For the past decade or so I, like many of us, have been comparing paperwork concerning my adoption with that of other adoptees. Looking for clues, similarities, anything that might divulge some information as to origins as well as that original transaction and the time previous to our disinheritance. Much of what we glean is heartbreaking: The false names assigned to us which come from a list of Arabic words, dooming many of us to be “related” to each other by useless pseudonyms. Or the fact that later children were prematched, their names reflecting the chosen name from the adopting family. And later still, the mother giving birth was registered in the hospital under the name of the adopter, thus erasing two generations at a time.
These stages of adoption follow a particular trajectory of streamlining and a bureaucracy that profited literally and figuratively from the wars and other social upheavals within the country. Over the years, the pretense of legality was dropped, and the demands of exporting children required cut corners and bypassed “legal” strictures. So we start to see the names of officials (such as the local mukhtar) forged, or used long after such officials passed away. We also see children literally trucked out of the country wholesale, like so many sacks of potatoes. Those of us with false paperwork are thus the “lucky” ones.
I used to wonder why the various institutions went to such great lengths to stockpile all this information that, to me, was patently false. I now realize it is this veneer of legality which is most important; the ability to state emphatically “we did this by the book”. It also allowed them to hold the destruction of this paperwork over our heads upon our return. How many times was I informed that the powers that be wished to “burn all of our records”? How many adoptees were told “all of that was destroyed in the war”?
The problem is that behind the veneer is information we are not privy to—secreted files in hidden rooms, witnesses who dare not speak, adoptees promised information in exchange for their not talking to the media, etc. As we move collectively to uncover the story of our adoptions, a few things become clear. First, much of what might be discovered is in our hands, in terms of our documents and the processes they reveal. Their value, however, lies in the aggregate. Second, much more truth lies in our own bodies, in the form of our DNA. As more and more of us get the results of our genetic testing back, we are seeing the patterns of targeted dispossession of marginalized groups that is the stigma of adoption throughout the world.
In an effort to help in the processing of this information, the organization Badael/Alternatives has started a project the aim of which is to assemble as much information concerning adoptees as possible. The goal is to create a database which will hopefully start to bring forward the patterns we are beginning to see and not only elaborate on them, but create legal leverage from them. It will act as a means for adoptees to contribute to a project that is to the benefit of all of us, as well as a way for families who relinquished children or whose children were kidnapped or otherwise disappeared to inquire as to the possibility of reuniting families. For example, in the months following my own DNA test, I have been contacted by three families in the jebel whose sons were kidnapped. This database is aimed at them as well.
To understand is that as an organization we are focusing on the big picture first, which will allow at a later stage for more pointed research into individual histories and narratives. It must be understood that it is beyond the scope of Badael/Alternatives to provide private individual research or psychological support; this must be left in the hands of the many organizations starting to form in various countries supporting the Lebanese adopted diaspora. In this we kindly ask for your patience and understanding. Of course all information gleaned is considered confidential and is not accessible online or via any other means. With this understanding I invite any and all Lebanese adoptees to visit the web site, read the proposal letter to adoptees, and hopefully participate in this project.
We are 10,000+, if not more, if not double that. And in this number is strength. And working together we might, inch’allah, glean something approaching the truth, answers to our questions, and a resolution to our collective and individual narratives.
Link to web site: Badael/Alternatives