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.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


As time goes by.

What a New Year's day! , and what an Eid! .
They just had to do it on that occasion. The nation waited for 35 years, yet it just could not wait for a few more days, could it? .
I guess he had it coming long ago. He determined his fate with the first murder he committed, when was that?. Well, historians disagree on this matter. Some say it was when he was twelve . On one ordinary school day a teacher scolded him, so little Saddam decided to give his teacher a private unforgettable lesson. A teacher can learn from a student too you know. Other historians say his first crime dates back to the early sixties, when he first started sieving his opponents and friends with the same proficiency.
Whatever the truth is, he had it coming . He was old enough to know, that good boys don't kill , good boys don't use chemical weapons to wipe out villages, good boys don't lead nations to destruction and good boys do not chop off tongues and ears .
I remember back in the stone ages , like all Iraqi families when getting together , we used to talk about him and even tell political jokes, keeping of course our voices reasonably low , -all Iraqi families will identify with this situation of course-. On one of those occasions, my cousin, who spent an extensive part of his life in the army and the front, "it was as if he was drafted till further notice" , asked us ; What would you do if you had the chance to punish Saddam , what kind of punishment would you suggest ?. He answered his own question saying , that he and Saddam would switch bodies, so that Saddam would go to the front and suffer fear, hunger, and have to deal with crazy officers . My Dad said, he would invent a special one-seat space shuttle, place Saddam in it and launch it towards a galaxy far far away for ever, depriving him thus from the thing he enjoyed most in life; Interfering with other people's lives . Someone else suggested an exile to a deserted Island , to which we all objected, saying that Saddam would soon find a way to rule the island and invade other islands … I said -and I really think that it was a good idea- , that I would sit in front of him , look him in the eye and ask him one simple question; WHY? , and I would keep on asking him that question for years if I had to, till I got an answer . My cousin “The eternal soldier” looked at me as if I was a lunatic and said: ‘Those books have really messed you up haven't they?. What kind of punishment is that ?.
As a form of revenge I just hummed the tune of Status Quo's song " In the Army now " to torture him . That tune always did the job whenever he needed sorting out.
Or there was another way to torture him, which my younger sibling used to resort to . You see, there was these special items and gadgets that they used to force people to take in various ways back then. These items included: Saddam's broches , Saddam's T shirts , Saddam's watches, Saddam's wall clocks and in later years, his compulsory bestsellers. Once my Dad bought a book, it was called, as I recall "The assassination attempts on the life of the president" , written by Ian Fleming, no, no I am joking, written by Barzan Al Tikriti Saddam’s half brother. My Mom looked at my Dad with astonishment: ' Don't look at me like that , they made me buy it when I was filling the car with petrol at the gas station’ , he snapped at her . ‘Oh, yeh , I guessed so. ' said my Mom in relief, cause she was worried, that my Dad had finally lost it .
Anyway, one year, I don't remember what year exactly , they distributed in the office where Dad worked Saddam's T shirts, which all the employees had to buy . Dad bought one of course . Nobody was going to wear it , so my little sibling who was in the kindergarten back then used to wear it at home as a nightie , it was so big on her it reached her ankles and the neck used to slip over her shoulders all the time . One Evening my cousin the “perpetual soldier” , -who was on a short leave, after a ferocious attack on his division- saw her wearing it , and he started chasing her all over the house with a pair of scissors he grabbed . She was laughing her head off running from room to room and screaming ;
-'na na na na catch me if you can .'
-‘Do you want to kill me, take that bloody thing off , who was the donkey that bought you that thing?, as if you have nothing else to wear, I'll cut it into pieces , just let me get my hands on you ‘. he said trying to catch her.
- ‘ Aaa, Dad, oh Dad, come over here at once , do you know what he just said about you .’ she said grinning as wide as her mouth permitted her.
- 'What's all that screeching?' shouted my Dad from another room .
- 'Nothing uncle, they were just making fun of me' replied my cousin turning pale.
And that became our amusement for quite a while, whenever he came to visit, she used to threaten;
- 'I will tell, if you don't buy me an ice cream.', or 'No you can not change the channel, I am watching Sandy bell' .
- 'It is a stupid girly cartoon, let us watch something else on the VCR, be a good girl'.
-' I will wear the T shirt and tell , I am warning you here!' she used to say standing with her arms folded , barely 100 cm high . Yeh, the front was much nicer than visiting us .

After all those years, when I woke up to images of the execution , I saw before anything else an old man being hung. I don't know why is it that children and old people in trouble instantaneously invoke pity? . And I still want to ask him the same question; WHY ? . Did it really have to be that way ?
He had choices, many choices , we can even say , that it was he who put that noose around his own neck, no one else can take the blame . Evil is another form of stupidity after all .
Someone may say: No, he had no choices, and he had to kill and torture all those people to rule a country like Iraq .It is the name of the game, and the game is power .
Well, every game takes wining as well as losing, you can't win all the time can you ?.

