June 13, 2008

Sifting Through Boiling Blood.

Every time I want to start a new post about Iraq, I am at loss.
I simply don't know where to start. And this has been going on since I've started blogging...

I want to write about deformed babies in Falluja. I want to write about the sectarian arrests in Ameriya. I want to write about the use of napalm in Mosul.
I want to write about the street children of Baghdad and the widows. I want to write about despicable Iran and its militias. I want to write about the never ending criminality of the Americans. I want to write about the disgrace of; the anti-war movement(hahaha), of the journalists, of the media, of the so-called experts on Iraq. I want to write about other Iraqi bloggers, about their stupidity and immorality when it comes to the occupation of their own country. I also want to write about refugees, about our confusion, our hopelessness...I want to write about my memories, my homesickness, my anger, and my grief...

And every single topic I want to write about, makes my blood boil.

So I've devised a little mental trick to help me sift through all of this. I ask myself a simple question -- Right now, right this minute, what is making your blood boil, the most ? And I pause and usually this is how a topic is chosen from the myriad of catastrophes that have assailed us, from the myriad of punishments that have been unjustly inflicted on us - us, true Iraqis.

Hence, I've decided to write about a conversation I witnessed today between Sarah and some English female, an NGO worker here.

A bit of background information is necessary.

Sarah is a 52 years old Iraqi widow. She has no children, no parents and her only family is her brother who works abroad and sends her money whenever he can.

Sarah is highly educated, speaks 3 languages fluently, and is unemployed, as all Iraqi refugees here are not allowed to seek any form of work.

Sarah is bored, so she volunteers to do some translation work for a Western NGO, her own way of helping other Iraqis. She met this English THING, another female who has been here for less than 6 months, working for the same NGO but paid, of course.

Part of Sarah's unpaid voluntary work is to visit Iraqi families and translate for this English Thing, so this Thing can assess what the families needs are.

Sarah being a direct witness to the state these Iraqi families find themselves in, offered spontaneously, over and above her voluntary work, to donate whenever she can, a modest sum of money, from the little she receives, to help alleviate some of these families urgent needs. Sarah made no promises to become a regular donor, she just said she will help whenever she can.

And true to her word, every month, she would save a little amount and give it to this English Thing, who would then distribute it herself.

And this is when my blood started to boil...

I met Sarah and this English Thing today over a cup of coffee. And we spoke about us Iraqi refugees and how we have been forgotten by everyone -- as if we didn't exist anymore. We spoke of the pressing and urgent needs of many of us, our lack of resources, living off donations or charity, so on and so forth...

Then, this English Thing said, out of the blue, in her disgusting patronizing English accent and I wish I can imitate her for you, right here, but alas this is not possible...But just try to imagine the accent please.

" Owh by the waay Saraah, you did not downate anything this month. You knoww how impowrtant it is for "us" to help thowze refugees. It is a reaal shayme when a downor pledges suppowrt and fails in her obligations."

Sarah obviously caught off guard and not expecting this in public, went all red, with embarrassment.

But I did not. I froze with a cold rage and with the speed of lightning, I dug up from my memory reservoir, the English method of "retaliation"...but very calmly just like the English way, hypocritically calm.

Of course, what I really wanted to do, was grab her from her British Home Stores acrylic - made in India - shirt and drag her out of the café onto the street and kick the shit out of her. But remembering the English "way", I decided I will achieve exactly the same result, using their methods, their English methods.

Me to the Thing - What a pity. I am sure you're ever so concerned about the plight of Iraqi refugees. Do tell me, in confidentiality of course, who are your other donors ? Apart from Sarah and other Iraqis you met.

- Owh, Owh, well no one else, reaally.

- I see. And I suppose you know that Sarah is a refugee herself and she has no income, wouldn't you think it to be "wiser" to approach others who may be better off than Sarah? After all she is an Iraqi too.

- Owh, Owh, well there is no one else to approach.

- I see. Did it ever cross your mind, perhaps, to approach your own government since it is partly responsible for the Iraqi refugee crisis.

- Well, mmmm, you seea, there is sow much bureaucratic red tape in England, one can hardly ever approach thowse in positions of authowrity.

- Oh really? What about thowse English people who are quite well owff, how about approaching them for instance. And you hardly need to gow to England for that, they are so many of them heare. Am sure you know where they gathear on weekends.

- Ea, Ea, Ea, I could not do that reaally. That would be mowst unprofessional.

- Oh reaally ? How about approaching the Americans, and God knows how many of them pollute this place. After all, they are also responsible for the Iraqi refugees and by law, isn't that so dear ?

- Well, I suppowse you have a point heare. But you sea, when a downor pledges, they reaally ought to fulfil their pledge.

- So are you trying to tell us - Iraqi refugees, that other Iraqi refugees are our responsibility ?

She finally shut up and changed the subject -- she talked in her perfect repugnant English way, about the hot weather heare.

But I would not leave at that...I had to kick the shit out of this Thing.

- So you've been here for 6 months right ?

- Yeas, quite pleasant I must saay.

- And what were you doing before coming here ?

- Ea, Ea, I worked as secretary in a lawyers office.

- And now you're Deputy Director of this NGO right ?

- Yeas, correct.

- Ah! And any exposure to the Middle East prior to this trip ?

- Owh, not reaally.

- So what made you decide to come and "help us", besides your tax free monthly salary and the good weather ?

Now, her face went red. I thought to myself, you go girl, push harder...and without waiting for her reply, I pressed on...

- And what do you know about Iraq and the Iraqis ?

...and I didn't stop there,

- And who are you to embarrass this poor woman in public, with your snotty air when you're so ignorant yourself, and when you were nothing but a secretary in a lawyer's office. Do you know that this woman has a PhD and I bet you anything you have not even completed your A levels.

Sarah kicked me from under the table, but I refused to stop.

Why should I stop ? We've lost everything already and surely this English Thing was not going to add anything to our lives. Fuck her, I thought to myself. And I continued...

- So you come here, with your pompous, patronizing English airs, trying to belittle us, over and above our misery, a misery produced by YOU and your country and your people, and your government. Have you got no bloody shame ? Iraqi refugees are your bloody responsibility not ours.

The English Thing all ruffled tries - But, but...

- NO BUTS here. You should be grateful that we've accepted to sit and have coffee with you in the first place. Am sorry Sarah but I can't take this English Thing anymore...Am leaving.

I paid my share, grabbed my handbag and walked out into the hot sunlight, taking deep breaths, trying to dampen the heat from consuming me, trying to extinguish the fire inside of me...

I saw a grocery story, I stopped by, bought an ice cold bottle of water, gulped it down in one go, hoping to cool the blood boiling in my veins...

Then I walked briskly and walked and walked some more...cursing the very fist day I learned English. Cursing the very first day I came face to face with anything English. Cursing the very first day I met any English Thing.

Painting: Iraqi artist, Sattah Hashem.