May 31, 2007

My Shrine...

As I was staring out of the window, I noticed the full moon.
I remember when I was a child, I associated the full moon with my love for my grandmother.
I used to tell her: " Bibi, every time I see the full moon, I see you. You are my moon."

I absolutely adored my grandmother. She loved me kindly, warmly, with no strings attached...
As benevolently and as gently as the moonlight.

So naturally on a full moon, I remember her.
As a matter of fact, I remember all my departed ones, members of my family, my great grand parents, my ancestors...Everyone I have ever heard of, even those remotely related to me.

Remembering them gives me a sense of continuity...A sense of belonging.
And now that Iraq is in pieces, their rememberance is even more of a priority for me.

As a matter of fact, I dream of them often, or more like they visit me in my dreams ... rather too often, these days.
And true to our traditions, every time they visit me in my dreams, I make it a point to offer food or alms to any worship place (be it mosque or church) in their souls name.

Another thing that reminds me a lot of my departed ones is Sheikh al Gaylani(Gilani) mosque and shrine in downtown Baghdad.

Sheikh AbdelKader Al Gilani was a sufi and a good number of my family followed his teachings.
Some even say that we are related to him and can trace our roots right back to 13th century Baghdad through the Gaylani school.

So when I heard that Al Gaylani mosque and shrine was bombed, something in me snapped.
I felt it physically, something around my heart...

I have often visited this mosque, with members of my family, one of which was my grandmother.

We would sometimes go in the morning and sometimes in the early evenings.
In the mornings, women (sunnis and shias - we never thought of these terms before the occupation) would congregate, pray and pay their tributes.
Some would distribute candies because a secret vow or wish had come true.
So whilst praying, sweets would fall around me and it was always a good omen.

In the evenings, you could hear after the muezzin's call to prayer, the chanting -Dhikr - of the sacred Divine names, repeated over and over until they mingled with the sunset and became One.

This shrine is more than just a place of worship for me.
Every time I walked in there, I would draw strength, feeling it infusing my roots with a new breath...
Everytime I sat there, I connected with all those who sat there before me, all the way back to the 13th century...
This place symbolized for me, my sense of belonging, my sense of being.

In my mind, this place was my point of reference, like some lieu that my inner compass recognized, gravitated towards, affiliated and identified with...
An attachment beyond time, space and geography. An attachment like some invisible rope handed down through generations of worshippers and contemplators. All the way back...

When it got bombed , I asked Aziz who knows this mosque better than anyone else, who was behind it. He replied matter of factly as if he knew it all along :" Mahdi of Iran, Mossad and the Americans."... And I believe Aziz for he knows.

And instead of sweets falling as a good omen, falling debris buried the wounded...And instead of sacred chants uniting with the sunset, the cries of mourning...

What have you done?
Not only have you smashed my country into tiny pieces.
Not only have you slaughtered my people.
Not only have you snatched my loved ones, my family, my friends, away from me.
Not only have you destroyed our homes.
Not only have you exiled thousands of us.
But you have also managed to shatter my memories, pull them out from their roots, like some unwanted weed.
You have managed to reach the only sacred place I had left.
The only place I had jealously safeguarded, secretly held in silence, lest you should find out about it.
But you even managed to penetrate that too.
Leaving me with nothing...
Leaving me with absolutely nothing but this pen and paper and a full moon staring coldly back at me.

Painting: Iraqi artist, Salman Shalhoob.

May 27, 2007

Confessions on a Sunday...

I must be somewhat of a masochist.
Whenever I feel a kind of " blah" pervading me, I watch these "religious" TV stations, with the secret hope for a " pick me up" kind of feeling.
The "pick me up" has to do more with a few giggles rather than a "moment of Grace" even though I would not refuse the latter.

I have no particular preference. I zap from the depressing shia al-Forat channel to the equally depressing sunni Iqra channel and to the even more depressing "born again" Christian channels.

And each time I do that and watch what these guys (and most of them are guys) have to say, I feel like flagellating myself afterwards.

No, no, it is not due to some secret hidden desire to become a "sect martyr". It has more to do with a sense of guilt for having put my poor mind through so much torture.
What is torturing about it is the way I feel afterwards...

The subliminal message is almost always identical : " You are not good enough, you are sinful, repent..."

I am sure all religions are guilty of this and inflict that guilt on their followers.

Now don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Religion per se. As a matter of fact, I have spent considerable time studying comparative religions because this is a subject that greatly interests me. And I do not dismiss the concept of Transcendence either. In fact religion from latin (relegare) means to re-connect. And am all for re-connections...

And by the way, I do not discount the fact that evil and sin exist but somehow these T.V programs seem to misplace the evil/sin equation away from the real source.

For me the real source is Injustice. Injustice is the source of all evil and all sin.

"Al Haq" in Arabic, another attribute /name for the Divine, also means (the ultimate)Reality, Truth and Justice.

Injustice is a wide concept and we can debate for hours. Each one of us has her/his perception of what injustice means. But we can all agree that perfect Justice does not exist and that perfect Injustice does. In fact, it is a world made in our own image!

In my opinion, there are personal injustices and collective ones and both are interrelated.

