Iraqi Armenian journalist and engineer Ara Ashjian bids Baghdad farewell:
I write these words while I say good-bye to you, my beloved Baghdad. I say good-bye while the pain and the grief tear my heart and fill my essence and feeling. You are the city which embraced my father and other Armenians who survived the Armenian Genocide in 1915 and provided them with shelter and means of living and comfort. In you I was born, grew up and finished my elementary, intermediate and secondary studies in the Armenian Private School.
Also in you, I dreamed and had my first childhood love in school. I graduated from the school, where I was ever superior, to enter your College of Engineering from which I had graduated as a constructional engineer to serve you through my specialty and to engage in your reconstruction. Then, I joined the compulsory military service during the Iraqi-Iranian war and completed my postgraduate study in 1988. During the study, I loved an Armenian young woman, who was a student at the same Department and broke off my relation after years, because she had left you and immigrated to the unknown world. After invading Kuwait in 1990, I served in the Army as a reservist and went out of it after the end of the Second Gulf war in 1991.
In you, my beloved Baghdad, I practiced activities in the Armenian Diocese and cultural associations and Iraqi cultural forums by giving lectures on the history of the Armenian people and Church, the Armenian Cause and interpreting the Bible. I also wrote articles, worked as a journalist in some of your newspapers and worked in the Embassy of Armenia, till the members of the mission left you before the US-UK campaign to invade you began in March 2003. I worked as a lecturer in the University and this was my history I made in you with great efforts which I was proud of and I dreamed to tell my children about in the future while being in you.
However, everything in you has changed, my beloved Baghdad, after you are afflicted with wounds and treachery of the friends and enemies from each side. You are bleeding, death is spread everywhere in you not excluding anyone and life became unbearable and kind of madness and suicide. You lost means of living and all kinds of public services.
Despite great difficulties I faced in you that lasted for more than a quarter century, beginning with the Iraqi-Iranian war, passing through the UN economic unjust sanctions and the invasion, I remained adhered to you like a baby adhered to his mother. However, I now may have lost patience and the ability to withstand after all my family members and relatives have left you and I remained alone with my sick mother and brother. Under these circumstances, I do not find anyone who aids me in taking care of them and the atmosphere around me is depressed and sad. So, I was forced to think of what I didn t think of before... I thought of separating from you, leaving behind my history which I made in you through long years and beginning a new history away from you.
However, my sick mother did not wish to leave you. She told all around her: I wish that my son bury me in Baghdad before leaving the city. She wanted to be buried close to my deceased father to be loyal to him even in death. She also felt that her sick body would not endure the hardships of the long way away from you. Her wish was fulfilled and she passed away fifty days before leaving you. My deceased mother faced her end fearlessly and even she had prepared the new clothes that she would wear when being shrouded years ahead! Your soil, my beloved Baghdad , contains now the remains of my beloved precious mother, beside the remains of my father and sister that will increase the pain of being away from you. I kept taking care of my father, sister and finally of my mother during their well-being and sickness and they all passed away satisfied with me.
However, what will relieve my pain is that I am leaving you to beloved Yerevan, which is in my dreams since my childhood, but you are the beloved city which lived in and with me. But, from now on, the situation will be reversed; the beloved Yerevan will be the city where I ll live and you ll be the beloved city in my dreams. Your wounds will heal; you ll restore your charming image and will remain in my heart forever.
The last place I visited before leaving you, my beloved Baghdad, was the site of the house I was born in the street of your Colonel Abdul Karim Qasim. He led in you the 14th of July 1958 revolution against the royal regime, declared the republican regime and led Iraq for less than five years (1958-1963).
I took a long look at the site of the house which is now a private hospital and sat in a restaurant in the opposite side. I ate my launch there to spend more time looking at the site, although the restaurant was not offering my favorite meals!!
I remembered, my beloved Baghdad, what my deceased father and mother told me about the circumstances that surrounded my birth in this house. My birthday (November 8th 1960) came across martial law declared because of the unstable political and security conditions prevailed in Iraq then. My father was standing in the street in front of our house at late night waiting for a taxi car to take my mother to a hospital to give birth to me. The Colonel Abdul Karim Qasim, who used to return from the meetings of the Cabinet after midnight to his house opposite to our house in the street that bears his name so far, passed by. He asked my father, whom he knew as a neighbor, about the reason of waiting in the street at that late time of night. After knowing the reason, the Colonel ordered his guards to take my father and mother by his own car to the hospital where I was born in the six o clock in the morning!
Taking a look at the site, I also remembered my childhood and youth years I spent in this house for more than a quarter century. My family sold the house to a group of well-known doctors and surgeons who erected a new hospital at the location of the house which became a widely known private hospital in Baghdad.
Good-bye, my beloved Baghdad These are the most difficult moments in the life of your pious son; the moments of separation from you. I ll miss you; miss your immortal Tigris River, my home and life in you and the kindness of your people. I ll keep praying for you so you recover your health and bloom. During your history, you proved the calamities and the difficulties did not ever affect you and you were soon rising to take your fitting status.
Good-bye, my beloved Baghdad, you are in me forever despite the distance that apart us. Separation from you is difficult and bitter. May God help me to bear it.
Good-bye, my beloved Baghdad
By Ara S. Ashjian
The sun is more beautiful in my country than any other, and darkness . . .
Even darkness--there, is more beautiful . . .
for it embraces Iraq. --Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab, 1953.