Sunday, January 07, 2007

Signs of a Dying City IV

Can't Even Say Good-Bye

I wasn't fully moved by 24's post on a cousin leaving Baghdad until a similar situation happened in our family. Just about the time I was looking for a flight out of Baghdad, I heard the news that Aunt W and her family were leaving Baghdad for Syria. I was shocked by that news.
Aunt W has always been a cornerstone in the family. It was at her house that we spent our first weeks in Baghdad while we were looking for a place of our own; it was at her house that the family gathered for Eid celebrations; it was at her house that we went to chill when we needed a change of pace. She was the one who mainly took care of my grandmother in law, who drove her around, made sure her needs were met. And in early December 2006, we got the call that she had finally had it; they were leaving their beloved homeland and families within a matter of days.
Aunt W lived at the border of Adhamiya/Seleikh. The final straw for them came after the Sadr City car bombings, when the family got numerous calls from friends to leave their home, who feared for their safety against reprisal attacks. Aunt W had already faced having her husband's office damaged by a nearby bomb, had faced having a son arrested by the Iraqi army, had seen numerous friends' husbands and sons disappear and die. The only thing she could think of was being slaughtered in her own home. She could take no more.

What is so significant about this story is two things. First of all, that people who are so settled in their homes, in their lands, are forced to leave is a huge misfortune and hardship. Imagine right now that you have to leave your comfortable, newly furnished house in Anytown, USA because suddenly, it isn't safe to live there anymore. What do you do with your home? You can't sell it for a profit, you can't sell your furniture for a profit; everyone else is leaving town, and no one wants to buy. You end up losing everything, and moving to a new, unknown world, with no friends, no relatives. It's difficult.

The other thing that struck me about Aunt W's leaving is that we could not even say our goodbyes to her. The situation has become so bad in Baghdad, that many people are choosing not to travel to different parts of the city, fearing for their lives. We couldn't hold a farewell party for her, we couldn't even drop by for five minutes of goodbyes. One day, she just up and left Baghdad, after making her phone calls to her sisters, mother, nieces and nephews.
And the same thing happened with me when I left Baghdad. In the summer time, when I came to the States for a visit, I made my rounds to the relatives, for a short goodbye. This time around, when I will likely not go back for a long while, I could not make those rounds. I could not visit our grandmother in Adhamiya to bid her farewell; and I don't know when I will next see her, if I will ever see her again.
The best summary of the situation there was seen in the eyes of my 25 year old cousin in law, who travelled with me by airplane from Iraq to Amman. She has also left the country, to complete her medical studies in Jordan. In the car, on the way to the airport, she sat with her 8 month old daughter in her hands, wiping silent tears from her eyes. She was saying goodbye to her beloved family, and to her beloved Baghdad, which had been so changed by this last war. She did not know when she would next see her Baghdad, and she did not know what it would be like next time she saw it.
Farewell Baghdad, from all your loving countrymen.


anonomouse said...

It is tragic. I like this piece, very well written.

Magda said...

Not much can still make me cry but this did, It brought back memories of a silent trip many years ago, of tears on a bus out from Baghdad, knowing I had said no goodbyes, not to family more distant than my sisters, not to friends, not to work collaegues, in the dark for fear of being discovered. NOt knowing when or if I would ever see any of them or Baghdad again. How sad that circumstances change but this is stil happening.

Fatima said...

Thanks, mouse. Maybe your first compliment. :)

Akkhh Magda, your comment made me sad. I'm assuming your journey was during Saddam's time; we had the same situation with a couple of our relatives; leaving in the dark of the night. May things change for the better.

WatchCommanderLt said...

I am terrible moved by our writings, and I write this to you with a heavy heart. I am truly sorry for the pain my country has caused your beloved Motherland. I am not sure if we entered your country with the best intentions or not, there is only one person who really knows that answer. I do know there are many good Iraqis in Iraq, that want the best; I also know there are many American Soldiers over there following orders, in which they took an oath to do. It is bad on both sides, for the families in Iraq and for the families of the American Soldiers. I wish your family well and God Bless Iraq and the United States of America.


Lieutenant K. A. Duncan
South Carolina, USA

Anonomouse said...

Watchcommander, I see you are sincere and from me, thank you.

Michelle Golesorkhi said...

I am very glad you are home. I worried very much for you. Bless your heart, but it is unsafe for you to be there, you must tell your husband to come home to. Your family could be Iraq's future, but not if you are hurt or killed while this time in history plays its self out.
Michelle Golesorkhi

Jim Bryant said...

Pesonal news from Iraq like this is very moving. I am hoping to collect the voices of the people of Iraq and America to develop a resaonable plan for peace in Iraq. I would be honored if you would come participate at
Thank you,
Jim Bryant