Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I decided to take a walk this morning with my ten-month old daughter to buy some groceries. With the lack of parks/gardens here, that's about the only source of outdoors entertainment I can provide my little one with. But that's another topic for another time.
Anyways, as we stepped out the door into the bright sun, I looked to my right to see if I should go to a store that way. But I changed my mind, and my route, and decided to walk the other way to a different store. There was a black pickup truck standing at the head of our road, with a National Guardsman in full uniform, holding his rifle across his chest. Not an everyday sight on our little road, and kind of freaky. I had my camera with me, but I couldn't risk taking a picture of the guardsmen. You don't know how crazily they'll react, and you fear that you'll stick out in their mind, and have them decide to pick a fight with you. Their uniforms seem to give them a license to do as they wish. I can't say that this is the case with all Iraqi security forces, but many of them do abuse their office, and thus manage to keep us in fear of them.

So I continued the other way, and stopped by to chat with my husband's aunt. She was telling me that her 20 year old son, B, was standing in line for gasoline this morning, and saw some cars pull up and shoot some poor guy in front of his house. His body was left out in the burning sun for a couple of hours before anyone picked him up. Horrible, but sadly becoming a daily recurrence here. May God have mercy on the poor man and his family.
My aunt-in-law asked me if I wanted her younger son to come with me on my trip, but I declined. 'Aren't you afraid?' she asked. 'La, I'll be okay.' I've learned to bury my fears here and to move on. If I dwell on each little fear, life will become even more difficult.

I moved on up the street with my little one, and took some quick pics of one of my favorite scenes in Baghdad- the palm trees that cover the landscape (top). I had to take the pictures very quickly and without really focusing before anyone drove or walked by. As I've mentioned before, it's not normal for a person to walk around taking pictures in Baghdad with their digital camera. You fear that you will look out of place-and be marked as a foreigner (kidnappings!), and you fear that you might be robbed.

As I continued walking, I saw some guys hanging out near a house. I walked very quickly and purposefully. People here don't take walks for pleasure, or exercise, or just to enjoy God's creation. So I have learned to walk quickly and without looking around when I see people in the street. It's tough, because many times I want to just stop and show my daughter a leaf on a tree, a bird/helicopter flying by or a cat running under a gate. But again, I have to be careful of appearing strange and foreign in this country where everyone is game for kidnappings and murder.

We got to the store, bought what we wanted (except for cheese; this store stores it outside the fridge) and headed back home. I took a picture (not very clear, I apologize for that) of some of the roadblocks which our neighbors have set up as a security measure. Throughout our neighborhood and many others in Baghdad, residents have taken certain measures against kidnappings and assassinations, by criminals and Iraqi security forces alike. Anyways, off of our street, they have used old water tanks, palm trees and cement blocks to block off half the road so that any possible criminals can't speed away after a crime, or speed into a neighborhood before one. So here's a picture of a road half blocked on my way home.

Right before I entered our house, I took another quick picture of a neighbor's gate, which is covered with barbed wire- a reminder of the prevalence of robberies and lootings here. This particular neighbor had their oven gas canisters stolen on two different occasions from their doorstep. Since then, they have covered their gate with barbed wire, and put a spiky metal piece on top of their gate door. They had to take security matters into their own hand, because no matter how many times these thieves come to our neighborhood, more than likely, no policeman has the time, dedication nor ability to catch them. And so, chaos reigns.

Here ended my daughter and I's quick excursion outside the house. Notably, we did not hear any guns firing or bombs exploding on our way. Alhamdulillah, we made it safely home.


f.d.rahman said...

I always wondered why the palm trees were stuck in the middle of the road.. you never told me.. or maybe you did, but I just forgot. I wish I could walk with you guys again.. that's when I had the most fun.. and I'm so proud of you for being so brave and actually taking your camera out, I lacked the courage to do that.. I know I don't have to tell you to be extra careful, but yeah.. please do.

I love Munich said...

My goodness, Fatima .. what a difficult life if you can't even safely go for a stroll with your baby-daughter or have to be extra-careful no to be recognized as foreigner due to the threat of being kidnapped!! Thanks so much for sharing and the GREAT pictures!!
Just all of you - WATCH YOURSELF!!

Treasure of Baghdad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Treasure of Baghdad said...

May God protect you and your family, especially your daughter. Whenever I hold and embrace my beloved 8-month-old niece, I pray to God to make the future for her generation bright and peaceful. We’ve lost our life years ago and become like dolls moving and working for the sake of work, not for the sake of the normal life.

Please take care and try to be careful as much as you can.

misneach said...

Is this the freedom that's said to have been brought to Iraq by the "coalition"? I'm sorry to sound bitter, but on one side we're constantly being told that America has "brought freedom to the Iraqis," then when one actually looks at firsthand sources from Iraq, the freedom to walk from ones home to the store to buy groceries isn't even a "freedom" one can count on at all. I'm sorry that, against the will of their people, the militaries of many "western" countries destroyed the hope of anything akin to a normal existance for the Iraqi people.

Fatima, I pray that one day you will find yourself in a land without the ever-present threat of violence. I pray that perhaps someday your children will live in a world where they will experience true freedom. Most of all I pray for your safety, and that of your family.

Magda said...

I search the blog sites regularly for all that is new on Iraq, and only recently found your site, it is a small glimmer of "normality" from someone doggedly trying to lead a normal life in extraordinary circumstances and I guess there are many more like you. Many thanks for the photos, these bring back memories of my home in Baghdad and the gardens we took for granted, the palm trees everywhere, and the fruit in the summer months. I wonder are you at liberty to tell me which part of Baghdad you live in, if not don't worry just keep yourself and family safe.

Fatima said...

Thanks for everyone's good wishes.
Magda, I'd rather not say exactly where I live, though you can probably gather some clues from my other posts, but I am on the Karkh side. :)
Also, wondering if the 'g' in Magda instead of a 'j' has anything to do with an Egyptian lineage?

Fatima said...

Misneach, I completely agree with what you are saying. If you don't feel the security to live, than the 'freedom' to vote is insignificant.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand, just keep safe wherever you find yourself. As far as my name is concerned, no it is the Iraqi Majida made to sound more English by a mother who worried people wouldn't be able to pronounce it, she was right and as they cannot manage my surname at least they can call me by my first he he