September 29, 2007

A Corner of " Peace "

I have been listening to some Sufi music. Sufi music is exceptionally beautiful.
It has many varieties ranging from West Africa to its Horn and into North Africa, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, occupied Iraq, occupied Palestine, Iran, Turkey, and right into the Balkans. It also covers the Indian subcontinent with the Kawwali version, all the way to Malaysia, Indonesia, and into the remotest part of Central Asia including China. Wherever you find Islam, you will find some form of Sufi music like a temporary cloak of Peace.

Whenever I listen to Sufi music, I feel as if there is one corner of the world where it is always peaceful. That corner is not to be found on any geographical map but as the sufis say, it is in the Heart. The famous compass for all maps.

Whilst being carried away by the melodies, I felt that corner of Peace. And in the midst of it, I thought I heard God speak.

You see, it is not only Bush that hears God speak. I heard God too.

He said and this time He took on a masculine aura, : " Tell them, I do not care about their fasts, their rituals nor their prayers. Not too far from you, there are slaughter houses. Do they think that Blood turns into Water ? Or do they believe that their peaceful Silence will save them ? "

I may be somewhat delusional, but then you rush to buy "Conversations with God" in 3 volumes and Paulo Cohelo sells like hot cakes, you do not believe they are delusional. But I am - The Heretic Arab Woman.

I guess it must be Ahmad's funeral. My last fuse snapped.
Ahmad was an orphan. He had two married sisters. One is abroad, the other in Baghdad.
He raised his sisters, since they lost their parents when he was a teenager.
He brought them up. He was a father and a mother to them. He was only 31. He lived alone in the family house in Saydiyya. He rented the upper floor to a shia woman who treated him like a son.
A week ago, the Iranian funded, backed, trained, Badr Brigades and the Maghawir stormed the area. They paved the way for the Mahdi army of Muqtada al Sadr to enter and cleanse.

The first time around, the Iraqi shia woman said: " He is my son, do not touch him."
The second time around, she did not manage to save him.
They grouped 36 people, all sunnis and each one received three bullets in the head, a Ramadan present.
A few days later, the people of this neighborhood marched the street demanding security. Who will provide it ? The Americans, the sectarian governmental militias, the sectarian police or Blackwater ?

When his sister went to the morgue to retrieve Ahmad's body, some women queuing for theirs told her : " You are so lucky, you found his body. At least he will have a decent burial. You are so lucky, we envy you. "

When we gathered to give our condolences, the women sat in one corner and the men in another. It was all very peaceful. Corners of peace. The peace of the departed, the peace of Death. There were silent tears, peaceful tears.

I heard someone whispering : " Did you hear about the partition plan ? "
The other responded : " Yes, maybe this will bring us Peace. Anything, let them do anything but let them give us Peace. "

So this is the price of your famous Peace. This was the plan of your Peace. This was the orchestrated diabolical blueprint for your Peace.

Kill them all to silence them into Peace. Murder them all so they can submit, surrender to Peace. Hunt them down, exile them and let them wish for a return to Peace. Give them divided pieces so you can shove Peace down their throats, like a cork before their grief explodes your Peace. Make them skeletons of Peace. Riddle them with Radiation, Bacterias, Germs, Viruses and they will swallow Peace. Imprison them and torture them till their skins fall off and form scabs of Peace. Starve them so you can see through their ribs and they will beg and eat Peace. Let them stutter with fear so they can murmur Peace. A beautiful peaceful Genocide. A silent, peaceful Holocaust from the makers of Peace.

Orations and speeches of Peace. Human rights and conventions of Peace. Laws and jurisdictions of Peace. Congresses and Nobel Peace Prizes. A wonderful piece.

Baghdad - Iraq, Dar Al-Salam. The city of Peace. Islam, the religion of Peace. Muslims, those who submit to Peace. A tranquil Peace of Silence. A blissful Peace.
A quiet Peace like the ones you find in cemeteries, in graveyards, sporadically interrupted by a wail here and there.

Do not let that shatter your own please. Do forgive us, whoever you are, if we, for splits of seconds, interrupt or bother your Peace.
I promise you, we will stifle them from now on. We will strangulate them. We will dry up our eyes, our throats...We do not want the rattle to spoil it for you.
Continue doing what you are doing. You are all very important, peaceful people.
We will pay our tributes to you - statues of Peace.

From the West to the East, may OUR Peace descend upon you too.

Painting : Iraqi artist, Salman Shalhoob.

September 22, 2007

A Misanthrope in Ramadan - Act I

An Occupied Shore

I longed for the Sea.
The sea represents to me the primal waters, the " Prima Mater ", the womb of the earth, the origins of every living thing.
And the sea cannot be tamed. It imposes itself with its tranquility, waves and under currents...

So, when a friend kindly arranged for a short day trip to the seaside, I jumped to the occasion and with great anticipation, hit the road.
I thought to myself, this is the Ramadan season, the place will be at best empty or at worst will only host another "odd tourist" like myself...

