Monday, November 21, 2005


My Iraq - This is where I want to die

[This post is dedicated to my daughter who is abroad at the moment and who keeps urging me to leave!]

"I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have."

Abraham Lincoln


These stories and anecdotes I have been writing for a while are indeed a Glimpse of Iraq. A country that is more than 6000 years old that has given so much to humanity – and yet, it is largely unaccredited for it and unrecognized - a country that presents a harsh and a scruffy picture to the casual onlooker and to the observer with no penetrating mind or with a dead soul. But they are not really just a Glimpse of Iraq. They are in fact a glimpse of my Iraq and a glimpse of me.

Most people I know think, and sometimes say, that there is something wrong with me, staying in the unbearable hell-hole while being fully capable of leaving this sinking boat and making a good life elsewhere. I will not talk about duty. I will not talk about making a stand in the face of adversity and the forces of darkness. I will not talk about the many rational reasons that I feel I have. In this post, I will mention one ‘minor’ reason that I rarely state.


Some time ago, I chanced across a comment somewhere by someone discussing the Sunni Shiite issues and wondering why these people were so immersed in an issue 1400 years old in a country with a 6000 year history. Reflexively I wrote that those 6000 years are there but many people are not aware of them.

That is true.

All those 6000 years of glory, violence, suffering and achievement are there. I see them everyday in people's words and gestures, in their toughness and resilience, in their capacity to handle impossible hardships. I see those 6000 years in the features of little children… and I feel them in my veins.

Many people can only see the hardship, the dirt, the blood and the suffering. I can see a people who, unassisted, put a limit to looting and lawlessness. I see a people who refuse to kill each other and be drawn into stupid sectarian battles. I can tell you stories! I see people with patience that is legendary. I see people who try to go about their shattered lives amid the blood and the chaos and the suffering. I see people who spend all night and fast all day sitting in their cars, waiting for petrol… and when dusk sets in, they break their fasting with a cold sandwich.

I can see people who can tell jokes about it all.

All those 6000 years are there. I see them in little things people do, in their everyday gestures, in their unique way of handling impossible hardships. Those years are there. They come to the rescue… and most people don’t know it!

I see them in date palm trees, tall, proud and beautiful… with their fruit only accessible to the skilled and their beauty only maintainable through expertise and hard work. Yet, they can survive unendurable neglect, and be ready to shine again with care.

Yes! I feel sad and angry and bitter most of the time. But these people remind me every single day that I cannot lose hope. It is only a question of scale. We have to think in longer terms. And that, that is what this country is all about.

This country can be invaded, and it has been, more times than I would care to count. It can be ravaged, bombed, looted and ruined. But I know, in my heart, that it will never be permanently crushed. Six thousand years of experience tell me that it will rise again… and that it will be a lantern to show the world yet again the missing link between mind and soul, between knowledge and spirit… for the world seems to have largely lost that link.

This is where I want to live. This is where I want to be buried when I die… in the hope that my decomposed body will one day be food for a tall and proud palm tree.

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