So when writing about the Middle East, the personal is political and the collective is political and both are intertwined.

In fact when thinking and writing about the Middle East, everything becomes political, even religion.

Religion does not exist in the void. Religion exists in the minds of its people.
Religion or should I say the "transcendental" needs a receptacle.
Hence, in my opinion , since there are many receptacles, there cannot be only one understanding of any particular religion.
Hence I find blaming religion per se, or God or whatever you wish to call It, very naive and simplistic...
Injustices committed in the name of religion have to do more with the receptacles than the Divine Himself, Herself, Itself...

So getting back to my TV programs. Come to think about it , in fact what annoys me is not so much the religion per se, it is the receptacles.
It is the mind that thinks...
The tongue that utters...
The eye that judges...

I will leave Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, their own receptacles to deal with. Not that I don't care but they are simply not my priority right now. They are not my main concern.

My main concern was and remains the Middle East and I would thus like to address the minds of Muslim women and men and in particular Arab Muslim ones.

In all honesty, don't you people find something very "wrong" with some of the current "religious" discourses?

I mean don't you find it "strange" that at the height of "Occupation Freedom", sorry meant "Operation Freedom" (that was a genuine "lapsus"), when bombs were raining on Baghdad, covering it like Noah's flood, one hears a sermon diffused from some Arab Muslim capital talking about whether "women should or should not go to a male hair dresser".

Don't you also find it very "strange" that mullahs who give a Friday sermon about "Ahl Al Bayt" (the family of the prophet Mohammed), go into a frenzy, start hitting their heads and profusely cry (specially if there is a TV camera filming) whilst their followers torture and drill people?

Or don't you find it "strange" that Fatwas are debated for hours, arguing if it is ok for a woman to become a President or not and if she does, more debate - if it is ok for her to sit alone with another male head of state ?

And I have so many more examples of Fatwas and debates from all over the Middle East...and of course I have live examples from Iraq.

I personally find it very "strange" when women are forcibly clad from head to toe in black and forcibly look like walking tents. I mean, why black? Why not pink? Or purple or yellow or red? Where does it say in the Quran that women ought to look like in perpetual mourning? And this is only a tiny example.

I find it even stranger when auntie Sameera calls me and says :

- Layla, do you have any of those Afghani looking tunics ? You know those very long shirts one wears over trousers.

- No Auntie I don't. Why? Are you planning to emigrate to Tora Bora or something ?

- Layla! Am serious. I need one ..."

- What for? You already dress conservatively. I mean you wear a head veil/scarf. You wear loose clothes and ample shirts, ample enough for two to fit in...What do you need these tunics for?

- It seems it is not enough.

- What do you mean it is not enough? What is not enough ?

- The guys (guys again of course!) "in charge" of the neighborhood said that the shirt has to reach the knees if worn over trousers and blue jeans skirts are not allowed even if they are long enough to sweep the floors..."

Even boys and men are not spared. Auntie Sameera continues...

- You know Samya's son, he is not 11 years old yet. She was walking him to school when they pointed a gun to his head. Poor thing she got the scare of her life. They said his hair was too long and combed the wrong way. He had it spiked up...
Samya rushed back home and shaved the poor boy's hair off. Now he is completely bald.
Oh and not only him. Do you remember the driver Abu Tawfeek? Well, at the traffic lights someone pointed a gun to his head. Do you know why?

- Why? What did he do?

- He was wearing a short sleeve shirt. He had to drive back to his home through endless checkpoints and change shirts. Now he never leaves home without his long sleeves shirt. So Layla, where can I find those long tunics?

- Auntie, I think you may be better off seeking asylum in Tora Bora..."

Here is Baghdad, a once secular capital but not any less "pious", where women had their word to say, now turns into this bastardly melange of Saudi Arabia and Iran combined ? And run by Americans ?

I mean , don't you find all of that very "strange "?

Haram (prohibited) is everywhere. But :

Indiscriminately killing innocents is not Haram.
Raping, abducting, kidnaping people is not Haram.
Torturing, drilling and gouging eyes out is not Haram.
Starving people and seeing kids search garbage bins for food is not Haram.
Cholera and other diseases from overflowing sewage is not Haram.
Dehydration from lack of water and rising infant mortality is not Haram.
Girls as young as 14 selling their bodies to feed their families is not Haram.
Orphans sniffing glue in the streets is not Haram.
Patients undergoing surgery with no anesthetics is not Haram.

All of the above and much more is not Haram but a sleeveless shirt is ...
All of the above is not Haram but a female shirt that is not long enough to cover all of your butt and

I mean don't you really find all of that very "strange"?

Does that not move you when you bow down and prostrate 5 times a day?
Does that not touch you when you heed to your Friday prayers?
Or are you too engrossed discussing what kind of veil is best to cover your strands of hair and how to pin it, back or front and whether your sleeves should reach your wrists or not...And how long your beard should be and whether the water should reach your elbow or a little above or a little below during your ablutions...

Do you think that is "normal"?

Do you think that it is "normal" for so called "religious men" who grow beards and speak of God all the time to do such things or to allow them?

Do you think it is "normal" that the current religious discourses by these perverts has to include and refer to women's bodies all the time?