I could not wait to feel the sand beneath my feet and immerse myself, like in a baptism in the salty waters, as in a purification ritual. A purification of the body, the senses and the soul from the " negative energies " I have been carrying around like some excess luggage.

And true to my expectation, the shore was virtually empty. I picked a spot in whatever shade I could find...Bliss, pure bliss.

An hour later, two Russian couples, heavy weight size, sat right in front of me, obstructing my vision with their corpulent mass. A bit too close for comfort. After all the beach was empty, why pick here ?
The Russian XXL " Dasha ", then moved her sun bed in the tiny spot of shade I had.
Her partner, " Ivan the terrible " stuffed his bathing suit into the cracks of his bottom, turning it into a thong. He wanted to make sure he gets an even tan exposing his full Russian buttocks right under my nose.

Anyone who travels regularly to these beach resorts in the Middle East, also knows that the average Russian tourist, is known for his/her curtness, lack of consideration for others in particular Arabs, their haughtiness and their nouveau riche demeanor. Our " guests " were no exception.

Half an hour later, two other couples came and sat to my right...Much closer than necessary. They were Israelis, Ashkenazis to be more precise.

Now, nothing, absolutely nothing, beats the tacky Israelis nouveaux riches.
One of the woman had a leopard print dress, a leopard bathing suit, a leopard hat and of course a leopard handbag that goes with the rest of the " ensemble. " Plus the gold jewelry.
She looked as if she just concluded a hunting expedition in some jungle and came out carrying some of her trophies. I suppose " Israel " can be considered a jungle and the Palestinians a species on their way to extinction.
And, as if this grotesque outfit was not enough, she was chewing gum in the most vulgar of ways. I felt I was sitting next to a ruminating cow.

I later learned several " interesting " things about Israeli tourists.

- For one, they never pay in local currency. They get excessively cheap rates back "home" and everything is paid in advance. So the " local " host economy gets peanuts from their visits.

- The second thing I learned is that Israeli tourists are known to be be snatchers.
They basically snatch everything they lay their hands on. Hotel towels, ashtrays, soap holders and even the paintings on the walls. So hotels have nailed their paintings in such a way as to make them unmovable or should I say, un-snatchable. Unless of course, an Israeli bulldozer is called to the premises.

- The third thing I learned is that Israelis don't need a visa, whilst the
" locals " must apply for one, weeks in advance and 9 times out of 10, it is refused.

- And last but not least, there is a holiday festive period in " Israel " and that a number of Israelis prefer the next door shores to their own crowded kitsch beaches.

And of course this particular bunch was your typical loud, arrogant, and downright nasty to the staff, bunch...arguing about every single penny on the bill.

A little later, landed an English couple and proceeded to sit right behind me.
I thought to myself " Patience girl, let's see how far you are jinxed. "
This pinkish looking English couple had the heaviest cockney accent ever.
The " eeyah's and oi's " galore.
The tattooed Brit ordered industrial quantities of beer that his " mate " and himself, gulped down at the speed of ligthning, grabbing fistfuls of nuts from the bowl and shoving them down their mouths as if they had never seen a pistachio before in their entire lives.

So let us recap shall we ? Four Russians in front of me. Four Israelis to my right. Two cockney English behind me and I was waiting for the "grande finale" to happen before the curtain falls down. And of course it happened.

A little later, an American couple came and sat to my left. I nearly fainted. I am jinxed for sure.
The guy looked like some G.I on a short break from the heavy, tiresome duty of killing and his " meaningful other " ( a typical politically correct qualification don't you think ? See, am learning), his partner, an obnoxious, loud thing, called a " woman ".
I can safely state with no exaggeration whatsoever, that the pitch of her voice could be heard to the end of the beach and maybe across the borders...

If you really want to know what it sounded like, I invite you to pinch both of your nostrils really tight and then speak rapidly in the loudest voice you can muster.

Go on, give it a try...Yes that is exactly it!

Her partner, tired from his murdering sprees, turned on his Ipod, obviously ignoring her endless chatter about the latest chocolate fudge she had at auntie Lou's, back home. After a while, seeing she was being manifestly ignored, she picked a trashy Danielle Steel " novel " and would read one line, stop, and chatter some more...
Don't you just love American intellectual conversations ?

And as if all the above was not enough, I got the final prize.
The beach bartender decided to play some music. And guess what he had on ?
Some fucking hillbilly Banjo music that made Dolly Parton sound like an Opera Diva in comparison.

So here I was, caught in a cacophony of unwanted Hebrew, a reactionary brazen Russian, a disdainful cockney English and a loud, nauseating nasal American, the whole speech of tongues crowned by some Banjo music from Iowa....
And here I am, sitting in the heart of the Middle East, during Ramadan.

I got terribly claustrophobic and could no longer breath...I felt as if a thousands walls came tumbling down on me...
I gathered my things and moved to the farthest, furthest, end corner of the shore, anxiously looking behind me, hoping I will not be followed by this occupying mob...

