madly in love with Iraq


Dear Baghdad

You’ve always been my title although I’ve never used your name as one.

Five years has passed, five years of you being torn apart and drained off.
We were told it is the dead line for you to turn into heaven and look what is happening all over the world because of you and what is hidden is far greater.

So are you finally taking vengeance?

Every morning we wake up to a new crisis.

Where shall I start? What happened to the promised stable oil prices? Where is the flourishing Global economy? Or maybe we should speak about the peaceful world that will live happily ever after?

“Five years! That is too long, stop being pessimists. We are free from fear now and we’ll make it up quickly, we have resources of all kinds; we will be an example to all.”

I was happy and hopeful and did not want then for anything to disturb the beautiful image I had started to paint and the happy endings I started to wish for. I wanted to forget that wars bring nothing but destruction and misery. I forgot that I’ve experienced two wars myself, I forgot that I left home because I couldn’t take another one which was looming in the air.

Iraq-Iran war slaughtered our boys. The first Gulf war destroyed our infra-structure and took more boys. The sanctions killed our children and turned us from a dignified nation to a corrupt and hungry one.

All the above was just a warm up and a preparation for the big event “The Liberation of 2003”. The aim was always there, once they set foot on this land it will be for good.

We lost nearly everything along the way. Many ordinary things have lost their meanings, we became without dreams and the days that have passed are more reassuring than the ones to come.

A lot of my friends think of me as a dreamer when I speak about Baghdad not only my friends even my own family back home. They all believe that I talk and talk but in reality I cannot live there again. I sometimes feel that it is my duty to dream for them and see matters brighter through my comfortable eyes.

I tried to forget about you Baghdad but you are like a curse you keep on controlling my life and many others. The people who hurt you are paying dearly and the people who were hurt because of you are paying even greater.

I met her a while ago, my friend’s sister; just arrived from Baghdad, an energetic, focused young woman. She jumps and shouts and laughs from the bottom of her heart and keeps on saying “I cannot control my adrenaline; it is so high I cannot even sleep.”

Her presence brought life to our monotonous routine and stimulated a lot of our inner yearnings and memories which we continue to suppress to get along with life.

I started to look forward to our meetings because of her. Everything about her even the looks screams that she is from Baghdad.

We chose to meet on that day; the fifth anniversary of operation shock and awe.
No one of us mentioned anything, we just sat there eating and looking at the deserted tower bridge through the restaurant windows in a freezing London night.
She was very quiet through out the evening, but smiled widely when any of us directed the talk to her.
When the time had come for us to leave and when we were all busy putting our coats on, she sat on the nearest bench and started to cry softly.

I fought my usually stubborn tears as I was trying to pull her up, but she just froze in there.

In few moments a flash back of my whole life materialised in front of me, and all our losses felt so small and irrelevant compared to the biggest one, the one that we all cry for.

I will say that all nations in the developed and modern world are better than us so no one would accuse me of bigotry. These countries can give you opportunities, pay you for your hard work, justify you when you have a legal problem and above all provide you with the right of living peacefully without fear. But does anyone of us feel secure? I can bet on my life that the answer is no.

The advanced world is a loveless one; it is a cold, ruthless and functions robotically.
Everything is beautiful and immaculate but at the same time lifeless.
Our miserable world had nothing to hold it together but love.
We survived the wars with it and fought tyranny with it.
If we assume that 30% of Iraq was Saddamists the other 70% supported each other through hell by sharing their sorrows and joys with love, a romantic love not a systematic one.

The war advocates say the hate in my country was a collateral damage but it is “The damage” and maybe it was our only weapon.

Love is our real loss; love is what my friend was crying for.


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.


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.


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.


Republic of Kurdistan

Rubbing shoulders with Iraq… the every summer urge that consumes all my savings and completely drains me emotionally and physically; took me inside Iraq this year rather than around it….it was not easy for my family but in the end it was much worth it.

When I arrived to Erbil airport I smelled the air of home and the scorching heat stung me immediately but I was happy and willing to get stung and stung again.