I mean, do you think this is natural? Do you think this is Islamic?

Do you really think that this is the kind of receptacle - mind, the Divine wants you to have?

Is there any chance at all that you will wake up from your own stupor? Is there any chance at all that you will stop tolerating Allah and Islam being insulted that way ?

May 25, 2007

The "Savior" has landed.

Very distressing piece of news on al-
Seems that the man in black, the turbaned, psychotic, farce called Muqtada al Sadr has returned as the Savior of Iraq.
He made his appearance in Kufa and this is what he had to say to his "masses".

"The Iraqi government and other forces are trying to help the Baathists to return. (Is this bad satire or what?). We would not allow the Baathists to return and I will try to stop that."

When talking about other "sects" such as sunnis and christians. Note the following :

"Conversion threats.
Al-Sadr also promised to protect Iraq's Sunni and Christian minorities from hardline "Sunni" factions, or Nawasib, such as al-Qaeda, if US forces would allow his fighters to deploy.
He said: "I received complaints from brother Sunnis and some Christians about the aggressions of the Nawasib. I am ready to defend them and will be a shield for them, although the occupier would not accept that.
I say that our houses and cities are open for them and that for Iraqis to kill Sunnis and Christians is a sin. What the Nawasib are doing to compel the Christians to embrace Islam is despicable."
Christians living in Sunni districts of southern Baghdad have complained of receiving death threats from fighters ordering them to convert.
Al-Sadr also had tough words for al-Maliki's goverment over its failure to provide public services in Iraqi cities, four years after Saddam's fall.
He said: "There is an abundance of cries and complaints calling for democracy in Iraq. Despite these calls, the Iraqi people remain deprived of services like water and electricity and even communications.
"If the government won't help, we will have another word with it."

My oh my, the circus has not stopped and is unlikely to stop.
Of course the intelligent reader which I assume you are, will understand the script here.

Just in case you do not, allow me to elucidate it for you.

Sadr was co-opted by the Iranians back in 2004. (For more on a brief history of the shia political clergy in Iraq, read this piece here spotted on Palestinianpundit. Mind you I do not agree with everything the article states but that is besides the point)

Sadr took refuge in Iran whilst his boys did not stop torturing and massacring both Sunnis, Christians and add, the Palestinians.

At the same time, the sunnis and christians are being harassed by "Al-Qaeda" salafists.

Now, who is exactly behind al Qaeda is another ball game altogether. But suffice to say that these two populations, sunnis and christians are now caught between two swords and ditto for the Palestinians (the same fate they are enduring in Iraq is being repeated again in Lebanon.)

So what happened is as simple as A.B.C.

Terrorize these two populations, torture them, drill them, rape them, burn their shops down, wall them in (remember Jaysh al Mahdi - his boys - were helping the American forces build the Adhamiya wall). In sum render them helpless and traumatized and with no defender.

Also let me remind you that the ministers in charge of Electricity, Health... are Sadrists, in other words his Boys. And they deliberately thwart electricity, water and health supplies to the sunnis areas.

Then do what Iran did to Muqtada al Sadr, co-opt them and pose yourself as their ultimate savior from the nasty bad wolf called Al-Qaeda and get another Seymour Hersh to spill the beans about the bad, bad wolf.
(Is that not also what the U.S. government allegedly does. Be the slayer of the bad, bad wolf al Qaeda?)

Seems that Muqtada al- Sadr came back from Iran with fresh new directives and is concocting in the most feeble of ways yet another ploy and the ultimate goal is?
Pose himself as the patriotic, anti-sectarian (hahahaha) Iraqi for a united anti-occupation front and ultimately take full reign of the government.

Now that al Hakeem is ill and al Maliki has failed with a big F, Sadr is trying to have his full grip over the government and Iran, through him, have its full grip over what it considers a natural extension of its geographical borders - Iraq.

So who is al-Qaeda after all? The US ? Iran ? Israel ?
All of the above, none of the above?

A close reading of the actors in Iraq and the fate of the Palestinians there, repeating itself now in Lebanon (same scenario) will provide you with a very good clue.

Painting: Iraqi female artist,Yaqeen Abdulaimy.

May 24, 2007

Aliens in Babel.

My very good friend called me today. She sounded a little frantic on the phone.

- Did you hear the news? I just saw it on al Arabiya TV channel.

- What again ? Who died again ?

- Turkey is threatening to enter Northern Iraq and finish with the Kurdish "rebels". Seems a few Turkish soldiers were killed today.

- You mean by the PPK or is it the PKK or the KKK ?

- Yeah, another pipi/kaka story.

- Is there anyone who has not entered Iraq?

- Come to think about it, no.

- Let me see, there are the Americans, the Iranians, the Israelis, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Dans, the Brits, the Eastern Europeans, the Western Europeans, the South Africans, the Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Syrians, the Saudis...

- Yeah and today I heard a lot of Latin Americans too. Venezuelans, Ecuadorians, Bolivians, Chileans, Mexicans, Argentinians, Brazilians...

(By the way, the Iraqi football team just hired a Brazilian coach, probably much to the displeasure of Muqtada Baby who frowns upon football that "degenerate sport". Great news no? Iraqis can't walk in the street but hey they can play some first class football !)

