Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Interview

I went to the embassy and dropped my request letter at the reception and explained the purpose behind my visit. I thought I would be put on the waiting list but amazingly they told me to wait.
After about half an hour, a UAE diplomat was holding my file and apparently he recognized me from my photos attached to my documents I gave with the letter. He headed towards me and asked me to join him in his office.
Since I am quite stupid when it comes to linking photos to their originals I failed to know at first that that diplomat was not Mr. Ali AlKa’abi. However he introduced himself to me later.

He read my letter and started to go through my passport not hiding his amazement at how many countries I traveled to, even though they were like 5 countries and all were in the Middle East. Feeling being judged by him for some reason, I explained to him how my business nature requires traveling.
He started asking me about my visit to UAE and how I found it and for some reason I thought the interview was not quite professional as I hoped it would be.

I did not want to talk about how modern and westernized I found Dubai was, I did not want to compliment the hotel services there or even compare them to the bad conditions that some poor people were living in the back streets of some areas in Dubai. I did not want to let how know how much I was quite amazed at how they could show the good and hide the bad in UAE, I did not want to tell him the number of how many females hit on me right in the most popular places in Dubai. I just wanted to explain to him, as a hard working lady that UAE attracted me from that specific angle of having a huge number of opportunities for me and that I was in need to save my family from my own country.

I soon found a chance to talk about the company that hired me in Dubai and the circumstances of the whole situation. I was a bit not comfortable but I thought, those men are from a different culture and I was just not familiar with that.
At the end of the interview and confirming to him upon his inquiry that my contact information at the bottom of my letter were valid and were my personal numbers I headed to my office with a promise of an appointment with the Charge' d'affaires soon.

After half an hour I was still on my way to my office, I was stuck in a traffic jam at the end of AlJadriya Bridge due to a check point where I received a phone call. It was that Diplomat figure informing me that he made me an appointment with Mr. Ali right on the next day morning. I was amazed at how good that man was with me and how fast he sprang an action for my own interest.
When I was in Dubai I hardly met any locals but I was blown away at that moment of how helpful they were.

Hmmm.. Dear readers please remind me to mock myself later on.

My future boss was excited when I emailed him and told him about my plan as his email showed:

Hi (…..)
I am so pleased you are still trying, it would be great if
the UAE ambassador can assist. I am going to ask (…….) to email you a scanned
copy of the rejected application; maybe he can overturn the decision. The
ministry did not provide us with any explanation or reasons and when we tried to
use people of influence it did not help either. The feeling was that is must be
something personal and whoever was responsible for the rejection did not want to
be reasonable nor helpful in changing his decision. I wish you the best of luck
with the meeting ... Please let us know the outcome.
Best wishes & regards

Next day came and again I took another bunch of the whole copies and went to the embassy.

Sat down in the reception and I waited for my turn. Many people were there as well. A couple was sitting next to me who really disgusted me when they were complimenting UAE and Sheikh Zayed so loud I could not hear my own thoughts. Not that I am against complimenting such a great man who built a country out of nothing and a man that every single local respects and loves to this day but it was so obvious what trick they were pulling and it was so pathetic.

The Diplomat guy I met popped his head and greeted me wishing me luck.

After a while Mr. Ali asked me to join him in the same office and unlike his colleague who was the one asking so many questions this time I was asked to deliver my story.

I started telling him everything showing him my contract with my company, my current company ID which is well known, our two visas.
He was quite calm, sitting there on the sofa with his back comfortably touching the back of the sofa while I was sitting on the edge of my chair. He asked me a couple of times to recite a prayer on our Prophet while speaking!!!!

After finishing he was still calm and silent with a smile. I did not understand so I asked him openly, do you have any laws against permitting Iraqi nationals residencies or visas to your country? “No we do not” That was his quick reply.

I was a bit confused sitting there doing the big part of talking and not receiving any useful word in return. I told him straight “ If you have any kind of laws or even instructions against Iraqis I promise I would back off and leave the matter for I would definitely have to respect your rules and laws had they been official” again the answer “No, No we do not have anything like that” came out with even more determination.
I asked him then why have I been treated like that? He was smiling when asked me again to recite a prayer on our Prophet!!!!!

I got more serious and told him that I was ready to provide him with every single official paper they would ask for in order to prove that I was a good Iraqi citizen since the day I was born.

I had not one single problem during my school, not one single issue during my four years at engineering college, my family is quite reputed and I offered him to bring him even our house registration papers and my parent’s pension papers. He smiled and said there was no need.

I asked him my final question.. What to do?
He asked me to request my company in Dubai to re-submit my residency application in order to join them and start working in Dubai and in case it was rejected again he would interfere but he confirmed they would not reject it and there must have been a mistake at first place!!!!


I thanked him for his kindness by receiving me and giving me the chance to have my story being heard by such a reputed representative.

