February 28, 2008

Skins in Captivity....


This is the first time I ever begin a post with an Arabic insult –Wa awlad al Gahbah.

Sons of whores.

I have nothing against forced prostitution, and I do not judge it, but I have everything against you, Ya Awlad al Gahbah.

Whores, whoredom, is no simple prostitution...oh no! It is not. Whoredom is way deeper that selling one's body for a few dollars, euros or dinars...

Whoredom is a system, a way of being, a way of cognizance, a way of life...
And you are the professional, expert whores...

You are the whores sitting in fortresses, in towers, made of invisible walls, made of words, made of language, made of a rationalizing "intellect", made of protocols and diplomacy...made of savagery...

The high class whores of this world.

Let me spit on you, let my saliva drip and dribble on your fences, like some signature, a signature of recognition...a recognition of your Whoredom.

Whoredom, Kingdom, Freedom -- the "Freedom" of captives, chained by their ankles...

With pores oozing blood and pus, covered in scabs...parasitical mites itching, eating away at your epidermis. You scratch, leaving marks from dirty long nails. You scratch like an animal soothing a rabid infection...

Somewhere, you still have a memory of being embodied in a human form , but everything around you reminds you that you are not. So you keep on scratching...
You peel the skin away, with those dirty nails, and the parasite appears, salutes you and nests there in another pore, in a follicile –- a companion.

You develop a bond, in the solitude of the night...You domesticate it and it domesticates you...

Then you remember your human form – you ignore the parasite, and stare through the tight metal grille. You pretend it is a mild, timid, summer night, with a full moon veiling itself, hiding behind the nonchalant leaves of a palm tree.

And in that timid night, you become that cunning lover, flirting away with that proud palm tree, teasing her, coaxing her, fiddling your way through her leaves, through her branches...

After a while you give up. You believe she is ignoring you...

You call onto the night, which you have imagined painted on the wall facing your cell. You draw your fingers through the tight metal grille, you call onto her...and you feel the cold metal waking you up from your mirage...

You scream in horror, you have been led into yet another delusion...

The guard shows up.

You glimpse through that tiny opening, where you painted your palm tree and your seductive night, and you see his dark yellow teeth and the slimy catarrh stuck in his nose, in his throat, like some pebble that he clears and swallows, before addressing you.

You mumble something, but you have already forgotten what it was...

The parasite lodged in your skin smiles...it won again.

You are used to it by now. It has happened before. That tiny thing is so conniving.

In the morning, your sores are bleeding, oozing out more whitish pus, turning the strings of blood into a light pink, like some rose petals stuck to your body...

You look at your skin in the dim daylight of your cell, and you curse the mirage that has magnetized you to the small barred window...

And in a resigned daze, you hear the loud voices of a new shift of guards, a new shift who did not witness your delusional, parasitic mirage –- calling out your name...

You salivate at the sound of your name, like some infested, eager dog...

"Kamel Al, your wife brought you some Gaymar"(a thick cream made of buffalo milk)

The guard hands the plate through the metal bars, presenting it to you sideways...you are hoping it will stick to the plate like some magic glue and not splatter onto the soiled, stenchy floors, covered with dermal scales, feces and urine...

You carefully unseal the small plate...But you sniff it first, like a dog hungry for its master.

And while you close your eyes, you imagine your wife's hands, you get a whiff of her hands...and that whiff takes you to your home, your neighborhood, your territory, your land...

An you keep on sniffing...inhaling some imaginary odor from something, someone familiar...An odor you recognize, permeating a plastic wrap.

Your lungs surge with hope...

You finally unwrap the plastic plate, dip your finger, that finger that has been scratching and chasing away parasites...you dip it in, anticipating the smells, the tastes...of home.

Then, with your furred tongue from dehydration you spit it out and you curse...

That plate pretending to be a generous thick cream from home is nothing but a white antibiotic squeezed out from a tube...

A white creamy antibiotic to help you alleviate your itching in the still of a cunning night, where parasites are eating away at your skin...

Your wife had brought in a tube, it was refused by the bearded guards who amuse themselves with slurring you -- as a past time, because of your sect...

She returned home, spread it on a plate and brought it back to you pretending it was a plate of Gaymar.

She does miss you and love you.

And a Resisting Love under Occupation is shrewdly cunning.

As cunning as that Palm tree feigning indifference,
As cunning as those invading mites, occupying our bodies,
As cunning as the parasites holding our skins and yours in captivity...