I told one of the waiters as I was heading towards my safe haven :
" For God's sake, change this music...We are not in some corn field in Iowa. "
What I really wanted to shout at the top of my lungs, was : " God damn it, change this shitty yankee music. " But I showed restrain. After all, I was the real foreigner here not them.
" No problem, Madam, I have Celine Dion." He replied.
I can't stand Celine Dion but anything was better than that.

I finally relaxed a little and heard mousey Celine Dion blasting away with the theme song from the " Titanic ", you know - the shipwreck.

I was wrecked myself. I castigated myself for having to put me in this torturous process of " socio - political " observation, that caused me a huge anxiety attack nearly suffocating me.

Feeling my heartbeat slowing down, I reclined back and tried to shut Celine Dion and them from my mind. I switched on my antiquated walkman and since I had no tapes, I fiddled with the radio. A news flash bulletin came up.

- A disabled Palestinian from Nablus was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he was standing by his window. The man was disabled in 2001, following an Israeli incursion.

- A 12 years old Palestinian boy was run over by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza.

- 15 killed and several wounded in various parts of Iraq...

And as I was listening to the news bulletin, I received two text messages.
The first one from Radhee and it said : " Three have been killed by them (meaning U.S and militias in his neighborhood.) But don't worry we are still alive."

The second one from Zayd : " This evening, 9 sharp, visit, condolences to X. Nephew shot dead in his home by Mahdi guys. Don't be late. Enjoy ! "

I sighed and changed the radio station and fell upon an old Iraqi traditional song, sung in Hebrew followed by a Palestinian folk song, also sung in Hebrew.

The beach was temporarily vacated by then. I guess the various " guests " were preparing themselves for another succulent Middle Eastern " Dinner "....
I could already picture the hotel staff inclining, bowing and snivelling like in
the " good old " colonial days...
Then I remembered what an older Palestinian lady told me a few days ago. She said:
" When I was in high school in Jerusalem, our English teacher said to us - nice girls sit upright with their heads and backs straight. You (Palestinians) don't really need to learn that, only us (English) have a right to such a posture. "

It was time for me to leave. I had a funeral visit to go to, I gave one last long look...
The sun was slowly disappearing into the sea. The water took on a blue silvery color and shined as if a thousand diamonds were floating on its surface. All was gently enveloped in a hue of pink, red, yellow and indigo.
And in a few hours, at sunrise, the sea and its shore will be witnessing a brand new day of...Occupation.

Painting : Iraqi female artist, Sawsan Al-Saraf.: " Tidal Wave "

September 18, 2007

A Relic...

There is a warm desert wind blowing...

From where I am seated, I can see a full crescent moon and next to it, a bright shining star...There are a few palm trees swinging in the hot are the Ramadan lanterns, giving off a steady, quiet, golden glow.
Not too far, I hear a fountain and in between the trunks of the palm trees, I see more light reflected in the water...

For a few instants, I was totally lost in this idyllic moment, where everything was a perfect as can be...I only wished I could stretch it all the way to Iraq and beyond ...So they too, can embrace this quietude, these seeming temporary moments of peace.

Since yesterday's post, I have not stopped crying.
I cried myself to sleep and when I woke up and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I burst out in tears again...
During the day, I tried distracting myself with "things"...but every now and then , I would catch a few ones rolling down one cheek. I would discreetly wipe them away, pretending I had a grain of sand or some dust in my eyes...

I guess you can understand by now, that the fleeting peacefulness of this evening, is something of a present, a wondrous gift I have just received...

I was reflecting during this time, why all those tears, suddenly gushing forth like this fountain not too far from me.

Of course, there are many "objective" reasons, but Iraqis are known to be quite stoic or at least pretend to be...Besides I have been doing nothing but grieve since " our freedom ", so why those tears ? They definitely had a different taste to them.

Something about the last piece of writing maybe ? Something about the Past or from the Past ? A memory relic ?

It is all coming back now...

During " Desert Storm ", sorry I meant during " Operation Freedom ", when bombs were raining down on Baghdad like millions of fire drops...
When families were huddled together in one room, either hugging each other and saying their final goodbyes or praying in unison for safety from this air raid or the following one or the one after...
I had only one obsession, one fixed wish, actually two, that kept assailing my mind.

I know you will find what I am about to tell you very strange in view of the circumstances then. But if you think about it again, you will find that it is not that strange after all...

My first obsession was the Iraqi Museum and the Ancient Sites. And my second was an orphanage I knew.

I kept repeating it : " Please God, don't let them..."
Don't let them attack the museum, don't let them destroy the ancient sites...
And my second obsession was : " Please God, protect this orphanage, You and I know why..."
Needless to remind you that God did not listen to my obsessive prayer. I guess I was the only one making this kind of a prayer...everyone else was busy praying for survival...But so was I.

