madly in love with Iraq

5.3.08

In the coffee shop

There was a loud argument and a scraping noise of chairs being dragged around as I sat in the busy but usually quiet coffee shop. I looked up as everyone else in there did and saw two young women fighting over an empty space, each one claiming being there first.

The winner settled herself next to me huffing and puffing, then she lifted her big canvas bag up and placed it on the counter top. She looked at me apologetically and said “Sorry, but some people really makes one lose it”.

“No accent whatsoever” I thought to myself, but still most likely she is from our part of the world. I was almost certain; very casually dressed with too much make-up on in the middle of the day; that is definitely our trend!

My thoughts took me back to my early days here when I used to watch women putting on make-up on the train. They would take all sorts of brushes out and start powdering and painting for ages, and when they finally finish and look up, all you see is a glowing face with a touch of colour. They use all their skills to appear natural and convince others that this is all genuine. Unlike our women who spent probably more time painting only to prove their unnatural look.

Her voice ordering something brought me back to where I am and as she pulled her bag to take something out I got my proof! There was a badge of the late Sheikh Zayed’s -of U.A.E- face clipped to her bag. And before I lowered my head back, I caught a glimpse of something else which made my stomach turn; a bigger badge of Saddam in his military uniform and sunglasses staring back at me.

Without thinking I asked her “Do you think that you are doing Sheikh Zayed justice putting them together?” She was a bit taken but immediately replied “They are both my heroes, one of peace and one of war”.
“And which war you consider Saddam was a hero of?” She quickly said “All of them, all of them, if he was here today Iraq would have been in a much better state and Israel wouldn’t dare do what it is doing now”.

“Let us go back a little please” I said “What about Kuwait? Do you think it was the right move? It would have happened to your country easily if he had had the opportunity.”

“I hate Kuwaitis and they deserve what happened to them, you know what we call them back home; the Jews of the Arabian Gulf.”

“So you are justifying that war in favour of Saddam?” She looked at me and said “He is a real man do you understand that, what we have in the Gulf is a bunch of cowards hiding under their cloaks and behind the Americans and all they do is say yes and bow their heads to their masters.”

“So you are after machismo men Rambo style I mean, a lot of blood without reason right?”

She puffed again and said “Listen, maybe you think I am shallow and ignorant, but you are wrong, I do care. I haven’t slept for a week now thinking of the people in Gaza and what is happening to them, thinking of the silence of all Worlds first, second and third towards this ongoing tragedy. We need a hero I tell you this is our only solution.”

“Can’t we think of a hero like Mandela rather than Saddam?”
“No we cannot, Mandela fought his peaceful war without foreign troops invading his land and missiles striking his city. His country doesn’t represent a threat to the first World interests and there is no Israel there to protect either.”

After I left I thought a lot of the hero or the real man concept and how mine at least has changed completely. Back home the Bedouin style of men who protect and defend using their muscles and force their rules used to be my type and probably everyone else’s even if we denied it then.

This woman is no exception. All Iraqis say we need a strong man running the government at this stage, and you can tell that what they mean is strong and ruthless physically rather than anything else.

One day I was walking with a man in here and we could see from a distance a group of teenagers shouting and laughing, so he suggested that we cross to the other side.
When we did I felt upset and he could sense that and asked me whether I would have preferred him to walk through them and beat them up to prove he is manly enough to take a woman out.
I felt so ashamed of myself and since then I learned my lesson.

Here people who use their hands are considered thugs, and beating someone could lead to a serious criminal conviction.

Even women, it did not take me long to realise that people get very distracted when I gesticulate while speaking- a very Arabic habit- and some even find it offensive, so I started to sit on my hands or fold them before I start any conversation.

I had no intention of hurting anyone of course but getting rid of this habit calmed me down somehow, and I started to concentrate more on what I am saying and became a good listener as well.

Later that evening I did not feel that confident about my conversation with the woman in the coffee shop and not even with my thoughts afterwards. I’ve been judgmental again and what I do support now did not come from nothing. I practice it because I can afford to.

People of Gaza or Iraq or Lebanon have very little choice and for the brains to win over the muscles the road is still too long.