The surprise was how primitive the airport is and yet still acceptable for an international airline to land in. But when I remembered the money I paid for the ticket, it became clear. Let’s drain Iraq while it is possible.

My family required a Kurdish guarantor who drove over to the borders of Kurdistan in order to let them in. They also had a letter with their names including the children so we could move around.
The highlights of the trip were the check points; considering there is one every 10-15 minutes drive. Each represented a government of its own. The secret word was “ARABS”, the minute the police hear this magical word we had to leave the car and had our IDs checked and then grilled with questions and told off for not speaking Kurdish!

The worst was when we tried to enter Duhuk (a prosperous city up north) coming from Erbil. We were refused entry by two check points and we had to change our way and enter the city through the route coming from Mosul! Why? I don’t know. And the officer had the cheek to tell us that without my British passport he wouldn’t let us in.

When people heard we came from Baghdad, a mixture of panic and sympathy overwhelms them. “How are you coping? How do you live? How did they allow you to enter Kurdistan?”
They all looked at as with sorrow as if we were carrying a deadly disease, and would start to eulogise Baghdad and how great it used to be.
I used to boil hearing them speaking about my city in the past tense as if it was dead.

Can we blame them? I could, but my family wouldn’t, my mother would say “They are right, not even animals can survive in Baghdad”.

You cannot help feeling that everyone in Kurdistan let alone the whole neighbouring countries had learned their lesson from what had happened to us, and has become very vigilant and is trying hard not to let the tide of terror flow inside their borders.

Kurdistan is closed for tourism from all over Iraq this year, and it really hit them hard, but they are happy with the safety and the security they are enjoying.
I did not hear one shot! No helicopters roamed the skies, not a single American in uniform in there and on top you don’t see one worrying eye.
It is amazing how only in a three hour drive from Baghdad you find yourself in a safe haven.

The impression that stayed with me all the way through the trip was that I am in a place without history, as if nothing has happened in there before. No traces of the past whatsoever. No crafts of any kind; not even the simplest things like wooden spoons, urns or hand made carpets, and when you ask; the reply would be a laugh and a mocking smile about a past no one seems to want to recall.

What you cannot miss noticing is the Turkish invasion! Everything is imported from there, ice cream, dairy products, all food and vegetables, clothing, fuel, most of the engineering works contractors and there are even private Turkish schools!

The threat of a Turkish military action is probably a joke, considering the money visibly involved, and I am sure there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

There is nothing wrong with importing if you have the money, but I always thought of it as a comfort and a luxury. Not being able to produce the basic necessities or at least maintain and recover what you had before raises a big question mark. What about creating jobs? Or support the agriculture?
Saddam burned a lot of fields and he really damaged the land as he did to the people alike, but I cannot say that I saw any sign of something is being done about it, and I hope I am wrong.

When you ask where to go inside the cities, you are immediately directed to the shopping malls; not surprisingly owned by the new rulers! “The Barazanis”. The prices in one of them in Duhuk were marked in dollars, and believe it or not it was much more expensive than what we have in London.
Most of our money went on fuel and transport, one jerry can of petrol costs around $22. No one bought from petrol stations though as they are private and the prices in them vary dramatically. They all depend on road vendors who smuggle the fuel or buy it cheaper from other places.

On the personal level, I found my brother and his family really tired and confused, and what hurt me the most is they have completely given up. The children speak of death even when they joke with each other.
At one time my 10years old niece sat in the roof at 3:00pm reading a book in the sun when the electricity went off. I cried when I saw how those children have become so adaptable to not having the basic in their lives like water and electricity.
The electricity is much better than Baghdad, and there were industrial generators all over to provide the people during cut-offs.
It is embarrasing to say; but I am used to easy life now, although I did not show it, and acted bravely all the way, but I did spend my afternoons in the bath pouring the freezing stream water from the mains all over me.
It is degrading and humiliating that at this time and age people have to live in this way, running after what we take for granted.

The best fun for all was going out at night to have a meal in one of the traditional restaurants in the resort where we were staying. The children sang and danced walking back and took photos to show their friends.

