Thursday, September 28, 2006


The Holiday is over; Long live death.

I am sitting in a semi empty office after my friends leaving to the unknown. One of them phoned me from the airport the other day, to say goodbye just once more. I said ‘look, please I am not in the mood to cry again, just go already’. ‘I'll send you a message every day’. The trembling voice came from the other end.
I sat the first couple of days changing the office’s rooms decoration. Rearranging things that did not need to be rearranged at the first place, just to keep my self occupied .The boss gave me a fresh load of work; It was the first time in my life I was thankful for that!

Abu S.. is really spoiling me, now he has less people to care about.

The situation is worsening, although that is hard to imagine, I mean what could be worse than people being slaughtered under the noses of the world, but apparently it can get worse and worse, there are just no limits to that. You think you hit the bottom already, but hell no!, the bottom is place hard to define.

This morning, a senior employee came in to say goodbye to us. He managed to get a job in Jordan. The usual curtsies and promises to contact us followed. The amazing thing is that, I got really upset, although the man was not a friend of mine . Why should that bother me?. I am experiencing the same worry and fear, whenever someone comes to say goodbye, what the hell is that ? Some sort of a new chronic condition or something ? .
After a bit of pondering and analysing, I realised what these symptoms mean. May be I am not really upset because I may not see them again, or that I am worried for them, as much as being concerned and worried about myself. If everyone is leaving they must know better. I mean it can’t be that all of them are crazy and I am the only sane one.

It is like they are all leaving me in a dark dungeon and the door will soon be locked irreversibly and, what next; screams, bats flying around me, rats crawling at my feet and … there is no and, the end is predictable . I am actually afraid, terrified from the future, that is a bad sign!. As Lawrence of Arabia said once; Defeat only comes from within you.

The other day we heard of an old employee in some Ministry, who was kidnapped. The kidnappers, in the process of demanding money were actually giving the wife suggestions to go to this or that neighbour or friend to help raise the money (they were beating the hell of the man to give them relatives names, who may help, after being convinced that he really does not have the amount they had in mind).

Another one; a doctor had his teenager son kidnapped, the abductors demanded a ransom. The father managed to get it. He submitted the ransom, they thanked him heartedly, ‘where is my son?’ he asked them, ‘Oh yes, of course, here he is’, they said and opened the car trunk and threw the young corpse at the good Doctor’s feet.

A priest in a poor church in Al Doura was kidnapped. The neighbours “Muslims and Christians” raised the money and gave it to the kidnappers. The old father was released finally, but there was not one single bone in his body in place, his legs arms nose, teeth, head ..etc were all broken . Well, I guess the kidnappers decided; If he is a man of God, now is his chance to test his faith! . It is Saddam’s dungeons all over again, I tell you .

Another One? Well why not. A family of beggars, that live in a shed on an empty piece of land in a middle class area, were nearly burnt alive by gunmen, in order to purify the area from them. Cause they are Shia riffraff , and must go back to the south. The family escaped, and no one knows where they are. They were harmless creatures, that made a living for the last 15 years from the neighbours, when they were too young to work by charity, and when they grew up by selling vegetables, gas tubes and bread. But who cares sacrifices must be made on the altar of the new republic of fear.

More? No I am tired.

What is evil anyway? Is it violence ? Is all violence bad? Can there be violence that is actually good? Can evil lead to good eventually?
questions questions that must be answered before my train arrives .

Many think that evil leads to good eventually, how you say? . Well it goes something like this “according to them of course I don’t think so” ; Lets say an old pervert abducts a child. He rapes, tortures and kills the child. Evil ? is it not ?. Yes, in the purest form . But no, it is actually good . Cause the brutality of the crime will make people more aware and more vigilant in order to prevent this kind of things from happening again . Laws will be changed accordingly and more perverts will be punished subsequently, and… well, that is good isn't it? . well, not from the child’s and his family’s point of view.

What makes a criminal?. Are people born that way or do they acquire evil on their troubled way in life? . I guess both.