- Latin Americans? What for?

- Reconstruction.

- Reconstruction? Where? When? Have you seen any reconstruction yourself ?

- Nope, none so far.

- I wonder what Chavez has to say about that?

- It's a mess...Now you can add the Turks to the list. The only ones who have not landed yet are some extra-terrestrial aliens. You know a few green martians...

- They may soon, you know.

- Yeah anything is possible in Iraq.

- Do you think they will be reconstructing too?

- I don't know, ask NASA...

Seems the Iraqi Eldorado has not lost its charm nor its attractions.

All these nationalities have come to "reconstruct"...
Some by milking this poor Iraqi cow until they reach her bones and others through sheer elimination.
I mean, surely if you want to reconstruct a country, you need to eliminate its people and start anew right?
Like restore the virginity to the land so you can build better and stronger fortresses.
A brand new Iraq with a brand new population. A total Babel makeover.
You know, like the ones you see on these American TV reality shows. Revamped, relooked, redone...beyond recognition.

And once this Iraqi milking cow is dried out, these wonderful aliens from the Green zone will simply move to newer, greener pastures...They accomplished their mission. They "reconstructed" the New Tower of Babel.

I suddenly feel a buzz in my head. Like a radar signal...
Maybe some extra-terrestrial martians are trying to establish a preliminary contact before their landing...

Who knows, anything is possible in the New Iraq. The buzz is getting stronger...
I better run now, before I get "abducted" by these "little" men.

But do stay tuned to the next Babel episode. And may the Green($$$) Force be with you!

Painting : Iraqi artist, Mohammed Sami.

Under a Sky of Diamonds.

Only a few days ago, I quoted that song by the Eagles : " Hotel California".
A friend who is a rock addict (as in music) told me that this song was about drugs. The hard shit.
Well got news for you . That hard shit has reached Iraq.

I did mention in earlier posts that drugs were virtually unknown in the Iraq of "before".
I also did mention that since the "after", all kinds of drugs circulate in the market.
I also noted that members from the death militias of the "nationalist", "patriotic", "anti-occupation"(hahahaha), loving version of Mahatma Gandhi - Muqtada Al Sadr and Co, are regular users of drugs.
That may partly explain their total numbness when on their drilling fix.

But now the "breaking news".
Just read that opium is being grown in Southern Iraq. Under the agricultural expertise and auspices of Iran of course. Iraq turning into a poppy field, turning into an Afghanistan?
Not far fetched at all. ( Read full article here) .

Now let me get this right, maybe am missing something here.

Alcohol shop owners are arrested, tortured and have their shops burned down because they are engaging in some "haram" (prohibited) behavior.
Women are forced to veil and keep a low profile otherwise they would be engaging in "haram" behavior...
But hey it is ok to grow opium.

Smoke it, sniff it, inject it ...that 's absolutely cool.
The Mullahs said so and they may even partake in your sanctified ceremonious activitiy every now and then.

So Iraqis are not only getting tortured, raped, slaughtered, blown to pieces, massacred.
They are not only made destitute and impoverished.
They are not only turned into refugees.
They are not only polluted with chemical and biological weapons.
They are not only deprived of water, electricity, food and basic services.
They are not only stripped of any basic rights in their own country...
No, there has to be more...
They will also be turned into drug traffickers and addicts...

What else can Iran and the U.S think of to exterminate us? Any more constructive loving ideas?

Is that not wonderful? Don't you just love this new Iraq of the "beatniks"?

Why don't you pass the joint, pipe, syringe and... lie next to me in my new roofless den.

We can then both contemplate our lovely Iraqi sky and see a thousand heavenly diamonds shining like bright stars...

But shhhhh....Don't tell the mullahs. It's haram!

Painting: Iraqi artist, Delair Saad Shaker.

May 22, 2007

The Gates of Hell are wide open...

Welcome to Baghdad.

Today 12 innocent Iraqis, dead throughout Baghdad . A mortar hits the "fortified" Green Zone - only material damage it seems.
The "Iraqi" government will be signing a half a billion Dollars arms deal with America. The reason? The security situation necessitates more american weapons.
I guess not enough Iraqis are killed so far...
They really would like to apply Bremer's recommendation of bringing the total number of Iraqis to 6 million. "It is more than enough" he was overheard saying.

Welcome to Gaza.

Yesterday, 5 cowardly, criminal, nazi, Israeli air raids on Gaza. The last one was at 12 am (sunday). A whole family of 7 member killed on the spot. Carbonised bodies taken out from under the rubbles by "rescue teams" which are none other but the residents of Gaza.
Today during the day, more air raids and more dead.
Is it not enough that Gaza has nothing ? No infrastructure, no employment, no proper running medical facilities, no food, no functional sewage, no nothing. But to top it all off the exclusive "Jewish state", the "beacon of democracy" in the Middle East bombs innocent civilians in the middle of the night who have nothing and are left with nothing...

Welcome to Beirut.

Over 30 Lebanese soldiers dead in Nahr al Bared clashes with some obscure "Jihadist" group. 12 fighters dead. Meanwhile the innocent Palestinian civilians of Nahr al Bared camp are without electricity, no running water and under siege.

