madly in love with Iraq



Fasting is a tradition I kept since I came here.

I am far from being a devoted Muslim, but I’ve been almost always a devoted Iraqi.

The main reason was to share something, anything with the Iraqis in general and my own family in particular.
The sensation of being in common with them during this month makes me very happy indeed. We lost the normal dialogue long time ago, as I feel ashamed and embarrassed to include them in my problems for fear of sounding petty or silly.

This practice is not ideal outside its normal environment. The feel of it requires being in a Muslim country.
Some people in here create their own miniature Ramadan to celebrate the event.
They join together to break their fast and later go to mosques or Muslim community centres, while others prefer to go to Arabic cafes or restaurants and stay late which is the usual custom back home.

In my case, it was always impossible; I work long hours and I rarely have time to socialise with friends and relatives during week days.

Still I do create something just to grasp this feel of yet another illusion of mine.
I phone home daily to check what they are having for Iftar, I hook myself to some special programmes on Arabic channels, and the most important I pull my sleeves up and get into Iraqi cooking, and venture new recipes.

This Ramadan is different.

My family cannot deny their fears and worries anymore. The total collapse of public services and security turned their Ramadan as everyone else to hell.

My brother is jobless, my nephew cannot reach his school anymore; while my two nieces go on and off; most of our neighbours had left Baghdad, so no exchange of food or late gatherings. My sister-in law speaks of the silence and the lack of any conversation in our household. “If it wasn’t for the children and the atmosphere they make, I would have lost it long time ago”.

My family’s only outing is a walk to a mini-market across the road.
“Survival” and that is the name of the shop; is our only survival as my mother puts it.
“It is our reward after the usual slavery of the day. We pray all the way that it is open when we arrive!”

I phoned a close friend in Baghdad to say happy Ramadan, and found the woman in a state of shock. She was leaving early morning on the first day of Ramadan to work, and found a human head just thrown in the middle of the street.

Another was forced to leave her house and I cannot trace her till this minute.

I can list endless disasters about people I know and don’t know that sound so unreal and impossible to believe, but they are happening and in broad daylight.

Suddenly everything looked worthless to me.

The Arabic Ramadan series which are known to be very good and especially made to capture the viewers became very difficult to follow.
Some man worried about corruption and his political career, another trying to protect his son from drugs, another torn between his wife and mother.

Those programmes started to get into my nerves. I felt jealous. Why do we have to be different? Why can’t we have their problems?
Why our problems have to be unsolvable? Why is it our turn all the time? Why can’t these wars happen somewhere else?

This Ramadan became a sad occasion, I found myself restless all day, thinking of food and a smoke in the evening.
We were told that during this month we are supposed to think of the deprived and less fortunate human beings………..and look at me…

Deprivation is an understatement when it comes to Iraqis, less fortunate is even worse, no fortune is more likely.

Asking God and being spiritual doesn’t seem to work.

So I stopped.