And how do we recognize evil? How do we define evil and how do we define good? Is evil ugly? Not necessarily. Is evil dull? On the contrary; it is very attractive; remember Lord Henry Watton from Dorian grey, he is the most interesting character in the book. And Satan in The “Master and Margarita” ? He was the incarnation of wit, intellect and charisma. Even De Sade is thought by some people to be cool!

When someone is killed or mutilated we say that is evil. Does that mean that death is evil? , Pain is evil? . That is also not a rule. In some cases pain can be purifying and death can be a form of salvation.

I came also to notice that evil is always good in the eyes of the perpetrators. In other words one man’s evil is another man’s good. To kill and torture can be justified completely, in the name of God, progress, love, peace, race…etc. Even if we go back to our old pervert's example, the whole thing was good for him, but evil for the child. And that is very frustrating of course, cause if we cannot count on the criminal’s conscience and remorse to make evil stop although to a degree, what else can we count on? . More evil I guess.

So, how can this end? Where do we draw the lines? . And the most important issue is who draws these lines, also the time –era- in which these lines are drawn can be of significant importance. The holocaust was good and necessary according to the Nazis, witch hunting was good and necessary, Stalin’s concentration camps were good and necessary . to cut a long story short ; I am always good and the others are always evil. That is where it all starts and ends. And this is exactly what is happening here; all are right, and all are wrong.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Journey to heal .

How much more peaceful can it get?
Beauty The Saviour.

The reader ( Sulaimaniah Central Library)
veni, vidi, vici
Mountains ; The immortal witnesses.
Streams of silver.

Sulaimaniah from above

Friday, September 08, 2006


Time; approximately three weeks ago on a steamy July morning. The camera zooms slowly towards the three employees sitting in their worn out office . Two of them were obviously hot, they were fanning their faces with paper fans frantically. The third was furious; standing up and sitting down repeatedly, pacing the small room . Needless to say the third was me.
- So, you traitors are going to leave me finally are you ? . Go ahead, leave me on the board of Titanic . Oh and by the way, don’t forget to send soapy e-mails saying how much you miss the date palms and the Tigris and that you are listing to Elham al Madfai night and day , go ….
- Come on, quit the drama will you! you encouraged us yourself didn’t you ?
- Yes, I suppose I did. It’s just that I‘ll miss you so much , and besides I said goodbye to enough friends already ! That is not fair . Actually , I’ve said goodbye to so many friends it is getting weird. What is this some kind of a role fate has endowed me with?. To stand on the ruins, with wet eyes, waving a white hanky, while you all cross over .
- If we find anything appropriate for you, we will submit your CV, and may be you will come over too .
- Ahh… your predecessors said that too , but as soon as you reach there, you will have your own problems ….
I was so miserable when I got back home that day . It is funny how it never gets easier to say goodbye with the years , I ought to have learned by now , but nooo, who me? learn? never!!! .
There was one little light at the end of the tunnel though . A relative submitted my novel to a well known writer . I was told, that the writer wanted to meet me and he even gave my relative his number to phone him and arrange an appointment . He said : -My relative quotes- “ hmmmm… there is talent and an obvious sense humanity in what I’ve read, I must see the writer , I wouldn’t write like that myself, it is a different approach , but still quite interesting, we must talk ” .
That was the happiest day in a long time . My friends usually like what I give them to read, one of them even phoned late at night sobbing cause my hero died . But, I always have my doubts when they say they like my work , may be they are just being nice to me . Now this is a professional opinion . I hope something good comes out of this , and even if nothing happens, I am still happy with what the writer said.

His Dad’s ship decided that we all are due for a break, after all the shooting and abductions that has been going on for ever , and especially now with our neighborhood looking like a deserted wild west town set from an old movie . All our neighbors have either left for their home towns “ although they don’t really belong there at all “, others left to Jordan, Syria or Egypt in hope of thing clearing up by the time schools start this Autumn.

