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Interviewed By  Selma A. Cook

This article is based on the true life events of an 18-year-old Muslim girl living in Germany


Life With My Adopted Mother

Finally, my father and I went to see my mother in Germany. Initially, I was overjoyed. But the feeling did not last long. In fact, it was difficult to relate to her because she was wearing different clothes and talking another language, and her behavior had changed from what she had been before. She was not the same mother I had known. I mean, she was the same human being, but, in the brief time that we had been apart, she seemed to have adopted another personality! I did not let on to anyone about these new feelings, but our life together seemed very different. 

I discovered that our trip to Germany was not a holiday. We would be staying there. To be honest, I was not upset. In fact, originally, I was pretty sure that this would be an improvement on Egypt. How, I asked myself, could it be worse?

Then I entered a German school. Sitting in a classroom, surrounded by children "with a poor command of German," I was sure that I would find some measure of acceptance. We were, after all, all outsiders. Strangely, however, the opposite happened.

Craving Acceptance

To be honest, this was not the students' fault. I had, like everyone told me then, become "difficult." In my mind, I craved acceptance — a circle of people around me, protecting me against whatever was to happen next — but all I got was beatings from the other students. When I watched the students interacting with one another, I saw a friendly atmosphere that I desperately wanted to be a part of, but they beat me because they saw me as strange. Perhaps I was trying too hard, but again I felt alone. There was one girl who defended me and she too took a beating from the other students for this. This girl made me feel good, but I still wanted to be with the group. I was 12 years old.

When our class began in year seven. it was like a fresh start, and I began to be more accepted by this group. In my attempt to be accepted by this group, I overstepped all boundaries of good behavior so my attempt actually led me to being expelled from school. Many adults advised me about my behavior and how I should improve, but my mind was filled with the desire to be accepted, no matter what.

After that, my parents put me into a private school, and I did not want this; I wanted to be with my old friends at the regular German school. I was completely rebellious and determined to be bad until they put me back into the other school. My mother paid a lot of money to keep me in the private school, but I used to miss school; I did not go there in the mornings. I used to meet my friends from the old school and spend the day with them. I knew one day my parents would find out, but my mind and heart were filled with the desire to be accepted by this group. 

During this time, I could not find my true self and develop it, because I could not find anyone I could trust to help me. My friends from the old school made me feel strong and powerful, but not loved. I did not find safety with my mother either, because she had made the decision to put me into a private school, which I felt was not good for me. So even my mother did not make me feel safe. 

From this time on, I closed my eyes and just lived for the moment. I did not think about consequences; I lived my life without thinking. Around this time, I had to some time in a psychiatric hospital because my mother and teachers felt there was something wrong with me and by putting me there, they hoped they could find out what it was. I was angry with my mother for putting me there. I felt she was foolish; that she did not understand me, and she did not even try to understand. This hospital carried out many tests and discovered that I had some problems. They only carried out tests, but they did not know what was in my heart. They said I was aggressive, impulsive, and disengaged. They said I have a disturbance in steering my impulses and a disturbance in my social behavior, but they did not offer any treatment. After all those tests, they still did not know what was going on inside of me. I came out of the hospital feeling lonely and isolated and filled with hatred.

A Psychiatric Evaluation

At the same time, it was great to be free of that place. I had been there for one month and four days, and finally I returned to my mother. However, the psychiatric hospital said that I could not live with her, and that I had to go to a special house for training. At first, I thought it might be nice in this place and that I would make friends, but it was not as I expected. I felt very disappointed. On the surface, I was with people, but inside I did not feel that I related to anyone in this world. I used to sit in my room and cry for hours. All I wanted was to go back to the time before all these troubles began — back to my early years before my parents were divorced. In these special houses, I learned life experiences; how to treat people, the importance of who I am with, and that I have to maintain my control, faith, and personality. I was in these houses for about two-and-a-half years, and my mother used to visit me. One day, she came and took me out because I was so unhappy. My mother felt that I had gained the best these houses could offer me, so I went home.  

I stayed in my mother's house for one year. At that time I was about 14. My mother and I argued and fought all the time. I was honest and told my mother I did not want to stay at home, but she did not want to hear that. She thought I was ungrateful. We used to fight about me not helping around the house, me only doing what I want, going out, and not returning home when I should. I used to behave any way I liked — without any limits. I was living in my own world. My mother was trying to get into my world to reach me, but I was too far away.

A Home for Girls

I did not want to be at home, so I went into a house for girls in the middle of the city. There, I met some girls I knew from the special houses I had been in. They were not good girls at all. They used to smoke, drink alcohol, and take drugs, and they took me out with them. Again, I found myself willing to do anything to be accepted. The other girls were together and were a group, and I was with them, but again I felt estranged. They would ask me why I isolated myself, and I would answer that I did not know.

Street Life

I got expenses from this house for food, and I used it to buy alcohol and drugs. It reached to the point that the people at the house told me I could not stay there and that I had to return to the psychiatric hospital. I told them I would go to the hospital, but I asked them for one day to say goodbye to my friends. I spent the whole night in the city with my friends.

On this night, I met Muslim men who were speaking Arabic. They were from various Muslim countries, and they were Muslims like me. Many of them were drug dealers, but I felt that they were my brothers or friends because we spoke the same language and thought the same way. They were a remnant of my life in Egypt. From that night, I started a new life.

This gang turned out to be a huge turning point for me, and it was like a light coming through my darkness. I felt a strong sense of anticipation.  All this time, my mother tried to put me on the right track, but after I had been away for some days (I stayed away because I knew they would put me in the hospital), I called my mother and asked if I could go back home.

I felt that being at home with all its restrictions would be better than going to the psychiatric hospital, and I knew the people from the youth welfare were looking for me. However, my mother said there was a court order for me to go to the psychiatric hospital and that I had to go. After one week, the social workers found me and took me there.

Psychiatric Care

At the hospital, I was locked in — I could not leave. They had to put me in the high-security part of the hospital, because I was always trying to escape. All this time, I was thinking about the people I had met during that one week and I was dreaming to be with them again. I felt that they were my gang, my people. The doctors in the hospital told me I was only there for a few weeks. Knowing this made it bearable, because I thought I would be free soon. But this time was not easy by any means; they used to tie me to the bed, because I did not respect any rules. They even left me like that for one whole day. Being confined in this way made me feel I wanted to hurt all of them. I did not want to be there, and I could not understand why they were doing this against my will. It felt as if it was them who had the problem, not me.


Growing Up an Orphan:

Part One: Bad Girl, Good Girl
Part Three: Street Life