madly in love with Iraq

17.1.08

One Sunday morning

Someone somewhere has once said “There will be no democracy and no freedom in the Middle East till men learn how to respect women and look at them as partners not inferiors”.

I thought of that very late on Sunday night as I was trying to calm myself down over a matter that took place earlier in the day.

I’ve never been in this situation before; I hear, read and probably see but never a direct involvement. These things happen far away from me, with people I don’t mingle with.

It all started two years ago, when we happened to have a vacancy at work; I did not even know she was looking for a job. When she asked, I took her C.V. to our personnel manager, who later contacted her, and after going through the usual procedure, she was offered the post.

H is a highly qualified Iraqi woman and has been in this country for over twenty years. Three of her four children were born and raised in the UK.

I always liked her for being so professional and serious but at the same time bubbly, chatty and easy going. And although we worked in different departments and rarely meet I did hear that she was doing well.

Suddenly and after two years she decided to quit due to personal problems.

In spite of being distant relatives, we were never close. We meet probably once or twice a year on special occasions, so I couldn’t even bring myself to ask why she took this decision.

Sitting on my confession armchair sipping my coffee peacefully on a sunny Sunday morning I received the dreadful phone call. The man introduced himself as Abu A (the father of); he guessed that his title did not click, so he said “the husband of H”.
For a second I thought something bad has happened to her, so I greeted him warmly and waited for him to proceed.
“I want you to keep the relation with my wife to the minimum, and I demand that she hear no news from work, and I mean it nothing whatsoever. This work of yours has ruined our life”.
I tried to say something but felt my mouth dry somehow. He barked again “A respectable woman with Hejab (headscarf) wouldn’t allow herself to take photos with half naked people in the Hyde Park, would she? And on top receive phone calls from men clients outside working hours, and when I ask her who the hell were they, she says Mr so or Dr so, and he sarcastically said; Do they phone you as well hala?
She has no respect to the Muslim outfit she wears, no respect to the veil over her head. If it wasn’t for our two young girls who still need her, I would have taken a completely different action”.
My body was shaking as I put the phone down, and I tried to put a face to this man whom I met once or twice before, but I failed.
I thought of her, how could a woman of her calibre accept a vulgar man like that?
How could he accuse his wife and partner for so many years of being shameless and irresponsible?

Didn’t it occur to him that he lives in the UK and not in Iran or Saudi Arabia? Or that we are a minority in here and it is quite impossible to avoid being with natives and not interact with them? And above all we have to accept how they are and not the other way round.

Men of his ilk are already ruling the country, and women like H are still accepting the status quo.

How on earth are we going to fight the invaders when our brains are already invaded and infested by those silly and obsolete traditions? How could we progress and stand up when half and maybe more of the society is paralysed?

No wonder Bush dared to come all the way to tell us who our enemy is. In fact he is dictating and we are bowing “Israel is your friend, Iran is your enemy”. How could we agree? How could we explain it other than Arabs hate Iran full stop exactly as they think of women as useless and again full stop!

They don’t want to think for a minute that Iran regardless of what it represents is a neighbour forever and a power we need, to have our say and tell Bush to shut up and go back to where he came from.

What he said was a load of nonsense about a prospective threat against an existing one. What we are witnessing is a gross insult to our sacrifices and a disgrace to all the innocent lives we lost in Iraq and Palestine and Lebanon.

Sometimes I feel it is a nightmare, it cannot be true. Is politics so complicated or is it that I and million others are dumb? Why do we choose to fight powerlessly when we have a strategic and economic power?

What more could happen to break these fossilized brains that are controlling our lives and our destinies?

As I put my head down I ended up feeling sorry not only for H but for all of us, and I thought if we cannot get rid of the full stop mentality and start using question marks and exclamation marks, we will continue our journey to hell.....that is if we are not already in it.

56 Comments:

  • Not to distract from the post but HI good to see you back!

    By Blogger nadia n, at 7:50 pm  

  • Thanks for sharing. Great post Hala.

    By Blogger SillyBahrainiGirl, at 11:57 pm  

  • I wish your friend finds a way out of the kind of life I imagine she is having with this retard husband of hers.
    I have a different theory about equality of women and men. I do not believe that they should be treated equally. I believe that women should be treated with much more respect, tenderness, and generosity (in every aspect even emotionally) than men.
    Equality means that some women will have to endure some hard times in which the men are going through. An Iraqi example is the queue waiting for gasoline in gas stations in Baghdad. Women are always directly let into the gas stations and if few women gather up there would be a women queue that goes faster than men queue. Men sometimes sleepover that queue in the past couple of years. This is better than equality as I see it.

    By Anonymous BlogIraqi, at 9:47 am  

  • Hala,

    I used an excerpt from your previous blog entry for "Self-Critcism or Self-Hatred?" over at Iraqi Bloggers Central. You have to scroll down a bit to get to the section with your thoughts.

    I'm glad that you're blogging again, even though some of the topics you cover are difficult ones.

    *

    By Blogger Jeffrey, at 4:45 pm  

  • Thank you nadia n for stopping by my faithful reader and friend

    Thank you bahrainigirl for your visit and let me tell:you are far from being silly!

    blogiraqi I wish that too but from my experience I believe we have a very very long way to go.

    Thank you jeffrey and our situation is indeed difficult. It is a social mess before being a political one

    By Blogger hala_s, at 2:20 pm  

  • Hi Hala,

    Abusive men such as that husband should be left to live alone until they have started to realize that them changing is a must. I hope this woman could move to one of her children to be safe. Is that a possibility?