We were shipped to the north for a break . I love the north and have very warm childhood memories from there . So, off we went to Sulaimaniah, and from it we were to carry out our healing journey over the rocky paradise .

I had never been to Sulaimaniah before, so I can not say whether it has improved or not , but, Kurds and Arabs who have been there recently, all agree that it is going to be a big big deal in the near future .
On our way to our hotel after a lousy trip on the Iraqi Airways . Lousy due to the state of the airport , and the way employees treat you there. We had to wait in long lines , dragging our bags back and forth for checking by human beings and dogs . Ok, supposedly it has to be done for a safer Iraq , yeh as if….. But why do they have to be so rude .
We tried to make the best of it by making fun and commenting about everything we disliked; for example :
Why is it, that all security employees are addressing each other as ‘Saed or Mawlana’ ; giving the impression , that they are descendants of the prophet , which is extremely questionable. The security employees in the time of Saddam used to emphasize on the ending sound “UO” in a verb, indicating that they are from the city of Tikrit “even if not true” . So you could hear them chanting “ Kitlou” instead of the Baghdad(ian) way of saying “ Kitleh” . Now everyone is suddenly talking Chinese with all their “Cha Cha Cha “ going on, indicating that they are from the south “ even if not true too” .
I was told off twice I think . I put my bag where I shouldn’t have for “His Eminency The Dog” to sniff . Another passenger to ease the tension, joked with me saying “I wish I worked here instead of that dog. They keep him in an air-conditioned room you know, no power cuts whatsoever , lucky dog”.

As soon as we arrived in Sulaimaniah, we could see, that there is clearly a construction fever going on in the city. Buildings, buildings and more buildings . Most of them are fancy, high, modern building with plenty of reflecting blue glass to resemble the buildings of UAE everyone has in mind .
The city is quite immaculate and safe . No problems, no traffic jams no shooting – not one shot -. Families and even women alone are seen walking around the city late at night with no one bothering them or harassing them .
We enjoyed the scenery, the whole city being surrounded with mountains .The sunsets were divine, also the electricity was divine. I actually felt cold at night but I was too greedy to switch the air conditioner off , preferring to freeze to death instead.

People there were marvelous; taking everything easy , hurrying no where , listening to music while walking in parks . And I must say and reveal to the world that Sulaimaniah is a city of picnickers . Wherever, whenever there is a possibility they just have a picnic .
On the way up to the mountains, as we drove there were always folks sitting under a tree , in parks, in private gardens with a matt in spread in front of them, barbequing and eating the delicious juicy meat as soon as it is taken off the fire. When I mentioned that there are way to many picnics in Sulaimaniah going on to our driver -who spoke little Arabic- , he objected :
- No , that is not so, just you wait till the weekend comes and you’ll see for your self then , not one sole stays indoors everyone is out.
Amazing, you stop and say hello to someone and he or she shoved a Sheesh Kebab in front of you, in case you are hungry . And I could not understand why do they have to go up the mountain or to any park, while heaven itself opens it’s doors in the back yards of their own houses.
In Sulaimaniah I did not see any pictures of Jalal Talabani , except maybe on one Police building . People over there criticize and tell jokes about him openly, while Arbeel and Dhok has a different story. Pictures of the holy Trinity are everywhere – The father , Son and the holy prime minister “you know the one that looks like Alfred Molina” - .

When the driver asked where we wanted to go on the following days, so he may arrange it, everyone named a place they had in mind . I wanted to go to Salah Al Deen, I remember going there to spend holidays as a child . It was beautiful as I recall it, especially the complex they called the Swiss village -it was build by a Swiss company apparently- . It was located on top of the mountain Se Reh Resh, there were skiing slopes , cottages, play grounds, restaurants , a movie theatre …etc it was magnificent especially during winter time .So I insisted : let’s go to Salah AL Deen and Se Reh Resh . The driver laughed and said : No you can’t go there now, the whole area has been taken by the Barazanies.
- What! the whole area?.
- Yep , the joke goes ; Se Reh Resh has been taken by the Se Reh Sur .
He explained that Se Reh Resh means the Black Head in Kurdish , referring to the mountain, cause there are so many trees on top, it looks black from a distance. While Se Reh Sur means the Red Head . We all know, that Barazani wraps a red Koufieh around his head . So, Se Reh Resh has been taken by the She Reh Sur means; The Black Head has been taken by the Red Head ..

