Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Bye bye Mr. Nahash

The urge to write this post, after more than three years, is not the rigmarole that has been going on ever since I last posted, in fact it is as far as it can be from the politicians clawing for the holy throne of Iraq.
No, I have lost all interest in the nature of evil; in fact I do not even keep track of most of what has been going on lately. At the present I am convinced that if you can’t change the whole world, at least change your own world. And I have been doing so in various ways; I have been keeping the promise I made to myself; to only do things I am interested in. I have had my share of traumatic experiences during the embargo, of working in uninteresting jobs, since having a job is better than no job at all; that is over for me, cause once you’ve looked death in the eye you realize that all the artificial “must(s) and should do(s) and ought to(s) ” are self inflicted.
Also, I am reading all the books I was deprived from in previous years; the banned books and all the books I had just heard of or read about before, and take my word for it; there is nothing more rewarding in life.
And the most important thing is that I have been, for the last couple of years, volunteering for charity work (nothing big, just helping a few people at a time), since I moved to a safer place than Baghdad (still in Iraq though). Of course, my helping a few did not make any major changes in the texture of time or being, but it did alter my world.
For months I volunteered teaching others; and … well a difference was born.
Once the projects I was involved in were over, I went back to work, but I am making sure to keep on helping and assisting anyone who comes across my path (as best as I can , nothing significant ) morally and materially, and that is my contribution to the world, and hopefully it will stay so till I die.

I am writing today to say good bye to a childhood icon that was a part of my life and the life of a whole generation. A couple of hours ago, I read that the Kuwaiti actor Ghanem AL Saleh had passed away, and that is why I am writing; to reminisce.
What! Amidst all the crises of not having a government, the explosive situation, may be even a new dictatorship of some sort, and God knows what else is awaiting you, that is why you are writing? Well, yes, once you are forced to leave everything you once identified with behind you , and yet still survive somehow , you realize that the things that really matter are the things you will always carry around with you everywhere ; your memories . They once asked V. Nabokov whether he missed Russia terribly. He said ‘No, all the Russia I need is with me ‘.

Ghanem AL Saleh and his iconic comedy (Bye bye London) is part of a generation’s consciousness and lexicon. I remember how back in the eighties when VCRs were the only escape from the news and the long running “Images of the battle fields at the Eastern Gate of the Arab Homeland” and the president’s visits to his adoring people , Bye bye London was watched and watched and watched. It was a breath of fresh air for all oppressed Iraqis.
Here was a play, poking fun at the sense of Arab self-grandeur and all the hollow patriotic slogans. We all have our favorite hilarious catchphrases by Mr. Nahash and Shari . And we recognize each other as fans when we find ourselves repeating parts of the play in various situations. Bye bye London is like Monty Python to the English or the Simpsons to Americans. Everyone knows what is implied when someone says : Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!, or bring out your dead1, or when someone says : Bonjour, you cheese-eating surrender-monkeys!, or meh .

The play was about Shari bin Jumaa’a , a rich Kuwaiti, who decided to go to London to enjoy what the old colonizers’ capitol has to offer , escaping from his wife Sabacha and his silly daughter. He writes to his nephew, who is studying in London, to meet him at the airport. The nephew, of course, thinking his uncle is really sick brings an ambulance to take him. Shari escapes, in his pajamas, from the hospital and goes to a hotel, and there he meets Mr. Nahash , an Arab tycoon who has been living in the hotel for years, and who is sprinkling his millions all over the hotel’s management staff , especially the girls.
The nephew and his girl friend decide to contact Shari’s wife to come over and stop her husband. The nephew and the girlfriend also decide to disguise, as a number of characters, to protect the uncle from crooks and girls who want to swindle him.
Finally, after loosing a whole lot of money, his daughter being arrested for shoplifting, and getting his heart broken by Janet, his supposedly English girl friend, who is actually the nephew’s girlfriend in disguise, Shari returns home.

That is the outline, yet there is so much more. The hilarious mix ups and the memorable characters are the best till this day. The actor Ghanem Al Saleh ( Nahash ) is a favorite of millions of Arabs . The filthy rich Arab who befriends Shari , and mentors him on the ways of the Engleez , who goes around London in his traditional Arabic clothes , holding rosary beads in one hand and a glass of Campari in the other, and who despite his wealth is still a Bedouin at the core .
Most of the play takes place in the hotel’s bar; Shari and Nahash are mostly drunk, slurring and swaying around trying to score girls at the bar, while talking about everything and nothing, coining catchphrases that still resonate.
Nahash is a living stereotype, a representative of all what is thought to be true about rich lewd Arabs. He pin points all what is wrong with the whole culture.

In Iraq, Bye bye London was very successful, despite never being showed on national TV, in fact it was branded by the government, in a very anticipated way, as a play full of denigration and insults to Arabs, which only emphasizes what the play was all about; here we are defeated in every way , full of ourselves, repeating slogans that only perpetuates a false self-image which no longer works in the modern world (the eighties! go figure), and which is in sharp contrast with the reality Arabs have been living in for a couple of centuries .
I remember in the nineties when I was at college, when the then Iraqi government invaded Kuwait, I was understandably sad, indignant and devastated for many things, but also because…. , well because I loved Mr. Nahash . He was who I giggled at when I was a kid, and whose humor I came to appreciate when I grew up.

Let me share some of my favorite parts:

Nahash introducing himself to Shari’s wife, after she asks him who the hell he thinks he is:
- Me! , I am Nahash ; Son of the mountain, wilderness and wastelands, conqueror of darkness and insect exterminator …

Or this now catchphrase that he says dreaming of a holy war with Israel, after the English trick him into buying a super gun:
- Mark my words; it will be an offensive non- defensive war.

Or ,
Janet says:
‘What is it with you Arabs? all ‘We were once at the borders of China’ this , and ‘ We were in Andalusia’ that , we were grand, we were ….’
Nahash replies:
‘Yes bless you, we are better known as the “Arabs of the verb were and all its conjugations.’

Or, asking Shari why he married such a woman if he has to run to London from her:
- ‘I married her before the discovery of Oil you know.’ Says Shari
- ‘Mine is no better, she is a she-wolf a she-wolf! I tell ya.’ Replies Nahash with fear in his eyes.

Or , how his Bedouin goat- herding vocabulary creeps in every now and then , even when he is trying to speak English ;
He comes back to the hotel after being stood up by a girl, who is now sitting at the Bar:
- Where were you? you betrayer of all covenants, I waited for you in the street till the tendons of legs snapped , don’t you stare at me you hungry goat.
The girl replies ‘Go to hell Nahash! . ‘
- Me? Go to hell , may you drop dead of thirst.

Another example; after Shari’s wife insults him, and tells him to put on glasses, may be that will help him discern people properly, he shouts at her:
- You listen to me you tent without a porch, I may put on glasses and look to the right -he looks to the right where English girls are sitting- and what do my glasses see? , ha … what do my glasses see? Graceful limber gazelles, and then I may put on my glasses and look to the left -looking and squinting at Sabacha and her daughter- what do I see? Ha… Stranded camels and goats. At that point the two women, Sabacha and her daughter, chase him and beat him up, while he ( the misogynist he is ) hides behind Janet using her as a shield.

Or, when he was trying to introduce himself to Janet, who was not interested:
- I offer you my friendship and advise you to accept it, I also dedicate you this poem. This is a poem I wrote in a dark night without a moon, consisting of 1000 verses , may Allah protect you and all those present here from its beginning and protect me from its end .
And the drunken party goes on and on. Ghanem Al Saleh had many other roles, but for everyone he was always Mr. Nahash.

By the way, Ghanem Al Saleh died in London.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Abu Jwad the invincible
Written by the Iraqi Roulette
Each of us is responsible
for everything and to
every human being
Fyodor Dostoevsky

