From what I gather, my father was the first in his family to marry “outside” the family and even to this day it’s not acceptable. Our first phone call, a family member wound up reducing me to racking sobs and honestly I didn’t even want to pursue it any farther. It was that heart wrenching. I was accused of everything under the sun but the bottom line were two things. 1) I wanted the Kuwaiti citizenship and 2) I wanted money. Neither of which were true. You know here in the US if someone has been lost, so to speak, because of divorce, adoption, etc, when they are found most are welcomed with open arms which is exactly how I thought I would be received. WOW…that wasn’t the case. Some of my father’s family are here in the US and have lives here and are very successful. These were the first ones we located. All we had to go on was the name that my father signed at the end of the letter along with his picture. I can’t tell you how many times we faxed those pictures and letter. Again, I was accused of making it up, having someone write the letter for me, etc.
Finally, after months and months of questions and accusations (on their part) and begging (on my part) an uncle of my fathers, who is elderly, called me and said that he knew I had existed for years. I told him I was coming to Kuwait and that I would like to meet with him. He agreed. When I met him it was very emotional and even on the phone he had cried. He wept openly when we met in person. On our first visit, he was the only one that we met. On the second visit more uncles and male cousins come to meet us. Some were very accepting some were not. ALL of them are very , very strict ! It wasn’t until our third trip to Kuwait that I was actually taken to anyone’s home. At first it was like the women resented me being there. Most of them still act this way although some have come around and there are a couple of younger female cousins that have been very polite, but still very guarded. The wife of my father still refuses to meet me and so do her children (who are grown). Part of this I do understand, kind of. Maybe someone can enlighten me on some of this. The elderly uncle has always been kind and loving towards me and several of the male cousins have “come around” and I am allowed in their homes, but again, the women are so guarded and treat me like I have the plague. From our first trip to Kuwait, out of respect for my family I have always dressed as they ask. Abaya, hijab and depending on where we are, niqab too.
As for my father, I have been told he was taken as a POW or killed when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Everyone swears that they have not heard from him since he disappeared. One of the not so accepting uncles called me when the US went into Iraq and waged the first “Shock and Awe”. He said, “Amirah, the blood of your father is now on your hands, because where your father was being held was blown to pieces by your country”. I immediately called the elderly uncle and he said that that fact had not been proven. The elderly uncle, said that my father had looked and looked for me, including making several trips back to the US. He was finally able to locate my biological mother. She died in 1984 somewhere in Oregon. I never met her nor any of her family.
So who do I believe ? What do I believe? Is there more to these stories than being told to me?
While “S” and I were married he had to go home to ********* for a visit and he made a stop in Kuwait. We had been told (not by my family members) that there was a list of POW’s. So when “S” went there he obtained a copy of that list. There was no one from my fathers family, nor his name on that list. So I still honestly don’t know what happened to my father.
Over the last 11 years I have learned a lot about Arab culture which has helped me to understand a little more as to why I am treated like this, but it still hurts very deeply. I mean, these people have the same blood flowing through their veins as I do !!
One of my family members (in Kuwait) found my “blog”. That’s why I went back and removed all names, places and took my picture off my profile. I had embarrassed them. It was a lot easier when “S” and I were married (before he got kidnapped by his family….yep, another long story) but the first time I went back to Kuwait after “S” was kidnapped they brought (at different times) a couple of male family members that they wanted me to choose between so I could become engaged. When I declined, I really become the black sheep of the family. It doesn’t make sense to me though. How can you not be “good” enough or Arab enough to be accepted into the family , but yet some want to marry me off to a family member ?? I don’t understand. The elderly uncle continues to love me and treat me with the utmost respect and kindness even though I declined to marry the men they brought to me.
My family and friends here (the American side) don’t understand how I could possibly love a country and it’s people that for the most part, deny me. They don’t understand how I can “defend” my Arab family and their actions when the same blood runs through my veins that runs through theirs. They don’t understand how I can love a culture that can justify walking into your home and taking away your husband (more about that story on another post) because your not from their “tribe”, you have been divorced and you have children from a previous marriage. If I don’t completely understand it how can I possibly expect them to? I don’t.
So how do I deal with all of this? There are times that I don’t cope with it very well. There are times I cry myself to sleep and even I find myself asking “why” sometimes. I have learned what true “unconditional” love is. I have learned that it’s possible to love something and someone even though there are things you don’t like about it. It’s called “acceptance”.
What do I do when at times the pain becomes almost unbearable? I saddle my horse and ride………………………..
~ Amirah ~