madly in love with Iraq


Sarrafiyah Bridge...

“It was designed using a very high factor of safety, on the assumption that it would stand the weight of a row of fully armoured tanks standing still on the bridge for at least an hour!”

Prof. Sam’an explained in one of his structural design lectures back in the good old days in Baghdad University.
“Now we stopped using the BS code (British standards) and moved on to follow the ACI code (American concrete institute) which adapts a much lower safety factor and consequently is more cost effective.”

No wonder why I insisted as a child to cross the Sarrafiyah to the other side of the river rather than any other Bridge. Something in its huge concrete pillars and its overlapping steel bars brought confidence and security.

My late Uncle used to tell me stories of diving competitions back in the fifties which he personally participated in, in an effort to convince me to swim in deep waters.
Stories which I was never able to verify as my mother denied them completely.
But yet they are still engraved in my memory.

I remember sticking my head out of the car window every time we cross and wish a train would pass along the abandoned railway track by the side of the bridge. Freight trains used to cross I was told; but I never saw one. I hope this is not an imaginary thought as I couldn’t see any tracks on the pictures of its partial collapse today.

I came across many Sarrafiyah style bridges in Britain especially in small villages in the country side and it always made me feel nostalgic and sometimes proud.

But they were never like our Sarrafiyah which towers the river Tigris and with the effect of the everlasting sunshine reflects the palm trees line along the bank on the water surface.

Just over the weekend I watched a series of interviews with ex-Iraqi Army top commanders testifying on what had happened to their troops during March 2003.
One of them said “All the measurements we took before the war to conceal our arms and tanks in camouflaged warehouses were in vain. Everything was bombed in the first few days of the war. The jet fighters have density sensitive sensors which helped aiming at the correct targets. ”

I am fed up with the blame game, but any reasonable judgment has to raise the question of how the most advanced and hi-tech army in the world is failing miserably to detect where these tons of bombs are coming from or at least where they are stored!

Nothing left in our Baghdad. The evil Goddess demands more and more; too many sacrifices were given but the Goddess is still not satisfied. We tried human beings to protect our heritage and failed, we left our houses and our areas and it did not work either.

No factor of safety seems to work; not British and certainly not American. Whatever we were taught seems useless and laughable.

If we only knew then maybe we would have established a new code and call it IABC (Iraqi anti-bombs code)! I wish...


The handsome

They say 90% of people don’t enjoy their jobs, or at least find them boring. Unfortunately I fall under this category. The only merit is the friendly and positive atmosphere at my work place, which I find extremely important considering the long hours I spend in there.

Last week and in one of yet another boring meetings outside the office I met up with this man who attracted my attention instantly for no reason other than being very handsome!
He walked in with a Newspaper under his arm and a big smile on his face.
His name indicated that he is from one of them countries, I mean the ill-fated ones, and as much as I dislike getting involved in personal matters, my mission that day was all about getting personal.

The smile disappeared from his face the minute I asked where is he originally from.
He lowered his face and said “Iran…and gazed at the Newspaper, not this Iran though”. I took a look at the paper and saw the captured woman sailor with a veil staring back at me.

“I am Christian you know, I don’t agree to what has happened”.
His name was Mohammed….
“I belong here in the civilised world, where I have rights, where I see top ministers apologize and resign following train accidents or alleged corruptions. Here is where I want to be, where security and law prevail”.

I looked at his now angry face and wanted to say “You idiot are so concerned about trains and corruptions and don’t give a damn why those same ministers wouldn’t have the decency to apologize for the catastrophic situation their government had inflicted on the whole area.”

A new comer I thought doing his bits to impress, so I said “Nice to meet you Mr, and by the way I come from Iraq”.

“I am a peaceful man, I hate wars. I’ve been in one that is with Iraq and I cannot bear these mind games and muscle flexing that could by a small flip ruin our lives all over again”.

I felt sorry for him, he has a long way to go, a lot to learn and adapt to and much longer to reach the same conclusion “Nowhere is like home”.

I wanted to tell him that here is no better than there. People are the same and religions are the same, I wanted to stretch my hand to him and speak of my experience, but I know better don’t I? People have to go through their own and learn from it the hard way.

There was a knock on the door and a young veiled girl peeked in “Dad, we are late shall we go without you?” he snapped back in Farsi “I am coming, and cover yourself properly!”

“Cover yourself” is the only term I know in Farsi and it goes back to my childhood when we used to visit my grandfather’s house in Najaf and in there lived “Mehri” an Iranian old woman who was a fixed fixture in that house till her death in 1995.

To reach a point where you feel you hate your life, your religion and your future is something only people from that area know exactly what it is.

At work when I was asked my opinion about the British seamen capture, I answered back with a question “What were they doing in there in the first place? And why on earth should we believe the Brits story rather than the Iranians? Haven’t they lied enough so far?”

But in spite of what I said I found myself in the same circle; Iraqis at the moment hate whatever the Iranians do because of their interference in our affairs, and the Iranians hate their government because they are hungry not only for food but for freedom and social rights.

We despise our governments and love our countries like a mother nursing her sick child, while in here they respect and love the system and don’t care much about being in love with the country.

This is the secret I thought, when law and justice rule, people would feel confident to support or at least oppose in a civilised manner. While back in the Middle East we are against and in doubt all the time and that is why we are extremes.
Saddam (May he rot in hell) used to give money to the Palestinians at a point where Iraq was dying under the sanctions. The act itself was justified in the eyes of everyone apart from the Iraqis.

I wanted to say that Iran has the right to nuclear power; Israel having one would be a very good reason for me. But for Iranians it means a threat of war let alone spending money that should be invested in them the people of Iran.

On my way back to work and swallowed up in my thoughts as usual I sensed something was not right “What on earth are those people staring at?”
Without turning my head I took a quick glimpse of the person sitting next to me, and there he was Ken Livingstone the mayor of London commuting with us in the underground on his way to work. In fact I could feel his elbow touching mine on the hand-rest!

Would I live to the day when I see this happening in Iraq?
A day where power is in the hands of Iraqis and whoever hold it does that for a short while and pass it to others?

I was tempted to ask him his opinion, but I found him also in deep thought thinking probably of the Olympics and of new ways to tax Londoners to pay for it!