madly in love with Iraq


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.