Abu Jwad is a shabby, ugly old man. In Baghdad's short winter he wears a beige raincoat, of course, we may call it beige with reservations; muddy would be the correct word. And although, Baghdad's winter usually lasts only for only one month, if lucky, Abu Jwad insists on wearing his coat from the first of October till the first of May. Then he just takes his coat off declaring thus the arrival of summer.
His name is Kadhum. He has no children. And since every Kadhum is a potential Abu Jwad(1), he has been called Abu Jwad since his moustache started sprouting. The name stuck to him till now; now that his white moustache is not the only indication of his advanced years.
When he comes to the café, he has been going to for the last couple of decades; he usually just sits there sipping his istikans of sweet black tea with patience and silence.
He never engages in a conversation, not because he is not friendly, he just does not actually have much to say. Many tried to figure him out, but after trying, they were usually frustrated. And those many, tried to engage him in conversations, not because he looked interesting. No, that wasn’t it; you see there was a legend about him that has been circulating in the cafe for the last thirty years. The legend has it, that Abu Jwad in his time, actually went to college in England;
“What? that old beggar?” people used to say.
“Yes, yes , non other than London Britania , Imagine that! God is omnipotent, isn’t he? ”
“Well, he must be clever then!” these people used to conclude, because there is a firm belief, that anyone who has been to college in London must be intelligent. There are plenty of other misconceptions of course, like all doctors are humanitarians and all engineers are geniuses and … but that is not our subject. After talking to Abu Jwad for less than second, concrete evidence that the man is clueless usually materializes.
His wife left him after two years of marriage -having found out that he was as barren as the Kalahari desert-. So, why else should she be staying with him?, not for his good looks or his wit, that was for sure. And ever since , Abu Jwad has lived alone in his crummy house in Al Sadoon area, which used to be his parents house. He has two married sisters living in two different parts of Iraq.
Abu Jwad had really been to England to acquire an education, it was not an urban legend after all, but he flunked big time.
In the early sixties he was sent by the government to study abroad, after receiving excellent marks in his final high school exams.
If one could only know, that sometimes, little promising achievements are in fact tailor made to ruin the rest of our lives, and that sometimes tragedies come wrapped like presents in successes and accomplishments. If one could only know.
Kadhum was never smart, he just worked hard that last year and received those ominous good marks. It was as if he was given a hat too big for his head.
London was too cold for him and people were so strange over there; Women had red and yellow hair, men had no moustaches and were even prettier than the girls, they ate a disgusting substance they called mashed potatoes, and they boiled every edible thing under the sun.
He failed in every single thing they taught them, and he was so lonely. Because he was doing so bad in his studies, his Iraqi friends advised him to try and get himself an English girlfriend, ‘it helps you know’. Kadhum was never a one to believe in miracles, and he knew that, getting a girlfriend would be impossible with his enormous nose, oily brown face, his greasy black hair and his 5 feet height. So he did not even try.
It is said, that lonely souls find each other in this cruel world of ours, just like a Bedouin finds an oasis. Such a lonely soul was Christine White; a mousy ginger head, with protruding teeth and thick spectacles. She used to sit next to Kadhum during breaks. She smiled whenever she saw him, and her face glowed with joy whenever he smiled back. He told her he needed help with his homework, she was delighted to help. And Although, most of their rendezvous were generally devoted to the accomplishment of the challenging mission, of getting information into Kadhum’s head, it was still love unmistakably.
When he dropped out of college, Kadhum’s father in Iraq, had to paid pay back the cost of his education to the government. At the same time, he circulated a rumor, to save face before the neighbors, stating that Kadhum was not succeeding in his exams -in spite of being a genius-, because the English are carrying out a special policy ‘May Allah damn them all’ against Arabs in general and , Iraqis in particular and against Kadhum to be more specific. Of course they must have figured out what a genius he was ‘those Professors are not stupid’ and may be some of those professors were even Jews! ‘God have mercy on us all’. Many neighbors believed the rumor.
Kadhum wanted to return to Iraq immediately, but Christine tried to convince him to stay and try, but of course, he had to find a job first. He managed to find, to be more accurate, the only place that accepted him was a sausage factory. The workers used to call him Ghandi. Was that epithet based on external resemblance, or was it because he was too peaceful for his on good? Kadhum was unable to grasp the gist of their humor. Many tried to start a fight with him, but that proved to be useless, he just went on doing what he was told to do, not paying attention to anyone.
Christine took things further, and invited him to meet her father. Her mother died a long time ago, and her father , a very ill tempered man, was in and out of marriages constantly , and was drunk more than he was sober.
When Kadhum came over for dinner, it was one of the father’s ‘sober good mood’ times. He was polite and engaged Kahdum in a conversation in which he talked most of the time and took a more active part. After Kadhum left, the father started drinking and said to his daughter :
“If that bloody Paki comes once more, you will have to go”
“ He is an Iraqi, Dad.”
“That is what I bloody said wasn't it?”
Christine did not care much about her father’s opinion. In fact she savored the feeling, that she has a disputable boyfriend, and that she is suffering in the name of love.
Kadhum wrote home that he will be coming without delay, after he was beaten up in the subway by Teddy boys. Christine cried and pleaded, Kissed and hugged him and said she would go back with him to baghdad, to which Kadhum did not object, but suggested that he should return first to prepare the grounds, and she could follow him later.That did not happen. He asked her many times to come, she asked him many times to return, but there was always something that stopped them from doing so.
Years flew by like grim clouds on a stormy winter day. Kadhum got married under family pressure. He told Christine, she understood. The letters grew scarcer, but they never stopped. After he returned to Iraq, Abu Jwad worked as a clerk in some ministry for many years . Under pressure he also, enrolled in the party. He just used to sit in the meetings like a table lamp. Comrade Abu Jwad was never an active member, but his party instructor was so pleased with him, that he actually offered to promote him, so he may become a ‘friend’ (2) in years to come .
“Whose friend?” Abu Jwad asked.
“Well the president's, of course, you are not thinking of refusing his friendship are you?”
“No , but what…”.
Abu Jwad got through the draught of the embargo, with his meager pension, and by selling his mother’s gold and some furniture, He even sold some of the electricity switches to get a bottle of Arak occasionally. Those years passed by, with Abu Jwad being mostly half starving and g half drunk. Mainly he was just Omitting days on the wall as they passed, like a hostage. Christine’s letters were the only marks that made a difference on that dreary wall.
Another thing made a difference in his life. And that was; the arrival of his two nephews, Sa’ad and Ra’ad. They were sent by their mothers in the years of the embargo. When things got so tight, their mothers said to them: “Go to Baghdad, and see if your uncle Abu Jwad can help, you know he has no one to care for, go live with him”.
The two teenagers arrived from the governorates, to conquer the capitol of Haroon AI Rasheed. Their uncle did not object.There was hardly any furniture in the damn house to accommodate them, but that did not stop the two adventurers. Sa’ad was a Shi’i and Ra’ad was a Sunni. They were the same age, they had not seen each other since they were children; they hit it straight away, and became inseparable in no time at all. As time passed by, and after realising that their uncle was as helpless as an invalid, they took control as best as they could. Their treatment to their uncle varied according to occasions from ignoring him completely to sorting him out violently when required.
They both worked in everything in those years. They worked in sorting out and recycling garbage; everything from polythene bags to iron rods. They worked as street sweepers ; they worked as sellers, as brokers in the muddy stock exchange market, as greengrocers… They did that all, without any help from their drunk uncle. They were using the house more like a motel, and even a store for their business. When they were working in the garbage recycling business the place stunk. When they were working as greengrocers, the drunk Abu Jwad used to fall over piles of onions and okra.
After the war, the house was transferred into another kind of store. Sa’ad and Ra’ad looted to their hearts content. They looted hospitals, schools, grain silos and ministries. They even looted Saddam's palaces. Actually, they managed to loot a horse from one of those palaces, and they placed it in their uncle’s bedroom, while he was asleep and drunk one night. When Abu Jwad woke up the next morning , he saw a long face staring at him. He crawled out of bed, under the animal, trying to get out of his room. He was not able to utter a syllable from fear, and nearly had a heart attack. Sa’ad and Ra’ad had just finished sealing the deal and sold the horse to someone, so they just pulled it out, from the room, not even bothering to answer the murmuring in agony old man.
Sa’ad and Ra’ad were not the skinny poor teenagers they once used to be; They were now tall, strong young men, over baked by Baghdad’s ruthless sun, their fists and hearts were hard from years of hardship in the infernal streets, and their eyes were like those of a wolf.
The looting went on for months and months shamelessly. Sa’ad and Ra’ad even eventually, looted the neighboring school, when they had nothing left to loot elsewhere.The headmistress of this school was called Miss Nihaya. She was as big as a two door closet, -no traces of femininity whatsoever -, she was more like a gladiator in a blouse, skirt and head scarf. Whenever anyone greeted her or approached her, she always used to reply with the question:
“Were you a pupil of mine young man or young lady?”
She was once a prominent comrade in the party, and she was once very proud of that fact too. After the war, as a headmistress and all, she was invited many times to attend meetings with the Americans, and that got to her head. She became convinced that she and her Wretched school actually “mattered”.
When Sa'ad and Ra'ad looted her school bare, the neighbors told her, that it was ‘Abu Jwad's scoundrels’ that did it’, so she marched towards Abu Jwad's house and she stood in front of Sa'ad and said:
“ Hello young man, were you a pupil of mine?”
“ No Ma’am, we aren't from Baghdad originally.”
“ Of course you aren’t. I was told you took ‘to put it mildly’; an air conditioner, a heater and a file cabinet from my school. That indicates clear lack of discipline and absence of self control. I will ask you to return the things immediately. Yes, yes immediately.”
Sa'ad stood leaning against the wall, with his arm folded in front of him, and he was starting to get quite amused now.
“Or else?” he asked smirking.
“Or else… -pronounced Miss Nihaya bringing her face so close to Sa'ad's face, that her nose nearly touched his nose- ..or else, I'll bring the Americans right here and we'll see what you and your cousin have to say then.”
“Hey, Ra'ad - called Sa'ad- come over here brother, Miss comrade headmistress here, is threatening to unleash the foreigners on us.”
“Is that so?, called, called back Ra'ad from inside, and came out carrying a rectangular object wrapped in a newspaper. He unwrapped the object and exhibited it for Miss Nihaya .
“I will be more than delighted to give them this little thing, which . I took it ‘to put it mildly’ from your school.” The object was a large framed picture, in which Miss Nihaya was all smiles standing in front of Saddam Hussein, who was pinning a medal on her coat lapel. In the background, other ladies wearing scarves and not wearing scarves were clapping, and little children were dancing, and a banner read: Happy Birthday to you Mr. President, from the members of Al Sadoon party division.
“Let‘s see what you'll have to say to your the new protectors now then, comrade Miss Nihaya.” Ra’ad said smiling sweetly. Being a very sensible old headmistress, Miss Nihaya knew when one should let sleeping dogs lie. She turned around silently and walked away. Sa'ad taunted her as she went:
“That’s right love, you just go back home; Abu Ghraib is no place for ladies, even like you.”
After the spring of looting ended, the two brothers sold all their spoils, and things became tight once again. Of course the pension which they ransacked monthly from their uncle could not cover their expenses for food, cigarettes and Alcohol. The stagnation period stretched endlessly. They were not able to loot and they were not able to get a job too. And looting opened a whole new channel in their consciousness, it was like a wolf having his first taste of blood, one can’t give it up, just like that.
“The answer is gangs brother, everyone is acting in some sort of a gang nowadays. The era of solo acts is over” said Ra’ad to Sa’ad one hungry afternoon. Eventually, they found a gang in which they were instructed to perform light weight robberies, shop breaking and kidnap. As things developed they had to split in different gangs. That did not bother them, as long as money started to flow in its old stream once more.These gangs in due course, became cogs in larger and larger machines. Sa’ad and Ra’ad were paid like employees now, per task. Their duty was to kidnap and deliver mostly, with all what comes with such assignments as a package; beating up, torturing and dumping the corps somewhere safe if necessary.They did not mind of course, but the thing was; that the prices were not as rewarding as they used to be after the war ended. And also, the competition became too strong for them. Many highly qualified contenders were more than willing to go that extra mile and reach much further than Sa'ad and Ra'ad were willing or could reach, , and the ability to cross the line was no longer an advantage.
All the neighbors knew by now what these two yesterday country boys were doing for a living. The good neighbors had ‘that private talk’ with the uncle many times. But Abu Jwad was more concerned for his own safety rather than intervening for some poor soul. He always knew that his nephews were capable of a lot, but murder was further than his suspicion roamed.
Long before the war, Abu Jwad had received a couple of letters from Christine, telling him that she had cancer. Then months before the war he received a letter form some attorney telling him, that he was sorry to inform him, that Christine had lost her battle with cancer, and that she left him, ‘how did he put it’; an unsubstantial sum’. Abu Jwad lamented his lost love silently, with lots of Arak.
The war came, months chased each other, the short periods of sobriety were replaced with longer and longer periods of drunkenness. Abu Jwad did not mind that, he did not even mind his nephews as long as they were leaving him alone, and as long as he could get his daily bottle.
Yet change .. change is the constant nuisance; it comes and pokes you in the ribs sporadically, ruffling your serene existence .
When the kidnap market plunged, and when the detainees literally became more than the kidnapper themselves - the kidnappers, in some reported cases, started kidnapping each other to cover future kidnapping expenses ( fuel, weapons , rent ect)-, Sa'ad and Ra'ad decided to sell Abu Jwad’s ancient house, so that they may add the price to what they have and try to work something out. They did not actually picture what they were to do clearly enough to put in words; they just knew that they ‘needed the cash’. Abu Jwad felt threatened like never before. Without his house what is he ? a certified tramp!. He tried to persuade them, cajole them, swing them to his side, yet alas to no avail.
“Take my whole pension” he begged.
“We are already taking it, you old goat.” they replied acidly.
“I'll try to get you some cash, just give me some time”
“If we sell you, along with all what you represent in life, you wouldn’t bring the cost of a pair of recycled slippers, so stop sulking and let us think.”
Abu Jwad was so upset, that he just could not get himself to shut up. Although the young men were quite drunk, and were not paying much attention to the old man's rambling. They managed to catch a phrase that made sense to them amidst the dark forest of incoherencies Abu Jwad was generating.
They understood that he had inherited a sum from some English broad, he used to know in the olden days, when he was in London, and that interested them. Once Abu Jwad realised he got their attention, he lost control entirely on the lies that he was spewing. He ran and got them a couple of Christine’s old pictures, telling them how the sum, which she left him could actually change their lives.Before he knew it, his nephews were making arrangements for him to collect the money. They decided to send him to Syria by bus being the cheapest way. There were still no postal services in Iraq, and therefore making contacts and following up the money transfer would be difficult, besides it may as well get lost on the way, it would be faster to arrange things from abroad, and then the money may be sent through a bank to Baghdad.
Their attitude towards their uncle changed notably. They even started to call him, when it was time to have a glass of Arak , they also started to look at him, when they spoke to him. After all, it is true, when they say that good manners are the result of common sense.Abu Jwad was enjoying his new status and making the best of it all . He was giving no thought to the fact that he was boldly exaggerating about his supposed inheritance.He did not bother himself thinking about his impending journey, until that day arrived. He even enjoyed it, when the boys helped him pack, and gave him instructions on how to deal with the situation in case the militias or the terrorists stop the bus, they taught him what and when to say the appropriate words, and how to answer the trap questions terrorists or militia men may ask.The truth is; One must admit; they had to be given credit on this matter.
They were the best experts and Abu Jwad knew that so well. Abu Jwad summoned images from the mist of his tired drunken brain, and remembered vaguely, the young men coming in and out of the house on various occasions, dressed in police uniform, army uniforms, as militia men form both sides. Once, they even came in dressed as Americans, with the funky black sunglasses and all.
Abu Jwad remembers well, that memorable day, when the whole lane watched from doorsteps and windows, Sa'ad dressed in black, with a green band around his forehead with prints that read ‘We will never forget Al Hussein(3)', walking back home one afternoon, after some sort of reconnaissance, which apparently required him to dress so, in order to blend with a specific crowds. On that afternoon two men dressed in white Dishdashas, with overgrown bushy beards sticking out of their faces, cut his way and cornered him. One of them grabbed Sa'ad’s arm and said “Salam Aleikum, Safawi(4), today you are going to meet your maker.” Sa'ad shouted at the top of his voice:
“Ra'ad!, brother come , help me.”
Now Ra'ad, who apparently, also had a reconnaissance of his own, emerged form the house wearing a white Dishdasha , with an overgrown bushy beard covering most of his face. A gun in one hand, a knife in the other. The two attackers were more confused than afraid, for they had actually seen that pious brother earlier in their exclusive mosque, shouting ‘Allah Akbar, and death to the Safawis’. They backed off after Ra'ad showered them with bullets, and a plethora of profanities, sufficient to issue a whole specialized dictionary. .…
Sure, Abu Jwad knew well his nephews had been around. Abu Jwad, also remembers, more or less, that night, when the lane was suspiciously deserted and soundless. Then, came the sound that each and every Iraqi dreads to hear. A sound, which is a medley of bangs sounds, automatic robotic shouts of :”Go, go, go “ and sounds of galloping people; some chasing, some being chased .The whole male population of the lane were loaded in trucks in the dark of the that night. All of them , all of them without discrimination, even Sa’ad and Ra’ad were arrested, although, they tried to escape, jumping from one roof to another, which proved to be unwise, since they were caught, and the next thing they felt was the heavy military boots pressing on their backs, before they could make their next move .
And Amar, their neighbor, got caught on that night too. He was a harmless college student . He also, like Sa’ad and Ra’ad, had lost his father in the same eight year war, and he was their junior by two or three years. Amar, was perhaps the only one, who greeted Abu Jwad reverently, whenever they met. A couple of times, Amar tried to convince Sa’ad and Ra’ad to go back to school, and promised if they did so, he would help them with their studies, in reply to that suggestion, the two young men were rolling on the floor in a fit of laughter. He was always studying that kid, reading his head off, as if there were no tomorrow, not wait a minute, as if there were a tomorrow.
When the Americans pushed him in the truck, Amar said in reasonably comprehensible English:
“Mr. Mr ,I have an exam tomorrow, it is final …
“Get in , go go go, you can study in prison” The next morning, Sa’ad and Ra’ad were the only ones who returned from the whole lot . How did they manage to get out? , what did they tell the Americans to let them go? That Remains a mystery. The young men did not share the experience, and no one returned to tell the story, no one at all, not even Amar who missed his exams .Of course, Sa’ad and Ra’ad knew how to make the best of the situation. When asked by neighbors, they gave an impression, that they have connections with a high ranking military official; a sergeant.
