Saturday, May 12, 2007

From Birth to Death

When I come to type down the news coming from Baghdad, I feel like I'm making up a real bad horror story. But unfortunately, this is the life of a small family in Baghdad.
Three days ago, my husband sent me a message. He wrote, "Sorry, I have more bad news." My heart immediately sunk. I went on to read, "Amma R's husband died today." I continued to read, "He was really sick and his heart gave out." Ironically, I sighed a sigh of relief. Alhamdulillah, it was a natural death. But even then, the situation in Iraq didn't help this middle aged man's health. He went to the hospital the night before his death, but there were no real doctors on call, no one could treat him for a simple ailment. He died the next morning. Allah yirhamuh.

My husband went the next day to pay his condolences to his cousin's uncle (Bilal's uncle). On the way there, he got in a small car accident. The guy in the other car came out at him with a gun in his hand. My husband and 'A' decided to keep their guns in the car, to avert any escalations in emotion. Thankfully, the man waved them off. When I heard this story, I freaked out. How easy it is for someone to take the law into his own hands in lawless Baghdad! Just whip out your gun and scare anyone who you decide is a threat to you.

Last night (Baghdad time), Baby Bilal was born at 9:30 pm at home. Going to a hospital at night is difficult and risky because of the curfew. Besides, not too many people find Baghdad's hospitals attractive and pleasant. Giving birth at home might quickly become the norm in Baghdad these days. The midwife had to spend the night.

Next morning, A's family found out that his second aunt's husband had died in a matter of days from the first one. This one had been gunned down in front of his clinic in Mosul. His aunt, who had just returned to Mosul from Baghdad where she had visited her older sister and condoled her for her husband's death, is now receiving condolences for her own husband's tragic murder.
In less than a month, this family has gone through a young man's kidnapping and murder, an uncle's death, a grandson being born, and another uncle's murder. S was telling me how then can't comprehend what's happening. It's just coming from left and right. But with all that, she doesn't complain. May God give them patience and strength in these horrible times.

Friday, May 11, 2007

God Works in Wonderful Ways

Nine months ago, A's wife, B, became pregnant with their second child. 'A' is Bilal's brother.
Today, B gave birth to a healthy baby boy. They named him Bilal.
I remember listening to my sister in law chat with 'A' online a few weeks before Bilal's passing. We were asking him what names they had planned. At that time, we threw out a bunch of names, but they hadn't yet settled on one. After Bilal, it became almost a given that they would name their unborn son with his uncle's name.
May he grow up to follow in his uncle's footsteps, and may he live a long, healthy, fruitful life. May he put some peace into his father and grandmother's torn hearts, and may he be a kurrat 3ayn for all of us.

Added: I forgot to mention that Bilal Sr. was the only one of his siblings born at home. The midwife who gave birth to him is the same one who gave birth to Bilal Jr.

Baby Girl #3 Born

I wrote about my neighbors who were kidnapped more than seven months ago at this link. Two sons and a son in law were taken from their computer store, and until this day, go missing. The family lives in anguish about their fate every day, hearing rumors here and there that their sons are being held by the government. They are hoping that is the case, and not that their sons were murdered those many months ago. Of course we all hope that we can one day celebrate with them their sons' return.
Anyway, I also blogged a while ago about both daughters in law giving birth to their first children, who have yet to meet their fathers.
And now, the daughter of the family, Alyaa, whose husband was kidnapped at the same time as her brothers, has given birth to her second child, a girl; another child born not knowing her father. InshaAllah that is not the case for long. I wonder if the baby's father even knew that he was expecting another child.
I hope your daughter fills a void for you Alyaa, left by the disappearance of your two brothers and your husband. I know your heart is broken, and that everyday looking at your 21 month old son and your newborn daughter reminds you over and over again of your love, but I hope and pray that one day soon that void will be filled and your broken heart will be mended.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I Don't Know What To Call Baghdad Anymore...