We went on a long road journey to Dhok. It lasted about four hours with all the stops we made on the way .
The mountains were surrounding us from all directions, the roads were coiling like snakes for miles as we drove on .The combination of soaring mountains, springs of chaste cold water bursting out of rocks like words of love, green trees and continuous blue skies adorned with fluffy cotton-white clouds... all washed away the gory streets of poor ailing Baghdad from my head for a while . I was thinking all the way long; How could anyone think of harming anyone else , while there is so much beauty on earth , Where are you Feodor Michaiolovich Dostoevski? , I Totally agree with you when you say “Beauty will save the world” !!!

The city of Dhok reminded me of Al Adhamiah a bit, with it’s old streets and crowded markets . Also, the dress code is more strict there than in Sulaimaniah.
There is one huge super market everyone told us we must see , so we succumbed . Also we went to a place called The dream Park it is an amusement park with lots of games and marry go rounds and roller coaster. I tried them all including games designed initially for toddlers.

The resorts of Dhok and on the way to Dhok are beautiful, not because they have actually done anything to improve them. In fact I think they are just the same as Saddam had left them. But nature itself needs no modifications, just a few old dirty plastic chairs and a table in the shade of some trees, with a waterfall beside you , hearing nothing but the gurgling water streams and the chirruping birds, what do you need more ha ? tell me please! . And that’s how we mainly spent our time in Dhok and its summer resorts ( Soulaf, Saratook , Zawiita …). We were eating and drinking in such settings , savoring the peace and quiet the place offered so generously.
Although, -I must mention this- , in the evenings after, a whole day of running around , splashing everyone with water and climbing rocks, I came back naturally exhausted and should’ve dropped asleep as soon as I reached my bed, but noooo , I was sulky and on the verge of tears and couldn’t induce sleep no matter how hard I tried , it was almost funny . I practiced self analyses with my poor sleepy sibling one of those times in attempt to understand what had possessed me :
-Why am I feeling so weepy? , help me out here will you ! can’t you see it is
about to rain .
- May be it is because you are home sick? .
- You mean, that since I am an Arabic Bedouin, all this foliage and water and mountains is not my natural environment , naaaa… next theory please .
- May be, – yawning- all this activity is getting you too exited. You know, just like it used to be on those times when we used to come back home after a whole Friday of playing and eating at our Aunt’s house in the south when we were kids, you remember ; we used to cry ourselves all the way back to Baghdad.
- You mean at this old age I am experiencing a weird untimely form of regression to childhood nice try Dr. Frued , but naaaa .
- ZZZZZZZZZZZZ – snoring -
- I know, I think it is that my system is not used to peace any more, it is used to the daily dosage of violence , it is just like when you are addicted to drugs or alcohol , You can’t switch at once to orange juice and boiled vegetables. It will make you just as ill at the beginning . That’s it, I am not crazy after all, I am just sick….... are you sleeping ?.

When we returned to Sulaimaniah , we wandered around the city more consciously. We went to the central library . Of course, we were not allowed to go in to the halls without registration , but still we enjoyed the architecture .We also went to an art exhibition of paintings inspired by Halabcha, it was very disturbing, that it brought me back home directly.

The people there were very friendly , asking us about Baghdad and trying their Arabic with us. I was sitting in the hotel café once when one waiter asked in perfect Arabic
– Have you got a kadhum CD on you ?
Kadhum ? which Kadhum ? , my brain went to the less likely as usual.
- The Imam? I asked stupidly .
- No , hell… I mean Al Saher .
- No , Sorry .
- I used to live in AL Karada, all my life I lived there , but we had to leave . I am listening to these Kurdish songs I really can not understand . I really miss Baghdad , I swear as soon as things get back to normal I’m going back home.

