AFTER the 1967 war between Egypt, Syria and Jordan on one side and Israel on the other ended, resulting in the loss of the rest of the Palestinian territories, Sinai and Syria’s “Golan Heights” (even though the then radio announcer Ahmed Al-Saeed claimed we won the battle), a friend of mine and I decided to travel to Iran for entertainment purpose and to sell our cars there. We decided to sell our cars because Ford was added to the boycott list due to its strong support towards Israel, which had recently became a province, prior to lifting the ban nearly 40 years later.
It was necessary to first travel to Basra, cross a dilapidated bridge over a river between Iraq and Iran (perhaps the Karun River) on the outskirts of Basra, and then traverse on a dusty road with palm trees on both sides in order to reach the Iranian city of Abadan.
I was working at the Gulf Bank at that time, and a Palestinian employee came to know about my intention to travel to Iran, which was in good relations with Israel. He gave me an envelope and asked me to post it anywhere in Iran, as it would arrive in Gaza, Israel much faster that way instead of through an Arab country due to the then strained communications between the Arabs and Israel.
During the security and customs inspection of travelers’ cars at Safwan border checkpoint, the inspector noticed the letter with an Israeli address on it. He then became suspicious and checked my bags to find some small transistor radios. The inspector then looked at me, shook the letter at me, and said, “You are a spy and a smuggler. We must hand you over to the authorities”.
This was the beginning of my suffering in the minus-five star prisons of Iraq. They were nothing like the floors of some hotels in Beirut, which are way below the condition of our roads. My friend who was traveling with me in his car saw what happened to me, turned around and returned to Kuwait.
Even though more than 50 years have passed since that miserable, ridiculous and scary incident, I still feel bad. After all these years, it seems nothing has changed in our democratic, free and popular countries. Prisons and executioners are still the same. In fact, things have worsened and the future looks darker.
I was investigated by the chief of the center and I explained the actual story, insisting that I was not a spy, and that I was carrying a letter on the basis of humanitarian considerations. However, he was not convinced by what I said. He argued that we should not make life easier for the Palestinians, and not leave them to cope with the current situation because of which we must never accept the occupation and we must continue to resist.
He then opened the letter and read it to realize it was just an ordinary letter addressed to a family. He scrutinized the letter to check if anything was written in “secret ink” between the lines, but he found nothing. He then took out a small bottle with a yellow solution from his desk drawer and poured some of it on certain parts of the letter, probably to find some hidden message, but he was again disappointed.
When he was completely out of ideas and did not want to admit his incapability, he said he would put me in jail until a report arrives from the Baghdad intelligence about the truth behind the “secret” message.
Rest will be continued in tomorrow’s article.
By Ahmad alsarraf