NB: This is dedicated to my relative Kamel, over 60 years old, detained for over a year with no charges and no trial. His health has greatly deteriorated since. He is not the only one. There are over 100'000 Iraqi prisoners, mainly Sunnis, all in captivity -- the captivity of Freedom.

Painting : Iraqi artist, Jassem Kheder.

February 24, 2008

The Aesthetics of Occupation


I heard Mahmoud Darwish is in town. M.Darwish, one of the best contemporary Arab poets. A Palestinian who has been in exile for so long...surely he knows all about aesthetics -- the sublime, the ugly, the comic and the beautiful...surely he knows all about occupation, misery, loss, longings and tragedies...

I cancelled whatever appointments I had this evening and rushed to hear him recite his latest. By the time I arrived to the old hall, it was so packed they would not let anyone in, anymore. Over 500 people were already in there...

I tried squeezing in, and felt my dissapointment rising as I realized it was impossible for me to see or hear M.Darwish in person.

I looked at the crowd, mainly young adults, in their late 20's, and a few from the older generation...That gave me a slight surge of hope. If Arabs can still appreciate poetic words streaming from one occupation, then maybe all is not lost.

Or, maybe words are the only thing left...

Words to compose poetry, words to convey the tragedies, words to subtitle the pain...

Unsure of the crowd's intent, I just bought his latest prose and walked out.

I did not get to hear M.Darwish. He wrote hundreds of poems. But since when do poets change realities ?

They are just transmitters of truths, ordinary truths that ordinary people can't express in aesthetic forms. So they read or listen to poetry instead. Giving themselves a temporary feeling of "we're in it together" -- finally united by words.

I was sort of relieved to be out in the fresh air. The staleness of waiting for a possible seat, place, grew denser - mingled with the odor of expectant bodies, thirsty for words. All this was making me dizzy...

A trap, I felt to myself. Another trap of raising hopes and be let down, once more...

As I breathed in the crisp cold air, I felt a presence a few steps behind me.

"It's a pity we were not given a chance to hear his sublime poetry"

"Yes it was" I replied abruptly and continued walking...

"You must be an Iraqi" he said

I stopped, looked at him and saw a very thin man, with deep lines creasing his hollow face.

"Yes,I am an Iraqi. How did you guess?"

"I detected a very faint accent when I heard you talk to one of the ushers. I am an Iraqi too."

"Yes, I can tell, from your accent of course."

"I am a poet as well. Had to escape Baghdad."

"So do you write poetry on Escapism ?"

He laughs.

" No, I write poetry on Love"

"Love? Is there Love under Occupation?"

He looks at me, pauses for few minutes and says

"I write about where to find Love under Occupation"

"I thought so too" I replied. Saluted him and walked away...


So what do you do if you are in my place ?

What do you do with the torrents of words that I hear daily from seekers of Love under Occupation?

What do you do with sentences like -- "How will I survive?", "I have no future",
"I can get over the grief", "The memories follow me everywhere", "I am lost",
"We are in a tunnel","I have no hope"," This will never end ","We have been abandoned","No one wants us","We have been forgotten","We don't count anymore",
"We have no more country","My home has been destroyed","I am ill and can't work and have no money","They killed my son, husband, wife, daughter, parents...",
"They raped me. I will never be the same again","I've been tortured and no one understands and I don't even understand myself","We are worthless in their eyes..."

And I can go on and on...

What do you do with these words? How do you turn them around ? What do you say to them ?

What do you do with the pain that accompanies these sentences ?

What poetry would you write?

More words handed out as props, as crutches for the crippled and you say "be patient, endure more, persevere, things will change, God is generous..."

And you and I know these words are empty, they have lost meaning a long time ago. They have become like some worn out, tattered cloth whose colors have faded away from being exposed for too long, in a scorching sun...

And where do you find Beauty and Love ? In which experience? In which setting? In which memory? When all previous memories have been erased leaving nothing but a void, to fill with more worn out, tattered cloths...

What do you do with the ugliness that remains stuck to you, like some second skin, deforming your vision, perverting your perceptions, settling in your mind, like some unwanted visitor who refuses to leave. Colonizing your being.

What do you do with the Ugliness ?

What do you do with the Ugliness you've witnessed, seen, felt, heard ?

What do you do with the Ugliness of what you thought to be a human face unmasking itself only to reveal the most hideous traits ?

What do you do with the Ugliness of mass genocide, cruelty, hypocrisy, indifference, abandonment, poverty, survival...?

