Sunday, 18 December 2011

Can Iraqis forgive America?

A cartoon in an Iraqi newspaper shows an Iraqi man shouting on a withdrawing U.S. soldier to take with him sectarianism, corruption and federalism.   

America is withdrawing from Iraq. Eventually!

This very short sentence is dominating all the news nowadays in many languages, bringing Iraq again to the front pages after a long absent. And I'd like to invest this opportunity to make these clarifications and appeals since there are a lot of people follow this subject because it is likely that Iraq and the sufferings of its people will be forgotten again.

To those who say that the U.S. dumb decision to lead the biggest invasion in the twenty-first century has benefited Iraq and has brought all good things to Iraqis, I say: Please respect the blood of the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis mainly children and women who lost their lives for nothing. Please put the millions of widows, orphans, displaced people and refugees in your mind and in front of your eyes when you evaluate the war instead of talking only about toppling the dictator or wishful thinking about democracy, freedom of expression, human rights respect and prosperity which Iraqis are not seeing and is likely not to see them for years to come.

To those who seek to find out whether the war was worth it or not, I say: Please talk to an Iraqi mother or father who buried  their son or daughter killed in violence or by gangs after failing to secure a ransom to win his/her release, talk to a man or woman or child maimed due to an explosion and talk to a displaced family who used to have a roof to live under before 2003. Please don't depend mainly on few people who have benefited from the war or those who didn't live the fear which has become part of Iraqis' life. They didn't lose any of their loved ones. They know nothing about the fear of leaving the house and might never be back again. They know nothing about the fear of being shot while driving or walking in the street. They know nothing about the fear of being arrested and then disappeared in secret prions or being snatched by militant groups.

To those who say the was is ended and use the words "pride" and "success" whenever talk about the war especially Barack Obama, I say: YOU ARE WRONG AND YOU WANT ONLY TO FOUL THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. The war is still going in the eyes and sufferings of widows, orphans, displaced families and refugees you left behind. We will continue this war with Al-Qaida who formed its branch in Iraq because of your war. We will continue this war with Mahdi Army who came to surface only because of your war.

To the American people, I say: You all took part in this dirty war against Iraqis because you supported it directly or indirectly as your taxes were used to finance your military machine that has caused all these sufferings to us. This war, which was presented to you as a war against terrorism and its aim was to protect America, has battered your economy and damaged the reputation of your country.  Because of your support, our coexistence would not be lost: Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds have fought each other and the rest monstrosities are lost among them. Because of your support Iraqi society would not be fragmented like this. Because of your support the Iraqi family would live in one place not each of its members in a country or some of them missing or dead. Because of your support our country will highly likely to be divided into small states.

American people, you are still supporting this war since you are harboring its criminals who should be tried. You are still supporting the war since no apology has been made yet from your side to Iraqis so that they can forgive America.

Kudos to Annie Robbins whose courage has taken her to the extend to say it : "Iraq - I'm sorry." 

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Other tings are not important!

I'm still not exactly sure why I decided to hit the road few days ago to Iraq's revered southern Shiite province of Najaf to see for the first time in my life Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric by many Shiites inside and outside Iraq.

Was it my curiosity as a journalist to see the man who has been politically influential and has had his fingerprints on Iraq's political landscape since 2003 U.S.-led invasion? Or was it my worries about our future that drove me to seek anything on what direction we are heading to as U.S. troops leaving us after all these long eight years?

I left my house at 5:30 a.m. to arrive before 9:30 a.m. that set for the meeting as I heard that convoys of leaving U.S. troops were making real traffic on the international road that links Iraq with Kuwait.

I was supposed to join around 30 of Al-Sistani's followers in my neighborhood who left the day before for their annual meeting with their leader. It was still dark and the main road in my neighborhood was decorated with dozens of black flags and banners used by Shiites to mourn the anniversary of the seventh century death of Imam Hussein which falls today.

The number of the flags and banners increased significantly this year in my neighborhood.

Did the Shiites do that on purpose to declare the neighborhood, which is long considered as a religiously-mixed and almost secular one, as a Shiite one? Or did they want to tell the Sunnis that they are the majority here and that they have to accept this reality even though there is one Shiite mosque against three Sunnis?

Three hours later, I arrived Najaf and there was indeed traffic on the road because of the leaving U.S. troops. Just like the early weeks after the invasion, dozens of Humvees, armored personal carriers and army trucks were put on long convoys of flat truck carriers with fully staffed bags of U.S. troops dwindling from some of them.

Amway, I arrived early and it was cold that morning so I had a cup of sweet tea while joining dozens of other people who gathered at the pillared street where Al-Sistani's home/office is located just few meters from the doorstep of Imam Ali shrine, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and Shiite Islam's most sacred martyr.

The majority of them were youth in casual cloths while others were in dishdasha, or traditional Arabic shirtdress and either in white or black-and-white kofiya scarf. At least a dozen of body guards in beige uniforms with some of them armed with Kalashnikovs and holding two-way radio transceivers were deployed in the narrow alley that leads to the house/office.

The guards were organizing the visitors entry by putting them in lines and searching them carefully from top to bottom. Other guards were in civilian cloths who were deployed on the sidewalks who approach individuals standing alone in front of the alley, asking them what they were waiting for and their IDs.

About an hour later, our turn came.

Watches, cell phones, pens, keys, rings and wallets were not allowed inside. We had to grab black plastic bags from a bunch hung on the wall at the beginning of the alley to put them in and to leave them at the reception. The guards then led us to the doorstep and into to a corridor where we took off our shoes and then to waiting room.

Few minutes later a small metal door was unlocked and one of the guards invited us to get in to the second room which was furnished with modest carpets and mattress. At one corner, Al-Sistani stood as he was shaking our hands with his both small, smooth and thin hands. In each corner of the room, there was a guard.

Standing om his feet to shake hands with hundreds of visitors, the gentle press he makes while shaking hands and the glitter in his eyes all say that the nearly 84-year old Iranian-born cleric looked in good health condition.

I just sat opposite to him about three or four meters away so that I can hear everything. But the ten-minute meeting didn't bring me the needed answers but in contrary it increased my worries and the ambiguity surrounding our future.

He mentioned twice the word "enemies" who want to decrease the number of Shiites in Baghdad where they are "majority." Although he didn't specify who are the enemies but it is widely understood among the Shiites as mainly Sunni extremists.

"Everyday in the morning prayers I pray specially for Baghdad's residents. I always say that a Shiite in Baghdad is equal to five like me in Najaf," he said with a clear Arabic but with Farsi accent obvious, referring to the hardships Shiites face in Baghdad.

"You are the majority in Baghdad and the enemies want to decrease your numbers," the black-turbaned cleric added. "Stay unified; Shiite and Sunnis and hold to your Islamic and Arab identity. The enemies want to make enemies between you and divide you and to eras your Islamic and Arab identity."

He urged them to keep doing their rites which can be translated as: keep showing that you are the majority in this country and that you need to keep on the gains you have been enjoying since 2003.

So the message was clear: the priority for Iraq's Shiites in years to come is to continue fighting to stay the majority in Baghdad and then in Iraq. Pour in millions into the streets and keep beating your chests and heads and whipping yourselves with chains to honor the death of your most revered saints.

Other things like how to rebuild your country, how to fix your fragmented and war-battered society, what role you have to take to revitalize your ailing economy and so on are not important!