Friday, May 21, 2010

Love'N Remorse

I regard myself as a dot… as a black unimportant dot in a forgotten road of Baghdad. As I imagine the size of the world now I know how much small I am. After hearing about the rambling incidents of the world around I know how miserable my life in Baghdad is.

The electricity is still a “something” that is regarded as very modern and non-reachable easily. Visas are not given to me cause I am Iraqi. I am frightened most of the time. Cause I am Iraqi.

Some lucky friends had left this country and got new nationalities. Most are Americans now. Some are British. And my dear friend with whom I spent some of the most important part of my life is turning to be a Canadian.

Do I have an Australian friend? Yes. He was my neighbor.

Well, I don’t need much from the world.

I don’t want luxury. Actually I was taught to hate luxury.

I want to stay an Iraqi living over this hot ground that burns your feet when you go walking bare-foot in summer as I did once before years and that unforgettable.

From the soil of this homeland came up those people that I most adore for their patience, wisdom and warm.

Here are pictures from Al Mahmoodiya, a quarter from Baghdad, with a song about how love can cause remorse. I hope that there will not come a day that an Iraqi would blame himself for not leaving this land, for loving this land, which had suffered a lot. See by your eyes, hear by your ears, here is Iraq, feel it.

Bisnoonha ( =By her teeth)
3adhat shafayifha nadam (She bit her lips because of remorse)
Tirjif khajal (=shivering because of her shyness)
Min rasha l 7ad jidam (= from her head to her feet)
Sa3ar tighamth 3younha (=one moment she closes her eyes)
Sa3a etabaddal loonha (= one moment her color changes)
Amoot ana bi3younha (= I die on her eyes = I love her eyes to death)
Wsa3a etighayer loonha (= and other moment her color changes)
Shifti el 3ishig shisawi a yeflana (=did you see what love can do?)

Monday, May 17, 2010


Today’s temperature at the afternoon was 41 Centigrade (=105.8 F) in Baghdad. Many got to walk for a distance before reaching where they can take a bus back to their home. At the main cross roads in Baghdad they are building either tunnels or bridges. Soil and dust is everywhere. Most go out from work somewhere between 2:30 pm and 3:00 pm. Most are hungry, got a headache, and feeling hot, and got to walk across those cross roads to reach where they can find busses which have no air-conditioning.

I was so hungry so I went to the nearby old Baghdadi quarter to have my lunch in a simple public restaurant. Went for a walk and felt so tired again and found that café. Cold water and a cup of tea were great to refresh me. I asked for another cup of tea and opened my newspaper (Al Mada, =the horizon to find this caricature (by Adel Sabri)

To the left stands a man representing the “hot summer” and to the right a man representing the “electricity crisis” and the poor Iraqi citizen is wrapped in the stick they hold him in, above that fire.

I found a friend and we went to reach home together. I wondered about other papers caricatures and searched for them in the google. Yesterdays issue of Al Esbouya (the weekly) journal has a symbolic cover. The British election Vs Iraqi election, flowers Vs Cactus.

Cactus appear again in Al Alam (the world) newspaper issue of today put in a long table and empty two chairs and man waiting at the door for the proposed meeting of the “opponents” as the newspaper states.

Al Zaman (the time) wrote above its caricature: all in the government and the others are opposition forces. Making the note that all want to be in the executive part of the government and no one like to be as a member of the opposition forces in the parliament.

Al Sabah (= the morning) caricature of today:

liked another caricature from Al Sabah published before days and it needs no words.

Sorry for not mentioning the names of other cartoonists but it is not clearly written in Arabic, only of Al Sabah which might be read as Abdul-Raheem.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Green Love

Friday it is and Baghdad is calm again. The streets are almost empty from the ugly cars and no irritating horns are heard for a while.

Next to Dijla those men are succeeding in remembering us of our identity, of our smell and existence. All ages gather to hear the sound of wisdom. Hand in hand, Kullita and Ninatta (Goddesses of music) came out of Dijla and started dancing for us.

Ahmed Khalaf was talking about Fuad Al Tikarly and about the behavior of the novelist and the relation between behavior and writing. I remembered that Hussain Sarmak, the Iraqi psychiatrist, had written a text about Ahemd Khalaf novels. I started searching for the novels.

