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It’s my fate to stay here.’ ‘But if you can arrange a visa for me, you must be able to get one for yourself too.’ ‘You’re like a child. The things that happened next don’t happen even in fairy tales. I was sitting with twenty Kurds in a top-floor, two-room apartment. The flat belonged to our people-smuggler, who was to get us to Greece soon.
Then catch up with the others.’ ‘That’s impossible. In Iraqi slang, we refer to jail as ‘behind the sun’. The whole thing cost a million Iraqi dinars, or a thousand American dollars. And, of course, I didn’t have a million dinars to spare. When I landed in Africa, I lived there for years without a single miracle. I took on all kinds of jobs, just to survive, until the day I met Miriam. We first met in the Grand Tourist Hotel on Omar al-Mukhtar Street in Tripoli. Every morning, she’d come into my room, empty the bin, say ‘Hello’ and ‘Welcome to the Grand Tourist Hotel! She had to give her pimp a percentage of her earnings. I was walking along the beach one evening, watching the boats and ships before returning to Omar al-Mukhtar Street to get something to eat. They beat me until I was lying on the ground, motionless. You’re dead if we ever see you with Miriam again.’ I lay there, looked at the sky, the stars and couldn’t hold back my tears. That car tyre saved you.’ I SWEAR ON ALL CAR TYRES—the next miracle followed soon after. Two official documents were required—one confirming you’d done your military service, the other that you weren’t subject to a travel ban. They always just happened, at the end of long cruel periods. She was in her early twenties, perhaps, a round white face and red lips, as if it was chilli she’d used, not lipstick. ‘Policeman or pimp—there’s not much of a difference here,’ she said with a shrug. I had no idea until one of them hissed, ‘Fucking Iraqi! But thanks to my friend Abba, I could still be out and about. Though it cost only a dollar per night, I couldn’t afford it. There were so many policemen in the streets, you’d have thought they were a people in their own right. ‘I’ve never paid for sex.’ We did sleep together, all the same, that night. Suddenly, it was something like love—like many of those strange feelings you don’t expect and can’t understand. She even wanted to pay for my hotel as I didn’t have much money left. Each time, I had to learn by heart my new name and all the details that went with it. ‘But with you it’s because I want to.’ She never would tell me why she sold her body.
For the next few months, he supplied me with fake ID more than fifteen times, with just as many names and professions. ‘With the others, I’m doing my job,’ she explained.
So there are events that are miracles, not coincidences —that’s how I will put it, even if the logic isn’t exactly Aristotelian. To me they’re not just a car’s feet but guardian angels. The yells of children, the loud music from the music shops and the street dealers shouting: ‘Fresh tomatoes, salad, fruits and vegetables, all fresh . .’ After a while, I could hear only the wind against the sides of the car.
I’m not a superstitious person, the supernatural and subterrestrial are not for me. I know that doesn’t sound particularly intelligent, given that many people have lost their lives to car tyres.
tells Khider’s story of exile through the voice of a fictional protagonist named Rasul Hamid who describes his flight from Iraq, along with his attempts to live as an undocumented refugee, bouncing between North Africa and Europe. Miracles happen—in my life—always at the last minute. In those strange moments for which there is no other term. These miracles have much in common with coincidences. I could hear only my fellow prisoners breathing and my heart thumping.
With elements of both tragedy and comedy, the following excerpt details the many “miracles” that allow Rasul Hamid to flee from Iraq to Germany as he hides from the police, falls in love with a prostitute, and cuts sketchy deals with human traffickers. But I can’t call them coincidences because a coincidence doesn’t happen many times over. The guards got all the prisoners together, bound their hands, blindfolded them with bits of black cloth and put them in several cars. Could smell only the others’ sweat and their old, damp clothes.
Walking from the dark side back into the brightness of lightbulbs I began to consider impossible. He offered to alter the data the authorities held on me and to arrange a passport that would enable me to flee to Jordan. This time, it was the women in the family who saved me. With these, and similar thoughts, I passed the many long hours until we arrived in Amman. An old man, standing outside his food shop, beckoned me over. My Iraqi passport was causing me concern too—it was valid for only another month. The Libyan police could deport me to Egypt at any time. I took the bag and went back to the beach, laid it on the ground like a pillow and fell asleep.