The following day, at 12 am to be more precise, a car bomb placed in the Ashrafieh neighborhood in East Beirut kills a 63 years old woman and injures between 6 and 8 innocent passers by. A commercial area that is filled with people on a late Sunday night.
The area is "predominantly christian" (I know you love this "predominantly" business.)
Today, another car bomb in West Beirut, the Verdun area, a "predominantly muslim" area, injures 6 innocent people, two of which are children.

Any link between all these events you think?
Do remember what I said in one of my previous posts "Despair".
"Neighbors" would love to see Arab speaking countries turned into tiny statelets.

Analyze it and interpret it the way you like. You may find handy explanations that fit your agenda and you may call it civil war, sectarianism, civil strife...
Call it what you like...The end result is the same.

The New Middle East of the New World Order is a bit like the Hotel California song by the Eagles: "You can check out any time you want but you can never leave"...

And the gates are wide open. Welcome, welcome...Welcome to the Middle East.

Painting: Iraqi artist, Mohammed Sami.

May 19, 2007

A Saddam obsession...

The online dictionary defines obsession as "a domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc. " and as "a compulsive, often unreasonable idea or emotion..."

Now Sami (I never use real names by the way) is a prototype of someone obsessed. However, Sami's obsession has a peculiarity of its own. His obsession is Saddam Hussein (the legitimate president of Iraq.)

I have known Sami for over 15 years now. I have known him "before" and "after".
"Before" and "After" have become code words amongst Iraqis to refer to that cursed day - the day of the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.

When Iraqis discuss something, anything, almost always someone will ask this question: "Was that before or after?"

Sami before and Sami after and his obsession has not ceased...

Sami is originally from what is now called the Adhamiya Ghetto. Apart from our common attachment to this ghetto, we share nothing else.

Before, Sami would blame everything that went wrong in his personal life, in Iraq and in the world on Saddam.

He went prematurely bald - like very bald (mind you, I have nothing against bald men, some can look quite sexy - not Sami though.) He blamed Saddam for his alopecia. He said it was due to stress and Saddam was responsible for his stressful life.

Sami's girlfriends would dump him - for what I consider obvious reasons to do with his personality - He blamed Saddam for it. He ardently believed that women would flee him because he had no money to take them out on a date and of course it was Saddam's fault.

During his periods of abstinence due to lack of girlfriends, again he blamed Saddam for his libidinal frustrations.

When Sami could not hold a job for more than 2 months because of his utter laziness, he justified it as the job market simply having no place for a genius like himself. And it was all because of Saddam, of course.

When no one would buy Sami's lousy art or what he considered as "art". He firmly believed that no one appreciated his works because of the general cultural atmosphere. And again Saddam was the culprit.

If Sami got up on the wrong side of the bed, it was because of Saddam. If he was having a bad day, Saddam...If he farted sideways, again Saddam.

Naturally, the blame did not stop there. It went to encompass everything else.
The initial Iranian aggression on the Iraqi villages and the ensuing Iraq-Iran war was Saddam's fault.
The so-called "oppression of the Kurds" (incidentally one of the biggest lies in contemporary history), all because of Saddam.
The so-called "repression " of the Shias, (another blatant lie- a broken record rehashed till this very day even though all evidence point that the sectarians from this sect were armed, financed and trained by Iran - look at Iraq now!) was also because of Saddam.
Gulf War I - Saddam.
The 13 years of a draconian embargo - Saddam.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq - Saddam.

I forgot to mention a very "interesting" point about Sami's political inclinations.
He is a self proclaimed atheist who quoted the Koran when the invasion took place saying : "It may be something you hate but which is beneficial for you".

He is a also a self labeled "progressive", a so-called "communist" who voted for the butcher of Fallujah, Allawi. And at times, a hardcore capitalist who would get terribly excited at the sight of raw cash.

After the occupation, Sami was jubilant, elated.
To be fair, he was not the only one. I knew a whole bunch of Iraqis sharing his political inclinations being as exalted. However, they were more discreet about it and did not flaunt in public the way Sami did. But they did vote for the butcher of Fallujah. Of that am sure. And some even voted for the death squads militias of Sadr and al Hakeem!

A few days ago, I had the misfortune of bumping into Sami. And I will let you in on our brief "conversation".

Him : Layla! Long time no see.

Me : Yes indeed. How are you and how is your family?

Him : You mean in the ghetto? Did you know they are making them wear badges, scan their irises and take their digital prints?

Me : Yes I know.

Him : Did you know that they are not allowed to leave the ghetto during certain hours. And if they don't make it back by 9 pm they are deliberately targeted by the sectarian militias.

Me : Yes I know. We have become the new Jews of the occupation or the new Palestinians.

Him: Yes we have indeed.

Me : (playing dumb) Who do you think is behind all of this?

Him: America, Iran and Israel through the kurds of course.

Me : Iran and the Kurds? But I thought the shias were repressed and the kurds oppressed?
(funnily enough Chomsky and Co. hold the same discourse).

Him: All Saddam's fault!

Me : The man is dead. You are still at your usual scapegoating.

Him : Yes it is because of him. He should have finished these sectarians of al Dawah, Al- Sadr, Al Hakeem, Al Jaafari once and for all...