Tarek Harb started talking about the novelists who were lawyers since Fuad Al Tikerly was a lawyer. He mentioned Kazantzakis, who was a lawyer as he said, and started talking about the lawyer in merchant of Venice and the trial stating that Shakespeare had broke a rule in courts because he wasn’t a lawyer, since the flesh got blood in it, then the final rule of the judge was wrong, according to Tarek Harb.

It was a hot dusty afternoon but after I was heading to my home, Baghdad had drawn me a childish green heart on her ugly walls. Well Baghdad, me and my friends, love you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Symphonic Annoyance

Baghdad roads are very crowded since some of the high ways, and most of small streets are blocked by concrete walls. Since about one year and eleven vital cross roads are partially blocked cause they are trying to build bridges at the site. They only work in the morning, at the peak of traffic, crowd, heat, and annoyance.

Some, fortunately, still find a place to play football in spite of everything.

Since our present days are ugly and irritating, we try to find our calm in history.

Fathers are trying hard to find work. Many college graduates are self employed in some hard works. In a lecture of one of the known professors of psychology in Baghdad he said that most of his students now work as self-employed in Al Shorja (the central ugly messy trade centre).

The 1980s Brazilian made Passat is still widely used in Iraq and it is known for its sudden unexplained troubles. When it suddenly stops, with no life in it, the driver and his friend got to push it under the annoying symphony of the angry cars in the blocked road behind them and their irritating loud horns.

I reached home and slept like a dead. Woke up at evening dazed with my cup of black tea watched the politicians accusing each other of stereotyped words that made me sick: sectarian, loyal to Iran, Ba'athist, Saddamist, Sunni, Shiit.... and so on forgetting that we, the normal Iraqis, are living under the same hot sun, and hearing the same ugly symphony since years.

Friday, May 07, 2010

We Miss Life

Read in the newspaper that “Son of Babylon”, that film made by Mohammad Al Darraji, that young Iraqi director with that marked lovable long hair would be screened in Baghdad in Semiramis cinema that Thursday (yesterday). The newspaper doesn’t say anything about the time, nor the internet. I found another newspaper stating that the film would be screened at evening. Well, then at evening. Thursday was a busy day for me and i needed to take a nap. I woke up at 4:30 p.m., hurry to take a bus to Al Saddoun Street and headed for Semiramis. I saw the door of the cinema closed and inside it was filled with broken chairs and other trashes. Oh no. i was about to ask a man about the film but imagined that he would laugh at me: “a film? Ahahaha, you are kidding?”

I was about to go back when thought about checking whether the cinema got another door. Walked to the other side of the street an found that there is an open door and inside there are many people, some holding cameras. At the door I asked the man with the camera: “when it would start?” and he answered: “it will end in few minutes, it has started at 4 p.m.”
“When they will re-replay it?” I asked and the answer came “will not be” as short as can be as a bullet. Well, I went walking like a …. Like a stupid in that big lobby, going round and round not knowing what to do….

I was hearing the sound of the film coming from that door and wondered that it is prohibited to go inside if you haven’t got the ticket. But men were going out and in as easy as every mess in Iraq and they were talking with a loud voice. So… I went in to see the last scene.

The voice was not understandable, of a bad quality. But I saw a young man and an old woman whom he calls grandma. The young man was holding a reed pipe and sitting with his grandma in the back of that car which was going away from the gate of Ishtar. The scene was nostalgic as it was showing the gate of Ishtar becoming farer and farer. The grandma died. The son started crying “grandma, grandma!!!”
The film ended.

After that Mohammad Al Darraji with another Iraqi director went up to the cinema’s stage and told us about the film and heard our questions. Of what they have told us was that this is the only working cinema in Baghdad, and that till yesterday night they didn’t have an audio sensor till 11 p.m. when somebody rescued them by bringing an audio sensor which worked but not that good. They apologized for us for the poor quality of the sound and told us that the film had been praised in some other countries for its audio management.

Then a young man came and started give CDs to people he selects. CDs on which there is some documentary about the film making. He didn’t give me so I headed for him and told him if I can have a copy. He refused. I offered money. He refused with annoyance and left me to continue distributing the CDs to what he said: “The Journalists”.

