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Deepa and the Mothers of Silence
Written by Zeina Allouche & Translated to English by Yara Zalzal
The quest for finding Deepa Darmasiri was poignant, indeed. What a sad picture it was, seeing her eaten up by all her hesitation, to finally gather the strength to reveal what she lived through. Her startled eyes, which talked about the sad event without even speaking, came in contradiction with her actual reluctance to uncover that old secret of hers. Carrying and feeling her newborn baby inside her womb for 9 consecutive months only to have her barbarically ripped away from her, was her big secret. All that silenced pain and repressed suffering invited cancer in, which ate up all of her life. Zeinab perceived, in all certainty, her mother Deepa as a victim and was so eager to search for that missing puzzle piece. If one were to ask questions pertaining to the reason why Zeinab went searching for her mother and to the behavior of her abusive and monster father, the answer would be simple. Did she or did she not experience the torture her mom experienced when she was in her womb? Did she or did she not feel her mom’s fear and perturbation during her dad’s multiple attempts to possibly abuse and rape her during pregnancy? She certainly did. She did witness, and let alone feel, the atrocities that her mom must have gone through. She did indeed experience oppression, humiliation, and helplessness whilst in her mother’s womb. Indeed, Deepa Darmasiri was left all alone, submerged with streams of unfairness and trapped within an ugly system. We will not call it a patriarchal system because that would demean the responsibility ignored by the legal authorities. This is true because the tragedy does not only mainly involve the victims, the witnesses, the aggressor, nor to the sponsor, and the owner of the office. The only party who should be held responsible for what happened to Deepa Darmasiri and other women is the Lebanese State.
It is not a mere coincidence having two TV shows approach the issue of the search for origins in one week. Rima Karaki in her show “Lel Nachr” (Ready for Publishing) hosted Ayman al Dirawi, Hadya’s son, who returned to his quest to uncovering his origins, after having been adopted by a Tunisian family during the Sabra and Chatila massacre. Even though, in the episode, no empathy was shown towards Ayman, the fact that this issue was tackled in this program suggests the importance of the right to know one’s origins.
Badael Alternatives is on the constant lookout for evidence and has actually found many proof and documents confirming the fact that the law completely allows the forced separation of a child from his/her biological mother. This forced separation is protected by the law and hides under various pretexts such as the claim to protect the child's interest and secure opportunities for a better life for him/her. Such a claim is actually the superficial surface of the scandalous reality of a series of violations on human and child rights. Around 28, 000 children are believed to be victims of forced separation from their parents. Around 24, 000 children are part of the NGOs which have contracts with the Ministry of Social Affairs. Also, approximately 4, 000 children are under the care of NGOs and orphanages which do not have contracts with the Ministry of Social Affairs. As well, around 10, 000 children went through and are still going through such a forced separation from their biological mother, a trend that started approximately around the Civil War of 1975 and is still going on to this very day.
We believe that such separations followed by adoption are illegal because they do not occur under any legal framework concerning this matter, especially that the mothers are forced and put under potential threats and pressure, and/or are compelled and convinced to accept their fate in exchange for small amounts of money. Other parties involved in such a multi-level criminal act include doctors, certified and may be uncertified midwives, mayors, lawyers, right up to those concerned with issuing identity documents and passports.
Every day we receive, as Badael Alternatives, requests from people who were illegally adopted outside Lebanon to help them in the search for the biological mothers. They send us their documents which often bear false information and certificates regarding the name of their biological mother and their date of birth. While working to analyze the documents, however, the density of criminal involvement which includes the act of forcefully taking babies away from their biological mothers was alarming. Also, mothers, some of which are still alive and others who passed away such as Deepa Darmasiri, often suppress and withhold their heartbreak under the weight of the pain, anguish, and fear of scandal. Every day we receive urgent requests from people who put their lives on standby as a time-out until the moment of truth. Some of them did not want to go public with their private life and reveal how sad and melodramatic it is on TV, on a holy night. Also, what Malek Maktabi did concerning the conviction documents, in the light of our barbaric system, remains rather important. But, what are we supposed to do with the 10, 000 children like Zeinab and the 10, 000 mothers like Deepa?
What are we supposed to do, when those who have been involved in the criminal acts are still at large, being paid for holding on to secrets about children trafficking, and denying the deadly truth which would reveal their true felonious nature? As for us, despite all the documents we found, we are unable to meet each and every urgent request for assistance in the search for one’s origins because the process requires financial support and some sort of immunity to protect us and protect the biological mother. Such a process places us alongside people searching for their mothers at the mercy of the information carrier. This carrier has the antidote at his disposition while being the one who has initially spread the poison. Such is the reason behind my overwhelming and well-deserved sympathy towards Deepa Darmasiri and Badael’s effort to re-open the file concerning the right to know one’s origins, which we attempted to put on the agenda of social work policies in Lebanon. Despite our persistent attempts and given our limited finances, we have not yet made a difference on the level of political decision-making in terms of convincing the government to seriously look into the issue of forced separation of children from the biological mother, through adoption or through their illegal placement in institutions.
We should consider such an event as an occasion to head towards new ways of governance. The Minister of Social Affairs, in particular, should pay the most attention to the forced separation from the biological family file because it also touches the subject of social security, and even surpasses it to the point of threatening national security.
International studies have shown that about 95% of adoptions fail when the adoptees reach their teenage years, 50% of whom end up in prison. Also, a high percentage of them end up as alcoholics or drug addicts, or engage in multiple conflicts or perpetrate law infringements. However, Lebanon is still at the beginning of solving such as mess and is preoccupied with some core matters such as arresting the rapist in a foster care and putting a stop to child trafficking perpetrated behind the shadow of some NGOs who pretend to be doing charitable work, not to mention that all of these charitable organizations in disguise are being financed by the Ministry of Social Affairs which swears by clientalism rather than social work and justice.
We will not restate the failure of the former Minister of Social Affairs to pursue a social policy which supports and provides justice to the victims of such acts, simply because we have witnessed and are still witnessing, day after day and ever since the period prior to the Civil War, the atrocities that were generated due to the existing Lebanese social policies.
Heavy legacy must be dissected and approached in a scientific way. Such a process does not happen through an informed confrontation expressed through social policies. It should instead involve a shift from suspicious philanthropy to a culture of civil rights. Such a shift would require facing facts instead of hiding behind the guise of a sect.
One should learn from global experiences which suggest failing to find an appropriate substitute for a regular family.
Separating a child from his/her family is, even when the intention behind such an act is to protect him/her and based on a judicial civil decision, the most hateful imaginable act and will entail dangerous results, which is suggested by global statistics.
So, what would be the result if such a separation was the consequence of poverty or of having the civil status law value the father who often is the one gaining custody to later abandon his child in an orphanage?
What is left to expect? The knife used by that monster who took away Deepa’s life remains our responsibility, because we are silent witnesses who accepted such a fate for that woman. Zeinab, we greet you today because you believed in your mom and granted her the peace she deserved. And you, dear Zeinab, inspired the rest of the mothers of silence and left them with a glimpse of hope for as little as a simple meeting with their child.
Deepa Darmassiri, Ama, oh Mother…Forgive us...