By Stephanie McDermott, Secretary of Rohingya Action Ireland

They ask me why am I here
I search for an answer
My mind races

I say ‘I was sent here’
By whom they ask?
I search for an answer
My mind races

The UN I say
They ask again, why are you here?
I search for an answer that might end this line of questioning
I am unsure if they are friend or foe
My mind races while searching for the words in English
How do I explain the unexplainable?

My country is at war I say
Why, they ask.
My mind races as I search for a ‘why’
The Buddhist’s are fighting the Muslims I say
Just as I utter the words I regret what I have said
I know where my answer may lead

Which one are you they ask?
I say I am a Muslim
My heart is now racing
Are they friend or foe?

Allah is protecting me, they change their line of questioning
Do you like Carlow they ask?
With much relief I say I love Carlow
I smile, I list all the things I like about Carlow
They smile, they like what they hear
They say ‘see ya’ and go on their way
I breathe a sigh of relief

They are just curious young men
They do not know what their question has triggered inside my head
They do not know their question brings me back to the camp
Images race through my mind
I am with my mother as she protects me from the mud that runs alongside our makeshift shelter
I am hungry
I am cold
My younger sister is crying
Tears fill my eyes

I shake my head, blink my eyes and I am back in Carlow
I walk to my new home under a dark grey sky
I go to bed
I am unsettled by the experience today ‘Why am I here?

Why am I here? I ponder on the question.
Why have I been taken from my country?
Separated from my father and mother, my sisters, my brothers, my aunts, my uncles, my friends
I am overwhelmed by emotion, perhaps the emotion is loss.
I feel pain
My pain is eased by imagining that I am back home, the country of my birth.
I feel heat, I inhale the smells of my mother’s cooking.
I hear the call to prayer
I hear goats bleating
I miss home
I miss being invisible
As I lie awake I mull over my encounter today
I feel lucky
The boys I met were friends
Sometimes I meet foes

Some tell me to ‘go home’
And I wish I could
I think of my family whom I have left behind
And I think again to myself ‘Why am I here’
The reasons I know are unfair and complicated
Legacies, religion, dictatorship, power, hate, racism,
Xenophobia, corruption and abuses are some of the reasons

I eventually fall asleep
I wake up feeling refreshed
I realize that I dreamt that all my family are in Carlow
We are at a cricket game in Carlow College
We are happy, we are laughing
We feel safe
This is our new home
This is my dream