Sunday, April 17, 2005

Sunday, April 10th, 2005
Good evening…
I came back to Amman from the Dead Sea, where there was a conference for Iraqi women leaders held there.
Humm… I had a great curiosity to attend, to discover the dialogue, the topics that were to be discussed, concerning the future of Iraq, and the visions that could be adopted to manufacture that future…
On Friday afternoon… I went to the hotel, where I met a lot of women, who came from many Iraqi cities; north, south and middle-region. Some I saw for the first time, but I had already met some in Baghdad, for they worked for various women's organizations, like orphans, widow's, and handicapped care.
In the evening we met at the hall, after dinner, and we spoke to the program organizer, who asked us to gather and discuss the conference's arrangement for tomorrow, or to hear the delegation's comments.
Many women spoke, complaining about not being flown to Amman by plane, nor providing security protection for the participants, and each woman mentioned her responsibilities, and how she left her house and children to join this conference. But it seems that the conference organizers, which is being held to train Iraqi women to become leaders, did not care for the safety of the participants, nor offered help in that matter. Why?
They wondered, asking: Is it because of a low budget? If this was the case, why didn't they hold it inside Iraq, to reduce the expenditures? Why not in the north of Iraq, for example, where the security situation is excellent, compared to Baghdad, and other Iraqi cities? Are they afraid for the security of the American participants, providing protection to them, but do not care about the Iraqi participants, giving each $150 only, as traveling expanses, and let her go at her responsibility?
This is not fare.
Then, one of the participants from Sulaimania said: they told us that the road to Jordan is safe, and full of American check points to protect people, but we found no one to protect us, a car followed us, shooting at the car, because we wrote on it: The Sulaimania Delegation, I do not know, but we made a mistake, not noticing that this might bring us danger instead of protection. I do not know how we got here, we almost died of fright. Who shall take responsibility of what happened to us?
Another delegation said there were some bothering on the Jordanian boarders, inquiries like a questioning; why did you come? Where are you going? What is this conference?
Some official letters were supposed to have addressed the boarders, so we would be respected, and not bothered…
We looked into each other's faces…
Then, one of the organizers interfered, (a Kurdish woman who was in the opposition during the Saddam rule, and who lives in America now), and apologized to them, making many excuses, but finally asked them to form a committee, to write down their problems to the conference's organizers.
She told them to address three letters; one to the Jordanian boarders,(a complaint), a second to the conference's organizers,( an other complaint), and a third to the American government. (Hummm… now I wonder if those letters were really written by the committee? where did they go? And will the American government really read this letter, and apologize to the Iraqi women? Or is it merely a new way, made up the American way, to pull out the people's anger, and laugh at them?
When I saw the head of the program, I smiled at her, and we introduced ourselves to each other, mentioning our names… I haven't met her before, (she comes from Basra, and lives now in America, that's all I knew).
The next day, on stage, the same woman came forward to read the opening speech of the conference…she was wearing an orange veil on her head… I suddenly remembered her… I remembered her colored photo in newspapers wearing the same veil, months ago from now. I turned to my colleague next to me and asked: Isn't this the same woman who read a speech in the congress, thanking Bush for liberating Iraq?
My colleague smiled and said: yes, she is the one!
Oh, my GOD! I remained stunned for some moments.........! Then I said to my self: All right, we shall see and hear; I will not take a premature stand, nor decide negatively. I shall be more patient and moderate. I want to see how the Iraqi women who come from America think in this phase, and what kind of an agreement is between us and the Americans who came to lecture us? What are the common things between us?
There is no new experiment without some useful information in the end.
We shall see what this new information is.
When they distributed the conference cases among us, with the printed program inside, along with some of the lectures that were to be read, and a biography of the participants, Iraqis, Arabs, and Americans.