As I was walking away from his office he received another female with the same smile I got used to during the 20 minutes interview I had with him.

After that meeting I phoned my family to assure them that the meeting went well and another door of hope just opened up to me. I emailed my boss after failing to call him for he was so busy and informed him by email of Mr. Ali’s request in order to solve my pending problem.

At 8pm sharp, I was in my bedroom working on my computer when something weird happened.

My mobile rang and the number of the first diplomat guy I met was there!! The call was not during the working hours!! I remember it rang for a while until I decided to pick it up. He could be having some good news for me!

Well he did not!! He was just flirting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Since I was so into my problem I could not get it at first and guess what I thought? I thought he must be checking my background if they decided to let me in Dubai!

I know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After seeing all the low stuff in Dubai I should not have worried about that but my brain was so occupied with my life that I could not get it.

I deliberately called him Brother (Akh) to show him I was not interested. Guys tend to be nice at first to check girls’ reaction before they attack so I must have delayed that move for a while.

After making sure he was not calling for my issue or to deliver me any news I apologized and hung up the phone for having some work to do, After hearing his life story and after having the privilege of being called Princess of Iraq.. Not flattered…

I struggle to comprehend how some men push their luck too much when they cheaply shoot way beyond their capabilities. First, not only the guy had a clear lack of education that he could hardly put together a useful sentence that you can make something out of it but had the most hideous looks ever. Did he really think that his disrespectful attitude+ his looks were a good package to offer? I was literally looking down at him, mentally and physically. Some men!

I swallowed that insult and had to vent my huge shock and anger with my closest friend, my mother. She tried her best to comfort me but I was angry at myself so much that no one could do anything at that time. I should have just hung up on him without saying a word even though the guy was decent but the intention what counts for me. But……. I simply could not. That kills me up till this day.

I was waiting for the next day impatiently to talk to my boss in Dubai to discuss with him what to do.

I was waiting for a suitable time to call him but I received another disturbing call instead from who other than Mr. Thinks-too- much- of- himself.

I picked up this time quickly with determination to be practical and polite at the same time. My situation was still critical. I let him talk for 5 minute and hanged up after I did most of the talking about my case. I was smart this time.

After a while my boss from Dubai phoned me, I could sense there was something wrong from his voice but I did not give it too much of a deal and asked him if he received my email to receive his answer revealing the anxiety I felt from his voice” We have already managed to submit your residency twice and that happened after submitting your case to the board as a rare case since you were Iraqi and there were no legal or valid reasons behind the rejection. I doubt if we can make another exception and submit for the third time. This is quite known in Dubai!! Any company and according to the laws cannot submit residency or visa application more than once. “

He also told me that they had to pay about a 7000 Dirham as insurance to be refunded whether the residency was rejected or accepted but the authorities never gave it back to them.

I hung up with who was about to be my boss and I let my body slump into the chair in my office and gazed into the huge dark hole that was surrounding me.

Suddenly I could understand what that smile was for.
To be continued......

Monday, December 04, 2006

This is How you Kill a Dream...Easy!

After about ten days of hard work and correspondences between me and my company in Dubai I sent them by DHL all the documents needed including copies of entirely new passport for the old one was with an old photo of me and we wanted everything to be correct.

My future boss was on vacation at that time but he was so kind to follow up with me and his secretary in order to finalize everything so that by the end of August I would be their official employee.

Alongside my other preparations I put two suit cases on a small table in my bed room and put all the necessary things I would be taking,especially the winter wardrobe to make sure I would not forget anything and to save me some time and some panicking. I hate packing on the last minute!

The days I spent in Baghdad after coming from Dubai were quite hectic and I was 24/7 busy.
I worked overtime to compensate the times I am off office to finish my papers and also to finish the accumulated work of the month I spent in Dubai in addition to my leaving everything mental and physical preparations. I was keen to wake up on week end so early to spend as much as I can with my family and I was keen not to sleep after I get back from work at 6pm to again spend the time with them.

I started feeling quite awkward when September came and I was still sitting in my office in Baghdad! A couple of inquiries from my side and responds from my company stated that my papers were already submitted and there is no reply yet. It usually took 2 weeks so we were in the safe side, which is what I have been told.

My future boss assured me that it’s ok if it took some time for even though he has a foreign passport the immigration of Dubai gave him hard time when he was to renew his residency.

During that time a problem occurred in Baghdad International Airport regarding the Baghdad-Dubai flights which were achieved by three airlines, two foreign airlines and one by the Iraqi airlines making three flights per day. The problem reduced the flights and the nearest one I could find was quite far. Still not knowing what was my situation I emailed my future boss to inquire.

His response came on 11th of September,2005 and it stated:

It looks like the visa is in security now and we don’t know how long that will take..... I suggest you book for the 21st flight and then if anything changes between now and then we can review situation then.

