It was a cold winter day when we arrived. The city was still and calm, the roads nicely asphalted and lined. We walked towards the police building where we had to submit our request. Going to the police frightened me. I had a painful picture in my mind. I had the feeling I was going to jail, or that they may treat us like criminals. In my confused mind, I likened those organized roads to Kabul’s dusty, chaotic roads.
When we entered the building, despite my fears, the policemen were nice and patient towards us. A nurse came to me, smiling, and said with a peaceful voice, “May I help you?” She took my three-month-old baby in her arms and said, “She is so innocent and nice.” She guided me to a warm room especially designed for children. She gave my four-year-old daughter cookies, and asked, “What is your name, gorgeous?” My daughter was looking at the nurse with a surprised expression and shook her head. I said: “Nilab, she is asking your name. Please tell her what is your name.” My daughter answered in trembling voice: “Nilab.”
“Beautiful, beautiful name,” the nurse said, and asked me if my daughter wanted to play with toys. Again, Nilab shook her head; she didn’t want to play; she was not used to playing with toys. The nurse turned to my baby, and said softly, “Oh dear, you are tired, you need a bath.” She began giving my baby a bath. She changed her clothes and diaper. While she was doing this, I was looking at all those items for kids: a small bath, soft beds, toys for different ages. On one wall hung kids’ drawings. One of those drawings was horrible. It showed fire, demolished houses, injured people, a lady’s dead body and a crying child. Can you imagine a child drawing an awful picture like this? You could read the child’s mind so easily. I was thinking about children growing up in war. Do these children ever have a toy? Do they ever have a bath with warm water? No. Suddenly I wanted to talk to the European children and tell them, “You are lucky. You are in safe hands. You should be thankful for your governments.”
I was struggling with my thoughts when that nice voice interrupted me: “What is her name?” I asked, “Whose name?” “Your daughter’s. She is amazing. She has got sharp eyes.” “Laila. Her name is Laila.” “Beautiful, beautiful name,” the nurse said and added, “While the baby is sleeping, you can leave her here. Once she wakes up, you can take her with you.” Since my baby was in deep sleep, I asked the nurse if she could look after her. She said, “Of course, that is why we are here.”
She guided us nicely to the waiting room. I wanted to take hot shower and have a rest, but it was not possible. They had just two big sleeping rooms for men and women. In the waiting room, the chairs were uncomfortable and small. After two days, my whole body was stiff and in pain.
When I entered the waiting room, everyone was staring at me as if I had bad news for them. Between those worried eyes, I saw my husband with his half-opened mouth and an anxious look. “Where have you been?” he asked. “In child services. Why? What is wrong?” “I thought they called you for an interview,” he said. But it was not that easy. When we spoke to others, we learned everyone had been waiting for their interviews for more than 48 hours. My God, I thought, how can I spend two days in this waiting room on these plastic chairs?
They didn’t serve warm meals, just a bottle of cold milk, an apple, two slices of bread and a piece of cheese. We were not allowed to go outside the compound, so we couldn’t buy our own food. I hate milk products and so does my daughter. When I shared the problem with the guards, they said, “Sorry, we can’t do anything.” So we didn’t eat proper food for more than 48 hours. I felt cold from the inside. By the second day, my daughter was speechless. She was watching me but never said anything, as if she understood the situation. She didn’t mention that she wanted to eat.
On second day, they called us for an interview. The interview was strange. They asked odd questions like: “Why did you leave your country? Couldn’t you live in Pakistan?” I was upset and mad. I said, “Don’t you know what is going on in my country and who is responsible? Haven’t you read Geneva’s agreements for refugees? First you have to read them, and then ask us questions like this. No one will never ever leave their motherland and chose another country. It is like replacing your mother with another. No one will prefer another mother, even if this mother is kinder, nicer and richer than your own mom. Believe me, sir, we are not here because your country is nice, modern and rich. I love my destroyed country more than Europe. You should know, sir, who is responsible for destroying my motherland, who killed our parents, our youngsters.”
The interrogator listened with unfeeling eyes. Then he said, “These questions are part of our investigation. You have to answer them.” So I said, “No, sir, I couldn’t live in Pakistan, it is not safe.”
There were many other odd questions and odd answers. Then they took our fingerprints and gave us ID cards. On the third day, we were in the waiting room when a policeman entered, called our names and said, “Follow me.” God, I wondered, what will be the next step?