Everyday I talk to my husband on the phone or online, and everyday I shut the phone saddened and disgusted by the news I hear coming out of Baghdad. Last week my husband told me about a friend of his who was going through the ordeal of finding his two kidnapped brothers. Hubby told him to prepare for the worse. I used to tell my husband not to be so pessimistic, not to scare people, but I can't do that anymore. I see that truly everything coming out of Baghdad is bad news, as one of my commentators wrote. But of course I can't be that morbid, so I have to restate that and say, most everything coming out of Baghdad is bad news, really bad news.
Over the weekend, Muhannad found his brothers, in the city morgue. With signs of being badly tortured. I don't know what to say anymore... It's not a city and they aren't humans who do these things.
Excerpts of his story were printed in an Arabic online newspaper, Asharq alAwsat at this link.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Remembering Bilal...

It's hard to think of Bilal as a memory, but I want to record some of my memories of him, to help stand the test of time.
When I remember Bilal, I see him, in his slight build, reminding me so much of my brother, standing over the stove top in the kitchen, tasting his mom's pot of stew. I see him hurrying us to the dinner table because he's so hungry from a hard day's work.
I see him smiling, always smiling that kind, nice smile.
I see him carrying my Sumy and playing with her. He was one of the few guy's she wasn't scared of, one of the few guys who escaped her stranger anxiety. I see him taking her outside for a stroll, throwing her up into the air. I see her smiling and loving him.
I see him from my balcony walking off to university with his books tucked under his arms, in his button down shirt and gray pants.
I see him sitting at his computer, downloading the latest anasheed. Bilal and 'A' always loved a good nasheed.
I remember him on Friday afternoons, when we all gathered together for lunch. After an early morning playing soccer, praying jum'a, and eating lunch, he'd bring out his small mattress, throw it down in the living room in front of the TV, and watch a bit of TV with us, then snooze off for a bit of zzzz's. Ever so comfortably, one hand under his head, with his little brother lying next to him.
I remember once when you drove your mom and me to the shopping center in Mansour, ya Bilal. Khala N and I were doing our own shopping and you were walking around on your own. Then you came and took Sumy off my hands. When I joined you a few minutes later, you had bought her this cute winter hat, blue and black, with a little teddy bear on it, and a matching scarf. You had dressed her in it, and bought a matching set for your niece. I thought that was the cutest thing, and I saved that cute hat, till I left Baghdad this last time. I gave it away with a bunch of things Sumy had outgrown. I wish I had kept it.
I remember how you grew so much in the three years I spent in Baghdad as your neighbor. You grew from a quiet, shy high school student to a student leader in college. I remember when you were studying in your senior year to get into the college of your choice. Your grades weren't as high as your brother and sister, but you just barely made it in the College of Media and Journalism, the college of your choice. The college from which you were later kidnapped, with guards standing around, watching and doing nothing. Alhamdulillah.
I remember war stories that you guys told us about this last war, four years ago, when you were seventeen years old. Two main memories stand out. In one of them, your sister told me how her fiancee had been away for a few days. You guys hadn't heard from him in a while, got worried about him, especially since he lived in a targeted area. You rode out on your bike, holding a white flag in your hand (and I think you were all dressed in white), to keep you safe from any bullets, rockets or bombs. You rode out a good distance, a good 12 minute car drive, on your bike, in the height of the war. Alhamdulillah, you came home safely that time.
I remember the story you guys told us once and again, your most vivid memory of the war. Something no teenager, no human being should have to experience. (My readers, if you have a weak stomach, please don't read the next paragraph). You and your brother and some friends heard that Yarmouk Hospital had no electricity and there were so many dead bodies in the morgue. Someone had to bury them soon, especially with no electricity for the fridges. You guys went out, and took the bodies from the morgue, buried them in a large grave. You were telling us how that was the most horrific experience. Bodies were decomposing, falling apart in your hands when you were moving them. Maggots and worms were crawling all over them. Except for that one guy... And the smell, the smell that did not leave your noses for days. 'A' told us how while you guys were moving the corpses, looters were ascending on the hospital, taking everything they could. Yall had to threaten them, yell at them to have some respect for the place they were in. I remember you guys telling that story, shaking your heads with the horror of it. I remember the look in your eyes, that faraway look of having experienced something that I could never fully understand, never fully imagine. May God reward you for what you guys did, the small part that you guys tried to do, to keep some sanity and order in your homeland.
Most importantly, I will always remember how you are a central part of our little family circle in Baghdad. I can't yet imagine a dinner table without you sitting there with us.
Allah has given you rest from the craziness that Baghdad has descended to. May you dwell in a much better place than we can ever imagine.