I keep asking myself these questions, and the questions that naturally follow -- Will we ever heal from all of that ?

And where do you find Beauty ? Except in tarnished souvenirs maybe - turning us into a people that keep digging in a past, since a future is so out of reach.

And what do you do with the Present? How do you accomodate it? Or more aptly how does it accomodate you, from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute...?

Will you keep trying to squeeze in as I tried doing in that old poetry hall or will you simply give up and walk out into the unknown? And if you opt for the latter, where will you go ?

This is no defeatism. This is Reality. A Reality you know nothing of.

A parallel reality that can drive anyone absolutely insane. A form of schizophrenia as this reality has become our bubble. A bubble that no one addresses or even looks at.

And where do you find Love in a bubble ? A survival bubble.
You attach yourself to a bubble ? Or maybe you attach yourself to people living with you in a bubble ? In a mental, physical, emotional ghetto, where Space keeps shrinking and becomes a point.

And you stand in that point and that point becomes your vital space, and all you're concerned about is to be able to keep standing on your feet, in that precise point.

A desperate point. And where does one find Love in a bubble tainted with despair?


A myopic, ignorant, Westerner wrote to me and said:

"How do I hook a worn out, patriotic old rag? How do I reel in an unwanted, rusted Iraqi tin can? More to the point, how do I manage carnal knowledge of its contents? How can you say you are unwanted? How can you think you have no future?"

Why can't people conceive of the personal and the collective as one ? A common destiny, that we carry inside of us, like some collective gene pool.

This is not about me, this is about us.

And us, as we stand today, have no future. We have been robbed of a vision of a future. That is fact.

And if someone can still come up with so much ignorant "philosophical" crap -- then they have understood nothing at all about occupation, mass genocide, torture, rape... loss of reference, loss of trust, loss of meaning...loss of Life in a philosophical sense, since you are all so bent on philosophy.

They have not confronted that deep existential abyss of occupation with no end in sight. A hideous occupation with all of its facets and consequences...

But then I can offer nothing but words...even these slide away into a pool of cold detachment, or bump against a brick wall made of "humans."

So again, I ask you, where does one find Love, when one's personal and collective experiences are brushed off with so much flippancy ? Is that not, yet another form of despair that we have to confront daily ?


There is only one way out - Fury.

A collective fury that will set ablaze all your notions, all your philosophies, all your analysis, theories and concepts...

A gigantic fury, like some wild fire that will burn and wash away the tragic ugliness, hatred, indifference that have flooded us through your Presence.

Yes, that is the only way out from the aesthetics of your multi-layered Occupation -the Aesthetics of a sublime Fury.


Painting:Iraqi artist, Salam Jaez.

February 18, 2008

A Green Zone Dream...


All I yearned for was a short afternoon nap...and I found myself in the Green Zone.

It started off with my escaping in a taxi cab all the way to Baghdad...

I did not tell a soul, I thought to myself, it will be a short trip. Then I find myself in the Green Zone. I pretend am a foreigner, carefully hiding my origins.

I check in a 5 stars hotel, but it is so dark all around me. The lobby is full of prostitutes, crippled men, foreign contractors from all nationalities, and soldiers...A few bearded Iraqis are there, security matters.

The hotel employees are all foreigners. They speak French. They are aggressive and nasty. I tried reminding one of them that this is not France, this is Iraq, he shrugged me off and told me "Rentrez chez vous." I wanted to reply but I am "chez moi" but stopped short...I swallowed the bitter insult.

In the dream I promised myself to stay objective. I shall tour the Green Zone with an open mind, like a tourist...

I came across a bunch of women dressed in military uniforms, some were of Lebanese descent, others Philipinos, and others Latinas. They all said they are willing to die for freedom. I asked "whose freedom?" They said"our freedom."

"But you're in Baghdad!"and their reply"This is the risk we take for Freedom."

I walked away surveying the Green Zone. I saw high walls, high fences, and high gates...There was an Iraqi bearded man standing on some corner.

I asked him, "can the people from the Red Zone visit too?" He said "we only allow widows as cleaners..."

He tried getting intimate, taking advantage of my lone state, and got very aggressive when rebuffed...I ran away...

I walked the streets of the Green Zone. Some were ancient and cobbled, they had beautiful fading away mosaics...hardly noticeable anymore.

The palm trees were all razed to the ground and instead a fake grass was covering the soil, and on top, barbed wires...only one patch was left unsealed...

