Thursday, April 27, 2006

Assassination of a Great Woman

It is with a truly heavy heart that I bear the news of the murder of Maisoon al Hashimi, the great woman who I met about ten days ago. SubhanaAllah, who would have known that this woman, berieving the killing of her brother at the time, was herself to be berieved over a few days later? Who was to know that I was talking to, and listening avidly to, a woman who was to become a martyr? Who was to know that I was shaking the hands of, and kissing the face of a woman who would go down in history as a shaheeda? Who would have known that I would go to my aunt in law's house that day, at that time, and that this woman would also come, all the way from Adhamiya to visit on the same day, at the same time? I was given the chance by God to meet this great woman, to hear her take on her favorite brother's recent assassination, and to hear her say that her ultimate wish was martyrdom. God granted her that wish today.

Today, Maisoon al Hashimi, sister of Tariq al Hashimi (new Iraqi vice-president, president of Iraqi Islamic Party) and sister of Mahmoud al Hashimi (recently killed), was assassinated in full daylight, in the view of helpless Iraqi bystanders. I don't know the details yet, I will post them as soon as I find out, but apparently she was shot 9 am this morning by unknown assailants.

I remember hearing her talk that day, in my aunt-in-law's house, telling us that those who murdered her favorite brother, Mahmoud (see blog below), warned that they were not 'satieted with his blood' and that other killings were to follow. I remember Sayyida Maisoon mentioning her fear for another of her brothers, who she was trying to convince to stay undercover, possibly move away from Baghdad for a while. She told us that they had not held a fatiha (condolence sitting) for the women after her brother's killing because they were afraid of this warning by his murderers. I remember her telling us of a talk she had with her teenage son, who asked her if she loved her late brother, Mahmoud, more than the other brothers. She said 'Yes.' 'So, do you love him more than you love me?' She answered, 'Don't be upset, Aban, but yes, I love him more than myself.' Her son answered, 'Mom, don't be upset, but I also love him more than anyone else.' Poor Aban, he is now left without his two favorite people. May Allah have mercy on her soul.

In the one sitting that I met this woman, I saw her as a symbol of womanly strength, fortitude, ultimate patience, and true satisfaction with all God gave her. She was able to continually smile and talk, while in a state of sadness over her brother. As she said herself, it was not us condoling her on her brother's death, but she who was condoling us on the death of a great man.

Who could possibly murder this innocent woman, and why? As with so many of the killings that occur here, no one knows anything for sure. It could have been Shiite militias with an agenda against the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party leader, Tariq al Hashimi. It could have been Zarqawi's group, who warned two days ago of attacks against the new government, and against the 'collaborator Sunni groups' who had joined the political process- a likely, veiled reference to the IIP. It could be the remaining Baathists in Iraq, who are thought to be behind much of the chaos and mayhem here. But without a doubt, it is a pressure tactic against Tariq al Hashimi, the new vice-president of Iraq.


UPDATE: I am watching news coverage of Sayyida Maisoon's killing and her funeral procession on Baghdad TV, the IIP's satellite channel. Apparently, around 9 am this morning, the bereaved had gotten into a small van (called 'Kayya' here in Baghdad) which she rode to work every day, along with her driver. About 50 meters from her house, the street was suddenly blocked off by a grey BMW, out of which poured masked gunmen. About 32 shots were fired at the vehicle, instantly killing al Hashimi and critically wounding her driver, who later died in the hospital. Many of the shots were aimed at her head, which was badly disfigured, rahimahaAllah.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Another Sandstorm

Kitchen door image
Front door image

View from kitchen window, though it's actually dark inside (flash).

Rooftop image

Amidst seven car bombs today, one of which my daughter and I heard loudly from our house, we had another beautiful sandstorm (Monday). The sky doesn't always get this orange; I think it's a combination of the sandstorm and thunderstorm when they come together. Perhaps something about the sun reflecting off the water droplets and the sand in the atmosphere.

I remember during the war on Iraq in 2003, there was one huge sandstorm that all the media covered. I remember it had delayed the invasion by a day or so. I think I even still remember the date of it: April 4th, 2003, though I'm not 100% sure. I had never experienced a sandstorm at that point, but I remember how everyone against the war was excited about the sandstorm; how Allah (God) was helping keep the invasion away.

