This extract is based loosely on a few true stories, with some details embellished and amended to protect privacies. It is written with the objective of reflecting the reality for millions of people in this world, and not to focus on any one single individual.
‘She was articulate and spoke an educated style of English. Awkward in it’s formality, heavy in vocabulary. She had been part of a generation when her country was still enjoying the residual fruits of being Asia’s poster boy. Her father was a professor in history and political science and wrote extensively for the only democratic organization existing for all people then. Her brother was a university student who had been part of a student uprising to salvage the dead body of one of their country’s international diplomats. Both her father and brother had been detained in a famous prison for almost 10 years. Her father died shortly after his release as his body could not cope with the poor medical treatment afforded in prison. Her brother was paralysed from the waist down. He had also become psychologically damaged and mute. Friends in the know described of unimaginable forms of torture as having been behind these conditions.
She became a school teacher because she felt it still linked her to her father’s scholastic lineage yet was low-profile enough to escape the authorities’ adverse surveillance of her. Until she got married to her husband, who happened to be an underground political activist she was herself not aware of. She grew suspicious only when soldiers came asking for her husband while he was at work. They came again in the night and took him for 2 weeks. When he returned he walked with a noticeable limp. He told her he needed to leave the city for awhile and left within 2 nights. Months went by and she did not hear of him. She was not sure if he had left the country or if the soldiers had detained him again. Contacting him directly was likely to put him in danger. She wondered if he would return home psychologically damaged like her brother.
Then the soldiers in green began to come to her house, asking for him. She genuinely did not know. Then men who dressed casually but whose hair was cropped very close to their heads, a style she associated with the intelligence, came to her house asking for him. Again she pleaded ignorance. Though she was secretly relieved to see that he had not been detained by the authorities, she was becoming frightened of the men coming to ask for her husband. After 5 months the man with the crew cut hair came to her house and told her directly that he knew of her father and her brother’s history, and also of her husband’s work in the same organization. He promised her that should she continue to deny knowledge of her husband’s whereabouts by the end of the month, she would have to be detained on account of her husband. She then received news from a friend of her husband that her husband was trying to leave the country, but he needed to resolve some issues with the authorities before he did. She was asked to leave first and they would reunite in a neighbouring country. And so she found a way to leave.
In the new country she was free of surveillance but existed illegally. She lived in a 2 bedroom apartment with 3 men and 1 woman from her motherland. Some stayed home for most of the day as they had no papers and would be detained and locked up by the local police if their status was detected outside. She managed to get a job as an interpreter for a political organization representing her people’s rights and earned a weekly wage sufficient for a frugal survival. One day she came home a little earlier as she had had a headache. One of the men she lived with raped her and robbed her off her weekly pay. She was frightened of reporting to the police as she did not want to bring unwanted attention to her illegal stay in the country. She informed a colleague at work who asked her to move in with her.
Three months later she discovered she was pregnant. She was desperately seeking for information about her husband but she could not seem to get any response from any of his friends. She did not want him to know what had happened to her as she did not want to worry him. But she had not enough money to pay for a clinical abortion, nor enough money to raise a child from her rapist. She wanted only to find her husband again, and longed to return home but she could not see how it was possible. They had earmarked her, her father, her brother, her husband, and had warned her that if she could not submit her husband, she would be detained herself. The longer she had stayed abroad, the more obvious it would become if she returned. There was no other place to go to in her country. Most of her family members had been wiped out, and the State kept a close eye on everyone, everywhere. Sometimes she hated her husband for having pretended to be nothing more than a chemist. If he had just stayed out of politics, she could still live in her house in the capital city, and fall asleep comfortably in her own bed at night, with him by her side.
If they did not speak against the government, life was tolerable.’
Note: Featured Image is sourced from Pexel.