    A lot of women in these situation find it extremely difficult to leave their partner some out of fear, some out of lack of finances to cope a lone with the kids. Its sad when this happens. Men wanting to control women is a problem we see in all societies just a few month a go we had a demonstration in my hometown in Sweden against men's violence and for women's protection.

    Take Care Hala : )

    By Blogger Nadia, at 8:29 pm  

  • Hala,
    As always...my sentiments exactly! Thanks for voicing them!
    Z

    By Blogger ZZ, at 9:29 pm  

  • Before jumping on the bandwagon, I have to ask, what was this job that men would call H at home? Did women from the job call as well, was this expected?
    I know some sales, PR, and such require this sort of outside of working hours contact...but there are a lot of jobs where that would be odd. And many spouses do not handle suspicion well, their fear overshadowing their love, it's cancerous twin.

    Jealous possesive men exist in all societies. That H's husband expressed this through his own social lens hardly taints all Iraqi men.

    seb

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:52 am  

  • Seb
    She was a part-timer and part of the follow-up to her work she might every now and then receive calls.
    And you have to understand that there is a difference between jealousy and acting as if a woman is a property on one hand and that she has no say on the other.
    This is not a one off incident this is a major problem in our society.

    By Blogger hala_s, at 10:02 am  

  • Hala
    I do agree with this post and with your reply to Seb.
    Yet, there is another half from the truth;
    You described your friend as a highly qualified worker and a mother of four, how come that such a women accepted being a property?
    How could she tolerate being insulted in her pride in such way?

    When you criticized the man; you mentioned that ; he lives in UK, not Iran or Saudi Arabia, yet she also lives in UK and works, how come she gives up to such mentality.

    I've seen many women back home who are not highly qualified but they know how to preserve their dignity; and go on their life very well.

    Domestic violence is as high here as it is in Iraq.
    Human beings are ready to abuse each other when they find a chance, it has nothing to do with society.

    That doesn't mean I'm defending the horrible abuse of women in our societies, but in the particular case of your friend; it's rather specific to a type of women who are ready to accept whatever men do.

    By Blogger A&Eiraqi, at 11:03 am  

  • Hala,

    When the Iraq The Model blog denounced the Lancet Report in October 2006, you chose not to pile on although you expressed misgivings about their post.

    Now that the Lancet Report has been exposed as garbage, do feel a little better about Omar's post?

    By Blogger CMAR II, at 8:12 pm  

  • People like cmar are of the same kind who said the reports of Nazi killings were all garbage.

    By Anonymous Nadia, at 8:46 pm  

  • The reason the current Iranian government is your enemy (and the enemy of Iraq) is precisely that they have the same attitude to women as the abusive husband in your sad story.

    By Blogger Don Cox, at 6:54 pm  

  • Hala, I don't think the Arabs are so persuaded by Bush's logic ; it is more of a reality: Iran, or more precisely, ideological political Shia Islam is an enemy for the Sunni Arab states, Islamic or otherwise. It's a therefore beneficial for both sides (Arabs, and the West.)

    By Blogger Abbas Hawazin, at 12:28 am  

  • Ok I was just thinking about this again.

    "We" (the planet) went through the same thing with Chavez kind of, people on the left were being like "I dunno guys ruling by decree kind of sucks" other people on the left are like "no guys he's against bush and he's the best we've got so we can't support anyone else EVER" and then his support declined by his own people.

    OK so that's a far less dramatic example, but whenever there are two extremes and people say you MUST choose between the two, people tend to get disgusted and find third options. the thing is it always happens at a much slower pace than most of us would like. ah-jad is a loudmouth an idiot and a holocaust denier and nobody "needs" him. his own people don't-for the most part they see no contradiction between hating him and america at the same time-i wish i could get some white leftists here to understand this. that other leaders in MENA look so cowed compared to him-well isn't that why saddam looks so good now to the crazies that like him now?

    So I don't know, we don't "need" these people, on the contrary, these people are just undermining any real resistance that would come. I usually stay the hell out of this debate because I feel like it's not my "place" to say anything about it(MENA is not my home and odds are it never will be), but this really worries me. They say the Arabists/secularists (not that I would ncessarily associate myself with them but just as an example) all failed so we have to give the Islamists a try because they're more popular. Uh OK, but I wouldn't really call what the Islamists are doing right now, succeeding.

    Meanwhile the people that don't agree are just sitting watching, and waiting, and this worries me more than everything. Exactly how long are we supposed to wait?

    By Blogger nadia n, at 12:32 pm  

  • That all seems kind of obvious now that I'm reading it but whatever I needed to get it out of my system.

    By Blogger nadia n, at 12:54 pm  

  • Also

    she also lives in UK and works, how come she gives up to such mentality.

    I've seen many women back home who are not highly qualified but they know how to preserve their dignity; and go on their life very well.


    There are obvious arguments you could make against this (economic factors etcetc), but to a certain extent, I think this is a very good point.

    I was talking to a girl about exactly this the other day, who wasn't middle eastern just someone who had travelled a lot, she was totally convinced that after all the obvious problems, that attitude was what was going to most hold us back. Like she thought arab women were going to have it harder than Iranians or Kurds or anyone else for a much longer time. I really don't know about her generalization because I have known women that were totally at the other extreme and I told her so, but I do think the attitude of acceptance of some is a problem. (I just don't know that it's that much more of a problem than it is with anyone else.)

    By Blogger nadia n, at 1:49 pm  

  • **also to clarify, I meant "resistance" in the ideological sense, nothing else.

    By Blogger nadia n, at 6:09 pm  

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