Saturday, March 13, 2004

Wednesday 3/3

I spent the day calling people to ask if there were alright after the explosions yesterday. All the customers at the store today were saying to each other “thank god for your safety”. I hear there is a draft version of the constitution, it will be final soon. I don’t like this new constitution, because it reinforces division among Iraqi people based on ethnic origin. Iraq has become divided into Shi’a and Sunni, Arab, Turkuman and Kurdish. This was not the case in the past. This is not the way to unite a nation. This is a way to divide people. I get emails from all over the world asking me if I am Sunni or Shi’a. You can hear people saying Sunni, Shi’a, Sunni, Shi’a, what a disaster. What is the difference between Sunni and Shi’a? They are all Muslims. Instead of looking for the things that unite us so that we can become one nation under these difficult conditions. We have become a devided into tribes and ethnic groups. Each side what its own rights and a percentage of seats, as if that was the ultimate goal. Is this the right way to build the new Iraq? I don’t like this way and I don’t think that it is correct. Each one of us is Iraqi, the is the beginning, end and the goal. Other details should go to hell.

When a customer comes to the store saying, we the Shi’a should get our turn now because we are the majority (by we he means himself and myself), I feel embarrassed and I look around, I think about how this talk is confrontational to the Sunni standing next to me. This kind of talk is inappropriate. I hate this sense of divisiveness. We are one nation with equal rights, that is what I believe in. Some small minded people become happy when they hear such talk, working hard to live in this state. I feel sorry for such people. I feel pain. I feel that he is misguided, he will waste many years of his life only to discover that he has taken the wrong path.


We used to employ a Kurdish engineer at our store. He worked with us for many years fixing electronic devices. Azzam and I would treat him with respect and compassion. We would invite him over to our house for lunch and for coffee and tea. Then he got married and had a family. He asked for a salary raise. We didn’t hesitate. We tried to treat him exceptionally because he was Kurdish. Because they are an oppressed minority group. We would give him extra attention. We tried to compensate him for any feeling of alienation in our society. When the war happened we had to close down the store until the security situation calmed down a bit. Then we reopened the store and returned to work. I felt that we needed him back. Many customers required repairs on their equipment. So I sent somebody to his house to tell him. After a while he came into the store. We sat to drink coffee, we asked him about the war and how he got through those difficult days. We talked about the destruction that happened to the city. As we were talking we mentioned the political parties that seized the houses of government officials, clubs and governmental offices and tried to turn them into their head quarters. We criticized such behavior. We consider it to be an immature action. These are buildings belonging to the state, they shouldn’t be abused by a particular party. We mentioned examples, this political party, that political party and then we mentioned a Kurdish party. Suddenly he became agitated and jumped out of his chair like mad. What is wrong with Kurdish parties? He started to yell and became overcome with anger. He said how Kurdish people were oppressed under Saddam regime and the Arabs did nothing about it. The time has come for Kurdish people to be free and do as they will. I was amazed for a little while. I couldn’t believe that this savage hostile person was also the peaceful man that used to work for us, the same person that was shy and always had a smile on his face. It caused me lots of pain to see him like that. I feel sorry for what is happening to him. The smell of hateful racism was coming out of him. I raised my voice in an angry way to tell him. Fine! you have worked with us for many years. Did we once mistreat you? Did we once not pay you on time because you are Kurdish? Have we ever disrespected you because you are Kurdish? Haven’t you discovered that Saddam, oppressed us all, he didn’t spare anybody. I am Shi’a, but do I hate Sunnis because they were close to Saddam? That would be stupid. Saddam was close to Shi’a , Sunni and Kurdishand anybody who was willing to act like a hypocrite. He didn’t answer my questions. He left the store, I don’t know if it was out of anger or out of embarrassment. But he is not working with us anymore. Each time we meet up at the traffic lights we look away, pretending we didn’t see each other. Something got cracked between us that can’t be fixed. Each time I remember him, I think isn’t this what racism does?


Negotiations are proceeding with the kidnappers. The price has gone down to 100,000 dollars. There still is room to apply more pressure and lower the number. Ammar called his family and told them that he was fine. The kidnappers told his family that they won’t hear his voice again unless they pay. Time is passing slowly and the issue requires a quick resolution. That is what everybody thinks. We will see tomorrow.


[Translation by]

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