madly in love with Iraq


What about them?

Nuha’s bloody hair, her torn clothes and her expressionless face was all I thought about watching him the mighty Saddam walking to the gallows.
Sitting on a small stool in our utility room back home and me standing there shakily pouring jugs of hot water over her head while my eyes followed the red water seeping through the floor drain.

How can I forget? That was the day I joined the grown ups and my happy go lucky times had come to an end.

Nuha my friend and neighbour lost a mother, a baby nephew, and her untie when Saddam’s Special Forces bombed the old city of Karbala in March 1991.
They were all buried under the wreckage of their own house including two other people who were visiting.

In January 1991 we took refuge in my uncle’s house on the outskirts of Karbala city.
As silly as one could be at that age, I spent the horrible nights of operation desert storm praying for the next morning to come quickly so I could join my cousins on their daily errands to the old city to meet up with Nuha and her family.

I still hold nice memories of that time; walking through the narrow allies around the shrines and how easy it was to loose each other as all women wore long black cloaks over their heads including us. I was the easiest to spot by others; my cloak was almost always tilted to one side or nearly falling off my head compared to my experienced mates who held it on confidently.
We had to rush back home before the sun sets and the air raids and rockets starts to rattle the whole area.
Karbala was spared the direct bombing, but was surrounded by military industrialization factories located in nearby Latifiyya and Mahmoudiya towns.

In spite of the frightful bombing during the night, there was an aura of optimism and hope in our house and probably in all the others in the city. My oldest cousin used to jokingly asks us whenever the shelling intensifies “What do you think guys, has he (Saddam) packed yet?”

How little we knew of what was about to happen.

Two days after Saddam’s speech ordering his troops to retreat from Kuwait, the real operation desert storm started.

We were so confused watching tens of helicopters flying at low level towards the old city, we thought at first that they were American, but soon the news were spreading of an uprising and of local people taking over the city.
We watched from the roof as columns of smoke blocked our vision and we could no longer see the domes of the two shrines.
Later in the evening screams on our street took all the men in the house out where they found five injured young men who had fled to what they thought a safe area.
We spent the night the twelve of us in one room anticipating the worse. No one said anything but we could clearly hear announcements through microphones by the rebels claiming their victory and another by the Special Forces asking everyone to surrender.

By dawn we heard a terrifying blast as the hussainya (Islamic shia centre) up the road was targeted. My little 8 years old cousin started to tremble uncontrollably and half of her face was paralysed. Without a word we all apart from my uncle left the house towards the surrounding orchards.
We walked aimlessly till we reached some shacks and stayed with the farmers for few hours.

I cannot believe it myself so I am not asking anyone to do so. But we did walk with many others through out the day till we reached Hilla and then we took a car to Baghdad.

After two days Nuha and her sisters arrived barefeet wailing and screaming in the street to tell us of what has happened to them.

Three relatives of mine were killed in Najaf that same week. One of them was only fifteen years old.

All the orchards we walked through were later burned to the ground. No more palm trees, no more orange trees and no more welcoming shacks.

Last week a man from the United Arab Emirates was sitting next to me in the plane praising Saddam. He told me bluntly “He was a hawk, wasn’t he?”.
A hawk in the Arab culture in case people don’t know is a symbol of courage, strength and intelligence as well.
The more I ignored that stupid man the more he persisted. So I finally told him “Listen I will answer your question only if you answer mine."
“How did Dubai look like 35 years ago?”
“A desert” he replied “And now?” I followed “A paradise” he said.
“How you people from the UAE are treated around the world today?” He twisted his head “respectfully” “and what do you think the attitude towards Iraqis is?”
He did not answer back.

It looks like in a world of no heroism everyone wants to create a hero regardless.

I wished then that I could understand Arabs and their mentality. Every time I thought I reached an understanding, their reactions shake me to the core.

No one commented when they found the “Hawk” in a hole. And when they did; we heard the absurdity of him being drugged and dragged in there. The same when they don’t want to know or hear about the atrocities he committed, or grant them justifications of some sort.

People should be ashamed of themselves when they identify themselves with this bastard and his cronies, or even think that his punishment was a blow to some.

What national hero? What justice?

Till this day many think that the shia is a rabble backed by a bunch of clergy men and Saddam did very well by slaughtering them.

It is hard to convince those people otherwise because this belief suits everyone. It is a struggle to keep things as they were for centuries.

Shelving these issues wouldn’t work anymore; peace and stability will come to the Middle East only when the distribution of power and wealth reflects the balance between communities.

When I remember them I feel relieved that he is no more.
When I see what is happening today I feel angry because it is all because of him.

It is them whom we should glorify, it is the Iraqis who are facing death whom we should rally for.