do it with my family, but in exile, there is always an alternative. I still try to fast but sometimes I cannot, the day is too long for me in Sweden. Like a child, I pretend that I am fasting when one of my sisters calls me. Once she called me, and I told her that I was fasting, but as the Syrian proverb says (Lying rope is short). I accidentally let slip to her and said that I am going to have fika with my friend Jack she interrupted me and ironically said: It’s ok Fika does not spoil the fasting, and my face became red.
This year, my sister texted me: Happy Ramadan Enjoy the fika, my dear brother, I miss you.

 

This article is translated into Swedish and published in Göteborg Posten 

 

Khaled Alesmael

Between Sweden & Syria, Video-calls Every Sunday

I was in Halmstad last autumn; I went on a journalistic mission to interview an Afghan asylum seeker living in the asylum seekers’ accommodation, the purpose was to talk about the reason for rejecting most of the Afghans’ asylum applications in Sweden or deporting them. It was Sunday when all cities in the world are boring even the crowded New York, so can you imagine Halmstad on Sundays? And it is the 20th-largest city by population in Sweden according to Wikipedia. I liken Sundays’ vibes in Europe to Fridays’ vibes in Syria.

IMG-4361

 

Sunday strolling, I spent the time waiting for the case to come. I was walking back and forth in Hantverksgatan 22-16 in Halmstad, suddenly I

heard someone speaking Syrian accent loudly, I followed the voice until I found a man carrying his mobile phone up towards the tower of a church and speaking “This is where I live my child, and this is a church, can you see it clearly?!” I stood a few meters away from him listening to his conversation with his family inside Syria. Very sad, among the words of the father I could feel his feelings of sadness and guilt. I waited for him to finish his video call with his family and introduced myself to him and why I was in Halmstad. Since he knew that I was a journalist, he immediately asked me to do something about the family-reunion in Sweden. He told me about the slow process of the migration office and bureaucracy. His wife with two children all was in Syria/ Aleppo he told me that his family should drive thirty minutes from where they lived to find a place with a proper wifi connection to call him every Sunday the day he does not go to SFI school or arbetsförmedlingensaktivti. The migrationsverket booked an appointment for his family in Turkey in Autumn 2018. He told me that he was trying to find a reliable smuggler to smuggle his wife with two from Aleppo to Turkey safely, I stupidly asked why the smugglers? He answered: Syrians need a visa to access Turkey, where can my family apply? There is not any Turkish consulate or embassy in Syria now, and it’s impossible to travel from Aleppo to another country like Lebanon to apply for a Turkish visa, it is not safe but still the only one solution. I asked him what’s about something happened to your family as the information says that Turkish borders police shot a few Syrians they were trying to cross the borders illegally. He pulled a cigarette from his packet and said the Syrian proverb: “A drowning man will catch at a straw. And for me, I am already drowned”.

He did not want to think about the negative things, he wanted to feel only optimistic, he believed that optimism leads to the right stuff.

What is the solution? He asked the migrationsverket many times, not only he had added me to a group on Facebook, it was called in Arabic: Speed up the Family Reunion in Sweden. 31.298 members joined this group; all of them are fathers and mothers came to Sweden alone in the hope that they can collect their children and partners by a visa “safely.”

The last time I checked this group, it was during my writing to this piece. The newest post was written by a Syrian woman she is in Syria now: Hej! I have a question, please. My children and I did the interview in Khartum/ Sudan two weeks ago, and we gave all our documents to the Swedish case officer, and she gave us back all the documents before we left her office. I felt shocked afterward because the case officer has sent us an email she said that she could not find our papers, and she wanted us to send her the documents in three weeks, but I came back to Damascus immediately after the interview. What can I do now?

Every day, tens of the posts like these on the Speed up the Family Reunion in Sweden FB Group, this shows that there is a big problem and complicated between the migrationsverket policy and the complicated political situation of Syria in the same time.

“Some people here they criticise the asylum seekers, why all of them are men? well, we thought that we could protect our women and children from the boat trip and collect them safely, but it seemed that it is harder to leave your family behind you than make the hard journey” The Syrian father said before he left.

By the way, the Afghan guy did not come to the appointment, and he did not answer my phone calls, and his number became out of coverage after. I hope he is fine!

This article has beed translated and published in Swedish in Artikel 14 magazine.

Gay Integration in Sweden!

Mizo

                    “It is not easy to write about integration in Sweden if you would not have the opportunity to integrate” This was what Mizo’s answer when I asked him to write his life and the integration in Sweden as a newcomer. Mizo is 21 years old, he was a student in law at Damascus University. He was sitting in front of me in my kitchen. I could figure that he was in a restless mood. Eventually, he asked my permission to go out to smoke in the yard.

Mizo had told me how much he felt lonely since he came to Sweden as a gay asylum seeker. He could not integrate with his compatriots in the asylum seekers’ accommodation -The building was located in a small town in woods- Because was unsure if they were homophobic or not. But he was sure that it was better to hide his sexual identity. So, he preferred to be silent and live inside his shell”.

