I will go back to my country one day

“I can't describe the conflicting emotions inside me whenever I left my home carrying in my pocket a Syrian passport, a Swedish residence permit, and Turkish identification card. I can shout to the metro passengers in the rush-hour: ‘Listen, what you see before you now, is a three-dimensional citizen.’”

Syrian poet Housam Al-Mosilli was forced to flee Syria in 2012 after having been imprisoned and tortured three times. He lived in exile in Istanbul for four years while waiting to find a refuge. On February 25, he arrived in Linköping as the city’s first refuge writer. We asked him to write a diary during his last days in Istanbul.

March 10 2016 Text: Housam Al-Mosilli Translation from Arabic: Ghias Aljundi Illustration: Kajsa Nilsson

Between me and an aircraft which will carry me to my new city, Linköping, a few days and a lot of anticipation. I will write to my mother, to my friends in Istanbul. I will write to Istanbul and its airport which I will be visiting as a passenger for the first time after two years of absence because of a passport that no longer functions, like my homeland. I will write to the coming days too, despite the low temperatures, I am still sure that Linköping is warmer than Beirut and Alexandria.

The closer the travel date comes, the deeper I go into the details of my life which were absent from my thoughts but never left me.

10/02/2016
I have a ticket now which carries my name and states: the plane will take off from Istanbul airport to Amsterdam and then to Linköping in a journey which takes about six hours. I immediately printed two copies of my ticket. One for the airport official and the second to write on it “Syrians are still able to board a plane, even if it’s going to another country and this ticket is evidence”. I showed the ticket to a friend who added a note on the margin of the paper, refuting my concrete evidence that Syrian can still board planes, not only smuggled, as he quoted from YouTube: “this clip is unavailable in your country”.

I will go back to my country one day.

11/02/2016
On a mobile app related to weather, I added the name of my new city so I could follow the temperatures there. Since I left Syria, I did not consider this app as a mere method to follow the temperature, but a place where I can keep all cities I am connected to through living, visiting, friend or lover or a disaster maybe. In front of me now Damascus and Aleppo, Beirut and Alexandria and Cairo, Istanbul, Ankara and Antakya, and Berlin and of course Linköping. I went through their temperature quickly before I jumped out of my bed, late as usual, to my work. I wore at least half of the clothes in my wardrobe and above all a thick coat and a wool scarf in addition to gloves thicker that the ones Buffon wears in a decisive football match. Then, I picked up my umbrella and went out of the house. It was a spring day in Istanbul, 16 degrees, and I say it frankly: I looked strange and maybe funny too. But, what is my fault if the temperature in Linköping is -2.

I will not go back to my country one day.

12/02/2016
I can't describe the conflicting emotions inside me whenever I left my home carrying in my pocket a Syrian passport, a Swedish residence permit, and Turkish identification card. I can shout to the metro passengers in the rush-hour: “Listen, what you see before you now, is a three-dimensional citizen”.

I will go back one day to my country.

13/02/2016
In two weeks, there won't be more than two hours between the birthplace of Alfred Nobel and me. Then, I'll be able to bypass all who won the award once I arrive at Nobel himself. But a visit to Alfred Nobel is not a regular occurrence at all! Well, now I have to think about a few rituals; I certainly refrain from smoking during that visit, I'm not taking the risk of setting fire to a stick of dynamite by mistake, instead of a cigarette, if we get absorbed in talking about the peace prize awarded to Menachem Begin.

I will go back to my country one day.

14/02/2016
Quote-John Donne: “Never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee”. Today is mine; I will sleep early, and love myself more.

I will not go back to my country one day.

15/02/2016
Today marks the anniversary of the birth of Galileo Galilei; the man was lucky to regain his dignity only three centuries after his death! I hope our luck, we Syrians, with the world, will be better than Galileo’s.

I will go back to my country one day.

16/02/2016
A news report said: fifteen men died of starvation in the besieged Madaya, Syria. For a moment, I heard the voice of 'Silver', the leader of the Pirates of Treasure Island, sing “fifteen men died for a box”, and on the TV screen an image of a broken cardboard box, written on it: “Assistance from the UN, Not intended for sale”.

One moment of silence is equal to one light year of travel between reality and animation films.

I will not go back to my country one day.

17/02/2016
Istanbul is the city of charm and warmth, and Independence Street in its centre still attracts me. I am the one who knows his alleys by heart. Those alleys that surprise me every day with something new and unusual. Paradoxically, you find so much intimacy and tranquillity in a place visited by millions of tourists and expats from all over the world. But the strange and shocking thing really, is what was discovered recently in relation to this street which is full of life and colour; that there is a hidden Roman cemetery beneath it which contains hundreds of bodies and the number increases the more drilling and exploration takes place. I am certain that two-thirds of the people who cross this street every day – almost 250,000 – don't know this. What a unique phenomenon worldwide to see 100,000 people walking on their tiptoes for a distance of 1,500 meters, so that they do not disturb the dead!

I will go back to my country one day.

18/02/2016
I was lucky when I chose this cosmopolitan accommodation on the edge of the Strait between Asia and Europe. We have four rooms inhabited by a Syrian writer; Catherine, a Turkish journalist; Ruby, a German employee, and her boyfriend Joseph, a Turkish-Swede who is fluent in seven languages and maybe more. And the fourth room was a short stop over for people who were mostly very glamorous; Gabriel, an Italian friend who studies political science if he finishes preparing the pasta early, who gave me his “Gatsby” hat before returning to his country. Before him, there was Sida, my beautiful female Turkish friend, who would have been more than a friend had she stayed for another month or given up her hobby – pets with special needs. And I won't forgive myself for bursting out laughing or crying at her poor blind dog who hits one of the walls of the house more than a dozen of times until his smashed nose figures out the way to the food bowl.

I will not go back to my country one day.

19/02/2016
My suitcase is almost ready now. So, from this moment until I arrive in my new city, I have to be prepared for the obsession which possesses me whenever I look at the suitcase. I feel that I have forgotten to put something in, especially because I have prior experience with this problem: my favorite shirt in Beirut, a book presented to me in Alexandria, and my soul on a chair under an olive tree in a small park in Damascus.

I will go back to my country one day.

20/02/2016
I came back home late after an exhausting day searching for high quality video clips of an extremely brutal massacre, to talk about in my television programme on politics and cinema. I was surprised at the entrance of the house by the noise coming from inside. It was clear that there was a party in a room of my female housemates. I'll add here a little information. The fourth room, my favourite, is no longer empty, it was rented a few days ago by a German student who is studying history in Istanbul. I haven’t seen her since she came except only twice by coincidence. I entered the house and saw her coming out of the kitchen carrying three glasses of some alcoholic drink. She greeted me and insisted that I follow her. And as soon as I reached the door of the room, I found five German girls and one French girl, greeting me warmly and making a space for me to sit. They were all students about to graduate from Turkish universities and they are very friendly and beautiful. We talked about various topics, and it pleased me that three of them had spent several semesters at the University of Linköping, and they told me wonderful things about my new city, and then we took memorial photos, to prove to everyone the sincerity of my narration, before I went back to my room to follow the midnight news bulletin.

I will not go back to my country one day.

21/02/2016
Four days to go; I have many papers of the names of friends who I should say farewell to, as well as a long list of gifts and requests that I should carry to my friends in Sweden. Time passes quickly and it seems that I will not have enough time to do much of what I planned to do in my last days here in Istanbul. Maybe that is better than the pointless complications which might occur in the extra time. I can hear the plane's engine roaring, announcing the beginning of my new journey, and this delights me really.

I will go back to my country one day.