I noticed that the Iraqi participants, men and women, who were included in the conference's committees, had a common quality: they were among the opposition against Saddam, they lived in America, they supported the idea of war against Iraq to topple Saddam. And now they are participating in conferences as coordinators between the American administration and the Iraqi people, meaning; salesmen to market the American ideas, and to ease the spreading of these ideas in the (New Iraq). Exactly as the Ba'athis used to do, when they took over the rule in Iraq, to spread the intellects of Saddam Hussein, and beautify his image in the minds of the miserable Iraqis…
The same game, but with different faces and names… these people live with the mentality of: the oppressor or the oppressed… these are their positions in life, swinging between two possibilities that have no third. While the rest of the people, (the majority), are less hypocrite, and less opportunist from those samples.
In truth, I see these people as opportunists, who deserve no respect.
I noticed that the date was the 9th of April. I remembered Baghdad falling on this date, and my heart contracted….
I looked through the program, finding many axis around which the lectures and discussions would focus; (Principals of Democracy, Planning the constitution, federalism, Economic freedom, free Media, Free Economy, Eliminating Corruption, Democracy and Religion, and, the American Role in building Democracy in Iraq).
I found the names of the Iraqi, Arab, and American participants. There was a delegation from the American congress, comprising men and women, some of whom are members in the Iraqi Woman committee. (Hummm…this point drew my attention. So, there is a special committee thinking of the Iraqi Woman).
During the opening session, a representative of the American Foreign office spoke, then two American women, (who work in American organizations propagating for Democracy in the world).
The first one said, in meaning: Congratulations to you, Iraqi women, for the decision of allotting 25% of the parliamentary seats and election lists to women, this was achieved by your struggle to obtain these rights…
A woman beside me commented: What struggle? The General Legation of Elections put these points. We didn't struggle….
I laughed…smelling hypocrisy and adulation in the American woman's talk. Why is she lying to us? Explaining things the way she likes??
Hummm… to convince us we are strugglers, and she is showing us the right way. She must be enjoying this game.
And so, the second woman came along, and spoke in smooth tones, as if she was an actress on stage: My dears, close your eyes and imagine your selves in Iraq, 2020. What do you see?
The woman beside me, a Doctor from Hilla, in the south, said: Huh, I see naked, shameless women filling the streets… ha,ha,ha.
By GOD, I never thought of that, but I turned to her, and burst into laughter.
She asked me: What is this farce? Why are they talking to us as if we were fools?
I said: She is an American, my dear. What do you expect her to say? She is from another world..........
The woman smiled, then shook her hand in a sign of amazement, wonder, and scorn at what is happening…
The second lecturer came along… he was an Arab, the head of an American university in an adjoining Arab state. His lecture was at lunch time, I wondered at that, for who would pay attention when the majority was tired, with food dishes in front of them, instead of papers and pencils.
His lecture was excellent, at the beginning he said that the general Arabic situation was deteriorated; the collective economic product of the Arabic states equals that of a small European country, like Italy, in spite of the fact that the Arab world population is more than 200 millions. He started to list the reasons, speaking of the history of dictatorship in the Arabic governments, their control of the poor Arab citizen, then the emergence of strict religious lines who control what is left of the margins of the social Arabic life. He then spoke of the existence of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is putting pressures upon the governments to become dictatorships.
By GOD, the topics in general are excellent in their appearance, then become vicious in their core, when you see what is the subject? Who is the speaker? Who are the audience?
Of course, these lectures were spoken to us in the presence of the lecturers who came from America, with the congress delegation, as they think of themselves as the liberators of Iraq, and will liberate the Arab Nation from all its problems, and let-downs…. The lecturer was well-cultured, but he looked like there was a brand on his brow that says: Made in America… they wouldn't have employed him as the head of an American university if he wasn't of the brand that was: Made in America…
How do we trust him???? This is a big point of suspicion that wouldn't let us believe in his intentions, and won't imagine them to be innocent.
