Hopelessness not to be understood as in "I want to kill myself now" kind of hopelessness, but a hopelessness that is best translated as loss of Faith.
Again loss of faith not in a strictly religious/metaphysical sense, but loss of Faith in the broadest of terms...Can be summed up as loss of Faith in humanity, in human kind.
Not to be underestimated at all. Dark stuff is made of a lost humanity. The darkest moments of an Occupation...
These darkest moments can be found everywhere in Iraq. In the smelly rotten prisons. In the torture wounds of the detainees. In the snatched childhoods. Under the rubbles of a bombed home. In the morgue underneath the putrid stench of Death. In the wails at the overfilled cemeteries. In the destroyed ancient statues and a weeping History. In a river that stood still. And in a lone Palm tree thirsty for some water...
But above all, these darkest moments are found in the silence of Women. The women who have been silenced and the women who fear it. The women who witnessed it and the women who dare not break it...
The other day I was zapping from boredom...I hardly ever watch TV and it is only recently that I owned one. A friend wanting to update hers with a "new slimmer version" gave me her old one. So I was zapping away through a thousands channels, wondering would if it ever be possible to watch all the channels, all at once and be done with it? Instead of this monotonous zapping -- only to fall on some idiotic program in Russian, Polish, Chinese, Turkish, Arabic, English, Hindi, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, German, French, Kurdish, Persian, Hebrew and Assyrian - l'embarras du choix in this vast box of nonsense.
I finally settled to what is familiar. I watched some Lebanese program that invites "controversial" guests and deals with "controversial" topics.
I must admit, the Lebanese are possibly the only ones in the Arab world who dare along these lines...Until Iran decides otherwise.
The subject was no biggie, it was about Al-Moda - Fashion. " Are you a slave of Fashion ?" to be more precise.
The invited "controversial" guest, Mariam Noor, some self proclaimed --esoteric, mystical guru, with a heavy debit of verbiage that borders on lunacy...A mishmash of religion, new age, color therapy, numerology, macrobiotics, and alternative living...and the others -- some eccentric guests who are bent on "affirming their individuality" through liposuction, botox, silicone, plastic surgery, spiky hair, piercing, tattoos, bleached hair, and the heavy metal look with chains, whips and studs... and of course mainstream Al-Moda adepts...
I was about to zap away from this crap, when suddenly, the set switched off the lights and the TV room was immersed in darkness,and some deformed voice from behind a thick veiled screen was asked a question by the presenter. "Tell us X, have you been a victim of Fashion yourself?"
The woman behind the thick veiled screen was an Iraqi. I could tell from her accent.
- Yes, I was a victim of Al-Moda. I was punished for following it.
- Tell us what happened to you ?
- I was walking in the street, heading home, when I noticed several cars encircling me. I was gagged and thrown in one of the cars... (she stops)
- Then what happened, did they do anything to do ?
X replies -- I was held for several days and one day I found myself unconscious in a hospital. Obviously X was repeatedly gang raped by her kidnappers.
- Who were they and why do you think they did this to you ?
- They were religious extremists dressed in black, and they said they will teach me a lesson for following the Moda.
- What were you wearing on the day of your abduction ?
Of course, the audience, including me were wondering what on earth this poor X was wearing that day. What kind of indecent dress would merit such a punishment.
X hesitantly said with a trembling voice, shaking with guilt - I was wearing a pair of blue jeans and a long sleeved t.shirt. But, she continued, I have always dressed that way before...
- And now how do you dress ?
- I wear long skirts and a veil
- Even though you escaped to Lebanon ?
- Yes even here.
X's severe punishment for wearing a pair of blue jeans and a long sleeved T-shirt merited that she gets gang raped and later found unconscious in some hospital bed, and eventually exiled...
X's story is common. I have heard many of them and worse...
So far, according to official governmental data and we all know that the current puppet government is a master of deceit, confirms that over 20'000 women have been punished and their punishment has resulted in death -- for "immoral" behavior.
"Immoral" behavior in the "new liberated" Iraq consists of wearing a pair of blue jeans and a long sleeved T-shirt, going out unveiled, wearing make up (unless one is a Green Zone hooker, i.e working for the occupation and its proxies), falling pregnant following rape, dishonoring the family through some love affair, suspicion of adultery, accusations of lewdness, mixing and talking with men...Just about anything really. Anything that ticks the men off...
When the stories from Basrah emerged, the stories of over 150 women raped, mutilated, decapitated, tortured and murdered for "immoral" behavior by the sectarian militias waiting for their Mahdi. I wrote to a friend and told her - these are not the true figures. -the true figure is in the thousands. Not counting the Sunni "Nawasib" victims of sectarian rape and torture - because it is HALAL to do so with them. And not counting the thousands of women who are raped and rotting away in prisons with no charges and no trial. And not counting the thousands who are already gone...murdered either by the occupier or its proxies.
The American occupier was the first one to set precedence, in Abu Ghraib, when hundreds of women were repeatedly raped and tortured by your brave boys. And of course the story of Abeer from Mahmoudiah was one of the few ones that was leaked...
I tell you, there are hundreds of other stories that are muffled and covered, blacked out...under thick veils, behind thick screens, caged in metal boxes...
A REMINDER of one of the stories. The story of Nadia released from Abu Ghraib.
I am going to copy it in its entirety and I want you to read it more than once and not gloss over it in a couple of seconds...I want it to sink in into your being and become part of it - a reminder, a symbol of your Occupation.