A week later, a quite disturbing email came from him:

We had a setback with your visa last week, but we are trying to use a 'wasta' to
help. We hope to hear either today or tomorrow if we have been successful. I
know it is confusing, please bear with us for the next couple of days while we
try to sort out Thanks & regards

Another week, another email:

Good morning (.........)

I am sure you have been anxiously waiting to hear news from us - as we have also been trying very hard to get the visa sorted out. We have been asked to resubmit the paperwork, which we have done today. Inshallah I hope we hear something positive either later today or tomorrow. With best regards

Even though it is over a year since I received those emails, still I cannot help but feeling the heavy cloud of sadness, depression and lack of hope sitting on my chest jubt by reviewing the emails.

My bags were still on that table, my boss in Baghdad started to ask me frequently about my situation and he started to worry for me, my family started trying to locate some good contacts to help me sort out my problem. I phoned every single person living in Dubai I know, even the visa guy who issued our visas. All confirmed that their male friends did not have a problem getting jobs and residencies there with a push from a good contact, local UAE contact. As for the females, no one knew.

It is quite disturbing to go back there and remember everything. Amazingly everything is engraved in my brain, kept aside somewhere ready to be called again.

I remember I fought back all the negativity, mentally at least. Physically my body was showing the stress indications.I lost more weight, black bags started to show on my face and every one who envied me for leaving the country started to smile at me with mean eyes when they see me passing by.

My future boss urgently requested more photos and so I did. His email came as another slap:
Thanks for the photo.... we have resubmitted the papers this week, but can do nothing but wait for a reply. It seems that UAE immigration is getting tougher with Iraqi's. I hope that your current employer/boss is sympathetic to the situation and that this is not causing you too much stress.
Will hopefully hear one way or the other saturday or maybe sunday as the
immigration & labour offices are closed for the weekend.
With best regards

October came and the final strike came with it by this email:

The situation is not good I'm afraid... The security (emin) for the ministry of labor rejected your application, we have tried through a number of ways and wasta's that is why we again resubmitted your papers. We heard that they are not willing to reverse the decision. I am sorry to have to tell you the news so directly. We will try again with one other contact and will get him the papers today, otherwise we can only wait and try to resubmit again in the future.
Believe me when I say that we have tried very hard to get this resolved and are also very disappointed. I will let you know how we get on with the final contact
we are trying.. With kind regards

Now when I think of it, I feel I was still in denial at that point for I was still clinging to my future boss. Was digging for any hope but it was all dark. Maybe the unsaid good bye from my future boss was the reason.

My bags were still there gazing at me whenever I walk into my room or the minute I wake up, they were there. I was like a zombie walking in our company, lost the sense of being among my colleagues. I started isolating myself. Some of my colleagues thought I was coming out of a tragic love affair that left me as a wreck.

One day as I was sitting in the living room sipping my morning tea. My dad, sitting in the garden with his newspaper in his hand,called out for me. He handed me over the newspaper saying read this.

It was an interview with the Charge' d'affaires of UAE Embassy in Baghdad, Mr. Ali Alka’abi. My heart was beating so fast when I read one of the sub head lines stating: “No Restrictions on Issuing Visas to UAE and Some People are Manipulating Iraqis” …

Ok now I cannot help not feeling like a damn fool by just revealing what I had felt but let it be.

I did not read between the lines, did not realize the lies in there but my eyes went to where my heart wanted and saw the phrases that I needed the most.

This is the translation for the bits circled in red which is translated by one of my best friends :
Reporter: Iraqis face difficulties when it comes to UAE visas and rumors say that UAE do not issue visa to those who never entered UAE before 2003.

Mr.Ali Al-Ka’abi: There is absolutely no difficulty. What we did was assuring that the process of issuing the visas is done by official conveniences for there are certain people who are making business of out it. The visa fees do not exceed (300) AED which is less than (100) USD, however some of the unauthorized individuals are selling it with +1000 USD there for we wanted to protect the Iraqi citizens from these swindling and conning trade despite that we do not authorize issuing visas in Iraq.

As for the claim that visas are granted only to those who have been to the UAE before, it is groundless. On the contrary we have been making things easier particularly for Iraqis, there are no restrictions whatsoever against their stay in our state, even those who have violated the immigration laws have not been deported, they are well treated.


I decided that I should request a meeting with Charge' d'affaires of UAE Embassy in Baghdad, Mr. Ali Alka’abi. I prepared a letter of a meeting request, explained in it briefly the whole facts.
The newspaper, copies of my passports (old & new), the visa, my resume, my college certificate approved by the Embassy and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the employment contract with my company in Dubai, the correspondence emails with my company and even official papers of our house in Baghdad and my family. All were enclosed with that letter.

To be continued......

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