Naturally, the women were so eager to get information, they believed anything; they wanted to know how to get to their husbands, brothers, sons and grandpas at any cost.Shortly after that impression was delivered skillfully, Abu Jwad noticed, that trays of roasted chicken and saffron rice , fried eggplants, kebabs and Dolmah, were being delivered three times a day to their doorstep. Abu Jwad ate without questioning, nevertheless, he noticed that when they delivered the trays Sa’ad and Ra’ad were always assuring the women and promising them something. Gradually, as hope shriveled in the hearts of Amar’s mother and her neighbors, the trays stopped coming, they realised, that Sa’ad and Ra’ad did not know any high ranking sergeant.Abu Jwad, who enjoyed the dolmah and all, missed Amar a lot, and he was unable to understand, why was it that, the good ones, like Amar, usually never return, yet these two somehow always manage get away.
Yes…, Abu Jwad knew that these two had definitely been around .
Sa'ad and Ra'ad put their uncle on a bus, with some pocket money and an address for him to stay in the cheapest place they could get. The trip was hard. The passengers were all praying in fear on the road to Damascus. They were stopped once, and three young men were dragged out of the bus, after men in masks took a look at their ID disapprovingly. No one came near Abu Jwad and his rain coat, so he did not need to recite the lines his nephews taught him.
He arrived safely in Damascus to the cheap motel he was told to go to. The next morning, not actually doing much planning, he took the attorney’s letter and headed to a bank seeking advice. A chubby woman was sitting in front of a computer monitor. She had enough make up on her face to decorate a room. Abu Jwad greeted her, and started explaining something she could not have been less interested in listening to.He started right from the beginning, shoving his letter beneath her nose. He started right from the very first day he set foot on the capitol of the Island they call Great Britain, the Island where his heart was stolen and never retrieved. The mere sight of Abu Jwad made the woman feel nauseous. At the beginning she interrupted him trying to be as polite as possible, but since that did not shut the old Iraqi tramp up, she started ranting; the way only, the ladies of AI Sham,( 5) mange to rant. Abu Jwad could not understand most of what she was saying. He knew that his plot was feeble, but somehow he grew into the part, and he too started ranting, accusing her of being anti Iraqi and threatening her to cut the oil supply to her country. He was thrown out of the Bank naturally.An elderly kind Syrian felt sorry for the old stranger and offered help. After Abu Jwad had told him the story in detail, the man gave him an address of a lawyer, who specialized in all sorts of cases related to immigration and asylum . “That lawyer could get anyone into Denmark , Norway,or even Costa Rica” So, Abu Jwad headed there. The lawyer made a few calls, made a few calculations, then advised Abu Jwad to go back home before he runs out of money. The sum is not worth the paper used for applications, and the phone calls and the time “No, Haji, it is not worth it at all” . Abu Jwad went on and on and on talking just for the mere sake of it, not wishing to understand what was being said to him. The lawyer kicked him out.Yet, to his total astonishment, the next morning Abu Jwad was waiting for him in the waiting room, believing that he has some sort of a case. The Lawyer ordered the janitor to throw him out. Abu Jwad this time threatened the lawyer saying that he will complain at the British Embassy “The lngleez will help me, I am sure they will”.
In the British Consulate, one exceptionally polite Brit explained, with all the patience that god blessed him with, time and time again to Abu Jwad that 200 pounds is not worth the time and efforts. The best solution is to find someone in England itself to follow up the issue, which will require money too, or he may return to Baghdad and try to find a lawyer and bank to help him. Abu Jwad repeated the visit a couple of times, till the guard was ordered by the employee to ban that ‘bloody Paki’ from entering the office. Abu Jwad returned to Baghdad not having a plan as usual, he told his eager nephews that the money will reach in weeks through a bank. Their relations remained cordial for a while. Then, as expected to everyone but Abu Jwad, judgment day arrived.
“Look you old snake, we gave you time and money to go finish the deal, what is going on, and how much are we talking about? Ra’ad demanded
“A lot” Abu Jwad said shaking.
“ How much? stop playing dumb”
“20 thousand pounds.” replied Abu Jwad not knowing why.
“Great, you have two weeks to deliver, or else the house will be sold! This country is getting too dangerous, we must think of a way to get out” . said Sa'ad gulping his glass of Arak.
As usual, when confronted with an unsolvable problem, Abu Jwad extinguished his confusion with a glass or two, only to wake up too sick to think , and before knowing it, the next dose of the bitter beverage was due.
One night as the young men were sitting drinking. The bad alcohol got to their heads and did its duty, and they picked up a fight with the drunk old man.
“Tomorrow, go find yourself a kennel to live in. Time is up, this house must be sold.” Said Ra'ad, crunching a cucumber and squinting, from the effect of the drink he had just took in.
“I wont let you, I'll complain” said Abu Jwad, stuttering and slurring.
“Who to?, your late Mommy” said Sa'ad
“To the government” replied the old man.
“Ra'ad did you hear that ? he has not heard the news yet, he still thinks there is a government”said Sa'ad pouring another glass and throwing the bottle, that it nearly hit Abu Jwad .
“To the British” said Abu Jwad involuntarily.
“Why the hell should you go all the way to Basrah, while the American tanks are standing right around the corner? You old freak!” laughed Ra’ad
“In case you do not know, I am a British citizen. If you sell my house, you'll have to deal with them.”
“You what? “said both the young men in one voice thoughtfully.
“You know, this old corpse may not be as useless as he seems, he just gave .. “ said Ra'ad
“Us a rather good idea” Sa'ad completed his sentence.
“Hmmmm” they both mumbled, looking at Abu Jwad hallucinating and wallowing in his own drool.
The next morning they locked the door, so that their sleeping uncle could not escape. The next thing they did was to try and get him back to his senses.
“Now, do you have any documents to prove what you said yesterday?”Abu Jwad felt the deep voices of his nephews smashing his temple. He opened his eyes to find himself tied up to a chair. The old man was petrified seeing his nephews sober resolute expressions.
“In the cardboard tissue box” he said involuntarily.
They found the box and showed him one paper at a time.
“Yes, that is it”
“What is it?” asked Ra’ad with a glint in his eyes.
“It is my permanent residence document, it is like an ID” said the scared old man.
“ And this proves what?” asked Ra'ad
“That I am British”
“No, that won’t do. It is too old and yellow” said Sa'ad
“It does work, I even went to the Embassy in Damascus with it. It is genuine. You can not sell my house, I tell you, they will arrest you.”
“Shut up, they have better things to do. Let us try to find a buyer for you, then!” Said Ra'ad, with something developing in his mind.
“What do you mean?, what do you mean?” cried out Abu Jwad.
“I am not talking to you, I am talking to Sa'ad . You stay right where you are.”
They both rushed out leaving Abu Jwad behind.Many hours passed by with the old man sitting mumbling, cursing and tied to the chair. His heart was beating like an execution squad's drum. He was soaking in cold sweat.
As Baghdad' s orange sun was setting behind the windows, and as creepy shadows were crawling all over the floor around Abu Jwad , as if they were preparing to leap and strangle him , Sa'ad and Ra'ad marched in . They sat down to discuss the outcome of the day. Abu Jwad listened to them attentively, while they were making the final touches to their plan.
“So, we are to say that he is an expert, working with the Americans and the English. He used to live in London and has British documents.” said Ra’ad
“What if they do not accept him? said Sa'ad
“The plan is to sell him to some gang, with his documents. We will not have to deal with the foreigners, that would be the gang’s problem. We'll try to get as much as we can and get the hell out of here” explained Ra'ad
“Right” approved Sa’ad.
“ Wrong, wrong- shouted Abu Jwad -You don't know what you are bringing on yourselves”.
“Look here, you old coyote. You went cruising to all over Syria with our money. Now, it is payment time. Just try to get some sleep, you may have a job interview tomorrow” said Sa'ad.
They got a few offers for their uncle. Many offers of them were not worth considering. Some gangs had no imagination at all. They did not know what to do with the hostage. “No, no man! Let us stay away from those foreigners, we are working locally. What you are saying is too risky” they said.
The young men almost gave up, then one gang seemed interested. They sounded very serious and professional. They wanted to meet Sa'ad and Ra'ad. Their leader wanted to hear their offer first, and he demanded that Sa’ad and Ra’ad were to come alone without the merchandise. So, the they both went to the meeting dressed in white Dishdashas and white head Ghutras, to be as neutral as possible. A man came to take them. He greeted Ra'ad , whom he knew more or less, but looked at Sa'ad suspiciously.
“It is ok, he is my brother” Ra'ad assured him.
“All right, he may come too” said the man reluctantly.They drove towards the outskirts of Baghdad, till they reached an inconspicuous village. They got out of the car and the man led them to an ordinary brick house, he pushed the gate open and they all went in. There was a cow tied with a rope to a date palm, chickens had settled down for the night all over the ground. The chickens were very unpleased, and expressed their feelings so loudly, when Sa'ad and Ra'ad treaded on them accidentally. A one eyed dog backed the chickens and barked with aggravation at the strangers as they stepped carefully trying to find their way in the dark .
They were told to sit down and wait in a room, which was furnished with plenty of plastic chairs, till the chief arrived. Shortly five men entered the room and sat down. Ra'ad opened his mouth to talk, thinking that one of them was the chief. The men made a gesture to him ordering him to shut up. He obeyed. After about fifteen minutes of chilling silence, a man entered with two guards, everyone raised and replied the chief’s greetings.
The chief was in his forties, dressed in a dark suit. His beard was well groomed, and his eyes were expressionless, like the eyes of someone who had too many people to kill for one life time.
“I am listening” the chief said without dignifying Sa'ad or Ra'ad with a look. Ra'ad stated his offer as shortly and clearly as he could. After he finished the chief paused, his pause stretched a little longer than it should. Then he fidgeted and fiddled with his beard.
“So, you are telling me, that your prey is actually an Iraqi? not an Ingleezi? .” He said with reproach in his voice, looking at the man who bought the two young men to the remote village.
“Are you here to waste my time? He went on emphasizing every syllable, fiddling with his beard furiously now.
“Do you think I need you, to get myself an Iraqi? Have you heard somewhere that there is a shortage in Iraqis. If I need to kidnap an Iraqi, all I have to do, is to go out in the streets and load them in buses. The damn place is swarming with them. I can just grab and slaughter anyone, any one, or two like a pair of sheep on an Eid morning.” he said snarling at the two terrified young men, who got the hint clearly.
“No chief, he is originally an Iraqi, but he works with the foreigners and he ... “ said Ra'ad mustering his courage.
“Does he have any documents on him? said the chief briskly.
“Er like... said Sa'ad
“Like, a passport, a picture of him with Paul Bremer for instance. What am I supposed to build my campaign on ? How do you expect me to negotiate? So, he is an Iraqi businessman, working with the invaders, and has all the required documents to prove so. Good, good. Am I missing anything?” he asked threateningly.
“ No, no everything is right” both the young men said assuring him.
“Hmmm, where did you catch him?
”He is a relative of ours. A distant relative” answered Ra’ad.
“Very distant” added Sa'ad
“And why are you doing this?” the chief asked looking at them condescendingly. Now, here is one of those trap questions the young men know so well.
“He is a traitor” they both said in one voice, putting on a serious solemn expression.
“Splendid, you will be rewarded accordingly. So, you bring him tomorrow night, with everything. And I will see how to spread the word and get as much infidels involved as possible. I was always waiting for a hit operation like this. This operation will change our status immediately boys” he said addressing his gang.
The two young men returned home. They were a bit worried. This is not as easy as they thought. That chief guy is shrewd; he did not even tell them, how much he is willing to pay. May be it would have been better just to sell the old man’s house to one of those small groups, they would not ask so much questions. Nevertheless, they decided to finish what they had started , what is the worst that may happen anyway?
The next night, they were dragging Abu Jwad to the dark outskirts. He was tripping as they practically carried him by the arms. They agreed with the same man to meet them at the beginning of the village and he was to escort them. So, they had to do a bit of walking. Finally, they stopped where they were supposed to wait for the man.
“You killers” howled Abu Jwad, as they made him sit down on the cold ground to wait.
“Look here, it is not as if they are going to kill you or something, if half of what you say is true, we may all benefit.” Said Sa’ad ,trying to calm the old man down.
“When have you become like this? If only your mothers could see you now, what would they say?” wailed Abu Jwad
“ Well our mothers said, that you were going to take good care of us. ‘Go ‘they said to us ‘your uncle is a big shot in Baghdad’, and what did you do? you old drunk, you just sat there waiting for us to swim for ourselves.” Ra’ad said looking at the black sky above them.
If only thoughts could be seen, like a motion film inside a cloud above one’s head, a passer by would have seen that both Sa’ad’s and Ra’ad’s thoughts were exactly the same in content. They went back many years ago. Back to when they were both kids walking in the funerals of their fathers, who were both killed in different battles of the same long war. They were not consulted; it was not their choice that their young fathers left without warning, leaving behind their young wives. It was not their choice too, to leave school when they were both teenagers to work. They went back to all those blistering summer days, and all those murky winter days, when they had to grind for a living, while all that they yearned for was a game of football.
Their mothers were also in their thoughts. They saw them, working back then for crumbs, while all that their young mothers yearned for was love, not having yet fully comprehended, that all that was left from their interrupted dreams of love, were two young corpses in a two cheap wooden coffins . Sa’ad and Ra’ad were both seeing in their thoughts fear, fear that pushed them to the limits, they must survive even if their fathers withdrew unwillingly, and even if those left alive withdrew from their lives willingly.
If thoughts could be seen, a passer by could would have seen Abu Jwad’s thoughts too. They too were packed with fear. Fear he had grown so accustomed to, that he did not even question it any more. Fear of interfering, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of getting in trouble, fear of torture, fear of getting killed… Through the years, all that fear, punctured his soul in so many places, that he no longer had a soul, he just lost his soul somewhere on the way. Now that he reached the end, the fear was still there, but from what exactly?, was he too afraid to die, or too afraid to live?
Abu Jwad got up and ran from his nephews, it was a strenuous effort for him, yet somehow he managed.
“Cut the games you old freak.” Sa’ad said, as his uncle slipped from his grip like a lizard. He did not stop
“Hey, hey lets' go after him it's dark, we may loose him.” Ra’ad said. They chased him and backed him to a date palm.
“Now, now just sit down, and calm down” said Sa’ad.Abu Jwad was using the date palm for his advantage, to protect his back. He was kicking, scratching, and pushing.
He kicked Sa'ad on his knee.“Ouch, what are you possessed or something?” Said Sa’ad in pain.
Ra’ad and Sa’ad both punched their uncle at the same time. The old man collapsed. Yet, his back was still supported by the date palm; therefore, it was as if he just sat down to die.
Was his collapse caused by years of depression and hunger, or the stress of dodging death at every corner, or toxins that polluted every cell in his system ? Was it because he was so afraid that his heart could take no more?. That is hard to say. And whose blow actually ended Abu Jwad? Was it Sa’ad’s, or was it Ra'ad’s. Whose blow was stronger and faster? ? That’s not to be known unfortunately too. Many years may pass by till one may establish ; who was the one who delivered , that fatal ultimate blow .Knowing, that the deal was off. The young men went back home. They left their uncle frozen against the date palm, with a vicious expression fixed on his face, looking like a mad fiend.
A couple of days went by. No one came after Sa’ad and Ra’ad as they feared, so they decided it was safe enough to start looking for a buyer for the house.One night they were sitting drinking, after a busy day, apparently, cause Sa'ad was dressed in black and Ra'ad in white again.Sa’ad was drinking and telling Ra'ad about his day, when suddenly he stopped and stared at some invisible point in the space of the room. He thought he saw something, he shook his head and resumed his story. Then again he saw something. This time he fixed his eyes on the floating figure. It was flying round in circles, then going from one corner to another smoothly. The figure flew straight to the wall to the opposite of of Sa'ad, and then zoomed toward his face. Sa'ad winced and closed his eyes for a second . When he opened his eyes, there the figure was, flying around again . He knew who it was all right. The horrible beige rain coat left no second opinions on that, even if the face was much more pale and translucent, than it used to be. Sa'ad bashed his glass furiously on the wall and yelled.
“ Damn you Kleman! He and his bootleg booze. It is as rotten as he is. You would've thought we were paying him date pips instead of money . I'll show him him!” He stormed out of the house and went to a house around the corner. He kicked the gate shouting.-“
Kleman, kleman! you damn thief ! come out , you cheater”
Kleman was a hefty man, who had worked all his life with drunks. It was never easy to intimidate him. He was not intimidated, even when he was threatened by the militias and had to close his alcohol shop down. He just moved all the bottles he had in his shop to his house, and his customers just had to come to shop from there.
Kleman came out in a vest, pajama trousers and slippers yawning. He was one head taller than Sa'ad and twice as heavy. With his red hair, red moustaches, blue eyes and ruddy face, he only needed a helmet with two horns sticking out, to make him look exactly like a Viking.
“What are you yelling about?” Kleman said rubbing his eyes.
“Kleman, what is the problem? shouted his Mother from inside.“Nothing Mama. Go back to sleep” he said with his sleepy rumbling voice.
“Your booze is moldy. You should be ashamed of yourself. Don't you know who we are?. I can get you and all your Christian tribe kicked out of this area, if I tell you are selling munkar(6)” said Sa’ad in a frenzy.
Kleman unemotionally gathered the front of Sa'ad's black shirt in his oversized hands, and lifted Sa’ad him till their eyes were at one level.
“Listen darling, first, know one thing, wherever you reach I can reach higher. Do you think that you and your brother and uncle, who by they way I've not seen around for a while, are the only ones who drink bitter and sweet in this god forsaken town? Huh? So, don’t threaten me sweetness. Second, Christianity is not a tribe you moron.”
“Let me go,.. you… You thank your lucky stars you are still here. Do you think we will forget the Danish cartoons issue? No, oh no,.. judgment day is coming for all you infidels” Said Sa’ad choking.
“What Danish cartoons? what does that have to do with me anyway? Does this miserable street in anyway, look like a street in Denmark to you? Oh, I see, you are not drunk. You are just insane that’s it .” Kleman said , then he dropped Sa’ad and gave him a kick on his behind that landed him on the opposite door step, then he went back indoors yawing.
If Sa'ad was drunk to start with , now he was as sober as sober can be . He could not get up, so he just lay down there for a while. Not being able to do much, he cheered instead. He started with ‘Allah Akbar’ , followed it with a bit of ‘down USA’, but when he started to sing 'The Sun raised from Al O’oja'(7), he realised that he was just hysterical from the blow, and it is time for him to shut up.
Yes, one very wise man once said ; Arabs are actually a vocal phenomenon.
Sa’ad gradually raised got up and creped crept back home. When he entered , he saw Ra'ad crouching in a corner with both his hands covering his face whimpering. He understood immediately that his cousin had just had the same vision.“There, over there, there he is” he said pointed to the ceiling.Abu Jwad now was zooming downwards and hovering above the boys heads, like a B52 bombing an Iraqi village. He started chasing them all over the house. And eventually drove them out to the street.
The young men were running along the streets of Al Sadoon as fast as their legs allowed them. They ran and ran and ran, they passed houses, closed shops, buildings and farms. They did not even notice when they parted from each other. At a certain point they finally lost consciousness.
They were woken up by the late morning sun and the sadistic morning flies . Sa'ad and Ra'ad both opened their eyes at the same time in different parts of Baghdad. Sa'ad dressed in black woke up in AL Ghazalia with his militia ID pinned to his chest. Ra'ad, dressed in his white, rather short Dishdasha and bushy beard, woke up in AL Sader city.
As they both became aware, that they were in the street and not in their beds, they began to look around. Ra'ad was surrounded by tens of Shia children , women and men. He even saw a clergy man.
“Wait a minute, why is he here? What are all these people getting ready for?” he thought. His eyes automatically went to see what he was wearing.
Sa’ad looked around him to find himself surrounded by men in masks and a Camera pointed at his face, his eyes went automatically to see what he was wearing, and to the ID he had on his chest .
“Wait a minute, no, you wait a minute, I am under cover, I am in disguise”
“ Sure you are, sing us another song, will you “ the crowed replied.
Yes, there are many misfortunes in life that are much, much, much worse than death. A militia man in AL Ghazalia , and a Wahabi in AL Sader city! Life could not get any crueler.