I looked at the signpost and it said "American patch." And it was surrounded by small artificial ponds, and in the middle of this green patch of fake grass, stood a donkey. They said it was an important tourist attraction. They were even selling postcards with this donkey's image printed on them.

Then I saw another sign post, "American Leisure."

I walked along the barbed wired high wall but was not allowed to enter what looked like a stadium. Lots of Americans were gathered there, with their families, eating and drinking and being their usual shallow, obnoxious, selves.

The show was about to begin. It consisted of a fat, red faced, greasy American, throwing balls into another donkey's mouth and the balls would come out from the donkey's ass and fall into an American acrobat's mouth only to come out from his ass as well.

The American audience was exalted. They laughed and clapped very hard and shouted "awesome."

I felt very nauseous, but was adamant about continuing my tour...

I saw some kitsch, tacky, oriental bazaars lined up, one after the other, catering for the foreigners...and noticed some "peace and love" Western hippie going barefoot on the cobbled stones fooling herself that she has discovered the Exotic Orient.

I wanted to scream to her "you fucking idiotic peace and love Western hippies, can't you see this place has been totally destroyed and is under occupation ?!" But in the dream I had to censor myself, I was in the Green Zone.

I was a foreigner in Baghdad's green zone...I was dying to ask about the Red Zone and what is happening to people there, but I understood it was a taboo subject.

I wanted to escape to the Red Zone, but I knew I will be caught with my fake identity...

I woke up from my short nap, feeling strangulated, choked like a prisoner suffering from an acute case of claustrophobia.

In the dream, I had become a prisoner of the Green Zone along with all the others...

And I understood, there is no escape from Baghdad's Green Zone.


Painting: Iraqi artist, Salam Jaez

Fragments at Dawn...

It's dawn here...

The Muezzin just finished his call for the sunrise prayer. I am very tired but unable to sleep.

I love the call to prayer. It pierces the leftovers of the night's obscurity, signaling a new dawn, a new day, another cycle to complete...

I remember reading in a Sufi treatise, that the Muslim prayer is highly symbolic of this cycle...The cycle of the sun, the cycle of evolution, the cycle of the elements, the cycle of life and death...And "Man" is the focal point in that cycle on Earth...

For instance,in the Muslim prayer, the standing up position i.e verticality, symbolizes Aleph,(A), the Human State. The half bent position symbolizes the Dal, (D) and represents the Animal State. And finally the prostration, or Sujud in Arabic, which takes on the form of a Meem (M) represents the Vegetal/Mineral state.

Aleph, Dal, Meem. or A-D-M stands for ADAM. The primordial Man (as opposed to male the gender.)

And I assume, every day we go through these different states...or we possess in us these different elements that make up our totality as human beings.
But it is in the vertical state, of that of being "hu-man" that we realize that Totality -- our inner and outer Unity.


And my thoughts drift to Iraq, the fragmented Iraq, the fragmented beings, the fragmented lives...The shredded to pieces existence...

A fait accompli in the eyes of most. Just like that.

Shreds, pieces, rags, bits...swept away, just like that.

I wrote to a friend the other day and told her that I was so much in rage, I am unable to blog. I saw us as a compressed, rusting, old, tin cans, amassed on some shelf, gathering dust...about to be recycled.

Very few understand what we are really going through. On the inside, on the outside...Very few.

Walk the streets in Amman, Damascus and even Cairo, and you will see us...erring aimlessly, sometimes hiding, sometimes begging, changing our accents...pretending we don't exist, pretending we're not there...we're not here...

Making ourselves small, metamorphosing into shadows, standing up with our backs against a wall...sometimes sitting against a wall and often sleeping next to a wall...

What will happen to us? Where will we go? Who wants us? What is our future? Do we have one? For how long can we endure, for how long can we remain so resilient ?

These are questions I keep asking myself. These are questions every Iraqi I meet keeps asking...

Hand to mouth, sometimes nothing in the mouth, crawling like fugitives, or shelved into forgetfulness...

Those on the inside ask themselves similar questions.

But very few really care or want to know.

We are just pawns. Place, misplace, displace, kick...and kill.


Am thinking of the Muslim prayer again...Aleph, Dal, Meem. A-D-M. ADAM.

And I realize that we have even been robbed of that.


Painting: Iraqi artist, Rafa Al-Nasiri.

February 14, 2008

Eyes on a Stamp...


