In events that are remeniciant of a TV serial, Egyptian citizen Abdel Halim Morshed returned to his family from Iraq to Egypt after a 36-year ordeal. Abdel Halim, or “uncle Abboud” as he is known, had lost his official papers.
His story began at 18 years old in a life of poverty and hardship in a village in Upper Egypt. Abdel Halim told HuffPost Arabi that at that he considered moving in order to provide for a better life for his young family.
As for many Egyptians during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the doors of Iraq were open to people who had dreams. Abdel Halim collected all that he saved, his wife sold her golden ring he offered her in their engagement and he paid 75 Egyptian pounds as travelling fees at that time. He travelled to look for a job.
The Egyptian young man did not find available jobs as he thought when he arrived in Iraq. He started moving from one temporary job to another, living hand-to-mouth. He ultimately found that the only profession he was good at, farming.
In his village, he had worked as a farmer for others as he did not own a land. When he travelled, his father supported his small family. He used to send them a letter whenever possible and whenever he found someone to write it for him because he cannot read and write.
Loss of official papers
After 3 years in Iraq, during which Abdel Halim moved from one job to another and from one place to another, all official papers were lost. He went to the Egyptian Embassy to solve his problem and obtain alternative identification papers. However, the embassy asked him to provide a copy of the original lost papers to prove the validity of his claim, so that they could enable him to return to Egypt.
When he failed to persuade them, he decided to give up to the status quo and remained in Iraq without papers that prove his identity. He thought he would never see his young son or his wife again. “I was waiting to die as an alien the land of God,” he said.
Uncle Abboud faced hard circumstances and did not find any Egyptians in the areas where he used to work in order to reassure his family about him, or to be reassured about them. He surrendered to fate and continued working to provide a living day by day while waiting for death. Because he never imagined he would return to Egypt, he did not work on saving any money for such a day.
From the American invasion to Daesh ‘living in ruins’
The loss of official papers confined Abdel Halim in the area where he used to live, working as a farmer for an Iraqi man, and spending his nights alone.
He told HuffPost Arabi that the years were the same. Things have changed during the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, at that time “Iraq was utterly ruined,” as he put it.
The worst times Abdel Halim found unforgettable were the last three years he spent in Iraq, after the emergence of Daesh, or the “rebels” as he calls them, who started to “slaughter people, and so, everyone stayed in their houses and went out only for necessity.”
Abdel Halim could not forget a neighbour he knew for 17 years and who was found dead. He later learned that it was Daesh were the ones who did it.
The return of the absent father
The years passed and whenever he met someone he told him his story, until he once happened to meet an Egyptian man in Iraq from his near his home town.
The man heard his story and went back to inform people in the village of Al-Nawara and tell the good news to his son about his father who is still alive.
At first Nasser – his son – did not believe this, he was raised as an orphan and married and had children, knowing that his father went to Iraq and died there and his mother got a judicial verdict about his death.
Hope prompted Nasser to rush to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry with a copy of his father’s identity documents.
Abboud was blessed and met another man from his region as he described him. The man asked Abboud to visit him at the Egyptian Embassy in Baghdad to facilitate his return to Egypt. Abboud told him that he had no money. The man reassured him and offered to give provide him with money if needed.
After the absence of 36 years, Abdel Halim returned to find that his parents had died, and his young son had grown up and became the father of three children, while his wife had not remarried, despite receiving a judicial verdict about his death.
They received him as a groom in Al-Nawara
Abdel Halim entered his village like a groom on his wedding day. The citizens lined up to greet and welcome him. Before entering to his house, the sounds of ululation rose to celebrate the return of the absent man. “Everything has changed,” that’s how the returning father described his village, Al-Nawara, which he left 36 years ago, saying it has become like a city with its high buildings and electricity in every house.
A prisoner of Fear and Identity Card
Despite his return several days ago, and the joy he brought to his family, Abboud still cannot leave his village as he does not have a national ID card after the issuance of a judicial verdict about his death.
Abdel Halim says: “In Iraq, I was imprisoned at home to escape from Daesh. In Egypt, I am likewise imprisoned for fear of security. I hired a lawyer to file a lawsuit to prove that I am still alive, so that I can feel that I have returned to my country and to life.”