Friday, March 28, 2008

Turned Out Well, alhamdulillah

I woke up to a text and voice message on my cell phone from my hubby this morning. "I'm fine, alhamdulillah, just in case you hear anything."
So, of course I ran to read the news online and see what close call he had avoided. Mortars landed near where he works, and a couple of people died, about nine were injured. Thankfully, my husband is safe, all praise to God.
It's weird because almost exactly a year ago, the same thing happened, with my husband waking me up in the morning with a phone call, letting me know he was ok, just in case I heard the news. When it happened last year, it took me a couple of days to sink in how close he had been. The roof actually fell in where he worked last year, and there was a lot of smoke and debris, but he and his co-workers were able to make it out in one piece. His accident last year left me with a weird feeling, and a song he used to play as his ring tone farshi al turab kept on replaying in mind. I felt something weird those days, and a week later, Bilal was kidnapped.
Just need to record these days down for a hopefully brighter future, where I can look back on these times with my family and say 'Thank you God for letting us out of it safe and sound."
I always hope that is the case...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

All Roads Lead to Baghdad

Today marks my husband and I's seventh anniversary.
When we were in Baghdad, and mentioned this date to our aunt, she'd proudly remind us that this was the date she gave birth to her beloved son, Bilal. Bilal was born 22 years ago, but he has now become a statistic in this war, one of the hundreds of thousands killed since Saddam was overthrown 5 years ago.
So for me, even when I remember the happiest moments of my life, I am reminded of the misery that has become Baghdad.
Rahmatullahi alayka ya Bilal. For his story, click here.

For an analysis of today's Baghdad, read my husband's post, '5 years.'

Saturday, March 22, 2008

5 years!

This month marks the 5th anniversary of the War on Iraq and incidentally it is also our 7th anniversary as a couple. I remember back in 2003 telling Fatima that it would only be 6 months and then we would re-evaluate the situation and make decisions accordingly. I remember insisting on not living in the IZ because I said that if we were there to serve the Iraqi people we have to live among them. Sadly...instead of still living in my house and being proud to be working for Iraq I am now a resident of the Rasheed Hotel and only travel out with armed guards. People talk about the situation improving but I want to mention a few things aside from the media pronouncements. In reality there is a growing problem that is not being addressed. It was evident during the recent visit of President Ahmedinajad and how he was received and the way he announced his visit weeks in advance and toured Baghdad in stark comparison to how VP Cheney and any other US official comes. When Ahmedinajad was here Baghdad was eerily quiet while when VP Cheney was here bombs and mortars were going off. It was also evident when the Iraqi delegation was the only delegation that refused to stand with its Arab neighbors in condemning Iran for occupying the three Emirate Islands. It is evident in our trade relations with Iran as compared to every other country including the US.

I ask myself the question sometime, was it worth it for the United States? The blood and treasure spilled and spent and yet instead of Iraq standing with the US on basic policies it has turned to Iran on every aspect of governance and economy. This is a more fundamental issue than when and should US troops leave Iraq. The answer should be that now that the US has done all of this what does the US want to accomplish and is it working towards that goal or simply calming the situation to placate an anxious and angry US population during an election year. Unfortunately, the one player who has gained the most at the expense of the US and Iraq is Iran, yet interestingly enough either people here fail to see it or fail to do anything about it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Uncanny II

I had written in the past about supposed coincidences in Iraq's affairs, well, it has happened yet again. Is it not interesting that suddenly this week bombings and violence have suddenly jumped?! The interesting thing associated with this is that negotiations between the United States and Iraq started this week on a long-term agreement. It just so happens that violence suddenly increases when this starts...uncanny!! It is unfortunate that other nations continue to feel that they have a right to meddle in Iraq's affairs and use Iraq as a place to settle scores. The sad fact is that innocent civilians always pay the price.

On another note, someone asked a while back what it would take for Iraqis to put aside their sub-identities and become Iraqis. The answer is simple, leave Iraqis alone...let Iraqis settle issues between themselves without Iranian, Syrian, and other outside influence and Iraqis will once again bring their nation together.

Finally, people are talking about the decrease in violence as if it is something that is here to stay. Unfortunately the present peace is very fragile because the root causes of violence have yet to be resolved. Militias still infiltrate the Iraqi security and civilian institutions, citizens who have stood up to Alqaeda are being refused entry into Iraq's security services, and true powersharing in governance has yet to happen. These things are the root solutions to many of Iraq's issues and though they may sound easy to resolve, we don't yet have true statesmen who are willing to hold Iraq above their narrow partisan interests to make the difficult decisions.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Babies in Baghdad Part I: A Gun in Every Home

I haven't been blogging in a long time mainly because my life situation has changed. I don't live in Baghdad anymore, and blogging was mainly a means for me to record this surreal life that I was leading and, later, to connect with people outside my Baghdad family. I have since grown to *love* blogging, but I can't get myself to record my thoughts here, b/c they aren't 'thoughts from Baghdad' anymore. But I love the Iraqi blogging world too much to start a whole new blog, so I decided that I'm going to start blogging in retrospect, and just recording any thoughts I might be having, ranging mostly from parenting, to parenting, to the three years I lived in Baghdad. It really is unbelievable how those three relatively 'short' years have come to color my life so much, but they really have.
I lived in Baghdad for three years, post-Saddam, and was a mommy for one of those three years. The other day I was thinking about how much my oldest daughter has grown since those days she was running around our house in Baghdad, getting into cupboards, climbing hard marble stairs with really wide railings, and adjusting to the lights turning on and off every few hours.
And then I remembered something about our home in Baghdad, and I thanked God I was out of that situation. My husband and I slept with a loaded gun near his head every night.
He would come home from work every day, go upstairs, change out of his work clothes, and leave his gun on the headboard of our bed. When Sumy started walking on tables, and eventually walking on her own, I lived in eternal fear of that gun. But guns are a fact of life in Baghdad. Since no law was out there protecting us, we had to take matters into our own hands.
We lived with the fear of militias driving up in the middle of the night to our street and rounding up our men. My husband would stay up on certain nights which were 'high alert' nights, and act like he was reading, when in reality he was keeping his ears open to any unusual activity in our part of the world.
And when he went to work, that loaded gun would go with him, again, to protect him. But he didn't leave me home alone. No he didn't, thoughtful husband of mine. He left another little tiny gun at home with me, as if I would ever use it to protect myself. Man, until now, I'm still freaked out by the thought of those guns. Thank God we never had to use them. Though once in the middle of the night, I couldn't sleep, so I very quietly crept out of our bedroom. And in the act of trying not to open the creaking door too much, I knocked over a mirror, which fell on the marble floor and broke. I guess I freaked the living lights out of my sleeping husband, who later told me he reached for his gun.
I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day, a friend who is very critical of my husband's presence/work in Baghdad. She told me, "I want to live your husband's life. He's like a Rambo, running around with a gun and bodyguards (he doesn't have bodyguards, but he does have a driver). I was like, 'running around with a gun?! Is that what qualifies him for leading an 'exciting'/Rambo-style life? EVERYONE in Baghdad has a gun in their house, rich or poor. It's just a matter of life, or death...". Unfortunately.
All I can say is, thank God I'm out of a situation where my daughters would have had to live in the same house with guns.