Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Saturday, 14/2

At last! I am back in Baghdad. It is now 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Electricity went out, so we turned on the electric generator. I missed this state in Amman. Now I feel completely relaxed. I have returned to the routine of my daily life. Work, kids, electric generator and the daily troubles. The kids met me by screaming and asking “why did you stay in Amman for such a long time?”, “we were like orphans without you”. The employees at the store sung me a similar song. In both cases, I just laughed. My answer was, the electrical appliance was disconnected from electricity, I decided to forget about you for a little while. Oh God! how beautiful it was! To shut everything down and sit alone in beautiful calm. To forget all my ties to my daily troubles and boring responsibilities. I think that men enjoy this feeling all year round. Apathy towards the troubles of the home, kids and wives. They only get the smiles and pleasures. Except for a small group of men, that carry the burden equally with their wives wherever they are. I salute such men. They have my respect. As for mothers, you would think they were made for such things. This is the main bases of their lives. They get my respect always till eternity.


The road from Amman to Baghdad goes through mostly desert. You are surrounded by the desert on both sides. Nothing is interesting along the way except for the destroyed high power poles. They look sad, as if their heads have been broken in sadness over what is happening to Iraq. O! this confusion we are living in. Who is killing? Who is destroying and reeking havoc in our country? We no longer know truth from falsehood. Everything is possible. We reached the Jordanian border point at 6 in the morning. We gave them our passports and waited. This is the first time that I felt that there were mistakes and chaos. The waiting room had about 50 people waiting. Some Jordanians, few foreigners and many Iraqis. There was a small number of employees there and they all worked slowly and looked bored. From time to time one of the employees would yell over the loud speakers. He would yell if people didn’t get away from the front counter that he will not hand them their passports. So the people would move away and after a while they would return. So the man would yell again. What a silly game, I thought to myself. This man has no right to treat people in this sick way. It is as if he was enjoying humiliating them and yelling at them. So I walked to the outside court to get some fresh air and get away from the screaming kids, the crowds and the cigarette smoke. I found many parked cars full of sleeping passengers, women and kids. I felt sorry for them. I saw an employee wearing the official uniform of a border officer. So I said good morning to him and he responded with a polite smile. I told him that there is something wrong going on inside. There are lots of people waiting and the work is proceeding slowly. I told him that they have to either separate the processing of the families from the truck drivers, who are the majority. Either that or increase the number of employees doing the processing. We have been waiting for an hour and a half and haven’t seen our passport back. The processing is taking too long so is the stamping of the passport. He smiles politely and told me that I was right. Then he told me that he didn’t work there, that he worked with customs, how may I help you? he asked. Nothing I said, just inform your managers that this situation is uncomfortable and that it should be improved. He nodded his head and stared at the ground. I went back into the waiting room. I have a feeling he won’t do anything but it made me feel better to complain to somebody. I sat down and looked around the place. The floor is dirty with all the cigarette butts and litter for plastic coffee cups. The remains of coffee spilled on the floor. A large percentage of the chairs are broken. The walls are dirty and the air conditioner has a thick layer of dirt that has been accumulating for months and probably years. I wondered, who is responsible for this? Is it the citizen of the state? A clean place indicates respect for the comers and goers. A neglected place means no respect. I remembered when I used to travel when Iraq was under sanctions, I would find the Iraqi borders dirty and I would tell myself, a destroyed country from one end to the other. But here! what is the excuse? I don’t know and I can’t find an answer.


When the American forces entered Iraq, we used to talk about all the things we would do and how would we behave. I would always say, and I still do today, the occupation will end, sooner or later, I just want to learn the beautiful things from them. Respect for a person in their country, the value of a human life, the government preserving the rights of an individual, the right to vote for who you see fit, the right to change your mind and vote for somebody else later on, the good usage of technology in a civilized manner, to use the brain power of a person for what is good, this is the bright side of the westerners so why don’t we learn from it? When I reached the first Iraqi rest point, two hours away from reaching Baghdad, the court was full of dirt. Plastic bags, empty carton or tin cans, a nearby restaurant, lots of people, I opened the car door and stared at this sight. How long did it take for this dirt to accumulate? Since the war or before it? I remembered the joke about the woman that takes her baby to the doctor. At the end of the checkup, the doctors asks about the baby’s age. She says, six months, the doctor says, that is impossible, the dirt accumulated on him is at least one year old. Just like border points here! I would feel embarrassed if I was bringing over a foreigner with me from abroad, for example from Europe. What would I tell them? We are nations of civilization and values? they would say what is this dirt? How can it live with good taste and culture? I don’t know. I have no answer. All these foreigners that come to visit out country form various places, where is the beautiful display we greet them with? How can they believe that we are intelligent humans with ambitions for our lives just like them.


