Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Do they still call it Freedom

Fourth year of misery and mysteries; Where are we now and where are we going. For how many more coming years? For what? Hope had abandoned the land which once wrote the very first letter ever. Logic seems bizarre on the land where the wheel was invented. Beauty disappeared. Nothing has left but hideous streets, which once were cloud nine; today they are spotted with innocents' blood.

Four years of mysteries. What is going on and why? Who started it and for the interest of whom? Mysterious crimes are committed in the name of religion and in the name of God, in the name of homeland. As if this land is doomed for misery. We can go on and on counting the mischief and blame others, blame each others, and blame ourselves.

People are killed for who they were and who they are now. Yet some are killed just for being there on this puzzling land.

Cradle of civilizations, it was called once. Now it is a demolished land. Buildings are being bulldozed. Trees are burned on the sidewalk. Cats and dogs escaped the diseased land. Birds deserted the skies. They ran to save their lives. Human are being subjugated in the name of liberty and freedom, are being insulted on their own land.

We leave hoping to start a new life but still this land pulls us by the magic it once had. So I believe that magic still lingers on. It still pulls us by the memories we keep in our minds, by the dream of going back to our childish never land, the land that tries to be optimistic. It still pulls us by its palm trees, with its two rivers and the smell of the "masgoof" fish in the restaurants of Abu Nawas. It pulls us with a unexplained inspiration for art, the art that relate to the ancient warriors who built the strong walls around Babylon.

It pulls us back to our roots. The roots that never knew what rest means, with all the wars, the struggle, and the resistance to remain liberated from foreigners' authorities.

It pulls us back by its very sweet sound, it's the precious Iraq.

here's what I wrote last year.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007


After losing tangible and intangible belongings, after losing hope for going back homeland, after losing friends, homes, cars… after a family was scattered on earth, after we struggled so hard to get a residency in UAE, we lost my father's black handbag.

No, this time no key is lost nor a joke is being told. This time we lost our three Iraqi passports and all the paper related to our residency.

Since December 2006, we've been waiting for our residency papers to be processed. Some people were skeptical that they stopped issuing residency to Iraqis other said they would give you but it would take time. It has been crazy here about Iraqis just like it has been about Iraqis all over the world. More than three months and we were only asked to submit more and more papers. Each time we submit one they say it lacks a certain stamp. Each stamp took us days to get. After all is done and everything was fine, only the blood test was needed to finish the paper, the papers are lost.

As I was busy with the institute of art in the morning and busy with my MBA classes in the evening, I pampered myself a bit and asked my father if it was possible for me to have the blood test after midday so I won't waste any time.

While I was spending my time in a workshop for oil painting with an American artist from a Pakistani background, my father finished every single paper before the blood test and even finished his blood test and checked the time so I'll do the same the next day. He spent his way coming home flying because of happiness that at last we'll have a residency. He passed by the Mega Mart downstairs to get bread and the bag was in the small basket. He stopped to weigh up some vegetables and the bag was taken from the basket.

I don't know what to say, I don't know what to think. It's just too hard after waiting for happiness and after smelling it, few steps away from tasting it, when you have to face the truth that it does not exist, at least for Iraqis.

I'm aware the thief did not know this man with this bag was an Iraqi. I'm aware that when people cannot control their lives they would blame anyone or anything. I just feel or let me say believe that Iraqis are being mistreated everywhere. And whatever comes the "because we are Iraqis" is always the answer.

We've lost this same bag once before. It was one of those days when an explosion happened in Karada area in Baghdad. My father went there to buy chargeable fans for post war life. When he lost it, we lost about 400$ which was nothing compared to the IDs and other important papers which was there too. Thanks to a Shiite guy from Thawra district who found the bag and read the ID with dad's full name that implies that his ancestors goes back to Al Hussain bin Ali, profit Mohamed's grandson. The guy found it with all the IDs but no money was there. That day we were sure life was still worth living in Iraq and dad gave this man a reward.

Who would find the bag if it was thrown on the sideway? Here in a city of multinational people. Who would care to read the papers inside and pity those smiling faces in the Iraqi passports, and the residency papers which need only one stamp so we would receive the residency cards?

We've made a communiqué at the police station and all they had to say that they can provide us with the statement so we can start the formulation of getting new passports and from thence we can start the residency papers all over again. Or the thief might just throw the bag somewhere and they would be notified about it. Somewhere!! Like garbage?