That was not the last time Abu Jwad was spotted in.One morning in Damascus, a chubby lady, who was a bank employee at the same time, sat in front of her computer monitor to type something. She switched on her computer and on the screen appeared an old man's face; the face was sticking it's tongue out, wiggling it' s eyebrows , winking and smiling revealing no teeth at all. The image zoomed away showing the old man in full size wearing an awful raincoat.The figure was busy doing the Chobee(8) dance. Then it suddenly stopped and approached , started to come closer and closer , and then it looked in a threatening way and started to unfasten its raincoat. The chubby woman switched the computer off immediately. She ran and took a leave from her boss. When she got out in the street, she took a deep breath of the Damascus jasmine perfumed air.
“The bastard, I think I am pregnant. He did it again. The only thing that lazy jerk is good for is getting me pregnant. Six children and he did it again.”
One afternoon, an exceptionally pleasant employee in the British consulate, was sitting gazing from his office window. He saw this scruffy figure smelling the flowers in the garden. The employee stood up and moved closer. He recognized that old man. He ran outside, and the figure was gone. He returned to his place and there he it was again, smelling flowers , making a flower wreath and wearing it on his its head. This happened about three times. The employee finally went to the guard
“Yosif, did that Paki come again today?” he asked.
“What Paki Mr. ? “
“You know, that one who kept coming in, and asking stupid question, you know the one I told you to ban”
“Oh, you mean that Iraqi old man, no Mr. I never saw him since.”
The pleasant employee kept seeing the old man on various occasions, but never talked about it to anyone, Sanity is sometimes rather important for diplomats you know.
Also, the lawyer, who could get anyone out of anywhere, was chased by a mysterious flying old man, on several occasions, on his way back home returning from the places of his nocturnal dates with his many mistresses . The old man actually pushed the lawyer over a couple of times, into dirty water puddles, an accident he could not provide a logical explanation for, in spite of being the eloquent lawyer he was.
And finally, in a small graveyard just outside London, the old groundskeeper, told his mates in the pub one night that he is seeing a ghost in a raincoat sitting beside one particular grave every night.
“He just sits there weeping and knocking on the headstone.” he saidThe groundskeeper kept seeing that for a while, maybe a month or two, until once, as the ghost knocked as usual, and another ghost came out of the grave.
“They both held hands and danced all the way up to the sky.” he told the pub guests in a shaky voice.
“You don't go telling stories like that mate, someone may lock you up” his mates advised him.
“All right, I won’t.” the groundskeeper said looking at his glass in fear.