Me : And the kurds? I guess you must be happy now?

Him: Happy? Again it is Saddam's fault. He is to blame. He should have never given them autonomy back in 1974. Their status in Iraq should have been like their current/present status in the neighboring countries like in Iran, Turkey and Syria. Why sign a treaty and give them autonomy. It's all because of him.

Me : Give the man a break. He is dead.

Him: And did he have to die this way? I mean why did he not accept the Rumsfeld offer? Did he have to support the resistance? Do you know that I have invested 1 million dollars in real estate and now the buildings are occupied by the militias and the resistance and my money has gone down the drains.

Sami paused to catch his breath, wipe beads of sweat from his forehead and pass his fingers through his invisible hair...

At that point I started feeling very nauseating. Something in my facial expression must have been a give away.

Him: Are you ok? You look a little sick.
Me : I suddenly feel rather queasy. Maybe Saddam has something to do with it. Do excuse me I better rush off before I throw up on... you.

I walked away, quickening my pace and took one last look at Sami, as if to draw this ultimate, definitive frontier between him and this category of Iraqis and...myself.

I saw his shining bald head reverberating in the sunlight like a cracked mirror and I walked even faster almost running...

As I saw the distance separating Sami (and his ilk) growing wider and wider, I slowed down and at one point, I could have sworn, I saw Saddam smiling at me as if to tell me : "I told you so ".
I caught myself replying out loud : "And as usual, you were right."

A passer by noticed me talking to myself. I saw him slightly shaking his head in dismay and most likely thinking to himself, here is another case of a woman gone mad.

Well occupations do that to you. You either start talking to the dead or talking to yourself.
I guess you can call it an obsession. And it can get to be a very lonesome place too.

Painting: Iraqi female artist, Betool Fekaiki.

May 17, 2007


I feel terribly sad today. A grey kind of sadness that is enveloping me, shutting out any rays of light, any rays of hope...
Two things are weighing heavily on my heart today. And in no order of priority, the first is the in killing, in fighting between the Palestinians.

I have always prayed that it will never come to this. Hoping against hope that reason will prevail. But it seems that reason has no place in the Middle East.

Palestinians killing each other is a Nakba. A true Nakba. What will happen next?
Will they divide what remains of the West Bank into statelets, to be shared amongst the tribal chieftains?

Israel is behind all of this. Israel and Iran. I hate politics. I hate politics with vehemence.
This is not the time to take sides. The side of Fatah or the side of Hamas.
The Palestinians must take to the streets en masse and say NO to both!
No to divisions, no to these corrupt political power mongers, no to the spilling of Palestinian blood...

Which brings me to the second thing that feels like a stone on my chest.
A report just came out- you can read it in full here - stating that Iraq is on the verge of total collapse.
The report mentions civil war, several of them, taking place in different parts of the country. And more statelets are in the making.

This is what Israel wants, this is what Iran wants, this is what America wants.
I knew that the country is on the verge of collapse. I believe it has already collapsed.
But seeing it black on white, confirmed by some British think tank (as if the Brits were not behind it too) drives that factual reality even deeper.

Iraqis killing Iraqis, Palestinians killing Palestinians, Lebanese killing Lebanese...
This is what the Machiavellis of world politics are after. The vampires of international relations live off Arab blood.
They desire these Arab bodies to drip and drip till they are completely dried out, like falling leaves, like empty wells, like hollow vessels, leaving nothing but skeletons in the sand.

Or to use Radhee's words :" I wake up in the morning and death sits next to me. I have my tea and she has one too. I walk and she accompanies me. I go to sleep at night and she is in my bed.
I see death, I breathe death, I hear death, I smell death...She is everywhere.
When she will pick me up is only a question of time..."

Painting: Iraqi artist, Dr. Hashim Al-Tawil.

May 14, 2007

The Sound of Silence

I don't know about you, but for me, every spring, I go through the season's motions best described as a frantic, quasi obsessive "mission" of cleaning, boxing, rearranging, disregarding "stuff".

The urge takes me and does not let go until I feel I have "sorted out" objects from the past...

Whilst on my spring "crusade" of infinite order, of un-cluttering my surroundings and hopefully my life in the process, I came across a dusty old box of audio cassettes.

You know audio cassettes? I know these things are no longer in fashion, having been replaced by CD's, MP3's,Ipods...

Well, I still have cassettes, hundreds of them and I have kept my vinyl records too...Some things from the past, I seem to have difficulty letting go of.

By the way, people in the Middle East still use cassettes or tapes. CDs still remain a luxury for most...

Copyrights of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) state that no cheaper CDs can be made...but people do cheat and if they are caught they are heavily fined and some find their shops closed down.

Where is WIPO when Iraqi academics are shot left, right and center? What about their intellectual property?
Or when Iraqi antiquarian libraries are burned down to ashes?
Or when ancient archeological sites are polluted with stupid, idiotic, yankee graffitis by the pissing brave boys?
Graffitis on Mesopotamian ruins, like "Johny boy loves SueAnn", or "Michael was here", or "Hey Babylon"...
But of course WIPO and UNESCO are silent, snoring away next to K.Annan then, and now continuing their sleep next to Ban Ki Moon...