I went and took a seat. A young man who seemed confused came and was about to sit next to me, then looked at me as if to see whether I am threatening or not. “have a seat” I said and he sat while asking: “who are all those people? Are they artists?” he meant the people gathering in the lobby after the film had ended. “some are and got an invitation, some not, like me, who were not invited but came after hearing about the film play from the newspaper”….

and… when this…. Gonna end???” he asked.
“… you mean when they will go out? And what they are waiting for?” I asked
YES YES!!” he confirmed happily
Well, in a while, they are waiting for the journalistic conference” I said
“… it had already started above… there” and he pointed to the stairs.
oh… then i will go… pardon me” I said while going in the direction of the stairs
Come on… where are you going? What for?” the young confused man asked but i just waved my hand for him and went up stairs. I found the director and the actors making that conference. I stood about only 5 meters away but failed to hear a word from what they were saying. The journalists were very noisy and their microphones and audio system doesn’t amplify the sound at all.

Well, it was a few minutes opportunity to visit this old neglected cinema and to see the face of the director and actors. It was an opportunity to see that it is not understood for an average Iraqi young man that families like to attend cinemas to see some kind of films he might not heard of. A film that is followed by a conference. I forgot to ask that man about his work or why he was asking those questions but after all, I can understand why he was asking.
Thank you Mohammad Al Darraji and thanks for your team and we hope that this would be repeated cause we miss life my friend.
On my way back to home, it was an opportunity to see Baghdad late at evening, with all those tired face in the bus and the two frightened women who took the bus, but when see that it is dark inside and that men are looking at them chose to go out as fast as possible before the bus advances while the men were murmuring: “what is wrong?”

The American Granddaughter

By Ena'am Kaja Ji (or Inaam Kachachi)

She can have 90, 000 US $ per year working as a translator in Iraq. That can increase to 180, 000 US$. Zina left Iraq before 15 years with her family to the US when she was at the middle of her teenage years her Arabic is excellent since her Assyrian father had taught her to love Arabic poetry.

P 25:

“I said farewell to my mother and Jason and travelled to Washington in a cloudy morning to join the Arabs who were about to work the same work of mine. From there i phoned my father who lives in Arizona and told him that i am heading to Baghdad. I didn’t hear an answer, then heard some murmuring from which i understood that he doesn’t like the idea, not because that he was afraid from the war on me, but because he was still deluded that the “death penalty” verdict he got form the Iraqi law is still valid, and that the security men would capture me instead of him”.

Her Chaldean mother loved her Assyrian father and married him against the Iraqi traditions. They immigrated to the US at the end of the 80s. Zina still remembers how her mother felt guilty while taking the American nationality and while everybody was uttering the US anthem and singing: “God bless America” her mother, Batool, started uttering “forgive me father, oh father forgive me”.

Her parents had separated. Her father started living in Arizona. Zina, Yazin who is now called Jason and is an addicit, and their mother who is now smoking cigarettes vigorously are living in Detroit 7 mile. After the 2003 was the US army needed translators to aid them in the war and in interrogating and dealing with Iraqis.
Zina reached Baghdad in 2003 in a dust storm. They got to sleep in the airport waiting for the other day to be taken to their new places. she slept and started dreaming:

P 44:

“I saw myself knocking on the door of my grandfather’s Yousif house in Al Rabe’a Street (= Spring Street and is a well known avenue in Baghdad) while i was wearing a purple wedding dress. I don’t like purple but we are not left to choose in dreams. My grandfather opened the door and i didn’t fear from him in spite of the fact that I know in the dream that he had already died. And i asked him:
- When did you come from the voyage?
- I woke up before 2 days. I wanted to be there in your wedding Sana’a (Sana’a is a well know Iraq female name)
I didn’t correct my name for him. I didn’t say that I am Zina, or Zoueena as he used to call me, but my grandmother Rahma peered form behind his shoulder and said:
- This is Zunzun, didn’t you know her? Poor girl had married and you were not here and she is coming back to us after she had been widowed… oh my dear.
I crossed the door of the garden and approached my grandfather to kiss his hands. But he withdrew his hands, then his body started to withdrew itself from the scene, and at the same moment my wedding dress color turned into black and i froze in front of my grandmother, looking at each other with sorrow in the dream.”

As a translator working with the US army she was taken the next day to Tikrit. The US army station was a Saddam palace whose guardian kitchen became Zina’s private room.
From there she startedto contact her grandomother Rahma who still olives in Baghdad. Rahma was against Zina’s work with the US forces and when Zina offered Rahma to her with some money, Rahma answered with anger in her Mosuly accent: "والله وقمنا نضغط من جحغ كبيغي" which maybe translated to “what a time that we are starting to fart from a big ass!”

