madly in love with Iraq


Too personal

My first job in London was quite an experience.

I worked with an Iraqi business man who reminded me of Saddam all the time.
I hated being there, but I had no choice. I badly needed an experience to add to my c.v.
Still I did learn something in the end.

On my first day he told me that he gave me the job only because he knows my family back home, and that he thinks we have quite a few intelligent members! I was like ‘ha?’.. What is he talking about? And who the hell he thinks himself to make this judgement?

He used to pay ‘peanuts’, yet by the end of the first month he advised me to transfer my millions to Switzerland and not to deposit them in here! I thought this man is definitely a certified mental case.

His office was like a salon, a gathering of Iraqis of all kind, business men, losers, bu…..ters giving advices to each other, gossiping, and the usual if someone is new in town, 'Where are they from? Which family? Which tribe? Do they have assets? What are they going to do and of course each will add their own version of praise or criticism.

People I've never seen before, when coming in, immediately start to ask me where I live and how much this man was paying me, and often go on asking very personal questions. All fine, I am quite used to this, I do come from a curious society where this is the norm.

My work was mainly dealing with clients’ applications, something I have never done before. I used to conduct these meetings the Iraqi way, a lot of passion involved, or in another words going through unnecessary details and asking for further clarifications. Most of the people thought I am the boss’s daughter because I was so specific in my requests.
After a short while, I started to compare myself to a colleague of mine who used to do the same job but in a very different manner. He was easy going, usually accepts all applications without demanding proofs and goes home relaxed far from the stressed being I gradually became!

By then I started going to College and had made a few friends. Some of them became very close to me, and I used to hang out with them during the weekends, we even went on trips together. That is when I discovered the difference. These are my friends and yet I know very little about them. They accepted me very easily, even being a reserved person did not raise any curiosity. Still, when I needed help they were there for me.

I could easily spend hours talking to someone without even brushing on any personal matter. I discovered that this is the best way, because the conversation becomes more meaningful; we could touch on many exciting and interesting things. Wider ranges of stimulating subjects are there outside our inner circle.

Once I went with a friend to her doctor as an interpreter, she had done few tests, and was going to check the results. The minute we went in, the doctor told her bluntly that she had breast cancer. She did not need my help to understand this international term.. The woman was shocked and I was too. On our way back she was crying and shouting not because of the cancer but of how cruel this man was.

Most people here turn their own miseries to something fruitful. If someone was raped and murdered, the family usually start campaigning or form a society against rape in their area. If someone is terminally ill they do join groups with the same problem and turn the whole issue to something positive by just being with others in the same situation.

Too personal, too emotional too suspicious, and too proud to admit failure are our main traits as Iraqis.

Our first impression on strangers is that they are liars, opportunists till they prove otherwise! In here it is completely the other way round.

I fought hard to relieve myself from this negativity. I had an armchair I used to call ‘my confession place’. I forced myself daily to sit on it for at least 15 minutes and run my daily movie; what have I done, how did I react, what did I say, and usually whip myself hard.

I am often torn between feeling sorry for Iraqis back home and feeling angry at them.
It is just like when you give excuses to your loved ones whatever they do to you.
We say “Love and speak, hate and speak”.

A lifetime was spent behind slogans, Imperialism, collaborators, colonialism, Arabism, we never thought of what is beyond that.

All we actually do is giving up our own interests to spite others.

When we cannot fight the enemy we start fighting each other. We have to blame someone, anyone but our own selves.

We don’t have a high expectation, that is why you still hear people saying ‘Oh at least under Saddam we could go out relatively safe because we knew our borderlines and our limits’.

The Americans ruined our country, fine, but we let them, the terrorists are everywhere killing us, fine, but some of us housed them.

I bet even the fight over forming a government has become a personal issue between the members rather than a dispute over differences in views or opinions.

Instead of this empty pride we could have easily admitted defeat and moved on, like many others did before us. It is an unfair world, there is one great power that wants to control and apply its own order.

This is a reality we have to accept and deal with for the time being instead of banging our heads on the wall.

If the Americans leave we will be fine, For sure we will…...


  • This is a wonderful look in the mirror at ourselves. More of us should do this, and more often!
    Again, thanks for your thoughts.

    By Blogger ZZ, at 3:29 am  

  • A very thought provoking message indeed. I admire your courage in confronting these demons that continue to haunt us in the diaspora and our people back home.

    Like you, I have been working hard at exorcizing these same demons in order to have a fresher outlook on life and in return attempt to create a more positive influence on people around me.

    Your chair sounds like a wonderful sanctuary, and to me it conjures up thoughts of it being something like a place of worship!

    In your spare time, try to see the following movie: The Joy Luck Club.

    By Blogger Antar, at 3:56 pm  

  • Here's another thing that I hope you will have a chance to look at:

    By Blogger Antar, at 5:04 pm  

  • Hala,
    Your posting agrees with a startling statistic I read some months ago. In a November 2005 nationwide scientific public opinion poll of Iraqi adults, this question was asked:

    43. Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you have to be very careful in dealing with people?
    Most people can be trusted = 12%
    Have to be careful in dealing with people = 85%
    No opinion = 3%

    I was amazed that the levels of distrust were so high in Iraqi society. Somehow, I feel that this is quite significant and must impair the ability to work harmoniously in a democratic society.

    By Blogger Original_Jeff, at 4:12 am  

  • original_jeff,
    I am not astonished at all, these are same figures you would get if you asked the east Germans too after the wall fell.

    I think this feeling of distrust will get higher in the US with all the new rules Bush and his team have with bugging phones, reading mail etc.

    Do you know if a similar poll was made during the 50:s in the US?

    By Blogger Nadia, at 11:16 am  

  • "I bet even the fight over forming a government has become a personal issue between the members rather than a dispute over differences in views or opinions."____I think this is normal in politics. Politicians, like the rest of us, are real human beings (good or bad), not walking ideas.

    By Blogger Don Cox, at 12:56 pm  

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