By Borouj Al Zoubi
I grew up in a place which is famous for its pure water, green grass, beautiful trees and singing birds. This is Hawran! I lived and grew up in one of its villages.
The trees’ leaves became yellow and the gentle breezes turned to terrible whistles. Hunger and sadness spread among the birds and humans in my little village.
One day one of the birds became homesick and lonely. This happened shortly after my brother disappeared. He was nineteen and had just finished his secondary school education.
He wanted to study commerce but he stayed at home,as there were no commercial schools in our village. He was also concerned about the welfare of our family. One day my brother went to the local market. He had passion for birds ad bought back four different birds. I still remember the four kinds: Baghdadi, Tabashiri, Balouni and Hazzaz.
My brother looked after them, he fed them and played with them. They made him happy. Then war broke out in our country and changed. One day he went out to buy some things for the house and never came back! He was one of the first victims of kidnapping by an unknown group. We’ve heard nothing of him since that day.
This war has no justice, no mercy, stealing people’s lives and souls.
One day there was screaming and shouting and I hid in our kitchen. I was in tears. I was terrified and scared and thought all the time of my missing brother.
Then a dove came to the kitchen and started gathering breadcrumbs and wetting her plumage from the kitchen floor to feed water to her newborn chicks. The scene moved me. It brought back memories of my brother and his love of birds. It brought memories of my brother and his passion for his doves to my mind. He used to consider that a duty, worth even the risk if needed. I answered the bird’s call, as if she was asking me for help!
I got up and ran, carrying wet pieces of bread as food for the birds, trying to forget all the pain and screams caused by this war and how it was stealing innocent lives.
I climbed the stairs till I got to the roof of our house.I used to be scared of birds as a child. I thought they would hurt me with their beaks.
Things however change and I became good friends with them. I started to give the birds food and they ate it. One of them was special. I was drawn to her beautiful eyes, which looked as if she wore eyeliner. She was a Tabashiri bird. I became very fond of her. She was smart and adventurous and I learnt from her how to be brave.
I used to go up and down the stairs to take care of the Tabashiri bird. Later on however I was unable to take care of the birds as usual. This was due to the fierce war taking place in our country and the traditions in our village. These customs believed that girls climbing stairs and doing men’s jobs were inappropriate. What made the situation worse was my family’s obedience to these traditions. This forced me to leave the birds for a few days so I was unable to see them and care for them.
I was fearful of the future and was getting used to losing things I loved, such as the birds. One day the wind blew carrying a piece of wood from the roof. The wood fell from the roof and hit a newborn Tabishiri chick and killed him! I could see the sorrow in the eyes of the mother. She didn’t even have the chance to give him food and keep him warm while he was still inside the egg. I felt so sad and helpless after what happened to the little bird.
My family felt guilty once they realized that what I’d been doing was humane and that it is sometimes necessary to break rules and customs to protect another soul.
Conflict and suffering are buried beneath my pillow, the only place that keeps hidden memories. There is always war. I wish we could change the letters of the word ‘war’ so it becomes love instead.
*Borouj Al Zoubi is high school student in Jordan
*Editing : Amir Darwish
* Translated : Riam Ismael