“If in Our Country”, The Policeman Said

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By Ali Ali • December 2015

A “Syrian Swede”, whose status was complicated further by being a policeman, happened to check my documents at the Swedish border today. I gave him my passport, but his skills did not help him see the valid stamp that states that I have a valid residence permit in the EU, even though he is being paid to master that. When he asked for a valid visa, I spared myself the explanation, and just handed him another (clearer) document. He started to speak in Arabic,

– Why didn’t you give me this first?
– Because both are valid
– Why did you hand me the passport first?
– Why do I have to explain? They are both valid
– Come with me, leave the train.
 I turn hysterical as usual, when faced with an unjustified hostility, and I turn to another “whiter” policeman,
– Sorry why do I have to explain to him why I gave one document before another?
Now the Syrian policeman speaks in English.
– Let’s take it out. Let’s take it out
– I have university
– Come with us
– I can’t be late

I feel outnumbered and I go out with them. Outside the train he asks again (now in Arabic), why I showed him the first document instead of the other. Now I get angrier and I repeat that they are both valid, why would I have to explain my choice of which document to show first. I also remind him that the others did not have even a passport and he let go of them, but he denies. (What do I know! It was in Swedish that they spoke. Anyway.)

The way I spoke to him and my behaviour did not appeal to him, especially that I was supposed to show more submission, which I understood few seconds later.

– Do you know what would have happened to you if you were in our country?
– In “our country”?

Now I realized why he was speaking in Arabic. I tell him that we are not in “our country”. I repeat it in English for the other “whiter” policemen and other people around me to hear, and I raise my index finger and ask him (in English), “Speak in English because I want everybody to understand what you are saying to me”. Hit by frightening evocations from “my country”, that turned into indignation, I continue – (almost shouting), “you cannot threaten me with “our country”, we are not in our country”.

I do not know if the other policemen felt sorry, or just embarrassed, or just wanted to continue their day without drama, but I managed to get back to the train. But what about the next trip there? Should I take my country with all its insecurity and potential of harassment with me? What about the next time, and the time to follow? Should I carry this everywhere I go?

I am not a refugee; I have regular papers, and more! Some past experience with how people with low self-esteem take it out on my status. What is then happening to those fresh helpless fresh undocumented refugees? Some of them do not even speak any language that could expose that sick policeman? And even if they did, they would not act and reply fast enough. Why? Because it is Sweden. Who would be prepared for this?

Is that policeman given the green light (official or unspoken) to intimidate us? Did they leave the dirtiest task of reminding me of where I come from (and what it entails) to a “less Swedish” person, so that their Swedishness could keep intact? The question itself is naive, if not shameful.

– Fucking asshole
I say while I go back to my seat.

“Does he have to project his inferiority on me?” I asked the two sympathizing women in front of me. “We are so sorry” they said. “I am also sorry, it is shameful”, I reply.

Back to the hypothetical question; what would have happened to me in “our country”? He would have taken me to a secluded place and, in only one language, would have practiced his sadistic whims and desires without being bothered by what things should be like in a country “not mine”. But I would like to ask this poor employee and his gang, a less hypothetical questions, “How long would it take for “not our country” to become like “our country”?”.