I thought I was going to collapse. ‘Lose another Muslim!’I was disgusted. At that moment, I hated Syria, its religious beliefs, its political bureaucracy and everything it stood for. I said: ‘Please don’t tell me I have to stay here indefinitely. I know you have been very good to me, but I have to get out of here.’ I didn’t mean to, but I ended up shouting.Then, within five minutes, everything changed. The phone rang again, and this time it was Isolde Moylan, Irish ambassador for the region.
As we pulled up, I saw massive walls, about 40ft high, and a huge iron gate. It reminded me of the convent I attended as a child in Ireland: old blue linoleum on the floors, walls with holy relics on them, statues of Our Lady everywhere.
‘Pack your bags now, Louise, you are going home today. You have five minutes. A car is on the way.’ Mandy, my sister, had arranged everything from Dublin after weeks of working behind the scenes. It turned out that the Irish authorities could relay her messages but were powerless to help inside war-torn Syria. I had to organise and fund my own escape. They could assist us only once we had got to Lebanon.I said: ‘Can I have a quick shower?’‘Absolutely not,’ was Isolde’s reply. ‘The car is coming now.’ I picked up May as she played and said: ‘Quick, May, we are going home. Pack your bag.’We ran down to the courtyard. I wasn’t wearing a hijab. Instead I wore a gold-coloured discount herve leger dress, tights and a pair of wedges, because I honestly thought we would travel by plane or in a nice taxi.
After a fretful night, a little nun knocked on our door at about 6.30am with a concoction of yogurt with some sort of oil on the top and some olives. I remember thinking that when May, my daughter, woke up she would be in shock at what was for breakfast. The phone rang. It was the call I had been waiting for: an official from the consulate with news about our appeal to let May leave Syria. She is half Syrian, of course. ‘I’m afraid it’s not good news, Louise,’ he began. ‘The judge said although we have a very strong case, he could not allow May to leave Syria, as they would lose another Muslim.’