So I guess all the stuff we see about police is just for movies and TV? Or what? No investigation? No nothing? What about the shop? It's such a huge hypermarket that has many branches in UAE. No cameras!?!
My father is walking and searching in the area since 1 pm. Every now and then he would go search in the streets, hoping that as the police said he would find it thrown here or there. I'm so worried about him and his heart. He just came back and he says "ya farha ma tamit" (Unaccomplished cheerfulness).

There's an Iraqi word, in Maslawi dialect "Stitch it here, it would rip there)
Please pray for us. Pray for all those who wait for mercy. Pray for all Iraqis. Pray for us.
Up date,
8 hourse later the papers and the three passports were in hour hands. how?
An Indian worker found some papers and three passports in a plastic bag, in Satwa district in Dubai, 2 hours away from our place. He took it to the site manger, an Egyptian engineer. The engineer called his wife, who was an Iraqi woment who left Baghdad 10 years ago. he asked her if she knew the names. She called all her Iraqi friends to check if anyone of them might know those names.
Later they took the electricity bill, which happened to be in the bag, and start their search to find us.

After 4 hours, they were knocking on our door.
The woman happend to be from the same city dad comes from, Hilla. and she carries the same last name.

So life still worths living I guess. and as much as there is evil and there exists goodness.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sitting in the Doorway

Today one of the most extraordinary "firsts" had happened. All people who knows Attawie, those who went to the same universities she's been to, and even those who are used to see her in the near grocery shop or those who lived in the same building, they all knew when Attawie comes she comes with a bag. Her black back bag: where you can see the water bottle on one side, the mobile phone on the other. The bag which always carries her wallet, keys, a book she's reading at the time, a sketch book, a notebook, the memory desk which serves as an MP3 player and a recorder at the same time, a camera, digital organizer & dictionary, the university file, and other things if needed. The bag she considers home.
Today as I was getting ready to leave home around 8 am, when I forgot to wear my watch thinking it was ok because I got my mobile with me, I got a weird feeling. I went to the institute of art where I am a graduate now and I'm registered as a painting student only. But as a special girl as Attawie, I took an approval from the administration to work in any department I feel I want to. I've been a student there since October 2005.

When I got there I found out that today was the first lecture for those who registered for Graphic. I had a word with the instructor and that was it; this was my first class in Graphic as it wasn't on the syllabus two years ago. I worked for three hours and it was time to go home.

When I got home my dad was there, watching the news. As I took off my left shoe I remember I should get some shopping before I took off my clothes. I put it on again and told my dad it wouldn't take time and I'll be back in few minutes. That's when he decided he should go out too. Then we both went down in the same lift, each one of us headed to a different direction.

After I finished shopping I went home. In the lift I had mixed feelings and thoughts. When I got to the door I faced the truth, I had no key. To top it all I had no cell phone.

First thing came to my mind is to go to our friends and call my mother in case she would call and can't find me. We had two families in the same are, one living about fifteen minutes walk and the other would take at least twenty minutes at best. The far people are friendly but I won't go without being well dressed and a touch of make up. As I was too messed up after working on my first Graphic work., so I decided to go to the nearest and have some fun with their baby son. As I reached their building the problem was I never been to their home alone and I really can't remember in which floor they were. I remember the place of the flat but not the number. That reminded me of the necessity of cell phones. I went to the super and asked him about the number but he didn't seem to want to give any help. Therefore, I had to explained to him the situation. He decided to check the system for me. Their building was huge I imagined the system just needed typing the name so we can learn the number of the flat. That moment shocked me when the man handed me a file full of papers with excel columns full of names and numbers. I though "Yeah I found it".

Looking through the names I wondered if I can find people I know who happened to be there. But that took so much time that I asked the man to check for me. I knew he knows them, and I know he knows their sun. I've seen him talking to him once and daah he's the super. It took a pretty much time to find their name and that's how I went up to find nobody's home!

I thought my father could be home already and now it's ok to go home. I asked for the time and it was about 12:50 pm. As I walked back home I passed by the shopping center in our building. When I ran the bell it was still nobody's home. I kept walking back and forth in our floor and went to the very far end where I've never been to but with my baby girl cousin who I used to take for a walk when she wants to go out when they were visiting from Germany.

I counted the minutes, and then started to count the steps. I counted the ceramic in the ground, and then counted the steps from the lift to our home, which by the way were only 15 steps. I tried to sit a while and then walk another while. I even did some jogging when there was no one around. Then I discovered a place where none of the magic eyes can reach and I started to do some stretching and athletic moves which helped me a lot after God knows how many times I sat on the ground.