We skipped the so called modern cities and hit the mountains and the beautiful nature; my mother remembering her honeymoon, me and my brother our childhood and the children discovering the Iraq they don’t know anything about.

I did not leave any opportunity to remind them that Iraq has a beautiful side to it and here are the proofs!

Below used to be an observatory built in the early eighties, it has two holes from being bombed during the Iraq-Iran war. I am not sure of Saddam's intentions (millions were spent ) in building it! but it is abandoned and yet it was impossible to get nearer

A village on the way
My favorite groccer Nourridine; he promised all his products are local!


A funfair in Rawandouz


Beakhal water falls


The pomegranate

The Fruit of the moment!
The pomegranate is the most fashionable, the most expensive and the talk of town and health magazines now a day in the UK at least.

To buy a small salad tub with few pomegranate seeds scattered on top will cost you much more than usual. If you want to impress people, sprinkle some on top of dips, fruit salads and even rice and wow you will look so cool and really with it.

For me the sight of pomegranates takes me years and years back to my childhood when these fruits would stay in the basket untouched till my dear mother wash them, take the seeds out and put them in a large bowl in the fridge. Only then I would grab a spoon and dig it in the bowl and start eating and eating till I finish it off.
“Shut the fridge door, or take the bowl out and eat as you like” my mother would say.
“Just few spoons more and I am up” my usual answer used to be. They were so addictive and had this sour sweet taste that you cannot get enough of.

Poor Brits, they think they are eating pomegranates, while in fact they are eating something that looks like them, but far from the real taste, I wish they can try the ones grown in Baqouba or Karbala, they will know then that they’ve been cheated out of their money and taste!

This goes for nearly every other fruit or vegetable. Tomatoes are the best example, you find cherry tomatoes, beef tomatoes, plum tomatoes and tomatoes on vine leaves, and really they should be called cherry plastics or plum plastics. Where are they from our shapeless, disfigured, dented and full of spots ones?
Our ugly tomatoes full of juice and flavour will put all others in shame!

I once paid a fortune in an Italian restaurant to eat samples of few truffles brought all the way from Tuscany in Italy, and were served to me in such a fuss as if I was about to eat pieces of gold!
Oh my dear Iraq, if only they’ve tasted your muddy truffles that we used to buy in big sacs and spent ages to clean.

The last but not least are the Californian dates!!!! I feel sorry for whoever is gullible enough to spend a penny on buying them.
How unfair, the land of dates is on hold at the moment and has left the field to the amateurs to have a go.

You can spend millions to grow whatever you want, but money cannot buy you a fertile land of thousands and thousands of years, money cannot buy you water from the Tigris and the Euphrates, let alone the natural farming skills that are far from sophistication and high tech but full of hard work and genuine love to the land they inherited and never thought they would have to leave one day.

We the people of Iraq are exactly like our crops! Rough, tough, harsh and scarred, but once you open them up, you see the real flavour of kindness, generosity and genuineness.

The other day I watched a programme made by a British journalist embedded with the American forces stationed in Al Doura area in Baghdad.
One of the officers speaking of his hard and dangerous mission said that he doesn’t respect the people who live in this area, and that he will do so only when they will inform about the criminals who are planting roadside bombs!

His face and words stayed with me for days. At first I was angry and upset, and then I thought of how much this man knows about real fear and danger?

He was never brought up in a culture of fear and injustice that is for one, and he never experienced the feeling of losing a family member out of retribution that is second, and third his assumption that those people should have trust in him is baseless.

Then I sympathised with him and felt that probably he believes he is doing good, but in reality he is been cheated and his country has served him with plastic tomatoes instead of the real ones.

Look at them Bush and Blair and the rest, they come out well groomed and in their expensive suits speaking of peace and terrorist free world, and the truth is there is no difference between them and the masked men who slaughter people on TV. Actually those men are their own making. The only difference is the first sleep in comfortable and lavish beds and the latter sleep in caves. I bet they have the same nightmares though. They both carry the weight of our blood; assuming they are human beings and have feelings, which I doubt.

