THE BLOG

Once Again, Refused Permission to Leave My Country

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The lady raises the stamp and brings it near the paper, then finally sets it off to the side without having stamped your permission to leave. "You are not authorized to travel," she says, and the whole office hears the phrase that condemns you to remain confined on this island. At other tables the applicants look at their feet to avoid meeting your eyes looking into theirs, searching for solidarity. The soldiers passing by scrutinize you from above with the reproach of those who think, "She must have done something, not to be allowed to leave."

Until this last minute you thought that maybe the archives of the Ministry of the Interior would not be too well organized and your history of nonconformity would not come to light. You often imagined that a secretary would go for pizza at the exact moment she checked your file and the rumblings of her stomach would make her put it, as quickly as possible, in the pile of those approved. You know well the effect that melted cheese and tomato sauce can cause in a bureaucrat who looks at her watch at three in the afternoon.

But the option of state negligence didn't work this time. They uncovered your case from the moment you presented the first papers for a trip south. Some boss with the rank of lieutenant colonel would have smiled on seeing you were finally in his hands. After you believed you could act like a free man, speaking your mind loudly and publishing articles without a pseudonym, you had reached the point where you would feel all the walls, all the bars, all the locks.

You have no criminal record, have never been found guilty by a court, and your most frequent offenses consist of buying cheese or milk on the black market. Nevertheless you have just verified that you are suffering a punishment. Your sentence is to remain behind the bars of this archipelago, confined by this band of sea which some in their naivete consider a bridge and not the uncrossable moat it really is. Nobody will let you out because you are a prisoner with a number stuck to your back, even though you think you are wearing the blouse you took from the closet this morning. You are in the dungeon of the "immobilized pilgrims," in the cell of those forced to stay.

Through the window a voice berates you for not having shut up, faked it a little... worn the mask to be able to travel. You will not see the light until the entire prison is torn down.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.