I ardently wanted the History of Iraq - Uruk to survive. I wanted its past to live on and remain the manifested symbol of the " cradle of civilization " and to remind the barbarians that they had none...
And I also desperately wanted the orphanage and the orphans inside of it to survive and live on, because I had secretly hoped that the " crucified boy " I had seen in my dream was an orphan and that he would become the Messiah of Iraq, the Savior of Uruk...

The ancient sites and the museum are devastated today and the orphanage was bombed and is in ruins, releasing a few hundred kids into the wilderness of the streets...
Some of them were kidnapped and trafficked as sex slave commodities and the others joined the ever growing bulk of Iraqi orphaned children.
Little did I know then, that the few hundreds of orphans would be multiplied by one million...

As I delved further into my thoughts and beyond 2003, I realized there was more to it...

At some period of my life, I was going through a very rough patch, not that it has dramatically changed since...

I remember a doctor friend of mine who was also an avid archeologist. We would occasionally meet and talk. One day, sensing my state, he brought a picture of an old Sumerian statuette. He said to me : " Look at her well, look at her eyes, look at her body, look closely..." And I did.
He added : " This is where you came from Layla...You two look alike. You know your roots, look how far back they go...Keep this picture with you and everytime you go through turmoil, look at it and remember how immemorial she is and how transient your state is..." And I did.

That statuette disappeared like so many others...And all I have is a photocopy of a picture. And a faint memory of the feeling that surged inside of me when he uttered those words to me.

And as I kept reflecting, more memories flooded me and my inexplicable tears started making sense.

I remember when I was a little girl, my parents would take me to those ancient sites and to the museum. They called it " educational expeditions "...And when we travelled abroad, they made it a point to take me to other ancient sites and I loved those " educational expeditions. "

I remember sitting by the ruins for hours and touching them...caressing them and in my little girl's mind, I used to imagine what it was like living there during these ancient distant eras...
My mother would tell me : " Layla are you done with caressing those ruins or not yet ? Yalla we have to go now..." and I would beg for more time, hoping that they would give away their secrets to me like a key to some mysterious door and that I would be the only one to possess the secret knowledge that they imparted me with and no one else. Just a little girl's flight into fantasy, Harry Potter - Iraqi version.

And as I was tying all those memory threads from 2003 and back...and everything was falling into meaning, finally giving my " emotional state " some sense, a young boy not older than 13, came towards me and placed a replica of an ancient relic, some ancient city, on the table where I was seated.

He looked straight into my eyes, which were glistening with tears and with the memories and said:
" This is for you. "
I was stunned. I blurted, totally dazed : " Are you selling this ? "
" No, this is a present from me to you. " And he turned his back and walked away...

Painting : Iraqi artist, Rafa Al-Nasiri.

September 17, 2007

No Past, No Future...

Is there anything in Iraq that the Americans have not destroyed ?
Anything at all ?
And you dare wonder why I detest you so much...And you have the audacity to come to my blog to question me about my origins, my location, my ideas, my roots, my sense of belonging...
What kind of a race are you ? What kind of a people are you ?
Yes, I said people not government. I am not politically correct. Your government is part of you and you are part of it. Like it or not.
And don't come and tell me in your sheepish ways that I know all too well : " Oh, but I did not vote for this one. "
I don't give a fuck whom you voted for or did not vote for. It is not my problem.
My problem is you. Your culture, your behavior, your mentality, your character, your haughtiness, your arrogance, your false pride, your denial, your collective stupidity and ignorance, your way of life which I find boring, empty and distasteful, your accent which is an affront to my ears...and to my senses.
I do not like you. Full stop.

I know, I know, some of you are good people...
I know, I know, America is not a homogenous group... I know all that shit.
It does not make one iota of difference in my life and that of other Iraqis.
I no longer give a damn about your nuances, your political leanings, how good or how bad you are...It is meaningless to me and to countless others.
Our lives have been ruined, totally ruined...We do not give a fuck about your nuances.
And all I know is that you have destroyed my country. Beyond repair.

The past - you have looted and destroyed. Trying to erase our collective historical memory...Our roots, where we came from, what our ancestors did, their achievements, their trials, their statues, their writings...

You do not know history, you are rejects of history. You have no history. You have no past, you have are nothing.
You are nothing but ogres of consumerism. Not just material stuff, but anything you can swallow whole you will. You even swallow other people's history whole.
You are a greedy, covetous, gluttonous, voracious, jealous, envious people...
Since you are nothing, your nihilism contaminates everything else...
You destroy and self destruct...

No Future - You have no future, because inside of yourselves, your future is limited to your own little egos. Little egos have no future. Little egos are amoebas, parasites, feeding off others...You think you have a vision but your vision is only about your stomach, your pockets and what you have in between your legs...That is it.
This is where it stops. Surely this does not make you seers...
What have you contributed to the world ? Anything of real substance? Nothing. Apart from brutal might and power... and your sickening culture that is as hollow and as empty as you are.

And just as you have no real future, you robbed us of our own. You are collectively a bunch of criminals, thieves, thugs and perverts of the worst kind.

