The world loves a love story. Shakespeare wrote “Romeo and Juliet” 500 years ago, and it’s still retold in teen romance movies. Anyone can be a “star-crossed lover,” facing obstacles to forbidden love. Even me.
When I couldn’t find a job in America, I went overseas to teach English. After 6 lonely months in frozen Russia, I traveled to sunny Turkey where I met a Turkish man. We married, despite differences in nationalities, culture, and religion.
Then Turkey began experiencing political turmoil as people protested the Islamist government’s growing control over everyday freedoms. Omer was arrested and tortured. Police threatened me, his “Christian wife.” Turkish police attacked us both on a sunny Istanbul day, along with a group of peaceful tourists.
I wrote about this. I published my photographs. When I couldn’t find a decent job in Turkey, I left, with Omer, just days before police showed up to arrest me for one of my photos.
At first, Omer and I felt safe in China. I had a good salary, and we shared a luxurious, free apartment. But China required a lot of paperwork for us both to stay. We should have known something was wrong from the beginning when the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul didn’t want Omer to go with me. In Hong Kong, where we had to get a work permit, the Chinese Visa Office wanted to send Omer back to Turkey. When I mentioned “racial profiling” and “religious persecution,” a supervisor approved our visas.
But the timing was bad. China was having more problems with the Turkish-related Muslim people in their northwest Xinjiang province that used to be called East Turkestan. Even though China gave me a Foreign Expert’s license, they didn’t like that I came with a Turk. They followed Omer and watched our house. During an expat Christmas party, a Chinese government official took our photos.
Then 4 armed police officers stopped Omer, put him up against a van, and searched him and his sports bag (without a word of English). Just after New Year, he took a plane back to Istanbul. I felt abandoned, angry, and alone. I wanted to get on a plane too but had nowhere to go.
I call him at 4:00 a.m. when I can’t sleep, and he tells me how terrible Turkey has become. He plans to get a job on a ship again, and I’m looking for a teaching position in America. It would be difficult to get him a visa. I’ve asked my government for help, but I don’t think President Obama cares. Omer and I are Lovers without a Land.