I was queuing the other day to have some official paperwork "authenticated and approved"...

The queue was long, tediously long...

We were lined up like a herd of sheep, patiently waiting for the "official's" stamp. That much needed stamp which will prove that we are still accepted here...

Or that stamp that will allow us a few more months of breathing space...

Or that stamp that will give us an illusory freedom in some temporary legality...

Or that stamp that will confer upon us a seeming sense of belonging...Another illusion of a "home", however fleeting and ephemeral, that illusion may be...

I stood there like everyone else, waiting for my turn, overwhelmed by a strange feeling that I am about to take part in a game of Russian Roulette...

Strong apprehensive thoughts kept whirling in my mind, assailing my head, pounding away...

What if he refuses to stamp, what if he finds an excuse not to stamp, what if he delays the stamp, what if he requests more papers to stamp, what if...what will happen then?

I am almost certain that I was not the only one entertaining these deadly thought. And yes they are deadly if you happen to be an Iraqi hanging on by a string...

Two men in front of me sighed, in unison...I thought to myself is that some omen foretelling bad news?

Every single act, movement, whisper, exclamation, expression...around me, was loaded with meaning, like some losing, obsessive-compulsive gambler, checking for cues, superstitiously infusing them with ill luck, misfortune and more loss...

I noticed that eyes were fixated on the person right at the front...right at the frontline of the Russian Roulette. And we could tell, from his reaction, how his fate would later unfold...

If he left the booth with a smile and a relaxed facial expression, that meant that his hanging was delayed by a couple of months. But if he walked away from that booth, with a frown or eyes glistening with tears, then we knew that his death sentence had been signed – He is to return back to Hell.

The third alternative, which I consider to be the purgatory, is when the official tells you in his stern but monotonous voice, as if he has rehearsed his role a thousand times "Estana" - Wait!

If he utters that one syllable word "Estana" ,be sure that you might be seated on some broken plastic chair or standing up for hours if not days...

So much power in the hands of some official, who sometimes holds your documents upside down...Some much authority in the hands of this, almost always, mustached man who has the final say on your life or death...

His status requires an utmost reverential demeanor from the one who is patiently waiting...waiting for the ultimate sentence to be proclaimed. Proclaimed by the judge and jury presiding over your life... And you are at his mercy. No question about it.

Needless to add that all those who were standing in line were Iraqis. You probably would have guessed by now...or maybe not. Knowing how cut off you are from OUR reality, I just thought I would make sure to mention it.

The two men's turn finally arrived and I, behind them...

It felt like an eternity, endless hours and minutes ticking away ever so slowly...

I noticed as I usually do-- one of the men was wearing a sober suit, as if he was dressed for the "occasion". But I also could not help but notice, that the collar of his shirt looked as if it was chewed at, eaten away...I looked at his shoes, and I noticed the discreet shine of some metal staples, stapling the rubber sole to the leather. I noticed his vest, the sleeves were way too long and covered his reddened hands, hands which had been earnestly clutching the paper...gripping life...that piece of paper, thirsty for a stamp.

This man tried to look his best for the officer...maybe hoping that his attire would play favorably on his behalf. But it is a Russian Roulette, is it not ?

The second man, on the other hand, had put no effort in influencing the judge's final verdict. He looked rugged, unshaven, tired, his eyes were red shot, as if he had not slept in years...he looked very worn out, very down, very desperate...

The first man looked desperate and worn out too, but he came across as calmer or should I say, more resigned...

In fact, we all looked worn out, tired, desperate and...resigned.

There was an eerie silence hovering above such a long queue, quite unusual...But the eyes, the eyes spoke like no tongue can speak...

This all pervading sadness, so hard to translate in words...so hard.
It's as if the sadness has gnawed away until it has reached the deeper levels of one's being...

A deep, profound sadness, a collective sadness...that goes beyond name, age, gender, background, status, profession, appearance, religion, sect...

Unified by Sadness, our common denominator, trademark...our collective stamp.

Very hard to describe, very difficult to convey in words...
But maybe those who have looked into our eyes, really looked into our eyes, know exactly what I mean.

A sadness tinged with despair. A sadness mixed with grief. A sadness covered with anger. A sadness held back...by patiently waiting in line...

The man in the suit, his turn had come. He took a few timid, hesitant baby steps to the booth, where the officer rigidly sat...

He examined his papers, checked his computer, examined the papers again, checked his computer again, raised his big head up from his tight, cluttered desk and said "Enta, Estana" – You, wait!