People started to get home after doing some grocery just like myself. Then kids were brought home from KGs and after a while the older kids got home by themselves. Later, I could smell the food being cooked. Different smells started to roam the floor. In a while fathers started to come for apparently lunch hour because it was followed by the sound of the war between the spoons and forks against the plates.

I didn't feel hungry. I know behind this door the delicious chicken mom cooked last night was waiting in the fridge. Or it could be the cup cake I ate on the bus after I thought a little piece won't harm my appetite for lunch.

Time passed by and I had my shopping outside the door with me sitting next to it. I felt I was alone, helpless, and for the first time I was a real stupid. People kept passing by. No one bothered to look at me except for a child who was carried by her mom and I kept playing pica Bo with her till they got home. The noisy neighbor came with his eldest son. They were loud as usual. Once they got home the son told the mother he got a good mark. They were shouting I could hear every single word. Later the sister and the middle brother came. Few minutes passed and the youngest came all by himself. The brothers all looked the same.

I felt invisible. All those songs about people who don't care and the darkness of life came to my mind. That inspired me of writing a poem which I'll share after editing it.

I tried to think of something to cheer me up. But there was nothing. I looked at my wallet and I thought "there is something to make me feel better". It was the photos I kept in the small pockets. Let's see, I haven't had a look at them for a while. The first photo was supposed to include one person but my sister and her best friend wanted to take a photo together when they were hanging out in a mall. My elder sister and her best friend who happened to be the sister of my other sister's friend (two sisters are best friends of other two sisters), they both jumped in the photo with their sisters after they found out the machine charged too much money for one photo. The photo had two faces; one is pressed from three sides, a big forehead with tiny eyes and a nose, a big forehead with a big nose. I thought wow; it's great to see this photo first. The two friends are in Qatar now.

Then I thought let's see who would cheer me now. When I picked the next photo it was my cousin who lived with us about a couple of years around 1993 till she got married. She is now a mother of three children. Unfortunately I haven't met the youngest yet. He was born after I left Baghdad.

The third photo was empty. Yup empty because it used to be a cousin's photo which my sister and I kept fighting over it that it ended up in two pieces; one white (which was with me) and the other the real photo was lost. So I just have the back and the name. But I can still remember the face he had. He was in his early grades and looked funny. He's now studying his master in Jordan. Then the next photo was for another cousin who's also studying in Jordan.

Then Morbido's face was there. She was smiling at me. I thought she must be getting ready to start her day. She's studying in the States. Then Joy's photo was there too. She had this big smile on as usual with a skeptical look in her eyes. She's working in Baghdad. Last week I was chatting with her she was worried that the group of six (Joy, Shabnim, Blessings, Maro, Morbido and I) will remain spinsters. Maro got engaged but her fiancé is in London struggling to get her a visa. There were no more photos.

I checked the next pocket where I found Sosa smiling with her tiny lips. She was an adorable child. And she still in the other two photos one with a very short hair and the other she's all grown up with make up. At this moment she is studying in Jordan. Then dad's photo came in and I still can't remember where he said he was going and why should it takes him this long. Then came my eldest sister's four photo; one she was only three years old, the other she was in her first grades, another during her high school age, and the fourth was taken during her engagement. She looks an entire different person in each single photo. Short hair, two pony tails, freaking bhang, and the she reached a beautiful hair stile made her look like Rachel Green. She is married in Jordan and studying Master's degree in Media.

Then bunch of photos left in the third pocket. They were a collection of my cousins, aunt, uncle and grandma. They are scattered in the States, Germany and lately my grandma was visiting Mexico.

I was still alone in the doorway.
I kept a close look at the movement of the lift and made a kind of theory that I can go down without missing my dad if he was at the same time going up. And it did work not just because I was counting the floors right but because my dad has not come yet. And the theory was proved right.

I sat for a while in the building entrance. There were so many people out there waiting for their kids to get home. I thought how come some kids reached home and had their lunch and those still yet to get home? A man and a woman were talking. He was Jordanian and she was an Iraqi. He asked her for how long she's been in UAE and how it was to live in Baghdad. She told him she left Baghdad 6 months ago and now it's too dangerous to stay there and it was so hard to stay alive living there.

I had to choose between staying in the floor giving myself a backache sitting and walking, or sitting in the building entrance and catching a cold, which by the way I already have now.

And that's how I welcomed my 24th birthday.

* Later, my father and I joined by my mother and a friend went to Dragon Mart, which is something resemble china town. I had a hotdog even though I don't eat junk food and it was the first time to try mustard in the sandwich.

Happy Birthday Attawie

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