55 Comments:

  • Great post.

    Look, I think the problem is that people are tired of having to bend over, that's why Saddam is glorified in the Middle East, who think less of what he had done to Iraqis and more of his defiance of the West (something Iran is doing now, moreover the sectarian mess has made him a Sunni hero)

    What we need is a hero who's not thuggish ; the only way to get that guy is by non-violent social reform.

    By Blogger Abbas Hawazin, at 7:17 pm  

  • I feel like this subject has been stalking me lately.

    Thanks for this, I'm not sure what to say that is new. I know where the sentiment comes from, however much I disagree with it. Among people in Gaza and Iraq and Lebanon is one thing, but when it comes from the people from elsewhere in the region, what have they done to help the actual people and not just worry about their pride? I never meet people like this in life and these stories scare me just a little.

    It's kind of cheezy to say that it starts with ourselves, and much easier said than done, but I really believe so. I don't believe in leaders, their rhetoric is getting more and more stupid. If someone good comes along, great, but I can't wait for it anymore.

    By Blogger nadia n, at 10:14 pm  

  • There is this old egyptian saying:"Illi edo fi ilmay mush zay illi edo fi elnar".
    This probably explains how the Arabs think of Saddam. The middle-eastern "need-a-hero-character" is something runs way back in the Arabs. And most of the Arabs did not suffer like the Iraqis because of Saddam, but instead, many of them benefited of his generous give-aways of the Iraqi oil and the Iraqi money. So, why do you think they would hate him?

    By Anonymous BlogIraqi, at 10:52 am  

  • I am like you nadia I don't believe in heroes or leaders anymore.Because even if they do exist the people will turn them to dictators or narcissist to say the least. So thuggish or not it is the same if this person exists and means well the people will turn him to a monster.

    And blogiraqi, I am not surprised at all that Arabs love Saddam we all know it, but the idea of loving a ruthless bloody person is what worries me. The idea of refusing to see the truth and minimizing what he did is so upsetting, and that includes a lot of Iraqis as well not only Arabs.
    Once I met an Iraqi grown-up woman who told me that the militias of today are the same people of the mass graves!! she said it in my face. In other words Saddam was right in what he did. The mentality of "if Saddam hasn't hurt me in person so he was ok" is our main problem. The Jews achieved because they are still and after 65years commemorating the same thing.

    By Blogger hala_s, at 10:31 am  

  • Are arabs that different from everybody else though? In some ways I think it's a victor's history. Cause I mean the ANC was doing some nasty things, and there were incrediby violent forms of resistance to british colonialism going on in India, but when people think of South Africa and India, they just think of Gandhi and Mandela, not the other people. Arabs resist in non-violent ways as well, but those are never talked about.

    What do you think of Azmi Bishara?

    By Blogger nadia n, at 1:18 pm  

  • Arabs are different nadia and their reactions are based on their legacy;a mixture of religon and rigid traditions. However the threats upon them are different as well. They are doomed because of everone's interest in this rich land. The presence of Israel is unique as well. All the world insists on getting along with accepting this entity and blaming us for not accepting it. This by itself can cause an uncontrolable rage. The only heroes are the people who defend their existance and their countries when attacked.

    As for Azmi Bishara if he is involved in any corruption as claimed he worths nothing and if the real reason for all the fuss is that he leaked some informations to Hizballah in 2006 then we can call him a hero.

    By Blogger hala_s, at 9:52 pm  

  • i don't think i was clear but anyways in some ways their situation is unique right now, their focus on the world's eye, but they are not the first to live under brutal occupation, or have their lands taken or have rigid traditions, and they won't be the last. their reaction to such circumstances definitely isn't something so unique, whether you agree with them or not, you may think that's hairsplitting but whatever.

    as for heroes i don't know it's hard for me to care about hizbllah when they didn't lift a finger when it was arabs attacking palestinians last year.

    By Blogger nadia n, at 1:18 am  

  • but i talk with a lot of arabs, they also do realise and inadequacies of saddam, although they think he is better than what we have now, i think with more talking they will realise their wrong judgement.

    he is the one who brought all of this to us though!

    By Blogger Gilgamish, at 10:41 pm  

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