January 4, 2010

Live Impressions from New Baghdad...

One of the most depressing afternoons I have spent...Depressing is not the right word, it was an afternoon filled with a shared sad rage.

I met H. who has just returned from Baghdad where he had spent two months. I have known H. for a long time now...but since the Occupation, our relation changed...I don't hate him or anything but his welcoming the occupation left me let's say --very distant... H. is not an essentially bad person, he is just a fucked up opportunist. H. always cared about his own personal interests first and foremost. So when Baghdad fell, he was grieved but at the same time exhibited some hope for change...He hated Saddam Hussein and blamed everything that went wrong in Iraq on him -even the US occupation !

But like the rest of us, he was driven out  of the country -- fear gripped him when members of his family were murdered by the Shiite death squads. By the way H. is half Shiite, half Sunni.

Last year, he decided to give it a try again  and  return to "sort out his business". So he's been traveling quite frequently to Baghdad.

And each time he is back from one of his trips, coincidences have it that we meet, as if to force him to come to terms with Reality...for Reality I knew what it looked like, but he still lived under a thick veil of illusions...and with each travel back, his illusions get ripped apart. Something that never ceases to please me...

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I have never seen H.as depressed as this time round...this time I can say he looked totally hopeless. He is by nature jovial - opportunism obliges, but this time frankly I saw nothing but total hopelessness.

Apart from the fact that he had put on some weight, his mother's favorite pass time is to feed him...spoon feed him more like it...but apart from his extra kilos, he looked beaten down into helplessness...

- So how was it ?

- Don't ask, terrible, terrible....

- Tell me...

- What do you want me to tell you, it's hell. People are completely beaten, they are very angry at the government, they are realizing that Iran will never let go, they are realizing the US had the worst of intentions for Iraq.

- Oh yeah ?

- Yes, and more...some of them are fed up with the sectarianism of this government, its corruption, they see it as filthy and Iraqis have changed so much, they are not the same people you and I knew.

- Some of them like who ?

-Well some of those who supported the Occupation and those who supported the sectarian parties.They've come to realize that they made a mistake...

I really wanted to say -- like yourself you mean,  but I bit my tongue, I did not want to alienate him and wanted all the fresh info from this corner of hell on earth. I let him continue...probing...

- Like everyone in Baghdad ? (hoping it is the case)

- No, not everyone but more and more so...even Shiites themselves are turning against Iran. Everyone realizes that all those terror attacks, bomb explosions... are the work of none other than the Shiite parties killing Iraqis. Even in some parts of Kadhimiya, there is a zone where the residents forbade Iranians from entering it.

- Oh is that so ? So the Shiites finally realized that Iran controls them ?

- Not all of them but more and more so...they are fed up of men in turbans ruling them, with private and regional agendas. The economic situation is so bad, people still have no access to basic services, still no water, still no electricity, no jobs, everything is in shambles, concrete everywhere, police and armed groups everywhere...
Remember Hurriya  Square ? Well all around the square there are Shiite flags, black, green, red, yellow, representing the different parties and militias. The posters of Khomeini, Sistani, Afghani, Hakeem, Sadr, are plastered all over Baghdad. Mansur, the beautiful Mansur looks like Qum.

- And yet, Iraqis complained about too many pictures of Saddam Hussein, I suppose they are being served right now...and what about the Sunnis, what do they think ?

- Think ? They don't think anymore, they are just surviving. Very difficult for them to get any jobs in the government. The Ministries of Education and its universities and schools, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Oil, the Ministry of Interior are Shiite only. They try to find either a job in the police force as some junior, or they set up stalls and sell vegetables...

Also you will not believe that but Israelis are buying so much real estate in Baghdad. Adhamiya, Yarmook, Arassat Al-Hindia, Mansur (considered up scale neighborhoods)

- And how are they managing to do that ?

- Iraqi middle men, mainly Kurds and Shiites...the Americans are the real cause of all of that. They came with the intention of destroying for the sake of destroying. They wanted it that way. Even school curriculums are being changed with big chunks of Iraqi history erased. America and Iran have succeeded in erasing the identity of Iraq.

- And what about the North ?

- Apart from Erbil and Suleimaniya, it's the same chaos. Erbil looks like it has nothing to do with the rest of the country, as if it is a state apart. They are the only winners here.

- And what do people say about Saddam Hussein, are the Shiites still moaning about him ?

- Some are still and they will continue, but I heard others say (and this was confirmed to me by another person who said the exact same thing to me)  If Saddam returns today, we will place his Kundara  on our heads.

Reminder : Kundara means shoe - putting someone's shoe over over one's head is a popular saying meaning -- we will reverently submit to that Person.