In a very different level of existence, in a place called Baghdad, a place that was still enduring it’s painful debilitating form of life , a place which looked bleaker than the English graveyard, dawn had arrived once again . A cool breeze blew, reminding the people, that there is a God above, and he has not completely forsaken them. Families were waiting outside the high concrete walls. Then about thirty scruffy men were let out of the gate and they scrambled towards there loved ones . Amar limped slowly carrying a note book with him, he was squinting in pain. His mother spotted him and she went towards him. He could not bring himself no matter how hard he tried to look her in the eyes . She held his chin and said :-
“Look at me my soul.”-
“I tried to be a man … but… “ he said looking at her for less than a second, then lowered his eyes again.-
“You are , you are a man, more than any of them in that cursed prison.”
Behind Amar’s back the mother saw prisoners kneeling and kissing the dusty ground, others were shaking their fists and spitting at the building they left behind .The mother kissed her son and made him rest his head on her shoulder. His nose touched her tender neck. As he took a deep breath of her familiar scent, he felt safe again, no army could take this scent away from him. He sobbed loudly .-
“There, there my heart , don’t you cry, leave all the crying to me, I have enough tears for the both of us “ said the mother .
She led him away. With all the others, they walked towards the sun; that cruel cruel sun, that blazed again and again stinging the wounds of the prisoners and their families. Trails of blood drew demonic mocking images on the dust behind them, as they were heading to the insatiable grinder, from which there seems to be no escape.

