When I left Baghdad towards the end of June, kidnapping, murder, exploding bombs were all a very regular part of the Baghdad landscape. Forced migration or 'sectarian cleansing' was not. It was still in its beginning steps. When I came back in October, this forced migration had become a very regular part of life here in Baghdad. Many different people we knew, or knew through someone else, had been forced out of their homes to a different district.
Abu N was one of these people. Abu N is a simple, street-smart fifty-ish year old Sunni man who drives my husband to work and does random errands for us. He's been a part of our lives for the past couple of years. One day this summer when my husband was visiting us and his family in the States, he called Abu N to tell him of his arrival date in Baghdad. Listening to the one-sided conversation, I could tell that something had gone wrong in Abu N's life.
Abu N used to live not too far from us in the A'amil district, a district with a mixed Sunni/Shiite population. One day, Abu N's brother in law's house (about five houses down from his own) was attacked with grenades and gunfire. The next day, his next door neighbor, also a Sunni, received a threat to move out or face deathly consequences. Abu N's Shiite neighbors came to him, his brother in law and his next door neighbor (the only Sunni families in the direct area) and told them that it was best for them to move out of the area, because they could do nothing to protect them.
Abu N, who had been living in his house for more than thirteen years, had to pick himself and his family up and leave their house immediately. It was either that or face an almost certain attack, and possible death from these 'unknown' forces. On such short notice, he moved his family out to a house near his brother's house in a town called Hilla, about 90 kilometers from Baghdad. He's still working with my husband, but because he lives so far now, he leaves his family during the week in Hilla, and spends the nights in his parents' house in Baghdad. On the weekends, he makes the trip out to Hilla.
Abu N's story is the story of the changing landscape of Baghdad. He is not the first nor the last Iraqi forced out of his home in this developing sectarian cleansing that is occuring here. He's relatively lucky, getting off easily, having only lost his home, neighbors and stability. Others have lost so much more in this 'cleansing' war.