Damascus The Beginning of the End (pt3)

Crossing borders always makes me nervous, no matter if my paper work is in order as it (almost) is this time, not surprisingly there is no queue at the foreigners desk, neither is there an officer, just an empty chair beside the nicotine colored computer, I give a friendly wave to an officer who glanced up from his mobile phone, he calls another, I slip my passport under the glass, I adopt my innocent nonchalant persona and survey the scene with casual interest, behind the glass there’s sudden activity, an officer takes a set of handcuffs from cupboard on the wall, I notice the chair is empty again, my heart skips a couple of beats, the officer returns and thumps the stamp onto the page and slips my passport back under the glass, I thank him and at the same time noticing the detained man being cuffed and led away.
The check points were pretty straightforward and before long I was bouncing my suitcase over the cobbled stones of the alley leading to my house, my neighborhood has its own militia and they take a little convincing I actually live there until Hassan a teenage neighbor assures them and they let me pass.
I settle back into life; the buzz of helicopters, the constant bombing, intermittent power, shocking price increases, I visit friends and catch up on news, who has been arrested, who has been released, who has been killed, stories of kidnapping, my friends seemed somewhat surprised to see me back assuming I had more sense to stay away, I was just as surprised at how Syrians were able to deal with the awfulness of the situation.
It was time I go and visit the nice guys at the immigration department and see what had happened to my residence permit, a shambolic institution worthy of Kafka, I had been a regular visitor for ten years and was on first name terms with a couple of the officers although only crumpled 100 lira bills made anything easier.
No your Iqama is not here and why on earth did I hand it over in the first place they told me; why? Why? Because the officer took it from me, what was I supposed to do-fight him for it! Needless to say I had been expecting this since I left Syria, so I cheered myself up with some sarcasm and left accepting the advice to return another time in the highly unlikely event the card had been sent from the border.
After several return visits and time ticking slowly by I had to accept it was not going to arrive, no official could offer any explanation and if I wanted to leave the country I would need to resolve the situation, I would not be give permission to leave without it.
I had shot plenty of images on my trip around Jordan and Egypt but so far had not sold anything, apart from a few stock images sales I had not earned anything since the beginning of hostilities in Syria, I was now living on my overdraft agreement-I could only access the cash by travelling out of the country since international sanctions had cut access to ATM machines and accessing my bank on-line, I wonder how inconvenient this was for the regime?
The Syrian government had refused permission for me to work on humanitarian issues with the UN but now I was being offered a commission in Egypt to cover the refugee crisis there, I would need to resolve the residency issue quickly to allow me to leave for a couple of weeks work.
My resident permit is regarded as lost, I didn’t lose it but this still means I have to report it to the police, this did not sound like an appetizing prospect given the current situation, I offered one of the officers a sizeable incentive to help, about 1 000 Syrian Lira created a human dynamo of efficiency, I collected the bits and bobs of the usual paperwork and pictures and he ran around the building getting stamps, weeks of hand wringing and head shaking seemed to finally be coming to an end, all that was now needed was to enter my details in the computer; I could see from the expressions on the two officers faces the problem was serious, I was not really sure what was happening but we headed upstairs to another computer in another office, I had not realized this was some kind of security department and now various officers were taking over from the soft one helping me, they wanted to detain me but the soft one pulled me to his side away from them, I was told I was under investigation, I needed to visit the notorious Palestine Branch 235 but before that I had to visit another security officer in Merjeh Square.
My first thought was simply that they had decided to kick me out of the country, usually people are detained a day or two and put on a flight out, not the scariest of scenarios and one I had often imagined happening, I felt sick as I left the building promising to go visit the security officer in Merjeh Square, as I walked from Baramke to Merjeh I contemplated the situation, the Palestine branch was infamous, I consoled myself with the thought that if they considered me such a threat they would have come for me and not waited for me to turn up at immigration, a drink was in order so I didn’t do as I was told I went home instead.
I sat in my courtyard with a glass of whiskey and listen to a helicopter circle like a vulture overheard, despite the seriousness of things I remained calm and pragmatic JW1_2667