Anyways, with this sandstorm, the whole house was completely dark at 2:50 pm. And that helped my baby get a nice, long afternoon nap. These are some pics I took from my doorway and rooftop. The one with the windows is from my kitchen, but my kitchen was actually pitch black at the time.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Nine Year Old Witness to Crime

My husband's nine year old cousin (W-our neighbor) was walking home from the Maghrib (sunset) prayer this past Monday with his nineteen year old brother and cousins. When they reached the main street in front of our house, two civilian cars pulled up and blocked the road from both sides. Men dressed in Iraqi special police force uniforms jumped out of these cars and drew their guns at a third car. They pulled the driver out of the car, blindfolded him, tied his hands back and zoomed off in their cars, with their guns going off.

Nine year old 'W' and his brother/cousins ran back home. They had just seen the beginning of a kidnapping occur, that would leave a family in heartache and tears, and might end in a ransom paid for this innocent man's freedom, or his murder.

Why did these boys know that something was wrong? Because less than two months ago, their brother in law and his co-worker had been 'taken' by such men dressed in police uniform. After five days of negotiations, sleepless nights, heartache for his family and all around worry, he was released for a ransom of $30,000 (from a man who makes no more than $300 - $500 a month). His co-worker was found a month later in the city morgue, tortured and killed.

The sad thing is, that people see things like this happen before their eyes, and yet they stand with their hands tied behind their backs, unable to do anything to stop it. You fear going to the police, because many times, they are in on the crimes. You fear fighting back, because they will come after you and your family. And you don't know what to say to young boys and girls who see things like this, and have to go on with their young lives. Allah al Hafith- God is the Protector.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


We had a sandstorm/thunderstorm here in Baghdad yesterday. These are some pics my husband and I took around 5 pm (sunset is not until 7:35 pm). Sandstorm season starts around now, springtime through summer, and occurs a few times during the winter. For women in Baghdad, sandstorms usually mean a really dusty house that needs a major dusting/mopping/wipe down. For car owners, it means a really dirty car, inside and out.

The good thing about this storm, is that it helped bring down the temps a bit this week, which were skyrocketing to the 90's (Fahrenheit). Today the weather is cool, in the mid seventies.

Adhamiya Unrest

My grandmother in law called us yesterday and chided us for not calling her and asking about her after the crazy night they had just gone through. I hadn't really been aware of it, because the news didn't really cover it.

'Mammy' (grandma in law) lives on Umar ibn Abdul Aziz Street, one of the main streets in this Sunni dominated neighborhood. She told us that she had been unable to sleep all night because of the constant, unending barrage of gunfire on their street from 1 AM until 11 AM the next day. Her son (my uncle in law) and his family, who live with her, had to move away from their windows, in fear of random bullets coming through. In fact, a couple of their windows broke from the gunfire.

I asked a bunch of people who was responsible for this fighting. No one was 100% sure of the fighters, but the general consensus is that 'maghaweer' (special police forces of the Interior Ministry) and Shiite militias had come to the neighborhood (for random arrests and killings) and so the residents of Adhamiya started to defend their neighborhood. Apparently, American forces moved in by morning time to bring some order to the problem. Check out this website for another personal account:

Mammy told us that their area was cordoned off, and the kids had stayed home from school. She told me that 'even during the war days, we did not have a day/night like this.' I can only imagine what it was like for them. One of the times we had a gun fight on our street, it lasted for 15 long minutes, and I was home alone with my daughter. The gun shots were crazy loud, and I had no idea what was happening, but I was smiling and laughing for my baby daughter's sake. She didn't understand what was happening, so she was smiling back to me, thankfully. And I have been awakened a few times in the middle of the night by loud explosions and gun fights many streets away. Now to imagine something like this , all night long, right outside your window, wow. I realize why they couldn't sleep all night long.

Pray for peace and security in Iraq.

UPDATE: I just found an article on about the situation, "Clashes in Sunni district of Baghdad":

Also, Al Jazeera news just reported that fighting is going on between Adhamiya residents and forces dressed in the Iraqi police uniform.

Why would the residents of Adhamiya feel a need to defend their neighborhood? See article mentioned in my blog on 'Al Mahdi Army.'