Don't want to get sidetracked by the U.N and its "agencies" as I can write a book about these bastards...So back to my old dusty box and to the harmlessly familiar.

I was so tempted to chuck it and all of its content away. I had not touched it in years. And principles of Feng Shui state that if you have not used something in 6 months, you are unlikely to use it at all.

I beg to differ with "Mr." Feng Shui, because my magic box had a different story to tell.

I have kept this box for over 20 years even though am no hoarder by nature.
Over 20 years of a hidden something...
I opened it like a child opening a packaged present, with all of the excitement of the world...
A box holding all the ominous possibilities maybe?

And what tapes did I find in it?
Old lyrics from old songs, songs from the post 60's, post-Vietnam era...
Songs, I actually took the time to tape from records. It must have taken me days and days of recording...

Songs from Carly Simon, Carol King, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Joan Baez, Art & Garfunkel and many, many more...
My, I had patience 20 years ago!

I listened to them all over again and am listening to them again on my walkman as I am typing this...Yes, I have no Ipod and no computer anymore.

Carly Simon is singing "You're so vain". This song reminds me of a certain category of pseudo-intellectual Arab men. The title is self explanatory...
Randy Newman's "Little criminals" is now playing. I guess that needs no commentary either...
Carol King is next with "It's too late". A song I dedicate to the Iraqis who danced with joy while dipping their fingers in purple ink...
Now it's Joan Baez turn with "Its all over now Baby blue" - Ever so accurate.
And now, it's Art & Garfunkel with one of my favorites, "The sound of silence"...

Have you ever listened to the Sound of Silence yourself ?
I have.

When cyber "well wishers" send me viruses, worms, germs and a whole panoply of "weapons of mass destructions", trying to shut me up for weeks - That is the sound of silence.

When journalists are killed on a daily basis, 4 last week in Kirkuk and when "Journalistes sans Frontieres" state that Iraq is the most dangerous country in the world for reporters (over 184 have been dead so far) - That is the sound of silence.

When militias from Iran, kidnap, torture, rape and slaughter what they consider "possible, potential" resistance voices - That too is the sound of silence.

When a people are walled in, made prisoners behind a thick barrier and not allowed to leave their ghetto after certain hours, 9pm to 6 am - That is also the sound of silence.

When over 122'000 Iraqi babies below the age of 5 have been killed since 2005 either through violence, disease, lack of medical care, or malnutrition and when 1 child out of 8 will not survive his/her 5th year - That is definitely the sound of silence.

When "liberation" forces massacre more children with their liberation, two of them last week - That is the sound of silence.

When a 80 years old man, diabetic and with a heart condition is detained in the middle of the night under the pretext that he is a "potential" terrorist- That too is the sound silence.

When an Iraqi woman fears walking the streets or is raped because she belongs to the wrong sect, and she then imprisons herself at home, suffocating her voice - That is the height of the sound of silence.

So what were the lyrics of the "Sound of Silence"?
"Hello Darkness, my old friend..."
Now followed by another Art & Garfunkel song "My Little Town" and the words are:
"Nothing but the dead and dying in my little town"...

Oh wait...I can't believe my ears...I hear my own voice now on this tape.
I have recorded over "my little town" this poem which I wrote over 20 years ago.
It is not such a great poem but do you want to hear it? I will share it with you if you wish. My poem from my old dusty box.

It is called "Poem about America"

The people of Hiroshima
are still crying
blind eyes, tears of blood.
The people of Chile
are still bruised,
mutilated bodies.
The children of Vietnam
are still burnt
skins falling
incinerated bones.
The people of Palestine
are still castrated,
In Lebanon,
the odor of the dead
saturates the streets.
In Guatemala,
the land is raped,
the stomachs empty.
In the Sahel,
the bodies are dry,
the eyes hollow.
In India,
the dustbins overflow
with corpses
and human decay.
Where to now my enemy?
Where to now my oppressor?
Your ghettoes are filled
with misery and suffering
Your prisons are filled
with hungry thieves
Your streets are filled
with headless bodies
Your brothels are filled
with torn women
Where to now?
Where to now?

As I said this simple poem was written by me when I was 21 years old.
Here I was a 21 young "internationalist".
And instead of day-dreaming of the prince in shining white armor, I was writing poems about America's oppression of the world.

Where to now my enemy, where to now my oppressor?
Little did I know then, that the "where to now", is Iraq, decades later...
Just replace each of the countries mentioned with Iraq and you are taken to the year 2007.

The tape is reaching its end...
Don Mc Lean is singing "Bye Bye Mr.American Pie"...

Maybe Mr.Feng Shui is right, I need to say goodbye to these post Vietnam "liberation" songs ...
Not much has changed since, except no one composes songs for Iraq.
I remember now, we have "failed to capture the American imagination".

Bye Bye Mr.American Pie and am back to " the Sound of Silence"...of "my Little Town".

Apologies to Mr.Paul Simon. It is Simon & Garfunkel and not Art &...
I did say once I was bad with names - So please don't shoot me.OK?

Painting: Iraqi female artist, Betool Fekaiki.

May 3, 2007

A Bed of Roses, A Bed of Thorns.

