November 23, 2007

In the Heart of the Night...

It is awfully quiet tonight. Usually my upstairs neighbors are terribly noisy.
They are what I consider nouveaux riches peasants. Or at least they pretend to be nouveaux riches. This building has nothing of new rich to it, more like new poor.
I am grateful that they are mute tonight. I hope they stay that way - always.

So it's a silent night for a change. I have the radio on, and late at night, several stations play the mythical Egyptian Diva, Um Kulthum. They always reserve late nights for her.

Hard to listen to Um Kulthum during the day. I suppose one needs to be in a contemplative mood for El-Sett (the grand Lady). And rightly so, her voice and the lyrics that clothes her music, can only be appreciated in the stillness of the night...

"You, the absent one, where are you? The past cannot be forgotten and the rememberance lives on, so you, absent one speak to me..."

Will the absent ones speak to us? Will they remember us?
There are so many of them, in the thousands. Gone, just like that.

What a terrible punishment has been inflicted on us...For what sin? For what crime?

I will never get over this great injustice. I don't think any true Iraqi will.

And I personally will never forgive it either...until Iraq is totally liberated and until all the damage has been repaired and compensated for and the criminals tried and even then, I am not sure I will be able to forgive...

There are millions of us out there, sitting in the heart of the night, unable to sleep. The nights are getting colder and the prospects are grim...

The wounds and scars are way too deep and many. Where do you start healing? Physically, emotionally, sexually, spiritually, financially, socially...?

Some of us try to draw strength from the absent,departed ones. We talk to them as if they are still around...

A foreigner, who works on a voluntary basis with Iraqi refugees called me this morning. It sounded very urgent.

"Layla,I need to meet you today, please" she said.

We agreed on a time and a place in some café.

I noticed that most Iraqi refugees don't go to cafés, as most are quite expensive. They sit on the benches just outside and buy something to drink from some street vendor. They sit and watch the rest having their drinks on the inside...and they sit on the benches for hours...looking.

Some can't even afford a street vendor, they are street vendors themselves, hardly making ends meet, just enough to pay for rent and the food is usually handed out in charity...

Am talking about educated people here, with university degrees and years of professional experience...Am taking about graduates here. Am talking about a whole middle class intelligentsia that resorts to street vending, or other menial jobs if they are lucky...whilst the rest of the majority sits at home and borrows money from relatives or friends. Borrowed money and borrowed time.

Am talking about a youth who can't afford to do anything for fun. Who stand idle in the streets gazing at others living their lives...when they too had one and were robbed of it. Am talking about mothers, fathers, sons and daughters made totally destitute, willfully destitute...

Some conveniently argue, it's because of the "violence" in Iraq.

Violence becomes some sort of an anonymous noun that just fell from the skies...just like that.

Those who put forward such arguments are the most deceitful of the whole lot. They fail to mention that this violence was/is deliberately instigated from the outside.

It makes them look good and guiltless after all "it's them who can't get along...nothing to do with us, us the respectable civilized ones...yet another proof of what a hopeless case these people are..."

Crime upon crime and injustice upon injustice for which some so-called Iraqis cheer and collaborate with. And the net is full of them.

Am not sure who is more despicable the American arrogant, psychopathic, piece of shit or the ones who pretend to be Iraqis and cheer the murderers? I think I will settle for the latter - definitely more despicable and more repugnant.

I finally met M.

"What's wrong, you sounded quite desperate" I asked.

"Layla..." and she could not finish her sentence, she broke in tears. Very unlike her as she is a very reserved person and comes across as cold and composed.

"'s very difficult, am sorry, it's very difficult. I have no one to speak to about this..."

She finally explained to me the cause of her obvious sorrow.

She is doing voluntary work with a small group of Iraqi youth, arranging for them to engage in constructive activities once a week, a question of keeping them off the streets or bring them outside their homebound prisons...These teenagers see in her a sort of a hero/savior and they have opened up to her about their failed dreams, their angst, their griefs, their losses...and she is overwhelmed and could not find anyone to confide in but me...

"How can I help you M, am not exactly in a position to do much..."

"I just need to speak to someone who will understand" she said..."I can't continue seeing this state of affairs and the indifference I encounter even among my one seems to care." she added.

"Gosh, M, did it take you two whole years to figure out that?"

Here is the savior trying to find comfort in one of the victims.
And here is the victim hoping to hear the absent ones speak to her.

And in -between her sniffing and her sighs, I overheard a conversation coming from the table next to us.

It was two medical doctors attending some conference. One was French and the other I could not tell. I recognized the French guy from his terrible English accent and he said to his colleague

"C'est terrible, very terrible, human life is so cheap in Iraq, it is worthless...I don't understand because in our countries life is so sacred..."

Yes indeed, Iraqi lives are so cheap and worthless and because you, and the majority of you, viewed them that way, you can easily continue in your indifference and carelessness...comparing and standing on your high "moral" grounds. Because you really believe you are such a moral people, don't you?

Add another injustice to the list. Or maybe this is the first injustice, the mother of all injustices and the mother of all crimes - Your perception of Iraqi lives as being so cheap and worthless - that has enabled you to continue slaughtering us for nearly 20 years now...

And the physical elimination was not enough for you, you had to also turn us into living shadows, surviving skeletons sitting on street benches, or prisoners of our cold lodgings not daring to venture out...turn us into menial workers, beggars, or prostitutes in a ruthless black market, waiting for a savior...

Do you realize the so many levels of crimes and injustices or are you still blind?

Knowing you, you will remain blind...

Since when do criminals admit to their crimes?

Shrouded in darkness, a pitch black obscurity, shrouded in a deafening silence, like this night...

With no eyes to see and no hearts to feel...And when you do, you rush to the victims for confirmation that you are actually seeing true or you place yourselves as the good samaritans taking pity on those "poor things."

The gap between us - you and I - has become irremediably vast.

I am not sure anything will bridge it anymore. If at all, it is up to you to make not one extra mile, but a million miles. And even then...

I never knew that silence, sitting in the heart of the velvety night could reveal such truths, bitter truths that no daylight or noise can attenuate or dispel...

True Iraqis need to realize that they are very much alone...that their lives are considered worthless and cheap, and that they have to rely on no one but themselves and the rememberance and presence of the Absent One.

Painting: Iraqi artist, Mazen Al-Janabi.