Since your fucking 9/11, you have totally destroyed two countries. Afghanistan and Iraq.
And you have not stopped. Not one day, not one hour...

You wanted regime change in Iraq - you got it.
You also changed us, me, beyond anything I can recognize...I never hated you before. Today I do. I really hate you.

You collectively disgust me. Even our ancient Mesopotamian deities and spirits are disgusted with you. Every single letter of the Alphabet is disgusted with you.
The earth, the rivers, the sky, the mountains, the trees, the birds of Iraq are disgusted with you...The cosmos is disgusted with you ...

Everytime I spot one of you anywhere in close proximity and hear that ugly accent of yours I run away...I avoid you like the plague. I can't bear to hear you or see you.
You represent nothing but Death and Destruction to me.
Your ugliness is all pervading...
Everytime I switch on the TV or the Radio and see or hear one of you, I zap. I wish I can zap you out of my life once and for all...

I know, I keep repeating myself, but then you keep repeating the same acts.

Iraq is going down, with its past and its future...

I can only promise you one thing, however long it may take, we are going to take you down with us.

Picture :A Sumerian Cuneiform that you have looted and destroyed.

September 13, 2007

On the Edge and Unwanted...

Raouf finally made it to Syria. For those of you who do not know Raouf's story , please read a Postcard from Iraq.

At first, he tried Damascus. An old small "hotel" in the Sayyida Zeinab neighborhood, run by an Iraqi Shia, who turned the lobby into a Husseinya once a week.(Husseinya means a religious gathering for rememberance of the Imams Al- Hassan and Al- Hussein).

The hotel owner kept preaching to Raouf about the problem with the "nawasib" i.e Sunnis. Every morning he was reminding him that if only the Sunnis praised Ahl Al Bayt (which they do), everything will be ok. And if only the Sunnis accepted that Imam Ali was the real inheritor of the Khilafat then all will be ok. And if only Aisha (the wife of the prophet) was not such a traitor, then all of this would have not happened. And if only Abu Bakr, Othman and Omar were not such hypocrites, then all of this would not be taking place...

Raouf is patient by nature and he really does not give two hoots about these divisions.
But his last ordeal in Baghdad left him fragile and vulnerable. He could no longer take this daily sermon that bordered on threats...He was becoming restless and anxious all the time and could no longer tolerate the hotel owner and his preaching.

After all he had received his share of religious brainwashing from his torturers who would take breaks and go and pray and sing devotional songs in between then resume their torture sessions on Raouf...

He decided to move to another city where rents were less expensive and away from sectarians. Who can blame him, the poor man is traumatized for life.

Besides, Iraqis are really not wanted in Syria, in particular in Damascus.
The Syrians constantly complain about their presence. It is because of the Iraqis that crime rates have doubled. It is because of the Iraqis that corruption exists. It is because of the Iraqis that prices have increased. It is because of the Iraqis that services are slow and inefficient...It is because of the Iraqis that Damascus is overcrowded and polluted...

A few Syrians not knowing that I, too, belong to the untouchable, unwanted ones, told me that everything has gone down the drains because of the Iraqis...

" It is not their fault if the Syrians are anting up the prices. After all they are making profits no ? Why blame the Iraqis for Syrian greed ? " I said.
The Syrian replied : " I guess you are right. After all the government is getting money from the UN agency. And many Syrians have made heaps of money because of the Iraqis. But still, the Iraqis are a cumbersome lot. "

I witnessed Syrian greed. If a taxi ride usually costs 50 liras, for an Iraqi it is 150 liras. A bag of rice costs 35 liras, for an Iraqi it is charged 50 liras. A shirt costs 300 liras for an Iraqi it is 600 Liras. Everything is doubled, tripled. As for rents, they are quadrupled for Iraqis.

Back to Raouf...

He moved to another city. Finally found a so called "furnished" apartment on the top of a building with no elevator. It consists of one bed room, one living room and a bathroom. The rent is exorbitant for Raouf but Raouf has no choice.

This apartment is the most insalubrious, squalid, filthy place he has ever seen.
The sofa is eaten up by moths. The curtains in shreds. The mattress and the sheets have not been changed since the Ummayad period. The bathroom is covered with slime and grime. And the so called crockery - plates, pots, pans are not even fit for feeding animals. The teapot is an antiquarian piece - so rusty that the water turns yellow - a great piece for the antiquities museum.

But the worst, are all those unwanted visitors - cockroaches. The place is full of them.

Raouf with his swollen bruised ankles, unable to wear shoes. Raouf with his broken ribs unable to carry anything. Raouf with his dislocated shoulder unable to move his arm. Raouf with a partial paralysis in his hand unable to hold anything for a long time...would walk daily for one hour to the souk (taxis are too expensive for him) and buy sheets, crockery, curtains, detergents, paints, and of course plants...
Then he would carry daily three bags full up 6 floors to his " furnished apartment. "

This went on for about 10 days. He cleaned, painted, brushed, polished, fixed...the place to make it liveable. And everytime he was overwhelmed with pain, he would comfort himself by saying " At least am alive and away from Iraq."

