madly in love with Iraq

23.11.07

Again on the train

Getting home from work last night was disastrous; I couldn’t get into any train. Trains kept on arriving to the platform packed with football fans heading to Wembley stadium. The kick off was at 8:00pm, England vs. Croatia.

When I finally managed to climb into one, I was squashed between the Brits and the Eastern Europeans; both screaming their heads off cheering their respective teams and desperately trying to overrule inside the train.

Policemen were on alert and I could see quite a few of them in every station we passed on the way.
The whole atmosphere felt a bit hostile, many people were already drunk and were arguing about a match that has not started yet.

It was a bit scary for me, but at the same time a nice change to the expressionless faces I meet on my daily journeys including my own…

London is full of emigrants who mostly came over to stay, but lately jobseekers from poorer European countries joined in. The majority of the latter are here to make money and go back home, but in the meanwhile they are here and they are bringing their culture, habits, problems, and certainly their own football supporters.

I remembered the experience of having nearly three million Egyptians in the eighties working in Iraq. People were so resentful of them although they are Muslims and Arabs, for a simple reason and that is that they enjoyed more rights than us Iraqis.

I think the Brits would have the same feelings towards emigrants if they were to pay fewer taxes than they do.

“A rainbow society” that is what the anti-racial enthusiasts call the UK.
Or “An open market for all” as the government defends its policy of allowing foreigners in; “This work force boosts our economy and the benefits gained outdo all the mischief if any”.

Others find this combination “A recipe to kill” too many conflicting cultures, too many strange ethics and religions to cope with. Too much money is spent to accommodate their demands, even some laws and regulations had to be changed to fit their needs.

No grudges though, I am yet to meet someone who cries over the past or the good old days.
Old people might do but only because they are getting older, but mostly everyone believe in the natural social and economical progression in the society and accept the consequences whether good or bad.

In contrast we Arabs in general and Iraqis in particular trust the past more than the future.

It is only us who constantly look back and glorify the past. People now yearn for Saddam’s time and during his time they used to long for the sixties and in the sixties they wished the monarchy would rise again and so on.

Probably some would say it is unfair to put the blame on people when they are governed by brutal dictatorships and subjected to a lot of unjustness.

But I have become to believe that we Arabs are always afraid of losing our traditions and we grab in them blindly. Arabs don’t accept any criticism when it comes to religion or even sect. The majority of us live in cocoons even when we leave our countries.

We spend a life time struggling between what is forbidden (religion) and what is acceptable and not acceptable (tradition) and we end up losing on both.

We want to change but under our own conditions and changes are in most of the times unconditional.

However, and although I sincerely believe that people are the same all over the world, and their reactions and behaviour depend on how fairly they are treated, but unfortunately we are so used to being oppressed that we cannot function properly even when we taste freedom.

As Londoners cried all night over what they called a “disgraceful loss” of a very important match, they woke up the next morning and pinpointed the reason!
“We need home grown talents to rescue our national game”.

I thought of home, I thought of how long it would take to grow new Iraqis, how long it would take to demolish the concrete barriers between our areas, how long it would take to reinstate trust and love and most importantly how long it would take to reach enlightenment.

52 Comments:

  • Hi there Hala : )!!!

    I really loved having the Egyptians in Iraq, all my experiences with them are all positive! During my three years in collage we had the same Egyptian driver in our collage buss. He became as a father to us all. Knew more about us then our own parents did and was a good person to talk to and here I know I can speak for many that we where looking forward to meeting him everyday, he was sort of part of our family you can say.

    When it comes to reefing to past years as the good old years, I see it as an international behaviour. Sure all over the world there where things better before but some parts where worse too : ) and that goes for today too.

    Its nice having you back Hala. Take Care!

    Peace
    Nadia

    By Anonymous Nadia, at 10:28 am  

  • In congruence with Nadia's comment, I would really love to read a post about the presence of Egyptians in Iraq at that time, and what exactly do you mean by their having 'more rights'? It's of special importance to me considering that I'm living the same situation the opposite way now.

    By Blogger Konfused Kid, at 6:30 am  

  • I think the response to immigrants / refugees arriving looking for jobs is different for different people, the European immigrants often arrive to take up the lower paid manual jobs much like the majority of Egyptians did in Iraq, so if you are of the elite classes you see them as useful service providers, and "tolerate" their differences, whereas if you are competeing for the jobs and living space you see them as "having advantages", I guess the same applies to Iraqi immigrants

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:25 am  

  • Anonymous its important to remember that many of the Iraqi men where in the army during the 80:s. I for example had my father and two uncles in the army for many years, ordinary soldiers. One was sadly killed, Khalid. During summer holidays my boyfriend in college had to do military training too.

    I was an ordinary Iraqi, my family had to borrow money from friends and family to survive during periods. I understood that the Egyptians lived under a dictator too in Egypt. Their survivor was to be working far away from family and loved ones they did the best they could under the circumstances as most of us normaly do.

    By Anonymous Nadia, at 8:15 pm  

  • Hi Nadia thank you for dropping by, I miss being here as well!

    Personally I had no problem with the Egyptian presence in Iraq, but I still remember at least two deadly incidents when Iraqi soldiers coming back from the battle front beating them up out of frustration and anger. I still remember how badly they were treated and looked down at.
    Hi Kid how are you?
    Of course they had more rights then.They could travel, they could work freely when Iraqi men were either already fighting or living in fear from the popular army officers picking them from their shops and houses and send them to hell.Men in their forties and fifties couldn't escape from that fate.
    They also had the right to transfer hard currency abroad. simply they were free when we were not.
    I agree they kept the country going, but people were angry and upset because they felt Egyptians were taking over their jobs and making money when our sons were coming back in coffins.

    Anon, what is different here was that there were even Egyptian professors teaching in Universities and working as engineers, because the war did not even save highly qualified people from serving in the army or the popular army, so they weren't involved in labouring and low paid jobs only.

    Also we cannot compare a prosperous economy like the UK with Iraq. Here there are a lot of jobs to absorb who ever comes,Eastern Europeans work as builders and plumbers and so far they proved to be excellent and they do charge reasonably. It is a competitive market but I believe there is still a lot of fish in the sea.

    By Blogger hala_s, at 10:03 pm  

  • Great blog, great information
    rob
    Xango Juice

    By Anonymous rob, at 6:03 am  

  • Dear Hala,

    I am an Iranian guy, about 30 years old, and a phd student in engeering. I currently live in the US. Unfortunately lots of people in the world, specially people in the US, don't have a clear picture of what it's like to live in Iran. I have created this weblog to address the questions you may have about Iran. I need your help to find people who are interested in such blogs and I also need your advice to make this blog better.

    The weblog address is : http://realiran2008.blogspot.com/

    Regards & Thanks,

    -Amir

    By Blogger Amir, at 1:38 am  

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