The man shrank and his suit looked even larger, ampler, engulfing him...
Wait, for how long, until when...? Wait.

Then arrived the second man's turn.
Same procedure. Examine, check, examine again, check again...
And the final verdict was proclaimed with great severity; "Enta, Marfudh" - You, Rejected !

"Leish, Leish?" Why? The second man cried out, and his cry sounded like that of a wounded animal, just pierced by a hunter's poisoned arrow...
And he continued in his Iraqi accent "Shakoo, golee shakoo"- What happened, tell me what happened ? What is wrong with my papers ? What is wrong with my documents ? What is wrong with me? Leish, leish...?

And the mustached officer repeated without batting an eye lid "Enta, Marfudh!"

The man tried to reason with the officer to no avail...He walked away looking utterly disoriented, like some accused criminal about to face his death sentence any moment and being shown which door to walk through...yet unable to take the steps in the pointed direction.

And I took a quick glance at his face and saw his red shot eyes shimmering like a lake reflecting a dark grey sky on a cold winter's morning...And I saw a couple of tears caught, imprisoned between his eyelashes, hanging there like drops of ice.

Now is my turn...

And as I approached -- I could hear the big white clock covered with dust, the big white clock turned dirty beige, like some melting snow taking on the colors of the earth it had clothed, taking on the colors of white mixed with mud...

The clock that I had been observing, the clock whose needles have been moving ever so slowly, pointing and lingering onto the seconds, minutes, hours...

As I approached, I could hear it ticking in the silence...ticking away, and each tick was accompanied by a heartbeat, that heart thumping in my chest...tick tock, tick tock...

As I approached that booth, its officer and the ink stamp...as I approached my turn in the Russian Roulette, as I neared the greatest gamble on, of, my life...

As I stared at this stamp, begging it to seal itself to my piece of paper...

I knew,

I knew that whatever the outcome, my life was no longer in my hands.

I knew that I was at the mercy of an officer and his stamp.

At the mercy of some onlooker, at the mercy of someone else's eyes...



Painting: Iraqi artist, Mohammed Shammarey

February 8, 2008

A song for Baghdad.

I'm in a musical mood...
I've dedicated a song on the Uncensored blog to my friends in Spain. And am dedicated this one to my once beautiful Baghdad before her ugly rape by the barbarian hordes from the North...
I am also offering it to all of Iraq's TRUE friends.

This is the latest from the famous Oud (luth) player, Nasser Shamma accompanied by Latifah, the Tunisian singer.
Unfortunately, I don't have the time to translate the very poignant/touching lyrics. If there's a translator in the house, who'd like to do so, be my guest.




Youtube Video: by Namirkh - 12 January 2008

February 6, 2008

Liberation Theology...


Today, for the first time in decades, the stars have been stripped away from our national flag.

Our flag looks like some barren land with no stellar luminosity, some black hole, some chaotic big bang...

There’s no Milky Way, no Venus and no Aphrodite...
There’s an anachronistic, pagan, marble God scripted on a cheap satin flag.
He's even desperately wondering who He really is.
And He wonders...

What am I doing on this flag ? This stripped flag, this naked flag ?
What is this writing ?

Why do they quote Me everywhere when I was not consulted ?
Parties, banners, slogans, and loyalties...

Do you think I really care?

I am counting blood droplets,
counting them one by one...
like some efficient lab technician.

I measure blood counts and hemoglobin levels...
I keep track of severed limbs,
like some dedicated accountant,
I audit morgues and graves
And I monitor survivors...

I am not stuck on some new flag.

You can find me in a street corner, begging,
Or in some garbage dump, scavenging,

You can also find me hidden in a child’s hunger pang
Or in the wailing screams of a widow...

You can also search for me in a tent, in a dilapidated hospital
in a tainted prison or in some empty school...

I hide behind ruins. I am buried beneath rubbles...
I am there waiting for you.

I don’t recognize flags. I only recognize martyrs.
I recognize those you have forgotten.
I recognize those you have abandoned.
I recognize them and call them out by their names...

I am Free, I am God.
I am no prisoner of some writing, of some script, of some flag...
I was, am and will be, forever Free
And so are you.

Take my name off this flag,
you and I have long parted...

But I am here
so close,
For those who remember Freedom,
For those who remember Me.

Painting: Iraqi artist, Naseem AbdelRahman

February 5, 2008

Lonely Survivors in the Cold...