You know they came all the way to destroy the real taste, the real flavour of Iraq and with this they want to convince the world that there is no taste but their own.
Whoever agrees to theirs is great and moderate, the rest are evil and should be uprooted.

They are winning though, they brought their best fertilizers and advanced tools and planted the seed of hate successfully.

It is growing, but I have faith in our land, I have faith it will reject this weed and reserve the real seed.


Ali's Birthday

Poor brother, my heart tightens every time I speak to him over the phone; not that he complains or shares any of his problems with me, but rather for saying nothing…
The more silent he is the more worried I get.

I still make relentless efforts to draw a nice picture of home and think of the bad situation as temporary sometimes, and hopeful in another. And out of pure selfishness I avoid asking details about their daily life. In contrast, and out of pure self denial my brother never conveys any of their hardships, and if he does; he puts it so gently like a pat on the shoulder “Have faith my little sister, everything will be fine”.

I called on his birthday last week; he came first on the phone, very unusual of him, but no one seemed in the mood of talking, I sang happy Birthday to him and finished by asking him for a wish!

“I wish I never grew up” he said “It is against nature that I lived a better life than my kids. They don’t know how to cycle, swim or even swing. When I manage to take them out, I tell them about imaginary places and events that took place on this spot or that. I could see their jaws drop in disbelief, and my youngest insists that I repeat those fairy tales at bedtime!”

Jokingly and to lighten the conversation up I said “Ali do you still remember your birthday parties? They were so special, like festivals, you were such a spoilt brat. I still remember how you used to beat me up afterwards for opening your presents while you were busy playing with your pals.”

On the eve of Ali’s birthday there was a massive attack on a near by Embassy that I thought was abandoned, but apparently it is functioning in full-scale according to a well-informed friend of mine!

My family has no choice but to sleep on the roof at night as the house has turned to a Turkish bath already, and when the shooting started they hurried down carrying the children as the streets around us were filled with police, militias, and army no one knows firing at all directions. Few hours later our house was raided for the third time in the last six weeks.

Then my nephew took the phone and started to give me details about what for him was an adventure and a real life play station!

“Untie, you know two days ago my friend H and his family had to leave their house which is about 10 minutes walk from ours, after being threatened through megaphones to abandon the whole area.” He started to give me directions to their place, but I couldn’t tell where; the new landmarks are new to me.

“Untie you know our headmaster and quite a few students are from…..(city in Iraq) and I found out that all people from that city are bad and stupid, I really hate them and I am happy this is my last year in school”.

So we are finally there, sectarianism has reached not only our area but our own door step! We are not Baghdadis anymore; Baghdad became too small to contain us all, and the new generation already confirming this as a fact.

I’ve been asking my mother the same question for the last ten years and that is whether my choice of leaving Iraq was right or wrong. She never answered me and when I press harder she would say “There is no way I can say to you that you are not welcomed to come back. It is your house and you have every right to be here.”

I feel now that I am in the same position, I fear for them terribly but I cannot bring myself to ask them to leave.

If they leave there will be no coming back. I am selfish I now, I want them to hang in there and wait for me…..

I hang up the phone and called a neighbour to get more details, just to find out that only the grandparents were there! They left all of them.
The woman said “We started to hate this place, we don’t know it anymore, when we go out I see no familiar faces, if I look up I see only shutters and rubbish, so I bend down and get back quickly. We are leaving as well by the end of the month, pray for us.”

I quickly left my house after those distressing telephone calls and went for a walk.
I looked at the shops, cafes and buses and wondered whether I love this place or at least feel connected to it somehow, and there I saw it; a new shop which I’ve never seen before!

It is named after the city I originally come from… Najaf...
Could this be a sign that I am going home soon? Or is it another proof that people are still settling and giving up on Iraq?
When I came back, I stood outside my house and said to it “You are just a station in my life, I appreciate having you but I don’t love you, call me ungrateful, a traitor, and say that I used you, but it is out of my control my first love will always win.”