23 February 2018

A legal alien

I remember feeling sadness for the singer, the first time I heard the song “Englishman in New York” by The Police. I could picture him so vividly in my mind: tall, pale, British, and proud. His love for adventure brought him to the crazy streets of New York, but loneliness created an urge in him to rearrange the same blue, red and white colors forming the flag that viciously blurred his vision and all his senses, but one – the sense of belonging.

My identity was something I never took for granted; I felt proud that I got to choose my identity. I am not Sudanese by birth, and back in the 1980’s mothers were not allowed to pass on their nationality to their children. As a result, I was a child of nowhere, with no land to claim as my own. No skin tone or local dialect could make me abide to the norms that ruled my less – or perhaps more – privileged peers. There was no flag to blur my senses.

I watched as my mother fought to secure an identity for me. Initially, I was irritated and confused: why limit oneself to one place when one can be free? But as I grew older, singing the national anthem every morning in school gradually became the best part of my day. I experienced a toxic mixture of maternal and romantic feelings towards just about everyone around me. I materialized the concept of a country in my head, and, in the process, fell in desperate, hopeless love with it.

I was more Sudanese than ever – or so I believed. But as I scrolled down the list of countries on an online application, I came across the name ‘South Sudan’. I had never actually seen those words together in a country list before, and I found myself smiling. But I also felt detached, apathetic. There was no such thing as South Sudan in my vocabulary, and I eyed the name as if it was a sick joke, a political scam that did not affect us – the Sudanese people. I scrolled down the list to Sudan, and felt the same detachment. Before I could start to soothe my consciousness with some absurd justification, I remembered: I was born in South Sudan, a foreign country. I now lived in Sudan, which also felt like a foreign country. It was no longer a sick political joke, but reality. It was then that I felt the impact of that crooked line they drew into my childhood map; a line so brutal and sharp that it cut through my home, my identity, and every aspect of my life.

Much like a clean, sharp surgical incision, there was no pain, no blood, and no tears. Not initially.

I neither belong to the south, nor to the north. In my state of confusion, I must now start a new internal, and perhaps eternal, search for identity.

16 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply to mohamed gad Cancel reply

  • Yasir Elkhider
    8 July 2012 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    “Respect” to this article

    • Suzanne Sharief
      29 August 2012 at 9:39 am - Reply

      Thank you Yasir

  • Zainab
    8 July 2012 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    First of all I applaud you on the title. Witty, simple and fitting.

    Very well put, I like how you made us see things from your perspective.
    Sincere, rational and well expressed.

    And I agree on the sentiment that it seems like a sick joke..

    • Suzanne Sharief
      29 August 2012 at 9:45 am - Reply

      Thank you Zainab and Yasir for the encouragement.

  • Emmanuel Monychol
    25 July 2012 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    Dear Suzanne Sharief, your dilemma was created by political greed…without greed for land, power and resources, the Sudan or the rest of the world would be a better place to live in…

    a melancholic piece you have written.

    • Suzanne Sharief
      29 August 2012 at 9:44 am - Reply

      Thank you Emmanuel. Melancholy is the exact state this political and cultural chaos have done to me.
      Each of us will do what we can in our own lives to make things better.

  • mohamed gad
    23 October 2012 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    I impressed by this article how political could effect deeply our lives and some times may destory it

    • Suzanne Sharief
      13 February 2013 at 5:22 am - Reply

      Thank you Mohamed. The most important thing is to embrace and cherish our heritage and go forward in life remembering exactly where we came from.

  • Nimaat El-Mahdi
    13 February 2013 at 12:01 am - Reply

    I truly respect this article..

    • Suzanne Sharief
      13 February 2013 at 5:20 am - Reply

      Thank you Neimaat.

  • AT
    31 March 2013 at 9:48 pm - Reply

    So real, and a very well written notion.
    Real talent and so touching.

    • Suzanne Sharief
      1 April 2013 at 9:16 am - Reply

      Thank you AT.

  • Hakim Monykuer
    2 September 2013 at 2:15 am - Reply

    Dear Suzan,

    Yes, all you saw was not a dream but a reality. We may be different countries politically but we are still one people in spirit and socially because we have a lot of things in common. We must embrace unity and peace among our people from these two geographical divided nations. That is the only way to keep our longest social bondage.

    • Suzan Sharief
      29 April 2014 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      Thank you my dear brother. I hope you’re doing well. We all miss you here 🙂

  • tamara
    4 September 2013 at 5:43 am - Reply

    This dilemma seems made a stronge person at the end

    • Suzan Sharief
      29 April 2014 at 8:35 pm - Reply

      Indeed. Home is where the heart is-and mine is in very two beautiful places. We are all blessed.

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