I remember one of my relatives when I was little. We used to love visiting her. I was surprised by how clean her house was and by how elegant it was. It was full of toys she made herself. She was a graduate of fine arts. She would sew us the school uniforms. Unfortunately, my father couldn’t afford to make us any other clothes except school clothes. I used to love seeing her, seeing her house and her clean children. I would dream that when I would grow up and get married I would have a model home like hers. My children would be like her children. Then I got married and left Iraq for many years. Years after I returned, my mom reminded me of her. She told me to go visit her but she warned me that her situation has changed. During the Irani war, the government issued a decision to terminate the service if everybody that has Persian origins, they were all forced to retire with small pensions that are hardly to sustain life. She was the principle of the school and her husband was a governmental employee. They both lost their positions suddenly. It was torture to find try to find her new address in the far away neighborhood she was living in. When I got her she greeted me with that same good natured smile and soft spoken mannerism. But a part of my heart was breaking as I looked around the house. The furniture is cheap and old, so are the curtains, mess filling the house. Nothing organized or beautiful. An ugly painted picture hanging on the wall without even a frame. She told me the picture was painted by her husband. I stared at the picture and my heart fluttered from its ugliness. I couldn’t believe it! Are these the same people that I remember so vividly? I asked her how they survive. She told me that they own a small store. They took a part of the house and turned it into a small store that her husband runs. She told me that it helps them survive. She led me to this store. A depressing room with metal shelves covered with more dust than merchandise. The stuff is piled is a tasteless manner. Why did I remember this woman as I crossed the border? Maybe because the neglect and chaos that I saw there is similar to this. Perhaps it is the same reason as well. Yes! that feeling of depression. I think that is the cause for the destruction of human life. Those that lose meaning in their life, it beauty, its zest. Another yes! we are a depressed nation. We carry inside us big dreams, but they all got destroyed one way or the other. Dreams of freedom, independence, truth in dealing with one another. Who destroyed it? Who turned our private and public lives to a hurricane of chaos and confusion? Was it destroyed by four consecutive centuries of ottoman colonization? Was it the British colonization for half a century? or was it national governments that were far from the will of the people? I wish I knew. I wish I knew.


At the Iraqi border the processing was light. There was a single person and he was stamping the passports without paying much attention to what he was doing. I don’t know how to explain this. Is it neglect due to the fact that there is no state in power? There were few American soldiers, far away, far from sight. Good for them. Their sight breaks my heart because it reminds me of the disaster of the military occupation. Hours before we traveled, I was saying goodbye to my sister and her husband. They had guests from Baghdad. We had the same discussion. The reasoning for living in Baghdad or moving away until further notice. I encourage the idea of staying in Baghdad despite all the dangers. If I decide to leave and so do my relatives and friends and my neighbors, then who will stay behind. Who will I leave Iraq to? There was a swift attack on me. I said, I will stay in Iraq. If I can live to see a democratic Iraq that we make according to our belief, then I will be happy because I had participated in a small way. If I die then I will be happy because I died here in my country, I will be buried in the earth of my country. They laughed at me and got angry at me. Yes! I know that I am a stupid and stubborn creature, from dinosaur ages. I still dream about homeland, truth justice and freedom. I believe in that just like I believe in God. Just Like I believe in his existence and his divine justice. Just like I believe that God is with the truth and with those that seek it. How can I choose a life far away with a peaceful state of mind. That is a difficult equation. I could stay here a bare the difficulty of these cruel days, that is yet another equation. May we see the light that comes at the end of darkness. Those that stay alive will get to see that light after the end of chaos of murder and destruction taking Iraq by a storm. I am curios and a single question is worrying me. Will I be one of those that are lucky enough to see the Iraq we have dreamt of? Or will I be just another name on the list of victims that died one way or another.

[Translation provided by www.ihath.com]

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