All the events and characters in this story are fictional,
and are the product of the writer’s twisted imagination

(1) In Iraq, when a person has a son or a daughter, he is called, as a way of celebrating the appearance of children in our lives, by the name of the child , for example you have a boy, you name him Ahmmed , from then on, you are called Abu Ahmed , which means the father of Ahmmed . or Um Ahmmed; the mother of Ahmmed. Also , as a form of anticipating the arrival of these children, every name is linked with a readymade son’s name, for example, Kadhum is Abu Jwad , Ali is Abu Hussien , Tareq Abu Ziad etc.
(2) Friend , was an honorary title, the party gave to devoted members , meaning the friends of the president . This title was invented sometime in the eighties.
(3) Al Hussien , the grandson of our prophet . The lord of all martyrs we call him, he sacrificed his life trying to defend Iraqis , who called for his help, as a result he was killed near Karbala. He is a symbol of peace , valor and honor to all Muslims.
(4) Safawi referring to the safawi kingdom of Iran.
(5) Al Sham ( Syria, Lebanon , Palestine) (6) Munkar, refers to all despicable deeds.
(7) The sun rises from al Oaja is a line from a famous song praising Saddam Hussein comparing him to the sun that raised and shined from his native village of Al O’oja (8) Chobee, A traditional Iraqi dance

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Once more hanging a name on a number

I know I am taking this war way to personally, but aren't all wars personal in one way or another?
Another dear friend of mine was murdered a week ago. He was in his mid sixties and he worked with me for a few months. One may contradict here and say that a couple of months do not exactly qualify him as a "dear friend". Well in reply I would say that sometimes people with whom you have spent years can hardly be called friends or even acquaintances without reservations. While a conversation with someone you have met for the first time can sometimes change the course of your life.

I won't start sulking and sniveling and telling you how devastated I was to hear about his murder, which of course I could do easily, since I am becoming weaker and weaker with every new blow. I am just going to say that the murder of this man showed me that you may be as cultured and educated as you wish, yet it only takes one barbarian to put an end to all that consciousness you have managed to muster throughout your whole life.

He belonged to a generation that we Iraqis all know so well. The generation, that was in its prime during the late fifties and the early sixties. The generation that was sent abroad to learn the ways of the foreigners " El Ajanib", so they may return afterwards to Iraq sweet Iraq and help in the creation of the good life.
When that generation returned to Iraq from Europe they were all called " Thawee Al Kafa'at" which means " those with high qualifications ".They were scattered all over universities, ministries , hospitals and factories. And while that generation was naively busy dreaming their heads off, the devil had better plans for Iraq. And you know the rest of the story :Those plans worked and the devil won the round with a blow, which Iraq is still bleeding from heavily till this very day.
Many representatives of that generation were killed during the eight year war. Many were arrested or driven out of the country, others survived it all to get slaughtered towards the dusk of their days, just like my friend.

I won't tell you what an enlightened educated man he was neither, and how optimistic he was when Saddam was finally conquered, and how desperately hopeful he was - like only a sixty year old could be- when he clung to the idea that democracy is not only a fairy tale, and that it could actually be achieved in Iraq . And I won't even bother to tell you how he refused to believe what was happening when hell mouth broke open in Baghdad .

I will only tell you that I will always remember him coming in to the office one morning with a plastic bag full of books for me, after having a discussion the previous day about our favorite writers . He liked the " Angry young men " wave. I knew a bit about them especially Wilson and Amis, but he gave me so much more information. And as extra material for me he brought along with him: " A room on Top" , "Look back in Anger" and -his favorite one- as he said "Saturday night and Sunday morning ".The book was an old paper back edition with the picture of Albert Finny on the cover.
'Oh wait a minute, Albert Finny was the one from Big Fish, right?' I asked.
'Yes , he is simply the best. I used to go and see him in plays when I was in England, later he started appearing in movies . A giant, a giant! Such a great actor' he said.
'You mean you have actually seen Albert Finny in real life ?' I said with wide eyes .
'Yes , he was so young back then, so was I by the way. My God, time is merciless ' he said and then followed his sorrowful reminiscence with a traditional English "Bloody Hell" .

He was transferred to another department in another office, but I kept in touch with him and often used to send him my regards. I was always delighted whenever he came over to our office for one reason or another. He was always sober, well-informed, and.. Yes optimistic.
I was told he was killed on his way to Syria . He and some other passengers were stopped by some group and forced out of their bus and executed .
When I heard, I was not angry or afraid like usual , I was just genuinely and deeply sad . I tried to push away the sadness by blaming him for not taking a plane. That technique failed completely. Who knows what his reasons were, so I gave in to grieve and cried for hours.

I remember he used to often tell us about his college days in England . Once, he told me and the others about the time when his English friends suggested that he and another friend from Africa should take dance lessons; " to help them blend in the era of the swinging sixties obviously " .
He told us how a middle age English dance instructor was assigned for this "mission impossible" :-
' My African friend was doing really well . He was a natural born dancer. In no time at all, he was floating around the dance floor with our teacher in his arms, looking like a handsome black panther. While on the other hand , I was like a drunken bear. I trod on the poor lady's feet with every step I made, and I was totally out of rhythm :
' Please Abdull… listen to the music when you are attempting to dance !" she used to say with watery eyes from pain . And the real tragedy was; that I was actually enjoying myself.
After a week or two she refused to train me further :
' Abdull..! there are two types of people : Dancers and you! ' , she said .
And that was the end of my choreographic ambitions, such a pity! don't you agree ? . When I was leaving I saw her standing outside with her husband. The gentleman was holding her hand comforting her, while she was telling him something . As I passed by I heard her whisper to him:
' That's him , That's him ' .
' Ah ' , her husband said looking at me with restrain .'

Those who killed him may have never ever held a book in their hands, or may have never ever listened to a tune of music.
I remember when I showed him a few of my stories , he said : ' Good , good , but why is there so much fear in your work ? huh? '.

When I think of those last minutes of fear in his life ; when he and the others were taken out of that bus , when those guns were put against their heads, I just black out.
Now I think of him and find myself wondering: Did the feeling of the gun's cold malicious metal against his temple send him back to England on a Saturday night and Sunday morning ?

Monday, February 19, 2007


my death bells ring and shake my veins,
and in my blood a longing darkens
for a bullet which deadly ice
might tear through my soul in its depths
hell setting the bones ablaze.

………. My death is a triumph.

Death and The River
By Badr Shākir al-Sayyāb

The day I died

A story Written by the Iraqi Roulette.

I dedicate this story to all those who were in the wrong place in the wrong time.

I heard the sound of the explosion and saw the blinding blaze. I gasped and closed my eyes. I think I shouted, "Oh, God save us", so did the other people walking in the marketplace. I heard their voices, and I felt the fire puffing in my face. But all that did not take more than a second. I tried to open my eyes, or utter another sound, yet that seemed unimportant at all. For the feeling I have now is incomparable. There is just no need…, no need at all to open my eyes or scream. There is only surrender, sweet surrender.

It is a feeling beyond words; when your eyes are closed, yet you can see. When your voice can not be heard, even if you scream, yet you can hear everything else.
Is this how death is then? Death? Is it possible that I have actually died? Has the thing that I have spent my whole life postponing finally happened?
Have you tried this feeling? No, of course you have not, you are alive. It is a feeling as if you are neither awake nor asleep. And my heart, my poor poor heart, is brimming with the feeling of beauty. Beauty bringing me to tears.
I remember that my voice faded away with all the other voices suddenly, not gradually, but straight away, just like what happens when electricity is cut off from an apparatus. After I had been one among others, my voice heard with their voices; my figure seen with other figures in one picture, I became all by myself. They all used to be with me, now I am completely alone, not only in this street, or in this country, but alone in the whole universe.
Someone told me, that the events of one’s life passes before him the instant he dies.That is not how it is exactly.
The moment I died, or when I realized I was alone, I had two questions occupying my mind persistently. The first: Did I say, “I witness that there is no God but God, and Muhammed is the messenger of God”? Yes, I said it. I did not actually pronounce it, but I said it with my heart and mind. Not before death, since I did not know yet that I was going to die, when I first heard the explosion. I said it when … when I repossessed my thoughts.
The second question was, what did the man who was drinking tea at my stand, say? I did not hear what he said and that bothers me.