One day Rahma invited Zina to her house. Zina went to find Rahma cleaning a military costume. Zina knew that this costume was her grandfather’s. Few minutes later, and while contemplating her grandmother, she noticed that that day date was the 6th of January. Zina’s grandfather, Rahma’s husband, was a colonel in the Iraqi army. When he had to retire from the Iraqi army, he kept his military costume and started to take that costume and clean it every 6th of January, the Iraqi army day.

Rahma, after cleaning the costume jacket, put that jacket on the shoulders of Zina. Tawoos (a female name means peacock) approached and Rahma told Zina that Tawoos is Zina wet nurse. And that Zina got milk brothers. Zina started to remember Tawoos.

When her grandmother was taken to Jordan for therapy, Zina met Muhaiman, one of her milk brothers. She started to feel that she loves him. She started to look for more information about him and she knew that he was a communist, taken as a hostage in Iran in the Iraq-Iran war in the 80s, came back to Iraq as a religious man, and after the 2003 he joined the Mahdi militias. For all that period, Mahdi had changed but something about him didn’t change much as he said, and that is, his hate to America. She tried to seduce him but he refused. She kept thinking about him.

Before she was about to go back to the US after 5 years in Iraq, he grandmother died, and Malik, her colleague, died in an accident that seemed a suicide to Zina. Zina went back to the US with a different taste of the Iraq that she knew once, an Iraq that is left with a curse that she call: “the Bush curse” as compared to the Pharaohs curse.

I don't know why the novel reminded me of the film "The Hurt Locker". In spite of the fact that Inaam Kachachi, like Zina, is of Iraqi origins, still Iraq seems little unreal in their eyes than in mine. I had lived all my life in Iraq and it is little annoying to see a film like "The Hurt Locker" and hearing about the praise the film got, while when I saw it I didn't feel that it was Iraq, nor the people accent nor the reality of the story. Inaam Kachachi's novel is a clever one but that doesn't mean that it got the taste of reality and doesn't mean that it deserves that praise it had.

An interview with Inaam Kachachi the novelist in the following link:

Sunday, May 02, 2010

"Mandaean Memoir" for Collective Memory

The short autobiography of an English teacher born in 1905 in the south of Iraq. Seems interesting? He was born in Qal’at Salih in Omara. The autobiography tell us about the history of Qal’at (=castle) Salih which, according to the book, was established in 1865 in the period when the Othman were ruling Iraq as a military castle next to Dijla. Houses were made of mud and reeds, and Dijla had no bridge. They were crossing to the other side by boats and paying by the Persian currency “Qaran” (=20 Fils) or by the Turkish Othman currency “Majeedi” to be both replaced after the UK invasion of Iraq by the Rupiah and Pound then to be replaced at last in 1919 by the Iraqi Dinar.

There were Jewish, Muslim, and Mandaean people. They were separated to a degree like in cafes. There used to be a café for Muslims, and a café for Jews.
Gathban El Roomi, the writer of the autobiography is Mandaean. He said that if a Mandaean drank tea in a muslim café, they would break the glass he drank from when he leave because it would be regarded as, not anymore clean.

Mandaean religion was mentioned in the Holy Quran in three different verses as a monotheism religion and that was why Muslims did respect the Mandaeans to a degree. The Mandaeans, according to the book, are more easily in harmony with the Christians since “Yahiya (=John the Baptist) is Jesus’ cousin” as the book state literally. The Mandaeans got a special relation to Yahiya. The book says what it means that: “in spite that Yahiya parent were Jewish, but he was baptized, and baptism changes the one religion from Judaism to Mandeanism”.

Gathban El Roumi tells us in this book that he had another book in 300 pages co-authorized with another person but the papers were lost dues to the unstable statues of Iraq, as he says.
So there were some separation between religions but different religions were united by the poverty and diseases. Malaria, bilharzias, pox, intestinal worms, and scabies didn’t differentiate between the people who were mainly farmers and at night many turn into burglary. Killing was not that rare.

Women used thistle, cow manure, and palms fronds to set fire in their mud made furnaces to bake food.