As if he was saying: The solution is; topple all those governments, push the clergy out of your lives, have reconciliation with Israel…
Oh, yes, we do want to topple these rotten, tyrant governments, we do want to change the narrow minds of the clergy; we do want to solve our problems with Israel…
BUT NOT THE AMERICAN WAY. We should solve our problems the way that suits us, without the interference of America, because America is not completely innocent of the devastation that has befallen our life…
We have an Iraqi parable that describes some man: He tells the thief to go on and steel, and tells the wealth owner to beware…
And that is exactly what the imperial western countries are doing with our governments, and people… they provoke one against the other… and play the role of the adviser to each.
And in truth, they want nothing but their interests.
The lecture ended, and the discussion period started… we raised our hands to join in, and the chance was given to those seated in front. One woman stood up, with a microphone in her hand, and said: You claim to be an educated man, but all your speech was about the Arab countries, Arab governments, and the Arab League. Why don't you respect the fact that we are Kurds, and the Iraqi president is now a Kurd?
The lecturer was embarrassed, and said he was sorry, but he didn't mean it this way… and what do you suggest that we should say?
She said: say, for example, that we are Mid-Eastern countries.
The voices of women rose in the hall, some, the Kurds, approving, and some, the Arabs, in protest….
Another Kurdish woman stood up, and spoke in Kurdish, with the help of another woman, as a translator… of course she said the same speech, heatedly…
The chairwoman of the conference, (An Iraqi woman from Basra), came forwards and said: Please to end the dialogue … for the time of discussion is over, we shall meet after the recess.
Of course we were astonished…and looked at each other.
I asked the women who were beside me, from southern Iraq: What is the percentage of the Kurds in Iraq?
One said: three and a half millions.
So, we took a piece of paper and a pen, and divided 3.5 on 25. The result was less than 15%.
So, is this the New Iraq? You are not to say you are an Arab, so as not to hurt the feelings of the Kurd?
This diversity became the reason of separation, not unity.
I noticed that the tables in the conference were almost divided, on some tables sat Kurdish women, in their folklore dresses, and on some other tables sat the Arabs, from Baghdad, the south, and the Middle-region.
This was the first time I see the Iraqis like this…. Thanks to America….for this is how she wants us to be quarreling, scattered, and far away from each other.
The lecture was to open important avenues of discussions, but for these silly comments, that reflect the ignorance, and narrow-mindedness of their speakers.
In the afternoon… we were divided into groups. Ours attended the lecture about (democracy and the Constitution). First, an Iraqi law professor, from Basra (an ex-opposition for Saddam, and a war-on- Iraq supporter) spoke, reciting to us the same old, rutting record: Saddam executed my brother, and my cousin, and lab…lab…lab. The same boring speech, that we learnt by heart, and which became an identity to a lot of hypocrites , the new climbers on the Iraqi shoulders, and those who stole and robbed what is left of the wealth of the miserable Iraq, during the last two years.
Saddam executed the relatives of most Iraqis, but this wasn't an excuse to turn into a bunch of clapping hypocrites, supporters of war and occupation.
Anyway… the law professor said that a new constitution should be written, on which people would agree, to protect their rights and possessions… and multiplicity, democracy, and human rights…etc.
The American lecturer came, focusing in his speech on the point of the necessity of separating the religion from the state, and learning from the American constitution, and the American people's experience.
Their slogan is: Live and let others live…
Oh, well, but why do they think that the Islamic slogan is: Live and do not let others live?
We live, since thousands of years, in our countries, in peace and harmony; Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs.
Why are these strifes being roused among us?
I remembered a saying by the Prophet Mohammad (The Prayers of GOD Be upon Him, and His Peace), in meaning: "strife sleeps, accursed is that who wakes her up".
Yes, by GOD, accursed is that who opened the doors of these mean, destructive, strifes upon us.
An Iraqi woman from the south stood up, and asked the American lecturer: Why did you leave Iraq during the uprising of 1991, and didn't help the people?
He answered with the sentence that I heard from most Americans who claim sympathy with the Iraqi people: I am sorry, president Bush Senior made a mistake, and I apologize for what happened to you, but president Bush Junior took notice of the mistake, and decided to wage the war to help you and rescue you.