When Raouf's wife learned that Syrian visas were to be issued to Iraqis on the 10th of September, she caught a bus on the 8th of September at 6.30 am and finally arrived to Syria on the 9th of September at 11.30 pm. Endless rows of buses and endless queues at the border before the 10th. Her trip from Baghdad to Damascus took over 24 hours. But she too is grateful she made it away from hell.

When Raouf learned that his residency will not be renewed after the initial three months period, he was gripped with a terrible anxiety.

Throughout his ordeal, Raouf never cried, never screamed... Even his torturers were surprised and asked him what kind of human being he was. They told him : " Another man would have died but you did not even utter a sound - you are not normal."

Raouf replied that he had totally surrendered and whatever they wish to do to him, is fine with him. " I am in God's hands " he would say.
" You in God's hands ? Because you know God ? We saw you wearing shorts inside your house and we saw a can of beer outside. "
And they would beat and flog him some more,until his skin fell off, keeping him blindfolded and chained in a bathroom for 5 days with no water and no food...And threatening to murder him, burn him or behead him daily. At one point they were three of them with three sharp knives on his jugular about to go into his throat...Raouf did not utter a sound.

But when Raouf learned that he might be forced to return to Iraq in two months time, he screamed like a wild animal. He cried like he has never cried before and his anxiety attacks would take hold of him for days on end.
After his torture ordeal Raouf had partial memory blackouts...But after hearing that he might have to return to Iraq, all the images came back flooding his memory.
Today Raouf cannot be left alone for one hour. He simply goes mad with the flashbacks.

He said : " I would rather commit suicide than go back to Iraq. Iraq is over for me. Iraq is no longer my home. I do not miss it. I just miss my family and my neighbors and my garden. I would rather die than go back. " And Raouf means it.

UNHCR is filled with case upon case similar to Raouf's. They are all going crazy at the idea of returning to hell.

But it seems that the Syrian authorities want the Iraqis out.
I made it a point to peruse daily their newspapers, they are very kind and "soft" towards Al-Maliki. I also noticed a lot of Farsee being spoken in Damascus. A detail.

Goodness, am at loss. Raouf is one story. But there are so many others. I do not even know where to begin the list.

There is Ahmad. A Phd in Microbiology, worked as a masseur for a while and is now unemployed. There is Noora and Hanan not older than 17, despite the heavy make up, working as call girls in hotels. There is Wassim, a Phd in Electrical Engineering working in the black as a technician repairing Air Conditioners. There is Sana a high school student, standing in the streets selling combs and bubble gums...
They are crammed up to 10 in one room. There are the sick ones, the amputated ones, those in wheel chairs...The tragedy is endless. The despair is endless...

But they are all unanimous. They would rather die than go back to Iraq. And they all agree that Iraq is no more. For them, and from what they have seen, witnessed, and experienced, Iraq is finished. And I agree with them.

If the Syrian authorities force them to leave where will they go ? What will happen to them ?
In Syria they hardly have any future. In Iraq, they will be something of the past.

And the International "Community" is still watching, with amused detachment, those unwanted ones about to be pushed off the edge and into the abyss of no return.

Painting : Iraqi female artist, Sawsan Al Sarraf. "Immigration"

September 8, 2007

Free Floating...

I hate it when I have no computer. I hate borrowing someone else's. I hate cyber cafes. I hate accumulated emails to which I can't reply and I hate blog moderation...
All seem like obstacles to the flow of things...

I have some free time on my hands. I err daily. I think a lot and observe everything and everyone around me.I am part of nothing and nothing is part of me...

I feel like an alien, strolling aimlessly...floating freely on the surface of things...

I walked into a small stationery shop. I needed a writing pad. I had to have a writing pad. The shopkeeper pointed his finger to one set of shelves.
" You'll find them over there. " he said.

I approached the pile with reverence. Chosing a writing pad for me is akin to a meticulous ritual. The shopkeeper was getting impatient.
" What's the matter, can't you find anything to your liking? "
"No, no, just give me more time. "
I replied, changing my accent...

There was one with a Barbie cover. Ludicrous. And another one with a Mad Max look alike cover. Ridiculous. And one with Roses - Oh God. Not Roses again! Too sentimental.

I finally settled for the weirdest looking one. A pad with the cover of a fossilized skeleton of a fish.

I walked back towards the shopkeeper wanting to pay.

" All this time and this is what you chose. A dead fish ? " He said with irony.
" Yes, all this time and nothing but a dead fish. How much? "

I carry this notepad with me everywhere I go. Everytime I misplace it, I am overtaken by a sense of panic until I find it again...

So far, this pad is empty, except for a few scribbled pages... So why this attachement?

I remember that for those who are Born Again, they have bumper stickers on their cars with the sign of a fish. The fish as a symbol of Eternal Life.

