By. Aya AbduRabou
Where do I belong? This is a question that crosses our minds at some point in our lives, and one hopes they have no limit to discover the answer. But what if we are told we don't belong in a place we call home? Growing up with two ethnicities and nationalities exposed me to questions about my belongingness that I have yet to find an answer to. The Kuwaiti Nationality law of 1959, in theory, was promulgated in order to ensure that naturalization wasn't very common to protect the ‘legitimacy’ of the Kuwaiti nationality; amidst this decree, it states that it does not recognize the right of Kuwaiti women to pass on their nationality to their children, therefore the country I grew up and lived in, isn't truly my home until I turn 21, which for the last 20 years, seemed a millennium away. I have lived in Kuwait my entire life; it's all I've ever known, and yet with the way they treat us “half Kuwaitis” we are made to feel like foreigners. Additionally, the Egyptian side of me has always lingered in the background. Where I’m told ad-nauseam I am inferior to everybody since I’m Egyptian in Kuwait and Kuwaiti in Egypt; it was a futile battle that I grew tired of fighting pretty early on.
One of the earliest memories of my youth that had distinctly shaped the way I view this situation was when it was national day in year four, and the teacher went around asking if the ‘Kuwaiti’ children had found their brightly colored traditional clothing. Still, when she looked at me, she immediately asked, “What exactly do Egyptians have as their national garments?” This made me wonder why I wasn’t expected to wear what all the other children wore when I, too, shared their heritage. My identity crisis bridged every aspect of my being. At such a young age I began to put up countless smokescreens and since I had no physical or emotional connection to Egypt, I slowly erased that part of my identity, only to fortify my ‘Kuwaitiness’ as well as fit in thus any mention of the former would completely madden me. I also felt almost a heavy burden to perfect my English and move away from my mother tongue, Arabic, as if I would somehow be better than everyone else. Here I am almost sure my grammar and punctuation are up to par in this article. In contrast, I still struggle with answering my relatives when they ask me basic questions in Arabic. Or the fact that my way of thinking is very ‘Westernized’ and I find myself not exposed to the things that interest the youth in Kuwait, which I felt was evident throughout both my school and university life.
I have come to despise not only my ‘homeland’ but find myself separated from its people more and more. I buried that part of my identity so deep it ceases to exist even to me. So as I write this I am fully aware that a huge question mark hovers over this part of me, I have been looking for my 'home' for so long that I've become indifferent to it, knowing that I may never find such a place, but that's okay… I think.
So, who am I? Kuwaiti? Egyptian? The truth is that I don't need the answer anymore.
It seems rather cruel to impose such a question on people that are still navigating their way through life, and so I’ve decided, the color of my passport or what people tell me I am shouldn’t be a cornerstone to my identity anymore.
The reason I mention this topic is not only because of my personal experience and anyone who is facing a similar battle, but also because this concept spans across many aspects of what we see going on in the world today, i.e., immigrants marginalized, lack of rights for ‘minorities,’ basically anyone who is labeled different experiences these kinds of situations, even if it's on a different scope.
So I leave you with this, people like to point out the divergences in others regardless of the fact there is overt evidence that no one is genuinely 'pure.' No land belongs to any specific group of people, so unless people start realizing this, we’re all going to be living in this chaos for quite some time.
(A choice of two ways, woman at a crossroads| via Dreamstime.com)