Hummm, by GOD, a nice, convincing answer, and very humane.
The Iraqi lecturer asked, trying to ease the embarrassment of his colleague: what is this man's fault, my daughter? Are you responsible for the behaviors of Saddam Hussein? This man is wretched; he isn't responsible for the mistakes of his government.
We looked on foolishly… this man is wretched?
What brought him here? Isn't he playing the role of the salesman, marketing the intellects of his government?
Then the Iraqi asked the woman: Aren't you happy that Saddam was toppled?
She said: yes.
He said: that's it then, we would put our hands in the hands of the devil, to topple Saddam!
We kept staring in astonishment, by this abortive, sick logic with which he was trying to fool us.
The lecture ended, and some of the women moved on to argue with the American lecturer about the importance of religion in our life, and how separating it from the state would spread chaos and corruption in society, so the homosexuals and others like them would have rights…. We shall not agree to this, they might be human rights in your society, but in ours that would be corruption.
The women kept on arguing, he was confused, saying they were right, the American constitution isn't the "perfect one". I could almost see hypocricy on his face, fearing them, their questions, and criticism.
But I discovered now that in the "New Iraq", one isn't supposed to say: I am an Arab, I am a Muslim. That would be aggression, and anti-democratic.
What should one say? I am a mid-eastern??
Hummm… what does that mean? Probably nothing!
Yes, it seems that this is the point: BE NOTHING!
This is the model of democracy needed to be implemented here; erasing our identity, and the common things between us, to become strangers from each other, and the enemies of each other.
On the next morning…the lecture was about democracy and the free economy… the same American lecturer, who is a scholar in an American institution, a university principle in Washington D.C., holding a Masters and PH. D. degree, and a lecturer on the subjects of Constitution, Economy, and Federalism. And with him there was the Iraqi, Kurdish woman who lives in America now, and was in the opposition against Saddam Hussein. She was holding the microphone, seeming very confident and proud, conducting the discussions with the lecturer, criticizing, interfering, and dictating her informations to us….
The man spoke about the necessity of adopting the Free Economy in Iraq for the coming phase, not giving the unbounded control of the country's wealth to the state, because then it will be rich and strong, and become a dictatorship. He said that oil is a wealth, but would be like a curse on people, if governments took hold of its investment. He said that we are supposed to forget the government in our future life, we shouldn't need it, nor expect it to clean our houses or do our laundry, for we shall be doing this ourselves… some of the women laughed, one of them asked: What is this silly talk? What government would clean houses and wash cloths?
We laughed, and Iraqi Kurd, who was the session's chairwoman shouted, asking for quiet… then the discussions begun…
The Kurdish Iraqi woman took hold of the microphone, giving us no chance to talk, then looking around according to her mood to choose the speakers; she would almost stand on the woman's head until she would finish her question. If the question was a silly one, she would be patient, but if it was a difficult one, she would say: That's enough, time is short!
The questions begun with easy ones, then became difficult, then violent…
A woman asked: very well, we suffered from the administrational corruption in the time of Saddam, and after the war new, corrupt leaderships came, steeling a lot of the people's money. How do you demand that we hand over the income of oil to the private sector? How shall we trust their impartiality?
A second woman rose up, saying: free Economy means very rich classes, and very poor classes in the future. This is a frightening vision of Iraq, and what is going to happen.
A third woman said: where would the income of the Iraqis come from, if the wealth was to be in the hands of private companies, and free economy? Aren't we supposed to write a new constitution, containing good laws to protect the people, elect a good government, and divide the wealth justly among citizens?
The Kurdish woman who was conducting the discussions said: of course you could find good income sources in a free economy, I mean you can apply for a contract from the state, and have a chance to get it, instead of someone else with connections getting it…
We shouted: this has nothing to do with free economy…this has everything to do with administrational corruption.
She seemed to become angry, so she said: all right, discussion time is over.
We shouted back, in protest. The woman beside me said: we want to finish the discussion; we want to understand why would they want the oil for their private companies? Huh… so, they are telling us; from now on, wash your hands, the oil isn't yours, so, manage your affairs without it.
