Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Healing Iraq

I chose this title for the weblog three months back because I had realized that Iraq and Iraqis needed to heal more than anything else. I was naive and conceited enough to believe that posting entries into this page would actually achieve something. When I started I had huge determination to correct all the misconceptions, sterotypes, and preconceived notions the world held of us as a people. I wanted to bring out the good news from a torn and beaten country that the rest of the world had unanimously regarded as a source of only trouble and bad news. I wanted to convey the daily life, dreams, fears, hopes, and aspirations of Iraqis. I wanted the rest of the world to see us as more than mere news items. I wanted to put a face to my country, a country that millions of people couldn't point out on a world map. I had great hopes that someone high up in the CPA hierarchy would listen and take notes. I had hopes that coalition soldiers patrolling our streets would read and realize that there was no need to be scared of us. I had hopes that other Iraqis (both inside and outside) would look and take heart in my words. I had hopes that I would encourage other Iraqis to write and share whatever they had to share. I had hopes that the whole world would stop crying over spilt milk and move on. I had hopes that we would just all understand and accept each other and stop pointing fingers. Maybe I was too optimistic or maybe I was just trying to justify my own views of the situation.

"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into". So true, yet it also cuts both ways. I put that quote up there beneath the title because I knew the blog would always be plagued by people whose sole purpose in life is to disagree with anything that doesn't fit with their world view. Many people tend to visualize this world in terms of Good vs Evil, Us vs Them, Good guys vs Bad guys, Protagonist vs Antagonist. Sadly the reality of the situation isn't so two-dimensional. I've had more than my share of such people. Sometimes I just chuckle at them, sometimes I give them a deaf ear, and other times I just blindly lash out at everyone so please forgive me for that.

Ali Al-Wardi, an Iraqi scholar, once wrote "The truth never comes in one package. Truth is like a pyramid. Different people look at different sides of it and each one thinks his side is the ONLY truth and that the rest are wrong. They should look at the pyramid from above to see all sides and get the collective truth". The same applies to Iraqi blogs. Each offers 'his' own perspective. No blogger speaks for all Iraqis, and I have been trying to say this for months now. In fact nobody can even pretend to speak on behalf of Iraqis. Iraqis are the most diverse people in opinions that has ever graced this planet.

So how am I supposed to explain Iraqis to other people, when I sometimes, even as an Iraqi, don't claim to quite understand them myself. I wasn't raised as an Iraqi, actually until the age of 8 I was a typical British child. My parents (and I hold that against them) never taught me a word of Arabic or anything about my country or religion when we were living in the UK. I used to listen to them converse in this weird language and shake my head. However I remember having an overwhelming nostalgic desire to go to this strange place called Iraq which was supposed to be my homeland. When we returned I experienced symptoms of shock. Everything was so different. I was made fun of at school and by relatives my age because of my broken Arabic. But I never complained, I wanted to blend in and make myself belong to this society. So I adapted slowly until I became what I am now; A full-fledged Iraqi, but still not quite a regular Iraqi. Regular Iraqis suffered daily for decades. I never really suffered. So it's maybe not my place to talk for Iraqis.

Iraq has gone through much. None of you can even start to grasp the essence of what Iraq has been into. Not just from Saddam, or his predecessors, but from long centuries and millennia of abuse. The last five centuries of Ottoman rule left Iraq a divided country in ruins, the British came and tried to stick together the bits and pieces. Since then Iraq has always been in danger from neighbouring countries always willing to play on sectarian and ethnic chords in an attempt to carve out a piece of it's land, in danger from Pan-Arabism and Arab nationalists attempting to wipe away what was left of Iraq's identity, in danger from political Islam and Islamic revolution trying to throw us back into the dark ages, in danger from it's own cultural and ethnic diversity. And it's sad to see that nothing has really changed today.

If you were here now you would almost feel Iraq bleeding from its wounds. You would almost see the palm trees weeping and shedding tears. You would almost hear the two rivers murmuring and moaning in pain. You would almost hear Baghdad wailing and crying for help. You would smell the tension in the air which even rain is unable to wash away. You would sense the years of deprivation and negligence in its soil. Who is trying to steal the smile from its weary face? Who is going to heal Iraq? Who is going to help it stand on its feet? And is this going to be the end to all its sorrows or is there more?

Despite all of the above I am proud to belong to this ancient land. A few days ago I noticed somewhere on the walls of Baghdad a slogan that said 'Raise your head high, you are Iraqi', so I did. Whatever people may think of me or my nation I will sneer at them and say 'I am Iraqi'. However there were times when I hated Iraq with all my heart. There were times when I was ashamed to be associated with it or its people. There were times when I just wanted to pack and leave. There were times when I just didn't care about whatever happened to Iraq. And there were other times when I wept with my face in my hands and begged Iraq to forgive me for my weakness and selfishness.

I still go through such moments and I impatiently await that day when Iraq will embrace us all and forgive us for our foolishness, and we will promise our dear Iraq that everything will be fine now, that we will work hard to bring an end to its misery, that we will heal its wounds, and that we will try to give back a small fraction of what it has given us. Will we ever live to witness that day?

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