For almost two decades, Umm Ali, as she is known, has participated in protests in front of the United Nations building in Beirut demanding the release of her son. She has camped outside the UN building in wet, sometimes freezing weather. And she has prayed.
Her voice choked with emotion, Umm Ali says there has been a steady flow of visitors since the Saturday announcement that a prisoner exchange will take place. But she has been in a daze and cannot keep her eyes off the clock.
“Every minute feels like an hour,” she said. “I wish you could see me when I open my arms to take him and thank God for bringing him back. This is a dream,” she said before breaking down into tears.
Anwar was captured in 1987 during a 22-hour battle with Israeli occupation troops in Lebanon. He was 18-years-old.
“Anwar wasn’t defending a private piece of land – he was defending the Arab world,” said his sister Insaf. Overwhelmed with emotions and well-wishers, she says the family has been unable to get a good night’s rest since Saturday.
Emotions running high
“Journalists knocked on our door this morning at 4:00am,” she said good-naturedly. “We begged my mother to try and get some rest but she feels that Anwar’s release is not something significant only for us. This is something she wants to share.”
Jamila and Muhammad prepare
Insaf was 11-years-old when Anwar was captured. Over the years the family has exchanged written letters with him through the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC).
“Every time I think he is actually coming home, I start crying,” she laughed. “I was in the taxi going to work and it hit me Anwar is being released and I began crying.”
“My sister is preparing his favourite foods – tabbulah and kibba,” said Insaf, referring to traditional Lebanese dishes.
Sunday marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha Islamic feast. Since Anwar’s detention, the only reason the holiday was celebrated was an effort to bring some happiness to her beleaguered mother, said Insaf. But this year, Anwar will be present to celebrate it.
“Everyday will be Eid al-Adha from now on,” said Insaf.