How shall we live??
Shouting rose up in the hall… the lady who was conducting the discussions said: that's enough, the time is over.
The American was staring at us, not exactly understanding what was happening…
I felt myself bursting with anger… I stood up and shouted at her: let them speak; we've heard enough from the lecturers do not make time an excuse, let us speak!
She said: whoever wants to speak further should go to him after the lecture.
I told her: we do not want individual talks with him; we want open, public, and downright talks, for everyone to hear them…
She started talking and babbling…but I went past her and looked at the lecturer, and spoke directly to him, raising my voice so he would hear me well: it is not correct that the time would be limited for us only to listen, this isn't acceptable. You should listen to us. We listened to you, and know your viewpoint, but you too should listen to us, because we, the Iraqi women, shall go back to Iraq, and not you. We shall build Iraq, not you. The future of Iraq belongs to us, not you … we didn't come here only to listen to you, we came to learn, and debate, but you won't allow us to talk… the rules and laws of the conference should be re-arranged as we want…
The shouting increased in the hall, by the angry audience…
I walked up to the lecturer and asked him: should all governments be weak and poor, to be democratic? Are all the rich governments evil, and wouldn't interfere to help their citizens? Isn't your government strong? Doesn't she support public health, education, the poor, and those in need? Why do you give us lectures about bizarre things?
He was confused, his face went red, and said: we shall talk later, I want to go, and I have another lecture…
Hummm. I left him, and moved on….
We left the hall, angry. The women went to the adjacent hall to rest, and have tea. But I went up to my room, and sat on the bed, putting my head between my hands, I thought quietly: what makes me stay, and listen to this empty talk, that burns up the nerves?? A bunch of liars, feigning their silly stories to us… and burning our nerves…
I have a TOFEL class in Amman by evening, should I stay here, or leave to attend my lesson??
Of course the lesson is more important than this crap. I packed my bags, then called the reception to send someone to bring them down, so I could catch the bus to Amman in 3o minutes. I wrote a note to my room mate, telling her that I was tired, and this is a silly, frustrating conference. I wrote another note to the conference's coordinator, in which I told her about the silly events I saw, the session's mismanagement, not allowing us to speak.
I went down to the big lobby of the hotel, and sat quietly to wait for the bus… there was a woman in the outside walkway, strolling the line nervously, smoking …. I knew her in Baghdad. I went out to her, and asked her what was wrong. She said her head was splitting by headache…
I told her this was easy, I too had a headache, perhaps from exhaustion…
She said: no, not exhaustion, but from feelings of anger and repression.
I said: why? What happened to your group?
She said: the lecturer is talking about federalism, he says Iraq must be divided to provinces, each is separate, rules it self, and has independent resources.
What is this? They will destroy Iraq, and its unity??
I want to cry, I will burst from anger… she said.
I looked at her and said: do not cry my dear, and do not burst. Go to the hall, and yell in their faces, like we did in our hall. And tell them that we do not want to hear your poisonous thoughts…
She asked: what are they doing to us? Is this some brain wash??
I said: yes, this is a brain wash…they brought us here to wash our brains, and market their poisonous thoughts upon us, and they want us to market them when we get back to Iraq… I shall go back to Amman, I cannot endure more…
And she asked sadly: and how will I endure? Who will take me back to Baghdad now? I have to wait until the end of the conference, in two days or three…
I said to her: may GOD help you… may GOD help you all…
I left the hotel, as if getting out of a suffocating place, airless, or perhaps, the air was foul…. Today I think with myself; if time would go back, would I have participated in the conference?
The answer is: Yes.
I learned a lot… I have seen the true face of those who occupied Iraq, and understood their plans about the future of Iraq…
If I remained far, hearing only through newspapers, I wouldn't have got all this astonishing sum of documented truths. Lectures full of poison, and empty talk…
Now I am certain the word "Muslim" hurts and irritates them, and so is the word "Arab"…
And they will divide Iraq as much as can be, so they would be able to hit one of us by the other; hit the Kurd by the Arab, the Sunni by the Shia'at, and the Muslim by the Christian.