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Mahmoud al Hashimi's Assassination

I was visiting my aunt in law today when a visitor came for her mother in law, who was over at her house. This lady, Maisoon al Hashimi, was mourning the assassination of her brother who had just been killed two days ago.

Sayyid Mahmoud al Hashimi (as his sister insisted on calling him) was the brother of Tariq al Hashimi- the current president of the Iraqi Islamic Party (the largest Sunni party in Iraq). He was most likely assassinated as a pressure tactic against his brother. Maisoon told us that eye witnesses claimed that the street he was driving on was blocked on both sides by Iraqi forces (!yes! see entry on Al Mahdi army below and attached article) and his car was shot at numerously. When these shots did not kill him, one of the killers got up on the roof of his car and threw some sort of a bomb/grenade at al Hashimi's car. And he was martyred, Allah yirhamuh (may God have mercy on his soul).

His sister was incredibly strong. She was telling us how this brother (out of 4 brothers) was her favorite. She told us of his kindness, gentleness and caring for all people. After his death, many people that they did not know came by to condole the family. He left behind six children, the oldest a freshmen daughter in college and the youngest 3 year old twin boys.

The sad reality of the matter is that such assassinations occur on a daily basis in Iraq, with no regard for the rule of law. Until these assassinations are investigated and stopped, Iraq will remain in the chaos that it has sunk to in this post-Saddam era.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Waking Up in the Morning

I woke up two mornings ago to some crazy loud, ringing shots at 6:52 am. It's become a very normal thing to hear shots and explosions throughout the day, coming from different distances- so we have learned to block out these sounds. It is only when they are pretty close to home that we start wondering about them.

The shots I heard the other day got me wondering, because they were on the main street right outside our home, and because they were different sounding than normal rifles or machine guns. My neighbor came by later in the day and told me that her whole family had also been startled awake by the shots (she had ran to her father to make sure he was okay). Her father went out onto the sat-h (flat roof of all houses here) to check out what was happening. He saw some American Hummers on the main street firing at something (apparently the guns on these Hummers are really large; hence the incredible firing noise that we had never heard this close to us). There had been some retaliatory fire, most likely from some resistance/rebel forces. I figured that the third anniversary of the 'fall of Baghdad' (as the invasion is called here-April 9th) had something to do with this.

Alhamdulillah, no big deal, as no one we know was hurt.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Trash and Roadside Bombs

I was in the Amiriyya district of Baghdad today for a family visit, when I noticed the growing mounds of trash on the sides of the streets, and on the street medians. Amiriyya is a generally middle-class, clean district, and this new look is fairly strange to the area (though not to other parts of post-Saddam Baghdad).

Apparently, this new look is what was ordered by the doctor- in this case the rebels of Amiriyya. In post-Saddam Baghdad, Amiriyya has remained one of the areas outside the control of the American and Iraqi troops (as evidenced by graffiti reading "GET OUT WE HATE YOU" which I saw on my way home). The rebels have ordered stores/trash collectors/mosques, etc in the area to leave their trash out on the side of the road and on road medians so that they could plant roadside bombs in the middle of them, hiding them for American and Iraqi convoys driving by. They have also killed a couple of poor trash collectors who did not heed their words. My cousin in law's husband had a local mosque imam corroborate to him the truth of this warning, which they had received . Sad.

Another manifestation of the chaos and lawlessness that has spread all over post-Saddam Iraq. I didn't get to take pics this time, but next time I'm in that area, I'll try to get some pics of the natural beauty of the area.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fruit Trees and Gardens

I'm making a point of recording some of my thoughts on the nice things I find in Iraq and Iraqi society, so that it's not all pessimistic and negative.

One of the beautiful things about this country is that almost any house with a 'backyard' has at least one fruit tree in it; even if the owners aren't very well off. There's just an abundance of 'giving' trees here, mashaAllah. Some of the more prevalent fruit trees that I have seen are naranj trees; a type of citrus fruit, looks like an orange but is much more sour/bitter (used as a lemon for flavoring, mostly). Many gardens also have berry trees, palm trees, etc.

This is a picture of my husband's aunt's garden. There's actually nothing else in the garden (they're in the process of redoing it) but this nabq tree. Its a gorgeous tree, huge and full of fruit mashaAllah.