You know, there is a this thing that is emerging in new Iraq . A concept called -The inner Emigrant - . I mean Iraq is full nowadays of people, who are living in places they do not want to live in . I mean this boy is a Kurd , but he feels that his home is Baghdad.
After our neighbor was killed his family was threatened and they had to move to Karbala , which they hardly know . That’s right… drive the kurds back to the north and Shias south and Sunnis west against their will . Who will remain in Baghdad then ? I don’t even feel like answering that question.
A taxi driver said to us sympathetically in Sulaimaniah:
- Allah is seeing and he will help you out of this believe me . Look fifteen years ago it was awful around here too . During the day time Jalal ruled , yet as soon as the call for evening prayers was heard in the city , Masoud started ruling till the next morning , and they fought their brains out; their armies were killing each other in the streets and innocent people suffered, they even starved . After fifteen years it worked itself out, look at us now , he pointed from his car window . It all worked out with Allah’s mercy .

I witnessed some Phenomena(s) while in the north . Besides the majestic lofty mountains I actually saw a Kurd that liked Saddam . I don’t know how to explain that and make it as clear as possible . Well, the closest comparison I can think of is a Jew that loves Hitler! . He was a shop keeper we brought things from, and we chatted with him a little and he said, that if Saddam was to come back things will all be back to normal again , we need a man like him he said !!!
Another phenomena that was not less amazing to me was, that the Americans were walking around the streets of Dhok freely; dinning in restaurants, riding roller costars in parks , buying things, chatting with the locals. It was amazing to see a soldier walking around in uniform in populated neighborhoods and staying in one whole piece .

Another rather sad and frustrating thing was that there are still- in spite of all the claimed welfare in the north- , there are still little children ages from 5-15 that have to hit the streets and work . Poverty is still a fact over there . An issue such as child labor should have been solved by now , you would have thought . Practically babies are working as shoe shiners , sellers and porters , which is a horrifying fact there just as it is here .

We left Sulaimaniah at dawn . Our plane was supposed to take off at 6 in the morning . So we started off at about 4:30 .
It was still dark and the city slept in the shadows of the mountains . The streets were illuminated sufficiently .The stores had their lights left on too. Fancy merchandises only had large glass windows to guard them , unlike Baghdad’s shops fronts , that has to be suffocated by dull iron meshes .
So long, city of barbeques and picnickers, I leave you to enjoy your well earned endless holiday.

When we were delayed for two hours in the airport for no obvious reasons by the Iraqi airways , I said to my sibling :
- Oh , no that again , are we going to be searched at Baghdad’s airport again? are we going to be yelled at ? tell me so I may apply my skin thickening ointment.
- No , they wont , we’ll take a taxi and leave straight away , it is only on the way out they check the bags.
The airplane was squealing and the window could do with a good polish. Also we had to hurry inside the plane to get to a seat as soon as you can , or else one could be left without a seat , yeh… just like in a village buss, if you don’t hurry you’ll miss your chance to sit . And it happened, three men were without a place to sit, so one of the stewards asked them to come with him , may be he took them to sit in the pilot’s cabinet or the bathroom , who knows . Shouldn’t there be some safety regulations to prevent taking more passengers than the plane can take?.

- By the way as I recall and as my experience and common sense suggests; the airplane stewards must be tall, thin, handsome and youngish , why are these old, fat and bald . Look, look this one must move sideways in the plane’s aisle, he is too fat to move straight, his belly is even bigger than Dad’s belly. Wait he is actually the same age as Dad , What the hell…. – I said -
- Shhshhh , Yeh, well may be these ones refuse to leave their places since the eighties, may be they have connections how the devil should I know .
- I don’t want to eat that muffin, they gave us one the last time , do you think he will hit me if I refuse ?
- Who? that bald one , yeh he looks fierce , just take the damn thing will you and let me get some sleep .
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