“He left the asylum seekers’ accommodation exactly on the day he was granted his residence permit. Mizo wanted to start a new life in a big city in Sweden -He is keen to integrate- but his first shock was in the Samhälle course at the integration center. The teacher clearly said that she herself does not support the gay people’s rights. Then he added: The teacher is extremely gay, and Mizo gets messages from him on Grinder very often”.

“Regarding the integration center and the job center plan, He tried to start his new life by his own away. He began to attend the city bars and restaurants and look for where the gays people usually meet. Disappointment! Mizo could not build any friendships or bridges with the Swedish gay guys. These types whom dressed fancy and eat in expensive restaurants were not interested in a gay refugee”.

“Another choice here is the apps, where the gay men could be meeting and dating. He was tearful when he said: Many were blocking him or just ignoring after his answer that he is a refugee”.

In ten minutes, Mizo came back after he smoked his cigarette in the yard. He decided not to write an article himself; then he asked me to write what he just told me before.

Khaled Alesmael

This Article published in Swedish in Artikel 14 magazine in Autumn 2016.

The Vegetables’ Diary

           Okra

In our house, everything had a copybook. Beginning with the shopkeeper’s monthly economic book, the provisioning notebook, the family notebook, the salary notebook, the telephone directory and the dictation notebook in my school bag. All these notebooks have the same ending – the nearest falafel shop in the neighborhood. They will use the paper to wrap the roller sandwichs.  Therefore, I decided to throw my papers from my head onto this blog, thus avoiding a fate among frying oils.

The Zurian Mint (Mint from Deir ezzor City)

Time: Elementary school days
Place: Ayyash village

                I learned the real meaning of Zurian mint in the town of Ayyash in Deir ezzor at the banks of the Euphrates river. My family went on a springtime trip along with our neighbors. As soon as she got off the car, our neighbor Um-Samer screamed: “Zurian mint!” I had no idea what she meant or what she wanted. But the scent reminded me of the time I accompanied my mother to the Attarien Market (perfumers’ market).

Um-Samer ran towards the short green plants. She knelt on the ground and gently touched them by her fingers’ heads, then she raised her hand to my mother. My late mother closed her eyes and inhaled while Um-Samer did the same. I could see that it was a like meditation for both of them. Wow! I immediately felt inspired. I rubbed the top of the tiny and soft mint’s leaves with my small hands- and passed them to all my brothers and sisters’ noses. They inhaled the scent and closed their eyes, enjoying it like if it were their first time.  I was a 7 years old kid, exploring the landscape of his hometown.

The trip ended up with the fresh mint tea, it was the best tea I ever had.

The Zurian Cucumber!

Time: Secondary school days.
Place: Our garden.

               Faten…our neighbor’s name. She never felt bored or tired of preparing her dinner with the same daily rituals. As she was listening to the Deri folk music Al Moulaya by the local singer Abdulkader Hennawy. Faten tried to compete with him as she was singing louder than the sound of music. Sometimes her voice overcomes his. I’m sitting at my study table in our garden and secretly cursing Faten. Blocking my ears by my earphones and get back to my books. I had been a student of Bacaloria.

But Faten insists on interrupting me and blurring my thoughts. She is cutting the cucumbers. The smell of the sliced Zurian cucumbers descends from the first floor into our garden, sneaking into my stomach and tickling it. Oh…. The same evening scene is over again. I close my book and take my earphones off the table, and without a host, I head to the kitchen, I grab a cucumber, in the same size of my finger, from the fridge and bite it. As usual, the white goat cheese is a good company with the cucumber on a soft fresh piece “Ragheef” of bread.

Baby Aubergine!

Time: High school days
Place: Vegetable’s seller

All women gather at the vegetable’s shops in Deir ezzor, all are waiting for the mini trucks loaded with baby aubergine to come from the countryside.
It is makdous’ time and aubergine’s jam. That’s why women race to get this kind of aubergine – they can brag by stacking their transparent glass jars full of makdous and jam on their kitchen shelves.

My role in this competition is to carrying the big bags of the aubergine and walking behind my mother. And all that happens before seven o’clock in the morning.

Deir Ezzor Okra!

Time: University days.
Place: Damascus University.

The official identity of the Deir ezzor cuisine is okra. It differs to any other okra farms in Syria –in shape and taste- and people from other provinces crave for it. My friends’ mothers in Damascus always asked me to bring Okra for her when I travel to Deir ezzor.

A press conference about okra at the University:

Colleague 1: Why do you eat okra a lot?
Me: Because it’s tasty.
Colleague 2: I heard that you don’t fry the okra before cooking… is that right?
Me: Yes.
Wired Colleague: Do you eat okra by hand?
Me (confidently): Yes.
Colleague 4: will you initiate a festival for okra like the tomatoes’ festival in Spain?
Me: why not.