It grieves me that my sticker is that of a fossilized skeleton, of a dead fish.
But then, how can it be otherwise ?

One million dead fish freely floating, so a few can be born again and again...

Painting : Iraqi female artist, Sawsan Al-Sarraf." UnderWater "

September 6, 2007

Fading away...

Hala, 65 years old, left Baghdad nearly two years ago.

The Jaysh al Mahdi threatened to burn her and her house down. Hala lived in what is considered a middle class neighborhood. Hala is single, has no kids and both of her parents have passed away.

Hala studied Business Administration and Economics and worked for a government ministry until the age of 55 when she took early retirement to look after her parents who were both sick. Hala lived off her pension and that of her father's.

Meanwhile, she too developed serious health problems one of which is rheumatoid athritis with bouts that debilitate her to the point of near paralysis. At times, she is unable to walk and is chair or bed ridden for weeks on end.

At age 63, after the threats received by the Mahdi Militia, Hala had no choice but to pack a suitcase and head to Amman with all her savings.

There she was granted a yearly residence permit and she lived off her savings until " God relieves this curse "...

A few months ago, the Jordanian authorities refused to renew her residency and she was told she was no longer welcomed to stay in Amman. Her options were either to apply for refugee status with the UNHCR or return back "home" to Baghdad. Of course Hala had lost the family house which was her only refuge.

Needless to say, Hala dutifully filled th UNHCR application forms and queued for days on end to finally be received for an "interview".

They asked her a lot of questions, some of them going back to her grandparents, her parents, their political affiliation, their jobs, their education...
Then, her personal history, her education, her work experience, her diplomas, her political leanings...and they also asked her what her hobbies were.

After several months of waiting and 4 interviews, they finally gave her "clearance" and agreed to grant her a refugee status that will enable her to be "placed" in another "host" country.

At first, they wanted to ship her to Sweden. She begged them not to, in view of her medical condition and cold weather means a slow painful death for her.
Then, they proposed Australia. Again, she begged them not to send her there. She knows absolutely no one in Australia. And she will be too far away from some of her distant relatives who also took refuge in Amman.

About a week ago, they informed her that she is to leave Amman in a fortnight to some place in the north west of the U.S. Again she pleaded with them, telling them that she knew absolutely no one in the U.S.

This time around, they told her categorically that she had run out of options and she had no choice but to accept or be forcibly deported back to the Iraqi border.

Not only that, but they also made her sign a paper by which she promised to find a job in the U.S within 3 months of her arrival. The reason for that clause was to ensure that Hala pays back to the UNCHR the costs of her transportation, air ticket and temporary lodging in America.

She cried out: " Who will employ me at age 65 and with my medical condition ?!"
To which they matter of factly replied : " In your application form you mentioned that one of your hobbies was hairdressing and the second is flower arrangement."
" But I have deformed joints, I can't stand up in a hairdressing salon all day ", she said.
" Then become a florist since you like flowers " was their reply.

The other conditional clause stipulates that she does not return to Jordan within 3 years. To which she replied : " I will probably be dead by then and will not find anyone to bury my corpse in Baghdad."

Hala will be leaving in a few weeks. She has 2'500 dollars to live on for 3 months until she finds a job as a florist in Northwest America. Then she is to PAY BACK to the UNHCR the price for being "saved".

They asked her to look at it positively. They said : "Look at this way, at 65, you will be starting a brand new life."

Hala had no choice but to agree. So she will be leaving Amman soon heading towards the unknown, not knowing anyone, and with deformed joints, seeking a job at age 65 as a florist.

Hala tries to console herself and says : " At least am better off than the rest. At least am not going to be sent back to hell."

Americans believed that they will be welcomed with flowers at the gates of Baghdad.
Iraqis are now forced to go and sell flowers to Americans.
There is a big lesson there for those who care to ponder...

Painting : Iraqi female artist, Hayat Jamil Hafidh.

September 2, 2007

Alarm Bells.

What a drag it is to constantly write about misery and suffering.
Yes, it has become tedious, boring, repetitive, tiresome...
Either I am incapable of seeing anything else, or there is nothing else to see...
Whatever the case, one does not get used to so much human pain, angst and distress.

The Oxford linguistic group in charge of updating their English Oxford dictionary and Thesaurus ought to come up with new wordings and new definitions, specifically tailored to the tragedy of the Iraqis.

Whichever word I use does not adequately describe what Iraqis are going through.
Either my English is very limited, or the English language itself is very limited or you are just a thick skinned, callous bunch of "people"... Probably a combination of all three.

One calamity after another has befallen a whole people. I am not even sure you are capable of understanding, comprehending, assimilating the extent, the magnitude, the impact of it...

When I see what I see, hear what I hear and feel what I feel, I can fully understand why someone who is not older than 25 years old goes and explodes himself.

Take for instance Iraqi refugees. Exiled, displaced and have lost EVERYTHING. Do you understand what EVERYTHING means ?