Yet, the feeling of beauty that imbues me, and the feeling of love that fills my heart is enough to cover the whole world's need of beauty and love. This feeling is enveloping my whole life, and even my death. Everything seemed so beautiful; everything seemed to have ended so well. It does not bother me, that my wife and daughter are now alone, and that they have a whole harsh life ahead. Not at all, there is no need at all, there is no need for any sadness or fear, no need at all, and it will all be all right.
All the suffering, she and her mother will have to endure seems so small comparing to all the beauty I feel right now. If only I had this feeling and this certainty when I was alive! I could have toppled all the governments in the world, not just our government. I could have walked welcoming bullets with my bare chest. Is this the thing I have been afraid of all my life? Moments ago, I was cursing the heat, and foretelling danger, because of the Americans standing over there, "someone is going to hit them" I was telling myself, and I was right. But, that is really not important any more.
There is only serenity and love to feel now. Love is devouring me.

I love my daughter Haneen* . I saw myself with her on that day when I was alive, selling tea. The rain was pouring. People were scrambling. There I am in my usual corner in the market washing my istikans**, getting ready to go home. Haneen was doing her rain dance. My friends with their merchandise spread on the pavements, were all standing watching her and applauding. She knew them all; she used to help me collect the empty istikans from them. There is Haneen with her wet, short black hair, her eyes as black as olives, and she is wearing that little white dress of hers, the one with the little flower prints. She is bouncing from one puddle to another, filling the street with giggles like a little robin caught in a rain shower. She is landing in the puddle so strongly, that the water splashes violently, and then she bursts in laughter with all the others. After the laughter stops, she looks at the sellers and me quietly, and then she does it all over again jumping to another puddle. Anyone who saw us for the first time, used to think that she was my granddaughter, for I looked like a seventy-year-old man.

I love my wife. I see her now; there she is sewing, the other time baking, the other giving our women neighbors injections when needed, another time selling things from the house. I see my marriage, not my wedding, my marriage. After I returned from the front, with one leg, I married a neighbor of ours. She was a widow. I saw myself and my wife looking in each others eyes.What we had gone through in the past didn’t matter anymore. We decided to fall in love and we did.

I see myself when Haneen was born. I see my mother’s livid face and her saying : "Such a pity, it is not a boy, if only it had been a boy, you could have stood up tall son, your wife is no longer a girl and you are not healthy yourself . You may not have time for another go..., if only…” . While I that day could not see my way from all the tears of joy that gathered in my eyes. I was so happy.

I see Haneen when she started to understand and say her first words. One day when I was alive, I was lying down taking a nap after lunch. She came with her curly hair looking like a doll, she planted two little kisses on my closed eyes; a kiss on each eye. That picture lived and lives with me till ... till this day.

I love my friend. I see myself under heavy bombardment. My friend is soaking in blood. He is not moving. We were hiding behind sacks of sand. After the raid stopped they ordered us to withdraw. I ran to my friend. There was another soldier kneeling by his side trying to take my friend's anorak off. I threw myself on the soldier, choking with my own tears. "I just thought I may take it instead of them, my one is tattered" the soldier said, shocked by my attack. I took my friend's anorak off and gave it to the soldier. My friend's face was so blissful, as if he was enjoying a dream, or may be he was seeing what I am seeing now. I carried him on my back, praying and talking to him, as if he could still hear me, all the way to the back lines.

I see myself at the hospital, for the first time looking at my amputated leg. By my bedside, were my mother and father peeling oranges and wearing a brave expression on their faces. My father was telling me old stories, laughing loudly supported by my mother. They were babbling nonstop, trying their best to avoid any awkward silence that may impose itself. Each picking up where the other ends, with a smile more like a facial spasm than a smile. That was just before the war ended. I became an invalid and then the war ended after one month.

There I am too, with my cart selling at one time sandwiches, the other time popcorn, the other time crisps. In all the areas of Baghdad you are able to name: Bab al shargi , Alawi al Hilla garage, Al bayaa , Al Mansour … wherever I could find an extra crumb I went. Here I am selling tea. I sold tea for a long time. I used to take Haneen with me when she was four and five, so her mother may work too. Haneen used to help us whenever we needed.
I see myself with Haneen, and my wife is handing us tea, sugar and cardamom packs. Haneen is giving me her little arm to help me. I don’t remember anyone teaching her how to help me, but somehow she always used to run from side to side giving me anything I needed. Oh, the joy of all that. Even when she started school, she used to tell me that she misses me, and could not wait to come back home to me. I am so grateful for all that love.

I see myself with my parents carrying our baggage going to (…. ) when the second war started . All the relatives in Baghdad went over to other cities to trick death. We went to our uncles who lived in a village in the south. There we were safe. We used to hear far away explosions and that was it. Yet, after two weeks on a rainy day, we saw hordes of people coming towards the village. We stood at our doorstep, watching cars crawling slowly. At the sides of the same dirt road, hundreds of people were walking under the rain. The rain was pouring as if rivers were flowing from the sky downwards. Water from above and muddy water the color of coffee was running beneath their feet. Feet wearing shoes, feet wearing slippers, bare feet, small feet, big feet, old feet, young feet, men's feet, women's feet, children's feet… were all kneading the clammy mud. How could so many people make so little noise? How could they not utter a sound? The sounds of far explosions, the roaring of car motors and the sound of running water were the rhythm of that doomsday symphony.
There comes a family of our relatives from the town. When they all got out of the vehicle; there were fifteen of them packed in the old pickup truck. We asked; "how did you all manage to fit in that car, it is impossible?"
"Fear, fear is the miracle maker." their son who was driving replied.
They told us that leaflets were scattered on them from above, informing them to get out and stay at least 3 Km away from the town, because chemical weapons are going to be used to purge the town from traitors hiding somewhere. The entire town rushed out heading to villages, whether they had anyone to go to there or not. Chemical weapons were not used eventually. That does not mean that there were no scars. Fear scars were much worse than chemical weapons scars.

I see myself after returning to Baghdad. I am married now. I see myself afraid. I am not able to sleep at nights. Here I am counting every single Dinar, not understanding how a hundred Dinars is not enough anymore to buy a kilo of anything.
Now, I do not feel hunger nor fear, even my then fear seems silly and sweet just like children’s fear from a monster that exists only in their heads. How could I have not known all this peacefulness?

I see myself at my father’s death-bed-side. He is telling me what he always used to tell me: "Life has been so unfair to you son". When we carried his coffin through our narrow lane, with all its crumbling from time and wars houses, it could not hold all the good people who came to say farewell to him. My father looked like a skeleton clad with thin worn-out skin. When we washed him for the last time, my uncle said to him: "We commend you to God and his messenger."
"Take a rest father" I said. Did he feel the way I do now? , I hope so.

The wind changed, and the scales were imbalanced once again. We did not know whether we were awaiting good or evil.

I see myself with all the sellers and the buyers, the porters, the beggars, with all the children walking with their hardened black feet, as they push their carts through packed markets.

I see the oppressors and the oppressed. I love them all, so little do they know, I feel sorry for them. Why should they fear, Why should I be afraid? After all this peace, I have experienced. If I am to go now, I am safe, my mother, my wife and Haneen are all safe too. My life from here seems wonderful and precious, every moment of it. Their lives too will seem precious when it ends. Yet, I have two questions occupying my mind persistently. The first: if I am to return, will this feeling of safety remain with me? or will it desert me ?
The second am I dead or not? I am waiting to know.

*Haneen is an Arabic name which means nostalgia
** Istikans are very small glasses used to drink tea in Iraq

Sunday, February 11, 2007


To civil war or not to civil war, that is the question !

I think this tragic period is coming to a climax. Naa, just kidding, cause we've said that before . Whenever we say that things can not get any worse , fate surprises us sticking out it's tongue saying 'Guess what! it can! .'
We have been talking for ages now about the tragedy of people being driven out of their houses . Nobody mentioned it till ; ta daaaa, we have ,over night, 1 million displaced Iraqis within Iraq. It is a tragedy beyond words. Imagine having to leave your house and everything you ever worked for behind you and run for your sweet life. Thousands and thousands of people are in the middle of nowhere, in tents living in appalling situations, within Iraq I repeat, cause not everyone has relatives in the south or the west of Iraq. Shias and Sunnis just happen to live in Baghdad -for generations now- , and they do not necessarily have backup relatives in other parts just in case the whole country goes berserk.
All that has been going on for quite a while, but now that they are talking about it all over the world, our lot over here start to take sudden interest, in other words, when a foreigner brings it up , then the officials take the trouble of looking in to the situation. And will they a actually help the people? or will they neglect them again once the smoke clears. In fact many people are starting to accept the whole situation and are dealing with it as a matter of a fact. What else can you do! when they come for you, you have to move and do not try to be a wise guy.
A friend of my father was driven out of his house last week . No big deal you may say, it is happening every minute in Baghdad these days . Well, that is not the news actually. The news is that he is a Sunni and has been driven out by Sunnis . How is that? Well, he had a Shi'i neighbor, who was threatened and had to leave his house, So my father's friend helped him move and promised to take care of everything for him till things get back to normal. And he agreed with this Shi'i friend to bring a Sunni tenant for him. That is a procedure widely followed now, to insure that the house is at least in trustworthy hands, instead of being invaded by total strangers . Then a week ago masked men came with guns and knocked the door on my father's friend , ranting and raging .
- 'What did I do?' he asked them .
- 'You helped that so and so,why did you do that ? why are you sticking your nose where it does not belong?' They said .
- 'Look I am a Sunni just like you and …' he said trying to calm them down.
- 'We know that, and we know you are the one who brought a tenant. How dare you bring a tenant whom we do not approve of !' They interupted him.
- 'He is a Sunni, you want a Sunni area , so what is your problem?' The man replied sensing the danger more and more.
- 'You and that new tenant of yours, must clear off by tomorrow morning or else' the threat was clear enough.
Of course, the men packed and went to another area . That proves that people of that sort do not have a strict moral agenda . May be they wanted the house for themselves or to store things in , and my dad's friend unwillingly interfered with their plan, I don’t know .
That is mostly what happens when a thug is responsible for your safety. Most times it is even worse than the danger you are being protected from itself. But the people are not to be blamed . With no one else to protect you, no reliable police, no law someone is bound to step in to do the job and fill the gap . People once more, as it happened before in history of Iraq, handed over their freedom in exchange for protection.