I personally prefer that no one at all gets killed. Yeh, right! as if I am living in Norway! nobody gets killed indeed . Here human lives are cheaper than a piece of bread .

Enough walking along memory lane and let me land flat on my face on the broken pavements of reality lane. On the first day of the year a relative of mine was kidnapped , he is 17 years old. They took him after shooting a couple of bullets in the air to drive people away, he was taken directly from the street in which his house is . The shock was staggering to us all . His parents are such nice people, the father is a doctor, the mother a professor . The abductors called the father and told him that they are from a militia and they have their reasons for the kidnapping .
What do Iraqis do now when such an incident occurs ? They do have a number of guidelines to follow, cause human beings are blessed with the capability to adapt .
So, the board of the unfortunate Iraqis agree on the following instructions when a dear one is kidnapped
- First, wait for the phone call , if you don’t receive one , the general morgue is the place to wait for the body .
- Second, try to find out as subtly as possible without infuriating the callers whether they are Shias or Sunnis.
- Third, Once you find out , try to hit the appropriate cord. since all Iraqi families have usually a Shii or a Sunni in them , try to make the most advantage of that; if the caller is a Sunni you say something like ; we are practically Sunnis too and call the relevant party in the family and vise versa if the caller is a Shi'i.
- Fourth , In the meanwhile try to contact the most influential people you know that correspond to the above mentioned criteria; the sheikhs of your tribe, your local militia leader, if you happen to know any gangsters who have became militia men recently, and use as many names as you can during your negotiations .
- Fifth, Show that you are serious in paying and remember time is not your friend nor your classmate nor your high school sweetheart, so Hurry .
- Sixth, prepare yourself for the worst. Most kidnap incidents end tragically .If the abductors are actually militia men 75% of the cases end with murder cause their agenda is usually political or to make a religious point. If the kidnappers are average criminals you may have a chance if you mange to deliver the sum properly
- Pray your heart out if you believe, if you don't believe deem it a random occurrence of nature .

So, my relative followed everything as best as he knew . His brother in law carried out the negotiations, since he was from the same sectarian origin as the kidnappers . Lots of names and titles were brought up . The sum was named and they let them talk to the young man . Of course , I need not mention what kind of night the parents had to live through .
Relatives went to support them as accustomed . We have this little cousin she is about five years old . And she understood that something terrible happened to Hamoodi ( nick name for Ahmmed) . She understood that burglars took him and they may kill him and was naturally very upset .Her parents came over to their cousin’s house to offer support . As they were all sitting telephone calls were being conducted and the brother in law was telling the father of Ahmmed that they want 10 "defters" . The word “defter” means note book or copy book , but in the financial slang it means 10 thousand USD , after further negotiation they reached to two defters .The little girl , who was listening terrified , asked her Mom how many defters do they want?
-'Two honey.' replied her mother.
- 'I’ve got lots of copy books back home. lets go get them 10 defters so they will free Hamoodi I don't need them.' She said with her tiny face lighting up with hope.
I tell you, there was not a dry eye in the house, as if every one was just waiting for an excuse to burst in tears .
Anyway, they delivered the money. Then the spiteful law of probability started, cause if you give the sum that still does not mean a thing . Next evening at about 7 o'clock PM Ahmmed called his father to come and collect him from an area near a bridge in al Seleikh area . The gang threw him from the car and started shooting randomly as they drove away, so that no one could chase them obviously . People came running thinking that it was a corpse, when the boy moved they all came to his aid, they gave him water, a pair of shoes and their cell phones , he was badly beaten up and bleeding from his head and limps.
Thank God I really thank God indeed .
Later that night one of the gang members called the father from Ahmmed’s cell phone , the conversation went something like this, Just to give you an idea that we are living in the land of topsy-turvy
- Doc, has Ahmmed arrived yet ?
- Yes he did, thank you.
- Don't mention it , See we kept our word because we fear God.
- Yes, of course, thank you, may God save you.
- And how is his Mother? I hope she is all right. Convey our greetings.
- I will, thank you again.
Now analyze this, they actually should be thanked and the father was sincere when he thanked them for not killing his son, cause there is nothing more easy and risk free nowadays than killing . It is wonder land, where the police men have to be avoided like the plague and the criminals cajoled, so as not to hurt you .

When I went back to the office after the holiday . My boss's relative had been kidnapped , Abu S.. told me that his area had been attacked the pass few days with mortars , and an old friend , who visited us to congratulate with the Eid and the new year told us that she had moved to the south cause she was threatened and had to leave her house .
Yet, when I was asked ' And you, how were you the last couple of days?'
You know, I just did not have the heart to tell them, that a car exploded a few houses away from my place in the middle of the night and we avoided death only by a few meters, and that my relative was kidnapped and nearly lost his life. I just couldn't, I felt luckier you see. So I just said: ' nothing new the usual, fine, Al hamd lilah alathi la yuhmadu ala makroohin siwah ( Praise the almighty Allah , for he is the only one to praise even for misfortunes ).
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