Those presently in Syria will not be having their residency permit renewed. It is now official. They are to leave Syrian territory and will HAVE to go back to Iraq.
Not only that, but the new law stipulates that no Iraqi can enter Syria without a Visa. That's it. The borders are now closed and open one way, only.
Go back "home", we are told. Total panic amongst the Iraqis in Syria in particular the SUNNIS.

That was part of the deal that the criminal Iranian sectarian thug PM Al-Maliki struck with the Syrian Bashar Al-Assad.


And check this out : The only ones allowed to remain in Syria are Iraqi Doctors, scientists, teachers, nurses, engineers... i.e qualified people. Remember the deliberate policy of Brain Drain and you will understand the full implications.
Think, use those grey cells...please.

What all this means is very simple. Hurl back the sheep back to the slaughter house for more ethnic cleansing.

It means more extermination of Sunnis. Seems that the FASCIST shia sectarian militias from Iran have run out of Sunnis to finish off in Baghdad. The drills are getting rusty ?

Why do I see more CARNAGE? Oh my God! Oh my God!

I am sure Shias will be allowed to remain in Syria, remember the Syrian Allawite regime and its affinity to Iran. Is that why Muqtada al Sadr froze the activities of his militias for 6 months ? (even though more tortured dead bodies show up daily in Baghdad streets). Is that the plan - keeping the Americans very busy in more sectarian carnage to fend off a possible attack on Iran? Is that why Ahmadinajad said that the U.S is in no position to attack Iran?

More sheep to slaughter for the Eid like they did on the 30th December 2006 ?

Oh my God! You need to act NOW !

You need to organize yourselves and you need to get involved fully and STOP this CARNAGE NOW!
Send delegations to Syria and Jordan. Come and see for yourselves. You need to ACT NOW.

After all it is because of your government, your "people" who voted for it, even the "people" of your so called "opposition", that we are in this predicament.


Unless of course you happen to be one of Bremer's partisans who wants to bring down the Iraqi population to 5 to 6 million.

Painting: Iraqi artist, Serwan Baran.

September 1, 2007

It's all in the Stars...

A someone I have been corresponding with for a few months now, finally solved it for me.
This person lives in a Scandinavian country and has studied astrology for over 20 years. And she greatly preaches about Love and Peace.

She has finally figured out what the real problem is.
According to her readings, am born under some constellation of planets and her ephemerides unequivocally state that this particular constellation of mine was formed under the star sign Aries.

Aries is traditionally known to symbolize Self Will, Birth, The Ego, and Independence. Aries is also a masculine fixed sign, an analogy for “ I am.”
And it is a Fire sign.

Now according to my astrologer “friend”, this constellation of planets at my birth denotes a combative nature who fiercely seeks Independence.

She also confirms that the whole of Iraq, according to her readings, is born under an identical constellation of planets.

But not only Iraq. The whole of the Middle East shares that same constellation. Except Israel, of course. I forgot to ask her if she was a Jew by any chance.

Now this combative nature is very Yang - very Masculine.
Again, according to her, I derive its energy from some ancestral lineage of very Yang males who are there to fight and do not know what Peace is all about.

So her conclusion is that my Destiny or Karma in this life, is to go beyond the Yang and discover the Yin – The Feminine Essence.

I replied telling her that nearly all of my problems came from the Yangs, so obviously I must be Yin somewhere...

She answered back telling me in no uncertain terms that I needed to let go of my combative nature and will find the Yin, the Eternal Yin inside.

So I wrote again and asked her what should I do when faced with Yang’s actions ?

What do I do with all the misery I witness around me because of some murderous Yankee Yang or some chauvinist Persian Yang or some sectarian Iraqi Yang or some sleeping Arab Yang, or some indifferent, careless Western Yang ?

What do I do with all the orphans, the widows, the displaced, the hungry, the sick, the abandoned, the destroyed, the forgotten, the tortured, the raped...because of a very negative Yang ?

I mean here is my Yin screaming her head off and no real Yang is making a difference in any positive, substantial way.

She never answered my question.

But she did mention in one of her mails, that curiously enough her "Master astrologer" under whom she studied for a long time, was first initiated and taught in a school for astrology, in Baghdad out of all places.
It could not have been such a bad place. She got the Independence bit right, for sure.

And I guess I have the patience of Job. Patience with ignorant people, patience with idiotic analysis, patience with a Western world that breaks down at the sight of a sick dog but can't lift a finger when a genocide is taking place under its very nose. And last but not least, patience with a Scandinavian astrologer pontificating from way up North...

I mean hell, I can't get more Yin than that!

It must be all in the Stars. It must be Destiny...
I guess you folks will be stuck with this "combative nature" that permeates my astrological chart as well as that of the whole of the Middle East...except Israel, of course.
Yes you are stuck with it until the "Stars and Destiny" decide otherwise.

Painting: Iraqi artist, Ayad Al Qaragholi.