We used to live under the injustice of a dictator, national government, yes, but it didn't play such dirty games to scatter us, making us the enemies of each other, each biting the other, and wants to bite a piece of the Iraqi wealth, for himself and his kin….. The former government was unjust to us all…but it didn't divide us into sects and ethnics, as the occupation did to us.
It divided us, since it entered the country, to Sunnies, Shia'ats, and Kurds.
The occupation hit the Sunnies first, cornering them alone, giving privileges to the Kurds and the Shia'ats. Tomorrow it will collide with the Shia'ats and hit them, then the Kurds, according to the interests; for there are no permanent friendships, nor fixed alliances, they all follow the interests.
Today they use clergy men, like Al-Systani, tomorrow they will turn against him, hit him, and shrink his influence…..
I remembered a saying by Gandhi: our dictator, national government is more merciful to us than imperialism, and foreign occupation.
Now I understand why they cry upon the Iraqi women, giving them seats, and freedoms…
So they would become saleswomen for their thoughts; woman is half the society, she raises the generations, so, if we control her, control her mind, and brain wash it, she would become an excellent media tool, (cultural and social).
I see now how many entry points there were, through which America entered to occupy Iraq…
There is an axis to market their thoughts through the Iraqi parties … and that means the government, and the national assembly… there is the axis of non-governmental assemblies (civil society organizations). There is the Women axis… and that leaves the youth axis… but that is under control within the media; the immoral, cheap-contents of the satellite channels… silly songs, shameless, loose women, and advertisements of western products; mobiles, soda drinks, and western restaurants….and foreign channels showing western movies and shows day and night…
Meaning- a siege from all sides…whatever channel you tune on to, you get such channels… this is also a daily brain-wash method…
After all this, I say in all honesty… I am not hopeless at all…
What I have seen from the Iraqi women in the conference made me trust them, trust all Iraqis in general, and I put a wager that these people will not be anyone's fool…..
Sooner or later… they will collide with the occupation, and its true face will be revealed, and what it has in store for the future of Iraq…
I have hope in the Iraqis who didn't join Saddam in his injustice, nor joined America in her injustice. Those who endured the embargo, the war, the injustice, the devastation, and destruction… those who were not satisfied with what happened to Iraq, or what is happening now….
Those are the new opposition…
An opposition against the existence of the foreign occupation of Iraq… and against all who support this occupation, or spread and market its thoughts…
An opposition against every terrorist act targeting the innocent Iraqis, civilians, army, and police…
Those will not take refuge in another country, encouraging her to wage a war on Iraq… who believe that Iraq is for Iraqis, the wealth of Iraq is for Iraqis, and take their strength from their people, not from foreign forces.
These, I think, are the characteristics of the new nationalists whom Iraq needs in this stage. I have a strong feeling they are there… and will show up on stage.
It is only a matter of time…
Sooner or latter…they will show up, and lead the people to the path of liberation, salvation, and democracy. Away from fake leaders, salesmen of fake ideas, and vicious intentions that became exposed to the young and old…to the ignorant and educated… to the near, and far.
Before I went to the conference, I was more moderate… I was in the middle. But after I attended it… I became convinced that I must move from the middle to some other, clearer position…
And I think what befell me will befall most Iraqis… with the passage of time, when they face the true face of the American occupation.
Then, they will have to decide…either…or
Either stay with it, and spread its ideas….
Or renounce it…demanding that it should leave Iraq, refusing its ideas, and refusing the existence of everyone who spreads and markets its ideas among Iraqi men and women.
It is always… a matter of time.
The conference will end on Wednesday, perhaps the American newspapers will write about it…
They will say it was great, superb, the Iraqi women loved it, it was very useful to them, and they thanked its organizers, from the American government…
When you read about it… remember me.
Translated by May/Baghdad.

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