What is Life ? You breathe in and breathe out...but you have no power over your breath.

You breathe while you are unconscious and you breathe while you are asleep, and you breathe in your dreams and your nightmares...but somehow you believe you control your breath and that of others...

Breathing is the vital function that indicates you are still alive. That life is still circulating in you...

Torture is about leaving you breathing but with no life circulating.

Torture is about exercising the ultimate control, leaving you to hover between life and death. Torture is not only sadistic, it is the ultimate ego trip of someone mistaking himself/herself for God, for “Pneuma”.

I’ve written over 300 posts thus far, and if there one subject matter that paralyzes me with both - anger and indignation, it is that of rape and torture.

I am deliberately referring to both Rape and Torture as one and the same thing.
For me they are one and the same thing.

Torture is a form of Rape and Rape is a form of Torture . Straight Murder sounds like Mercy in comparison. But then Murder can be considered as the ultimate form of Torture. But it does somehow come across as clement in contrast to the following stories.

“We left Baghdad because we were threatened by the Mehdi army. We had to go immediately, leaving everything: clothes, furniture, all the things you accumulate when you live more than 20 years in the same house. Things had been getting worse for a while. One event especially, sticks in my mind.
Neighbors of ours had been forcibly removed from their home three houses down from us.
One morning a few days after they had disappeared, one of my daughters walked down the road and saw the heads of our neighbors lined up on the wall of the house. She was hysterical and couldn't leave the house for weeks...”


Seeing heads of your neighbors lined up on a wall is a form of psychological torture.

Here is another story.

“ The young woman was walking with her husband along a Baghdad street when she was abducted, held captive and raped repeatedly by five militia men for several days.
Before, she was very proud of her body but now she is overweight -- she eats to protect herself and not to attract people..."

Rape is another form of Torture.

Or how about that one.

“British soldiers in Iraq have been accused of torturing and murdering captives.
It is claimed 22 Iraqis died in custody and nine survived torture. Alleged abuses include eye-gouging and mutilation...”


No need to go over Abu Ghraib again. The rape, the sodomy, the horrendous torture, the breaking of bones and skulls, the parading naked covered in feces, the wearing of stained panties as a face bag, the blood smeared corridors and walls, the forced masturbation in group, the unthinkable...

Abu Ghraib will never leave us Iraqis, but do read this for a reminder, lest you have already, conveniently forgotten.

“ Mohammed, a refugee in his late 20s, is a particularly hard off case. Mohammed was a former bodyguard for Saddam Hussein and was later imprisoned by the U.S.-led coalition. He suffered torture, unbelievable torture -- they gouged out one of his eyes, and he can't walk properly - she says (his counselor). He is very, very depressed. Every time I see him I don't know if it's the last, because he's suicidal...”

Have you noticed a common thread to the above stories – apart from the obvious torture that is? I have.

What is this Western, Aryan sadistic lustful, fascination with Arab/Iraqi heads and eyes ?

Heads cut off, eyes gouged out...a woman who does not want to look at her body anymore... What is it they are preventing us from seeing ? What is it they want to blind us from ?

Which reminds me of another story I read yesterday on Iraqirabita. A member of Jaysh Al-Mahdi (you know the militias that the Anti–War, the Cockburn family and Arab “leftists” consider patriotic and anti-Imperialistic) has taken a break from his “daily activities” and is now working in the ministry of Interior.

A colleague of his, noticed that the guy whose name is Ali Kha’zal is not well. He looked very pale and his colleague was rather worried and probed him for more information and suggested that he consults a doctor.

Ali Kha’zal opened his “heart” to this colleague and told him the cause of his illness. He had kidnapped a Sunni father and his only 7 year old son. After torturing the father in front of his son, he shot him. Then came the 7 year old boy's turn. He opened the boy’s mouth and placed the gun inside and shot him as well.

The boy was staring at him and he died with his eyes staring at him...He tried shutting them, but they remained open staring at him. Since that day Ali Kha’zal from Jaysh Al-Mahdi has the boy’s eyes follow him everywhere, day and night...


The latest figures concerning survivors of torture are staggering.
UN surveys finds that 1 out of 5 Iraqis are victims of Torture and Violence. And the UNCHR is asking for 261 million $ for psychological treatment only. And the necessary funds have not come forth yet.

Living, surviving with your physical, mental, psychological, emotional, spiritual wounds and scars, some of them raw open – still, without professional help is what the majority of Iraqi survivors “live” with daily. Alone and unattended.

