Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Order in Chaos!

Sunni-Shiite Strife (2)

Sunnis generally go to mosques; Shiites go to Husseineyyahs. A Husseineyyah is, for all intents and purposes, a mosque where, in addition to the usual prayers and services, additional services are performed in mourning of the Imam Hussein [Profit Muhammad's grandson who is much revered by most Muslims but particularly by Shiites for his stand for what he believed in, in the face of certain death. In an uneven battle, he and all 72 of his extended family were massacred].


The following events took place several months ago, in those days of total chaos and lack of government, police and courts. The timing, which coincided with fears of Sunni-Shiite possible strife, could not have been worse.

In a small town of mixed Shiite-Sunni population and governed by tribal relations, the Shiites didn't have a Husseineyyahs and wanted to build one. Some Sunnis objected to the plot of land chosen for that purpose as being too close to the existing mosque. Tempers ran high.

Some Sunni young men fired some shots at the metal sign announcing the building.

Hajji Obaid [A Hajji is one who has made pilgrimage to Mecca] was an elderly Sunni man living in that town. He paid a visit to the man in charge of the project, Abu Ammar, and told him that he could see trouble brewing and that he would bear all responsibility for any mishap following his insistence on going on with the project.

Two days later, that man was shot dead in broad day-light by people unknown in the area.

Abu Ammar's tribe accused Hajji Obaid of being behind the killing and naturally there was much coming and going, mutual threats and bad feelings.

Hajji Obaid was declared "Persona non Grata" by Abu Ammar's people and word was sent that he would not be welcome at the Fat-ha [A reception of three days' duration where people go to express condolences to the deceased's kin]. It seemed that things could easily get out of control.

Hajji Obaid's tribe decided to go to the Fat-ha in exceptionally large numbers to express solidarity and friendship.

Tribal chiefs and elders from other tribes in the area started working like a beehive to mediate and prevent things from getting worse. Hajji Obaid insisted on his innocence throughout. The murdered man had been his friend; he wouldn't dream of inciting anyone to kill him, he maintained.

Finally, more than two months later, a "tribal court" was convened. Heads of five different tribes (Shiites and Sunnis), agreed on by both sides, sat as arbitrators. They listened to the arguments of both sides and to their witnesses, retired to discuss the matter among themselves, and came out half an hour later with their verdict:

They were convinced that Hajji Obaid's tribe was responsible for the shooting of the building sign. They were fined the sum of two million Dinars (around $ 1400).

As to the killing, they said that there was not sufficient evidence to incriminate Hajji Obaid. Knowing that the man was pious, they had decided that an oath would prove his innocence unless Abu Ammar's tribe objected [implying that the man's sworn word was not acceptable]. They didn't.

Within a week, Hajji Obaid's tribe went to Abu Ammar's people to pay the fine. The fine was accepted in principle but returned. Hajji Obaid swore on the Holy Koran that "his hands, tongue and ears" were all completely innocent of Abu Ammar's murder.

Hajji Obaid's tribal chief donated a sum of money to help build the Husseineyyah. There was a lot of cheek-kissing hugging and pleasant words. The matter was settled completely.

The murderers are still at large… probably doing similar mischief somewhere else on behalf of the many forces of darkness operating freely in lawless Iraq.

This is just one story of many that we have heard of during the past year (and still do). I only told it because I witnessed some of its details first-hand. Any of those many horrible incidents could have ignited a civil war had they not been handled with wisdom and tolerance by the people involved.

Sunday, July 25, 2004


A Traitor in Our Midst

After a few of people were arrested by the Americans (one of them spent 8 months in Abu Ghraib) in a rural area not far from Baghdad, they suspected someone. So there was a tribal court where he was convicted and fined ID 7 million ($ 4 800) to be paid to those arrested!

The old man who was speaking for the clan told him that the fine was probably small if the Americans have been paying him enough! However, he and his children will now have to live with the disgrace!

Thursday, July 22, 2004


Sunni-Shiite Strife!

Adhameyyah and Kadhimeyyah 

During the early days of the invasion, there was so much talk about Shiite-Sunni potential conflict and strife in Iraq that we ourselves began to feel apprehensive about the gruesome possibilities!!
Adhameyyah and Kadhimeyyah are two districts of Baghdad. They lie to the north of the city on the two banks of the River Tigris which runs through Baghdad splitting it into two halves. They were both built about a thousand years ago around the shrines of two very holy men, one Shiite and one Sunni, much revered by people of the two sects. People of both districts are traditionally "partisan" Sunnis and Shiites respectively. There are many jokes regarding their sectarianism and prejudice!