In 1916, and while Gathban Al Roumi was 11 years old, the first governmental school opened in their area. Before that teaching was mainly in mosques. He entered school and started passing the classes fast with excellence. There were no specific teaching method. Every teacher had his own teaching method and text. Gathban Al Roumi still remembers how their teacher asked them to write down the numbers from one to million. They all failed to complete it in one day. So the teacher asked them to write it for every five, i.e.: 5, 10, 15, 20 and so one and it took them days to weeks.

The science teacher had told them that when you are cold and your nose run, that fluid which comes from your nose, is the brain liquefied.

Gathban El Roumi became later an English teacher. He talks about how his salary was not enough for his daily living in the 50s and that he got to give private lessons.
World War II started and some Iraqis thought that the Nazis could help Iraq problems and they started to support the Nazi ideology and to spread their writings. United Kingdom didn’t like that and they started to imprison those who support the Nazi ideology. They made a prison for them in Gathban’s city, Omara. The UK didn’t opposed the Communist Party activities in Iraq because the Communist were against the Nazis, like Russia was against Germany. The communist get stronger with time and they aided in the 1958 revolution when they ousted General Mod’s statue in Baghdad (Mod was the UK general who led the invasion of Iraq). Some of them were very violent in their expression. Killing and mutilating dead bodies took place in Baghdad and thereafter in Mosul. After that it was never settled down. The communist lost the opportunity to take power and were put in prison and tortured in an attempt to end this movement in Iraq. Gathban talks about an open court set in 1958 against the previous regime and that it was broadcasted in radios and T.V.

Because Ghathban Al Roumi was having correspondence with some literature journals and newspapers and because he didn’t take bribes he was mistaken for being a Communist since the Iraqi communists were known to value literature and to stand with the poor and look to money and bribery with small eyes. He was fired from his work as a teacher of English teacher and started selling cigarettes in Omara. He then got back to his work and show his excellence performance and was chosen to put the Baccalaureate examination questions for some years. After few years, and for the same previous charge, he was imprisoned.

The book comes to an end when they set him free after some months with 2-3 pages on what happened there after in the following decades in Iraqi politics. “Mandaean Memoir” is a book that had added much to the understanding of Iraq identity. Simple language and style, written in the period of 1981-1982 and published by Dar Al Mada in eye friendly 117 pages. We need more of these book to blow the dust away from our collective memory.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Epic of Iraq

“So that I Don’t Resign from this Homeland” is another inviting title and elegant publication by Al Mada. About 60 essays by Fakhri Kareem published in the Al-Mada Newspaper for the period 2003- 2008 gathered and published by this book with an introduction by the Lebanese poet Abbas Baythoun.

The introduction is full terms that seem to carry new concepts. Abbas Baythoun tell us in the introduction what can be summarized as follows:

Iraq now is a “horrible machine of time and action” into which there is a “confusion between time and memory” while the articles in this book serves as the “guided remembrance” of the what happened. Abbas Baythoun also resemble the “Epic of Iraq” to the “Epic of Lebanon” since both had resulted in “chronic paranoias” and “collective pain”.

The articles are variable. Some deal with the pre- 2003 Iraq like that article in which he mention the symbol of adding “Allah Akbar” to the Iraqi flag as a symbol of Jihad, and that article which tell us how Saddam Hussein is a product of the Iraqi society and politics and that we should search for the roots of tyranny. From this point maybe we can go to the post-2003 articled when he started talking about De-ba’athification and theorized that it is better called De-tyrannization and that it should become a cultural educational movement and not a rule directed against few individuals.
He tells us about how he hoped that the ex-minister of defense Ali Sultan Hashim made an apology to the Iraqi population and express his guilt like the US pilots who hit Nagasaki and Hiroshima and wrote about Hashim’s execution.
Fakhri Kareem wrote about how the “incidental haphazard leader” of the new Iraq “confused the collective memory” of the Iraqi population and how the Iraqi population memory had been exhausted by the series of sectarian violence.

The articles deal with the killing and immigration of thinkers, scientists, university professors and artists, about the faults of the US in Iraq, about Black Water, and the invasion of Iraq by the “money eating rats” and the high retirement salaries of those who work in the cabinet.
Of the things that I didn’t know is when he quoted King Faisal the first when he said talked about the difficulty of establishing an Iraqi Nation.
Sometimes, because of love, somebody see his homeland, his history, and his self, in an eye of denial. This book had been a trial of objective “guided remembrance” to what happened and what is happening. Thank you for Fakhri Kareem for this book and for Al Mada for this artistic publishing.