What was that saying I had memorized eons ago?
Ah right! Now I remember. "A rose by any other name smells as sweet".

I remember as a teenager, I would repeat this proverb over and over in my head , when my first crush threw a wild daisy my way, plucked from the neighbor's garden.
I held that daisy pretending it was a rose and it did smell as sweet - well sort of...

I am sure Suzanne's roses smelled very sweet too.
I received a zillion megabytes of pictures of her wedding.
Suzanne finally tied the noose, sorry meant the knot. My cynicism occasionally gets the better of me ... So sorry Suzanne.

Suzanne majestically dressed in the proverbial white dress, gazing with desperately loving eyes into her soon to be husband's.

In the background, tons of roses , thousands of them decorating this eternalized picture and all the others...

The wedding party , a "creme de la creme" gathering , in some super de luxe 10 stars hotel in some Middle Eastern capital...

Everyone looks ecstatic at the sumptuousness of the surroundings and the decor and they look very jovial and merry - A kind of drunk merry - A strange thing since it was supposedly a "dry wedding"...
But if you look closely at the dinner tables, you would see lots of teapots, hidden behind the roses...
Tea with smoked salmon and filet mignon sauce champignons de Paris ?
Suzanne also sent me a scanned photo of the menu...

And more roses and rose petals covering everything and everyone...Tables, floor, chairs, singer, dancing guests, bride and groom and of course the teapots...
Enough roses to sink the Titanic.

Please don't get me wrong , am very happy for Suzanne, but why so much roses?
I mean, there are so many good causes, so many needy people around and instead of spending thousands of dollars on roses, give the money to someone whose wretched life has made it impossible for him/her to smell food let alone roses...For instance like in Iraq.

And what is this business of white dresses? I mean what for?
In the Islamic tradition one wears white when someone dies.
Does that mean that the bride is signing her death warrant on her wedding ?
Ok, ok, am being cynical again...
During the Hajj period, the pilgrims wear white too...symbolizing death of self in view of a new rebirth...
So I guess all these brides are going to be born again into matrimony...saying goodbye to "virginity" - metaphorically speaking of course...
But what is virginity?
Look at Iraq, she was a virgin and she has been wearing nothing but red and black since her "wedding " day...

If I ever get married again, unlikely with my cynicism (occupation do these things to you), I don't want any of this white dress business. I shall wear red.
Bright red.
The color of blood, the color of roaring, erupting volcanoes, the color of a dying sun, the color of passion , the color of Resistance...The color of Iraq.

Yes, red it is and red it shall be ...until we are born again.

Back to the wedding pictures.
Rose upon rose, it all looked so sweet.
Roses in the background staring at you, whilst the newly wed stare in desperado into each other's eyes...

Which reminds me of the desperate, hollow look of a Baghdad florist.
That courageous man who dutifully opens his empty shop daily, despite the snipers, despite the car bombs, despite the mortar explosions, despite the militias, despite the arbitrary arrests...

He says : " Business is bad, very bad. Nobody buys flowers anymore. I used to receive them from Jordan. Nobody can afford flowers, nobody cares about flowers, now I have nothing to sell...
People used to get married and have parties. Now it is a quick thing. A one hour job, usually between 1 and 2 pm. Security reasons. No parties, no weddings, no singing, no dancing, no white dresses, no roses.... Business is very bad, really bad..."

The shop next door is a coffin maker. He on the other hand is doing extremely well. Possibly the only lucrative "entrepreneur" in Baghdad who is prospering.
" Not enough time " he says. " Much demand and not enough wood ".
In fact coffins have become very expensive and seems that people have no time limits, like brides and grooms, when it comes to coffins...They are in demand 24/7.

I wonder if our Baghdadi florist will make it another day and if someone decides that he should "leave", will someone throw a rose on his tomb or will his neighbor give him a special discount for the coffin?

I don't think coffin makers run the risk of getting massacred ...People, whatever their allegiance, still like to bury their dead.
I have no special worries about the coffin maker...I just know he will be fine.

Imagine for one moment, that an American bride, or any other bride for that matter, cannot have a wedding for security reasons.
No wedding party, no guest lists, no church, no vows, no priest, no dancing, no banquet, no champagne, no wedding cake, no pictures, no honeymoon, no white dress and no roses...

Imagine for one moment that some American bride has to get married between 1 and 2 pm exclusively.

I mean prospective brides whine and nag enough as it is...and what if they can't have it all on that "very special " day? Oh my God, can you imagine the post traumatic effect...

Ok am sorry Suzanne, I really wish you and all the other brides to live happily ever after on your bed of roses.
Do forgive my wry sense of humor, the occupation has screwed up my " romantic" predisposition.
And since I am unable to offer you a wedding present , please accept these few lines from one of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda, instead.

" Y fui como un herido por las calles
Hasta que comprendi que habia encontradas
amor, mi territorio de besos y volcanoes "

My very, very humble translation -
" And I would stroll the streets as a wounded
to understand in the end, that I have discovered
my love, territory of kisses and volcanoes " .

Oh yes, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet in my thorny territory of love and volcanoes...

Painting: Iraqi female artist, Semira Wahab.