My Name is Nima
On the table next to my bed is a picture. It is the only thing I have from my home. It is a black and white photo of me when I was a little girl. I am wearing a lovely dress. There is a small pot of flowers at my feet. However, my face is sad. There is fear in my eyes. The people you cannot see laugh at my picture. They tell me they will beat me like a dog.
I grew up in a village in the northern region of Somalia. Most people there were poor and lived in dilapidated houses. Crime was everywhere and sometimes soldiers from the Mogadishu warlords would come to our village and steal money and food. It was a difficult existence, and as a Muslim girl, I was the lowest form of life in that barbaric society. Yet as a child, I did not understand this.
I was so afraid of my family. None of them loved me, but I never knew why. When I was little my older brothers would beat me for no reason. They would say I am a bitch. They would say I am crazy. I was so afraid. They would not let me out of the bedroom. I would cry endlessly. My mother and father would get angry and tell me to leave the house. Sometimes they would not let me back in, even at night. As a little girl I was always scared and lonely. It was then that I first starting hearing the voices of the people you cannot see. They would say I am an ugly bitch.
On the nights I got locked out, I would stay with my cousin. She was an older girl. She had no brothers and no father, just her mother. She would let me help to cook the food. But at night when her mother was asleep, she would make me take off my clothes. She would lie on top of me and kiss me. She would take her hand and feel between my legs. If I cried out she would beat me. I was so afraid. When she finished she would laugh and tell me that I smelled like a dog. I would try to sleep but the people you cannot see would keep me awake. I would hear them say I am a filthy mongrel.
As I grew older my mother and father repeatedly said I was an embarrassment to the family. They would scream, “I hate you” over and over. They would tell me they wished I was dead. My mother would beat me with a belt every time she got angry. My mother and father said I was a bad Muslim. They said Allah called me a dog.
When I was twelve they took me to the next village for a circumcision. I was so afraid. The people you cannot see were there. The doctor had a sharp knife and he cut into my vagina. Oh, I was in so much pain. The bleeding would not stop. I cried and cried but my mother just told me to shut up and she called me a bitch.
My life was filled with sorrow and I could not escape the fear of the people you cannot see. The only nice person I knew was my primary school teacher. She taught me to speak French. Every day she would look at my arms and legs. She would look into my eyes and say, “What is wrong, Nima? What is wrong?” But I said nothing. The people you cannot see would hear me. They would beat me if I ever spoke. The other children would look at me and even though they never spoke, I could hear their voices in my head laughing at me. I was afraid they wanted to beat me.
My teacher was nice to me. She said I was a good student. I liked to read and I was good at math. I wanted to grow up and get a diploma like the nice women in the village. Every day when I was at school I would dream of getting a diploma. But my parents would not let me go to secondary school. I was devastated. My teacher pleaded with my parents to let me continue my education, but my father said mean things to her. He cursed and yelled loudly. He told my teacher I was a crazy bitch.
My teacher helped me get away from my family. I’ll never know for sure why she did it, but I think that after meeting my parents, she finally realized why I was always sad. She told me she loved me promised that I would never have to see my family again. We rode together in her husband’s car for over an hour, and then we crossed into Djibouti. She said people in Djibouti were just like the people in Somalia. They called themselves Somalis; they ate the same food and shared the same customs. She took me to a center for refugees. She said I would be safe there. She told me to tell them I was from Djibouti. She told me to tell them my parents were dead. She told me to lie about my age. She told me to give them a false name. Her husband gave me some money, and then they left. I never saw my teacher again.
I was happy to stay at the refugee center, but still the people you cannot see would haunt me. They would say I am a bitch. The other refugees would look at me and laugh. I could hear the thoughts in their minds and they would say I am an ugly bitch. I was afraid they would beat me. Every day and every night I was afraid they would beat me.
One day people from the Dutch Council of Refugees came to the center. They said I could have asylum in the Netherlands. They helped me sign the papers and I got a passport. I got to fly on airplane to Amsterdam. There I met my sponsor, a kind Dutch woman named Anthia. She helped me set up a flat in Rotterdam. I even got an allowance from the government. Anthia was wonderful. She had such a good heart. She said I was like a small flower, and she would call me Nima Rose.
Anthia helped me to take classes so I could get a diploma. Oh, I wanted to get a diploma! Back in Somalia, receiving a diploma is the most significant achievement for a woman. I wanted a diploma, and a job, and a house and a family. All I wanted was a normal life. But the people you cannot see came to me in Rotterdam. They would say I am a bitch. They would say I am crazy and I would never get a diploma.
Anthia would visit me often. We would drink tea and she would tell me stories about her life. I didn’t tell her much about my life. Most of the things I said were lies. Then one day I told her about the people you cannot see. She became very worried about my health, and a few days later she took me to see a doctor. The doctor said I had depression, and he gave me three different medications. I would take the pills every day, but they made me feel worse. I was always tired and my muscles felt sore. I could not concentrate and I stopped going to my classes. It was only with Anthia’s love and support that I was able to go on.
I would tell the doctor my problems, but he wouldn’t listen. He just gave me more and more medications. Over the next few months he gave me medicine for paranoia. Later he said I had schizophrenia, and he gave me injections with powerful medications. I told him they were not working. I could still hear the people you cannot see and I felt like everyone around me wanted to beat me. I felt like I was lost in a fog filled with pain and misery.
A year later Anthia got married and moved to Israel. I was so sad. She was my only friend and then she was gone. The new sponsor did not like me. She looked at my medical records and said I was crazy. She told the doctors I am a bitch. They took away my flat and moved me into a hospital. The doctors continued to give me injections to help me overcome my mental problems, but they did not help. I would be so tired and I could not think clearly. The other people in the hospital would say I am a bitch. The people you cannot see would come every night. I was too weak to fight them. I was afraid they would beat me.
I have been in this hospital for nine years. The people you cannot see come to me every day. They say I am a bitch. The doctors and nurses all say I am a bitch. They give me injections to control me. I have no strength. I will never have a diploma or a job. I will never have a house or a family.
My name is Nima. I always wanted a little boy. I would name him Danny.