Add to that, lack of financial security, extreme poverty, no employment, no food, no resources, no medical care, no proper housing, no schooling, no network of support...And what do you get ?

What do you expect from someone who has been stripped of everything, EVERYTHING and is suffering from terrible mental anguish at the same time ?

How long would you survive in such circumstances? How long would you last? How long would you last before falling into a psychotic madness or committing suicide ? Do you ever ask yourselves such questions ?

OK enough about little you. Let me continue with another story...

This, I received from a survivor I have met on one occasion. I have translated parts of his letter.

“ Dear Layla,

I don’t know why I am writing to you. I felt the urge to do so, even though I am not writing with a particular request, nor am I asking anything from you...

I do remember when X introduced us, and I was telling you my story and the ordeal I suffered at the hands of the militias. I remember that you just sat there silently, almost detached, and at one point I wondered if you were really there and if you were listening at all...I saw no expression on your face, your face was blank, like a slate...

But you kept contact, by looking into my eyes...I will not forget that gaze. I will tell you why. I remember when I finished my story and told you about my release from the militias, and recounted to you how I was found by some villagers who took me in...I told you they bathed me even though the water would sting my open wounds, they fed me, and they covered me...and I remember telling you that I felt I was like a helpless infant, totally dependent on the goodwill of anyone who would take me in...This is when I saw your eyes fill up with tears, shining like little stars...The brutality and hatred of my torturers did not seem to move you, but the kindness and care I found among the villagers did...

Then I understood that you were focused on the cruelty and the kindness of some...It’s as if you were trying to sort them in your head, it’s as if you were relieved that some good people are still out there...

I find myself thinking along those same lines...Every time I meet someone, I look at them, I try to sort them in my head and guess, are they good or bad ? Because I now know that there are torturers living amongst us even in exile...

I also remember telling you how relieved I was to leave Baghdad. That I hated it and hated everything that reminded me of it. You said calmly “that will change — it’s just a reaction.” And you also said “expect the ghosts and shadows to follow you, not right now, but they will re-emerge later...expecting them will take their element of surprise away...”

Frankly I did not quite understand that. But today I do. After that initial phase of elation, having escaped the prison I found myself in, even though I was innocent, after the high of leaving the hell that is Baghdad, I find myself longing and yearning again...I miss home, I miss my friends, I miss my family, I even miss the rusty nails of our entrance door...and I miss the villagers, Layla. How to explain that?

You were right about the ghosts and shadows...they follow me everywhere.

My nights are filled with nightmares and I wake up shouting or I dream of my dead parents and relatives holding me, again like an infant...I miss their love and tenderness...I see my torturers in my sleep so I stopped sleeping.

Some days are worse than others...Some days my whole body aches for no reason, and I feel as if it is broken into a thousand pieces. Other days, am irritable and snap at everyone and sometimes I catch myself breaking in tears with no reason...like last Friday.

I went to Friday prayers, and while prostrating, I felt my tears covering my face and I could not sit up again, everyone around continued the prayer and I stayed prostrated with my face to the ground. Maybe I did not want them to see me cry...

My life is very difficult. As X already told you, we have no income and I can’t work here...I roam the streets, and pretend they are the streets of Baghdad, pretend it is home...I even pretend that my actual neighbor and local grocer are the ones from my neighborhood in Baghdad. I pretend all the time but at night I can’t sleep, because at night I can’t pretend anymore...

The other day I left the apartment, I could not bear to see anyone anymore...I walked for hours, and I seriously contemplated going back but the ghosts and shadows followed me even during day light and I realized that was simply impossible...

Layla, am a changed man. I don’t know how to explain it to you but am not the same person anymore...I long for my previous self and I look for him and don’t know where to find him anymore...

Thank you for listening to me “



Painting: Iraqi artist, Zaid Haidar.

February 3, 2008

For Spanish Readers

Again, a big THANK YOU to Sinfo Fernandez from Rebelion.org for the following translations of my posts.

http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=62728

http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=62209

http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=62100

http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=61591

http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=61140

http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=61079

February 1, 2008

Love on the other blog.

I feel silly repeating it. But do check the other blogs. I hate advertising myself.

I am finally getting acquainted with this blogging business- the technical side at least- and you can actually click under "my other blogs" and view the latest.

Please do that, as I hate posting/informing you about each new entry. I guess am a prude after all. Who would have thought eh ?