A few months ago, during one of the holiest Shiite days, there was another horrible blast in Kadhimeyyah. Many were killed or injured.
My son, who is a junior doctor in a major hospital at the southern edge of Adhameyyah, was on duty. The following day I asked him how they managed and he said they were generally able to cope with almost everything except the chaos caused by the flood of people from Adhameyyah who rushed in to donate blood to the injured.

Monday, July 19, 2004


Life is Tough!

Most of you must have some idea what Baghdad was subjected to during the last invasion.

After April 9th, one telephone exchange remained functional in our side of town, so anybody who knew anybody in that area rushed to contact relatives and loved ones to let them know that they were ok.

This lady called her brother who was living well in a first-world country, and during the conversation she mildly reproached him for not calling when the phone lines were working during the early days of the war.

He said “I’m sorry dear, but I have been so busy. You have no idea how tough life is here!”

Thursday, July 15, 2004



There were numerous civilizations in ancient Iraq and most of those magnificent civilizations were built by Semites who came to Iraq from the south – the Arabian Peninsula.

However, the very first of those civilizations (believed by most historians to be the earliest of mankind) was built by a different race - the Sumerians.

The Sumerians were definitely not Semitic. No one knows where those people originally came from… and they were not preserved as a people after their brilliant civilizations, which lasted for a couple of thousand years, withered.

The main point here is that the Semites and the Sumerians are two very distinctly different races.

Arabs are Semites! [For decades, it was always a constant source of amusement for Arabs to be branded as anti-Semitic by European and American media!]. The largest tribe in the marshes of Iraq is called "Bani Assad". They are of "undisputed" Arab descent!

It was the summer of 1985. The Iraq-Iran war was still raging fiercely. I had a chance to spend some time in the marshes of Iraq – near the area where ancient Sumer existed.

One day, I noticed a young boy around 15 years old hovering around us in his little reed-and-tar canoe which he handled with the same ease an American teenager would handle his skates.

I asked him what his tribe was and he proudly replied in the local dialect "Bani Issad".

The odd thing was that his facial features were the embodiment of everything that characterized those ancient Sumerians.

Ever since then, whenever the Sumerians are mentioned, an image of that young boy comes to my mind. In that young boy, I feel that ancient Sumer lives on... unaware of its own sacred antiquity!

Monday, July 12, 2004



For more than a decade in the 1990's it looked as though only thieves, villains and government cronies were well-off. This is strictly not true of course… but that was the general impression!

During those triple-figure inflation years of UN sanctions, where most people were literally crushed financially and a few became excessively rich, I often remembered a little story I had heard from an old relative.

[Regina was a rich woman of ill-repute who had considerable influence on Iraqi politics and politicians in the 1930's and 40's.]


He was a young military-school graduate who was on a visit to a distant relative in one of the provinces. That relative was the proud owner of a newly built mansion. He took the young man on a tour of his home and, at the end of it boastfully asked him "Do you have such grand houses in Baghdad?"

The young man replied "No uncle, in Baghdad only Regina does!"

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


The Injured Laborer

I do most of my work at an internet shop nearby. Every hour or so, I take a break and go out for a smoke and a stroll to stretch my legs, ease the pain in my back and to do some damage to my lungs.

Next door, there is a building site. Yesterday, as I emerged I noticed a young man in his early thirties (evidently a casual laborer) sitting in a chair looking rather apathetically at an injured toe. He had been injured by a make-shift winch they use at building sites. About half an inch of his toe had disappeared together with the nail.

At his feet, a boy and a girl of about 9 or 10 sat, staring at the wound and at a glass which had a milky liquid – evidently an antiseptic… not certain whether to apply it or not! His feet were filthy! He had those slippers many Iraqis seem to wear (now of international fame since used to bash at a portrait of Saddam Hussein). Work at the site was going on as if nothing had happened!

There wasn't even the slightest hint of pain on his face (That would have been unmanly, of course). I said that a doctor should look at his wound. He said "Do you think so?", thought about it a little and went limping on his way - probably to seek medical attention.

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