Then I walk to my flat in Damascus. Taking a frozen bag of okra out the freezer, my mother sent it to me from Deir Exxor. I cook it with fresh tomatoes, eat it all and having a short nap, exactly like the people in my hometown do.

Deir ezzor Okra makes me proud.

Deir Ezzor’ vegetables’ syndrome

Khaled Alesmael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Integration – Frågetecken? Utropstecken!

Mizo

”Det är inte lätt att skriva om integration i Sverige, om du inte har haft möjlighet att integreras.” Det är vad en ung syrisk kille svarade mig när jag bad honom att skriva ner sin berättelse om hur han integrerats i Sverige. Han är 22 år gammal, var juridikstudent vid Damaskus universitet och kom till Sverige för två år sedan. Han blev orolig och rastlös av min fråga och bad om tillåtelse att gå ut för att röka på gården.

Han hade redan berättat för mig hur ensam han kände sig sedan han kom till Sverige. Som homosexuell kunde han inte integreras med sina landsmän i asylboendet som låg i en liten skog. Inte för att de var homofober men han vågade inte lita på deras reaktioner. Så han föredrog att vara ensam.

När han beviljades sitt uppehållstillstånd var han upphetsad över att lämna asylboendet. Nu började hans nya liv i Göteborg. Han chockades när hans lärare på integrationscentrum, under avsnittet ”samhälle och HBTQ” berättade för gruppen att hon inte höll med den svenska lagstiftning som garanterar HBTQ-personers rättigheter. ”Men, det här är Sverige och det här är lagen”, sade hon.

Han försökte istället starta sitt nya liv på sitt eget sätt, bortom alla dessa integrationsprogram, som han beskrev dem. Han började gå till gaybarer och restauranger, men han byggde inte broar och fann inga vänner. De välklädda och välbeställda som gick till dessa tjusiga restauranger var inte intresserade av en homosexuell flykting som honom.

Han lärde sig om Grindr och andra appar. Appar där man som homosexuell kunde träffas och dejta, men hans ögon tårades när han berättade att de flesta män blockerade honom eller ignorerade hans meddelanden när de fick reda på att han kom från Syrien. Han träffade inga svenskar där, bara tillfälliga besökare eller andra invandrare.

Han kom tillbaka efter att ha avslutat sin cigarett. Sa till mig att han inte skulle kunna skriva om sina erfarenheter och att jag redan kände till hans berättelse. Så bad han mig istället berätta för er. Och i hans ögon läste jag: Frågetecken? Utropstecken!

Khaled Alesmael

published 30/09/2016

 

Love Story

                I am a bearded guy, height 171 cm, weight 74 kg, athletic body, middle eastern, Syrian, educated and single. I am looking for friendship, relationship and meeting new people from different cultures. And if you are curious about my history with love; read this:

Yes, I fell once…
Only one woman could occupy my heart. Only one lady I remember each detail in her body, only one female I felt warm between her arms, She is the first woman I could put my head on her shoulders and sleep deeply.

The TRAINERS!
She was a poor widow but behaved like a queen with a generous heart, and I was seven years old with a small heart. The first gift, she bought for me; was a pair of stylish white trainers, they were costly. When she handed them to me, I immediately looked at her black shoes. They were very old and unusable; she who needed new shoes. I held her present; I wanted these new beautiful trainers for the school.

The SANDWICH!
In Syria, people express their love and care by food. Syrian proverb says: eat as much as you love me! We say this when we invite a person to a dinner or lunch; another Syrian expression says Syrians spoil their beloveds in the kitchens.
Once upon a time, I woke up late, left the house to school without breakfast. She felt guilty as it was her mistake. Although I never thought to blame her, even I did not think about it. I joined the classroom with my friends, the moment we were taking our books out of the bags, someone knocked on the door from outside.
When the teacher opened the door, I saw her, she stood and smiled at me, holding a cheese sandwich in her hands. I ran to her and hugged her. It wasn’t for a sandwich; it is about giving.
That moment, I felt her genuine love. I swore that I would not love a person except her.

A doctor holding an old woman's hand - part of a series.

THE RING!
I was not stupid; I knew that she sold her golden ring. The beautiful golden ring with the red diamond did not surround her finger anymore.
I used to touch the ring when I massage her hands; I thought it was a part of her body until I missed it. I felt embarrassed to ask her about it. She sold it, I was sure, we have a lot of food in the fridge.
My heart cried that day; she sold the most expensive thing that she ever had, it was a special present from her late husband.

The love story has officially started. I wrote down the description of her ring in my copybook, beautiful golden ring, big with a gleaming transparent red diamond.
Twenty years later, I graduated from the university and got a proper job; I could purchase the same design ring. It was effortless to find it; the jeweler told me that this design was trendy in the sixties. And many young ladies inherited this kind of rings from their mothers or grandmothers and the changed them to something modern.

She was cooking rice and milk for me. I kneeled in front of her in the kitchen; held her hand and gently kissed it and put the ring on her finger.

 

Khaled Alesmael

published in Artikel 14 in September 2016