“I was visiting one of my relatives, and suddenly the American forces attacked the home and started to inspect it. They found some light weapons. So, they arrested all people in the home including me. I tried to explain to the interpreter, who was accompanying the American patrol, that I am just a visitor. However, my trials failed. I cried, begged them, and I lost consciousness from fear when they took me to Abu Ghraib prison. They put me alone in a dark and dirty prison cell. I expected that I will be released soon, especially when the investigation proved that I hadn’t committed a crime.
The first day was so burdensome. The cell was malodorous, humid and dark, and this condition increased the fear inside me more and more. The laughs of the soldier outside the cell made me even more scared. I was afraid of what would happen to me. For the first time I felt that I was in a difficult gridlock and that I had entered an unknown world that I would not get out of.
In the middle of these different feelings, I heard a voice for an American soldier woman who was speaking in an Arabic language. She said to me: “I didn’t imagine that the weapons’ traders in Iraq are women.” When I started to explain to her the circumstances of the situation, she beat me cruelly. I cried and shouted “By Allah! I am oppressed, By Allah! I am oppressed”
The soldier showered me with insults in a way that I have never thought possible or that I would ever be subjected to under any circumstances. Then, she started to deride me saying that she was monitoring me all the day via the satellite, and that they can track their enemies even inside their own bedrooms by American technology.
Then she laughed and said: “I was watching you when you were making love with your husband.” I replied in a confused voice “But I am not married”.
She beat me for more than one an hour and she forced me to drink a glass of water, and I knew later that they put a drug in it. I regained my consciousness after two days to find myself naked. I knew immediately that I have lost something that all the laws in the earth will not be able to return it to me once again. I had been raped. A hysterical fit attacked me and I started to hit my head violently against the walls till more than five American soldiers head by that soldier women entered the cell and started to beat me, and they raped me alternately while they laughing and listening to a loud music.
Day by day the scenario of raping me was repeated. And every day they invent new ways that are crueler than the prior ways.
After about one month, a Negro soldier entered my cell and threw me two pieces of American military clothes. He said in weak Arabic language to wear them. After he put a black bag on my head, he led me to a public toilet where there are pipes for cold and hot water and he asked me to bathe. He then closed the door and left.
I was so exhausted and feeling pain, and despite the tremendous number of the bruises in my body, I poured out some water on my body. Before I finish my bath, the Negro soldier came in. I frightened, and I hit him in the face with the water bowl. His reaction was so tough. He raped me cruelly and spit on my face, then he left and returned with two soldiers who returned me to the cell.
The treatment continued that way, to the extent that sometimes I was raped ten times in a day, the matter which affected my health negatively.
After more than 4 months, a woman soldier woman came, and I concluded from her conversation with other soldiers that her name is Mary. She said to me “now you have a golden opportunity, since an officer who has a high position will visit us today, if you deal with him positively, you would be released, especially because we are sure you are innocent.
I replied, “If you are sure of I am innocent, why you don’t release me?”
She screamed in nervousness, “The only way that guarantees your releasing is to be positive with them.”
She took me to the public toilets, and she supervised my bath while she was holding a thick stick, hitting me by it if I didn’t perform her orders. Then, she gave me makeup, and warned me not to cry and ruin my makeup. Then she took me to an empty small room where there was nothing but a cover on the floor, and after one an hour she came accompanied with four soldiers who was holding cameras. She took off her clothes and she harassed me as if she was a man. The soldiers were laughing and listening to a noisy music, and taking photographs to me in all poses, and they were emphasizing on my face. The woman asked me to smile otherwise she is going to kill me, and she took a gun from one of her colleagues and fired four bullets near my head, and swore that the fifth bullet will be fired in my head.
After that, the four soldiers raped me alternately the matter which made me lose my consciousness. When I regained the consciousness I found myself in the cell and the traces of their teeth, nails and cigarettes are in everywhere in my body.”
After one day Mary came and told me that I was cooperative, and I will be released but after I watch the film that they have shot. I was in pain when I saw the film, and she (Mary) said: “you have been created for the sole purpose for us to enjoy”. At the moment I became very anger and I attacked her although I was afraid of her reaction, and I would kill her except for the interfering of the soldiers. When the soldiers released me she showered me with hitting, then they left me.
After this incident, nobody harassed me for more then one month; I spent that period in the praying and invocation to Allah, the All-Mighty who has all power, to help me.
Mary came with some soldiers who gave me the clothes that I was wearing when they arrested me and took me to an American car. Then they threw me on the highway road after giving me 10,000 Iraqi Dinars.
I went to a home that was near the place where I have been thrown out and since I know the reaction of my family, I preferred to visit one of my relatives to let them know what happened after my absence. I knew that my brother had held a consolation board for me for more than 4 months, and they considered me as a dead person.
I understand the knife of shame is waiting for me. So, I went to Baghdad where I found a good family who lodged me, and I worked with this family as a maid and governess for their children.
Who will quench my thirst? Who will return my virginity? What is the offense of my family and kin? I have inside me a baby, and I don’t know who his father is.”
Different versions of Nadias, different versions of similar stories.
I have seen them, met them, looked at them, looked into their eyes... They pretend nothing happened, hiding behind a silence, but I can still detect the fear roaming in the corner of their eyes...Occasionally, one would slip bits of a story in between other stories...pretending hers is not as bad. Comforting herself in others miseries...
But anyone with a modicum of perception, of sensitivity, of heart, can tell that something has been irretrievably broken. Beyond, behind, the experience, is loss of Faith in human kind, in humanity.
Let me stop for a while and smoke another cigarette...and gather my feelings, my emotions, scattered around -- like white pearls from a forced, broken, torn Necklace. Like tear drops from a rainy Sky. Like little red balls from a braised Fire...
Art work : Scenes for the Art Video by Iraqi artist Qais Al-Sindy - "Letters don't burn", 2007.