Yesterday, on the news they said that the new security plan is a bit behind schedule-wait a second and allow me to wipe my tears and get a sip of water cause I am choking with laughter - Schedule! . And that is not the worse, they also said that they were behind schedule cause they could not agree on which areas they are to start with , Shi'i areas or Sunni areas , that was actually reported on the news .

Also, I saw an interview yesterday on AL Hurra with AL Alawi, a prominent historian and philosopher . It was really depressing, yet realistic . He said when asked about his predictions : 'You can not stop a tumbling rock from a high mountain, and building dams once the typhoon stars Is futile' . When he said that I wanted to chew my pillow from frustration .

When I went to the office today , we exchanged the weekend's news as usual . I really get worried about Abu S... since his area is often hit with mortars. These days he is really busy, cause his grandchildren are taking their exams. Abu S... got more involved in their lives since their father ( his son S...) was killed.
I was updated that my Boss' neighborhood was searched by the Americans during the weekend . Abu S…'s neighborhood was searched by the Iraqi Army . My Boss said they searched the whole street one house at a time . My Boss, being a sophisticated man, speaks English, Arabic and Swahili so did not need a translator, he answered all the questions all by himself . He said that they searched quietly and left after thanking him.
Abu S… said that he was fast asleep when the Iraqi Army came to search his house.

- 'I always cover my face with a blanket when I sleep, so I couldn't hear anything . Apparently they searched the rooms downstairs and the roof and then they entered my room' He told me when we were taking our break .
- 'And you were asleep in the middle of all this?' I asked him curiously.
- 'Yes , they found our gun and asked my sons who it belonged to . My son said it belongs to the Haji . So the officer said to him 'And may we take a look at this Haji ?' My son said yes and removed the cover from my face then I woke up .'
- 'My God you are a light sleeper aren't you? And what did the officer do? did he run out the room or scream, I mean how did he react?' I said pulling Abu S...'s leg as usual.
- 'Why should he ?' he answered frowning .
- 'Well, you say you were asleep which means that you did not have your false teeth on, so his fear would be understandable ' I said .
- 'You are making fun of me huh?, for your information I was once a very handsome young man that’s how Um S… fell for me.' He said laughing .
- 'Yes I remember, that was when Moses split the river wasn't it? I remember you and Um S… were dating back then.' I said making a reminiscing expression.
- 'Well lets see you when you are all wrinkly and old.' Abu S… said raising his eye brows .
- 'Oh, you are an optimist after all . Do you think that I am going to live till I reach that age? With all this going on . I don't think so Monsieur, besides I am not that young any more'.
-'Comparing to me you are' he sighed .
- 'Anyway, isn't your area any safer with all that searching ' I asked him .
- 'No, not a bit , and your area?
- 'From bad to worse. Our street is practically empty, it is just us and two other families . You know what most are doing now? they are preparing their essentials in a bag just incase one has to run . I tried to do that the other day , but I could not make up my mind what is more essential to me .' I told him as I gazed from the window
- 'Don't worry, when the time comes, you'll find that your dear life is the most essential thing to carry with you .' he said warming his hands on his stove .
- 'Yep' I agreed

Monday, January 22, 2007


Don't you just love it when it's windy!
It is as if nature is suddenly all eventful and thrilled about something. With all those Cotton-wool clouds chasing each other playfully around a pale blue playground, all the trees chanting only for you as they perform their green dance, the wind caressing your face and running millions of loving invisible fingers through your hair ….
Well, that is how it should be! . Yet ,when I walked yesterday morning to the office , -the car did not arrive for some reason- , the picture was completely different from the one I described above.
Do you remember that unforgettable scene, when Dr. Zhivago and Lara were walking. The wind was blowing gently. Golden and bronze leaves were dancing at their feet, as if the film's theme music was actually orchestrating them as they swiveled in a ballet masterpiece, ha, do you? do you ? . Well, the scene, which I saw was absolutely nothing like that either.
Yesterday, it was a windy morning in Baghdad alright, yet instead of the multicolored leaves , thousands of shredded plastic bags , newspapers, rags , empty cans, plastic bottles , dirt and all sort of garbage items were flying all over my street.

The garbage car has not been coming to our area for several weeks now. The last time they came, they told us that our area is getting too dangerous, and it is getting harder for them to come and clear up the streets.
You know, that is what I really love about Iraq; Everyone is just as important as the other . The Minister and the garbage collector have the same problems ; both are subjected to political assassination! .
I kicked a black plastic bag, which tangled around my foot with disgust. As I marched along I saw a cat lying on the pavement , it did not move as I approached it , cause it was dead. What ?, they assassinated the cat too?. God almighty in heavens! Won't you do something about it already .
I decided before I went any further to give my boss a call, just incase it was not a working day, cause everything seemed suspiciously quiet , except for the far thuds I heard minutes ago. My Boss answered me yawing, apparently he was fast asleep. 'I am sorry to wake you up Ustath , do we go to the office today?'. 'Why isn't it a holiday? ,the first of Muharam? , anyway you can go back home if you want, I don't think I'll be able to come anyway, and if the rest call I'll tell them to go home too'.
Great!, now why didn't I get the brilliant idea to phone him before I went out? Only God knows. An intellect failure alarm echoed in the creepy street.

Everyone has been trying to keep a less active life style lately . If you can afford to stay home, just stay. The phrase ( New Security Plan ) makes everyone cringe .
The days are full of assassinations and car bombs, while the nights… yes, the nights , what can I tell you about the nights … You do not have to actually fall asleep to find yourself in the middle of a terrifying nightmare. Baghdad nights are nightmares as it is. Let me describe Baghdad nights ; they are so dark as if an evil spirit has spread out a measureless venomous black table cloth over the city, and sat down to feast on all the dead. And even when there is a full moon in the sky, it does not help to alleviate the darkness of these sinister nights. The moon usually emits a yellow ill light , or sometimes a full inflamed red moon middles the sky of Baghdad heralding a new massacre at the break of dawn .
Bullets shots sounds , explosions sounds , and dogs howls, compose Baghdad's lullaby, to which worn out bodies and minds fall asleep every night , not knowing and not caring if there will be a next morning .
For me night time is daunting, I am twice afraid after dark , I just can not help it, , it is illogical at all , I guess it is innate, I feel safer under the sun , in spite of, that all evils have been and are being committed under that same old sun for quite a while.

In clear nights when you can see trillions of tiny stars , I often ask myself a hypothetical question ; If all Iraqis, that have been killed, and all those Iraqis who are yet to be killed , were all killed at the exact same moment, and if all of them screamed at the same instant, would creatures from alien civilizations in far galaxies hear that scream, would little green men look down or up towards that small speck called earth and towards the even smaller speck called Baghdad and wonder; How could a place so small and in a period of time so irrelevant absorb so much pain? . Would they come up with an equation formulated especially for us like:
B = PA2 . where B is Baghdad , P is Pain and A is agony
In Baghdad Ala'a Al Deen gave up his dreams and left Jasmine to face her own destiny alone , the forty thieves have multiplied like cancer cells and killed Ali Baba and Qasim and dumped them on a deserted street , Hamaourabi caught a flight to Jordan leaving Mesopotamia behind with tears in his eyes. He decided to seek the secret of immortality elsewhere .

People are doing what each and every one can do . Those with a few extra dollars are getting out, those with no dollars to spare are facing their destiny with panic in some cases, and with courage or surrender in other cases.
The new security plan introduced itself with the bombing of Al Mustansirieh college, and that said it all for many . Reports say , that the Army will blockade parts of Baghdad in turn . In fact the siege of Adhamieh started this morning .
The other day I watched a program, where one clergy man was saying, that he foresees the invasion of Baghdad by Iranians, cause they have the needed recruits and arms inside the city , they just have to attack and the city will eventually fall like a ripe fruit in their hands. So, in other words this will actually be a fight for Baghdad between Iranians and pro Iranian Iraqis on one side and the Americans on the other, while Iraqis, I mean real Iraqis will be fighting for their city independently.
It is also believed widely that Iraq is going to be divided, and all this is a prelude for that . Whatever you decide to believe , it dose not change the fact that people are mostly pessimistic .

My friends ,who left earlier this year, are now in different parts of world, they call me and they ask me on regular basis : 'Aren't things a bit better ? we are really suffering here' .
To which I reply :
- Don't you people watch the news, can't you see what the hell is going on over here ?
To which they reply:
- Well, we were thinking that, you know… with the new security plan and all ..
To which I reply, "irately now" :
- What the hell .. , I mean I never understood those foreigners, not knowing what is going on in Baghdad , I mean how misinformed can one be for God's sake? , but then I excuse them , of course I do , they have better things to do in life than watching all the three seasons of Hell mouth /Iraq ; Hell mouth opened , Hell mouth reloaded, Hell mouth unplugged … and the peek trailer of Hell mouth forever . And why should they know?, I mean do I know what is going on in Timbuktu or Bangladesh .. But you lot , you have been here , and God with his boundless mercy and grace got you out in time, so…
To which they reply;
- It is no heaven over here too, we are strangers, east or west home is best.
To Which I reply in my "foreboding voice tone, which I use on special occasions" ;
- Listen to me , I am going to issue a statement here, read my lips -as George Bush senior used to say- ; I swear by everything and everyone I believe in ; Allah, his messengers and Angels, and also Kafka, Chekhov , Jean Paul Sartre, Bernard Shaw and Gromit. If you come back I'll throw you a welcoming party and kill you all one by one …
- Oh yeh, and how are you going to do that?, wear your best party explosive belt ?
- I'll come up with something . May be I'll just cook for you. Death disguises itself in many ways you know. Stay the hell where you are , believe me you'll thank me in ten years time . Toughen up and stop moping, and remember children; Alive is good, dead is no good.
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