Monday, July 26, 2004

Wednesday, July 21st., 2004
Good evening..
It is now 5 p.m. in Baghdad, the weather is hot, at about more than 45 degrees C, and the electricity comes and goes every three hours, in a schedule. Three on, three off.Baghdad is quiet, there are a lot of Iraqi police and military men, but the planes and tanks never drift away from us, night and day…with its shapes and noises, as if there is someone who wants to say…here we are, do not forget about us, ha..ha…The streets are less crowded in day time, because of the summer holidays, the intensive heat, and the fear of explosives, which combined to make people less eager to leave their houses.In the years before the war, Iraqis used to go out to clubs or restaurants on the banks of Tigris river, some time after 10 p.m., going back home at the crack of dawn. But now, we are boiled in the heat inside our houses, nearly dying of boredom, consoling ourselves, that that is better than taking chances with our lives and that of our children…We all wish these difficult conditions to pass, ending quickly, so safety would return…How tight life could be, without the break of hope.
 When I was in Amman, I kept thinking daily, that Amman had safety and stability…commercial shops, various restaurants, clean streets, and lovely hotels. There is an unlimited freedom in talking, clothing, and the way of life.But I happen to know that people there are stressed by the high prices, the rarity of job opportunities, the electricity, benzol and telephone bills are expensive, and water is rear, especially in summer…and the oncoming tourists make the water crises worst.The rent of flats and apartments is rising, and so are the prices of buying lands or apartments…perhaps the immigration of thousands of Iraqis, and their settling in Amman, is one of the reasons.But I have known Amman since 1978, when I entered it for the first time, coming from Baghdad via Beirut, carrying Raid in my arms, only 40 days old…Amman was a small, conservative city, closed like a village…Baghdad was living her golden days, before the war upon Iran, and the blunders of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi universities were full of students from nearly all Arab states…the cultural movement was strong. Baghdad used to be full of poets, artists, ideologists, scholars of cultural heritage and sociology, university professors who studied in Europe and America filled the universities, teachers from Arab countries, in various specialties who worked by contract to the Iraqi state, traveling was permitted to all citizens without any restraints, so people used to go in tourism, then come back. State officials had excellent salaries, enabling them to enjoy a good life standard, build a house for the family, own a reasonable car, and travel to Lebanon, Egypt, or turkey, among neighboring countries in the summer. Publishing houses used to publish books of Literature, science, and cultural topics, Arabic or translated .......almost every house has a library…History, literature, poetry, fiction, and political books, Iraqis could never live without politics…and when students graduate from university, they would find employment right away, usually in the public sector (state), with a small margin working in the private sector…the state was always the biggest sector…And in the state – owned shopping centers, every thing was imported, to be sold to the citizens with low prices, clothes, house-hold utensils, toys, gifts, ornaments, glassware, crystals, and musical instruments.  Cinema theaters used always to show the latest movies, Arabic or foreign. Their customers mostly families and young men. Theaters were always crowded with plays, locally written, or extracted from foreign scripts. Families used to go in the weekends to watch a play.Thus was the rhythm of the Iraqi life, in Baghdad, where I lived until I graduated from university, got married, and left the country.
  When I lived in Amman, I felt a severe forbidding…where was the roaring, rich life of Baghdad? A life wealthy with science, literature, knowledge, culture, and the experiences of every day life…I used to feel euphoric when I hear an Iraqi talking in the streets of Amman, I run to him, start a friendly conversation with him…where, when, and how, then I would send a message with him to my parents, after I invite him to tea at our house…just like that…that was the way how the Iraqis were, with their simplicity, friendliness, and the speed with which they trust others. I always cried when I heard the song of : oh flying birds, pass over my kin, oh circling sun, go to my kin, by the Iraqi singer (Sa'adoon Jaber). Today, my tears fall for the Iraqis in pain, for what has become of them…scattered in many countries…torn by the cruelty of life…and the follies of Saddam Hussein, and those who collaborated with him to destroy Iraq, with or without his knowledge…Iraqis has become immigrants, like birds who can not remain in one environment…that who is rich among them, is a broken-winged immigrant, shedding tears for Baghdad whenever hearing her name, missing Tigris, and the beautiful memories that went by, never to come back…so, how would the poor be?..... Estrangement from one's homeland is slow death….I know that, for I have drunk from that particular glass for long, bitter, cruel years. I will endure every thing as long as I am here, no matter what, for I would have my Dignity, in my house, among my people and friends…in spite of the harsh conditions, war and occupation, but…it is the Homeland, is there ever something more precious? Today, my country is like an old, ill mother, who would be glad to have her children around her, easing her feelings of pain, and illness….she would be sad to see some of them has fled, and couldn't bear to remain….oh, well,…it is an ordeal, ….and ordeals are bound to be cleared one day.
  I remember all that and think…how did Amman change into this western model as quickly as that?  Life is expensive, the employment opportunities are limited, and salaries have not risen up since I used to work there. Until 1991, an engineer like me received a salary of 500-600 Dinars. Now, I came back to find the same salary for this same category of engineers. A newly graduate receives a salary of 170-200 Dinars (a $ 100 equals 70 Jordanian Dinars). Nothing has changed, rather, the job opportunities have declined, and maybe that was the reason salaries wouldn't go up. The prices of food, various goods, rents, and cars have multiplied three times from what they were back in 1991, when I left Amman. How do people live? The newspapers are full of feverish adds, about cars, houses, apartments, furniture, mobiles, computers, and household appliances…all screaming and calling. Sales would be by easy installments, and of course, with a payment here, and an installment there, a person becomes a runner, running, panting day and night to come up with these payments.The companies that sell by installment system have their own loans to the banks…and could go bankrupt some day, as is the case with many companies that go bankrupt, and that would be announced in newspapers, becoming the topic of the society. But this subject worried me so much this time, and kept me thinking…is this the model for the New Iraq? Here we are used to having water available always, the electricity cheap, and so with the telephone bills and benzol…. These items were outside the anxiety list for the Iraqi family…but in Amman, these form the first worrying items…various bills and taxes, countless…University education is not free as in Iraq, the prices of medicine and hospitals are very high, their numbers would look imaginary to Iraqis, compared to the prices they are accustomed to paying here in Iraq, before and after the war. Are we destined to become like them? Would the Capitalist system come along and swallow Iraq, along with the monopolization and greed of the privet sector investment companies? As they have swallowed thousands of local and national markets before? How shall we be able to defend the wealth of Iraq, and provide good living standards to the people, without sinking in the greedy swamp of capitalism? Without allowing the formation of a minority of very rich people, and a majority of people who run, panting, to provide their daily food….?
 And every one there, in Amman or in the western countries, has a wide margin of freedom of speech…but it seems like a freedom that nobody needs…because they usually sink in other eddies, and what’s the use of announcing your political opinions when your pockets are empty? It would become a type of luxury that is useless, not necessary…go and find a job to fill your time with, to provide your necessary needs, and use the excess, if there was any excess, spend it in a restaurant, a cinema, or a café’…for the lovely times are indispensable to a tired human…thus is the rhythm of life in the cities of the west, and these cities that follow their steps, and Baghdad is still like a conservative lady, wrapped in her veil or Abba, watching that world with an eye filled with amazement, marvel, and concern, twisting her lips and asking: will I become like one of these cites? Will the Iraqis run to the fast, panting rhythm of life?....I want…. I want…. I want….????....
  And I remember when I read the history of the United States of America; the books described the beautiful, thick forests that used to fill the country, the mineral and animal wealth in the mountains and plains, fish in the lakes and rivers, and a clear, pure, beautiful environment….what happened to all this today? The environment was polluted by the smoke of factories, without mercy…the wealth was depleted in a greedy, unjust, unlimited way….and how old is America?The beginnings were with the settlers, around 1602, and within 400 years, most of this wealth was drained??? And Iraq is more than 5000 years old, and is still filed with mineral wealth and oil…I open up the school Atlas, and look at the maps of Iraq: water wealth, big rivers, and small rivers, from north to the south. Lakes in the middle and south, and marshes filled with fish and birds. The map of the mineral wealth: from north to south- oil wells, natural gas, minerals like sulphur, steel, lead, zinc, brass, coal, marble, phosphate, chrome, …..and along, endless list ……And relics, from the north to the south, from the Sumerian, Acadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and pre-Islamic ages, Persian relics. And after the Islam: during the Islamic Empire- Abbasid palaces, minarets, historic castles, holy, religious sites, and the shrines of the Prophet’s relatives and kin (may the prayers of GOD be upon him).And the plants and animal wealth: as the land of Iraq was divided into seed planting regions, others for cotton planting, tobacco, rice, fruit trees, forests, and palm trees farms…regions of pasture, for animals like sheep, cattle, camels, horses, and deer. I look in amazement and wonder, how much wealth is their in the land of Iraq? How many foreign conquests have passed upon this land? Persians, Turks, Moguls, then the British conquest, then the American occupation…Iraq is the land of fortunes, the land of water, fertility, oil and other minerals…but I think his people are the only ones who never got the proper chance to enjoy these wealths …Iraqis talk, in whispers and loud voices, about some American companies that started digging and investing minerals from the land here…then exporting them to America, or some other countries.  These whispers between people taught me that they are mostly right, if not every time. Especially the stories about Abu-Ghareb prison, as I heard them, but didn’t believe them at the beginning. Will the Capitalism start sucking the Blood of Iraq, as it has sucked the blood of the American continent?…and never to have enough…as if they are under a curse from the sky…Eat, Drink, but never feel stuffed or satisfied…for you will remain hungry all time long. This is how I see the case of Capitalism, as it looks for a new victim…for new blood to pump into its decrepit veins…hoping to gain back its health…I feel pity upon Iraq, and what he will receive from it… I wonder in my mind, with a smile that fills me with bitterness: would Iraq be the last victim? Or would there be other victims on the way, Syria and Iran, perhaps???
I have no answers for my questions…only GOD knows what the days are hiding for us…

Translated by May. Baghdad.

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