Tuesday, 27 March 2007

No Childhood's End


"You, the child that once loved
The child before they broke his heart Our heart,
the heart that I believed was lost
So it's me I see, I can do anything.
I'm still the child 'Cos the only thing misplaced was direction
And I found direction
There is no childhood's end
I am your childhood friend, lead me on "
It was a sunny and warm day and nothing was better than going to the gym to get rid of my reluctant-to-disappear “Kirish”. I was there around lunch time. I plugged the headphones to my Ipod and went on the treadmill machine located before the big window through which you can see the neighbouring primary school courtyard. I timed my machine at 30 minutes and 8.5 km/hour speed in order to burn approximately 500 calories. As I began to heat up, I was looking through the window to the children playing in the courtyard. Most of them aged between 8 and 12. The courtyard itself was divided into three big squares and in each square there was a group of children: one was playing football, another one playing volleyball and the third, which drew my attention as they were the closest to the window, was playing rugby. Eights kids in each group, the match started between the two teams, the girls and the boys. You can tell both teams were multiracial, as you can see blonde, dark skinned and blacks among the players. White Caucasian, Asian, Far East, Afro Caribbean and others. One of the girls was Muslim as she was wearing “Hijab”. Both teams were keen to win and they were doing their best achieve their aim. As the match went on, I was sweaty and breathless with only 10 minutes passed since I began. These scenes of innocent childhood took me thirty years back when I was in Al-Rasheed primary school in Baghdad. In each corner of that school I left memories. I still remember the classes, the small canteen “Hanoot”, the library and the courtyard. We used to play football a lot but not with girls. They had their own games which we rarely play, especially “Tooky”. And I do not remember the girls playing football in my school. However; we used to play together “Shurta WA Haramiyah” (“Police and thieves” which is the equivalent of “Hide and seek”). We were not very well connected to the girls in our school. It seemed to me now that we shared the same physical space (the school) but were separate otherwise. I do not remember our teachers encouraging us to engage with each others. We must not cross the line with the girls that was the message from the family, the school and the society at large.

The world was changing around us but we were busy with our games and our pure innocent dreams. I discovered later that these six years of my primary school were unstable ones, for my family at least. Saddam came to power when I was in the third class. My aunt who was living with us began wearing Hijab. She was considerably influenced by the success of the Iranian revolution of 1979. and from a young woman wearing bell-bottomed jeans trousers and mini skirts, reading romantic novels in English and listening to The Beegees, Abba, The Beatles and pictures of the Italian actor Franco Niro and Marlon Brando pinned to the wall beside her bed, she started praying regularly, reading the Qur’an and “Mafateeh Al-Jinan” (Keys of Heavens), going regularly to Khadhimya, Najaf and Karbala and talking about Al-Sadr and Bint Al-Huda. My uncle who also lives with us decided to leave Iraq with his wife and headed to the not very well known Dubai at that time in late 70s. My father left his work in the government and established his private business because he was not able to cope with pressures exerted by Ba’athists on him to join the Ba’ath Party or the Popular Army “Jaish Al-Sha’aby”. The war with Iran started when I was in the fourth class and the small park near our school turned into a concrete-built shelter. I was feeling that something is going on around me but who cares as long as I can play football and read “Grindisers”, “Sindibad” and “Bisat Al-Reeh” comics with my friends N (our neighbour, originally from Mosul) and S (our neighbour as well, a native Baghdadi) and get my daily 200 “fillis” from my dad to secure my supply of crisps, biscuits (Bisculatta Brand) and a bottle of Pepsi as cans were not yet introduced to Iraqis.

We grew up and finished our education and everyone chose his path in this life and most of us joined the very long and never-ending list of Iraqi Diaspora all over the world.

I looked again at the “Kirish-reducing machine” and it is just five minutes left to end. I was drenched in sweat and breathless. The rugby match ended, the boys won and players of both teams hugged each other and sat under the shade of the big tree on the right side of the yard talking and laughing with each other and with their young teacher. I wished if I can free myself from the chains of my daily concerns: work, bills, rent, future career, IRAQ, my family and the people there, wished to leave all this behind and share few moments with these kids. The machine stopped but my “Kirish” was still there as well as the images of childhood reluctant to go. I realised how much we had missed in our childhood and how many spaces we were eager to explore, left untouched because of the fears of breaking the social traditions that our families and teachers imposed on us. But the picture was never gloomy, especially if you compare it with the current onslaught in Iraq. My concerns right now are not about the school education in Iraq, as more than 60% of Iraqi children not going to schools and the remainder not doing so regularly because of the widespread violence and fears of kidnapping. It is mainly about the games they play now. Playing football is almost a forgotten luxury. New games were invented to reflect the dreadful situation Iraqis face now. The Guardian Newspaper published an article two months by its correspondent in Iraq who described a new game popular among Iraqi children. They divide themselves into two groups, the first group act as they were driving a car and suddenly stopped by the second group which plays the role of a faked checkpoint. The leader of the second group acting as if he has a pistol in his hand. He points his pistol to the person sitting on the front seat asking him: Muqtada Al-Sadr or Harith Al-Dhari, Jaish Al-Mahdi or the Mujahidin? If the answer was not the one agreed on by members of the second group, the leader will say: wrong answer dude and they pick the driver and other passengers (members of the first group) and drag them out of their car and shoot them in the head. It is a game of life and death, not winners and losers and certainly we can not blame these children for such a dreadful game. They just copy what they see around them and transform it to an enjoyable game. The Americans, the Iraqi government, the parliament, the parties, religious leaders, tribal sheikhs, “Sunni resistance/insurgency”, “ Al-Dahari’s Mujahidin or the Al-Mahdi gangsters all share the responsibility for the continuous shedding of Iraqi blood. My advice for them is to subscribe with the same gym that I regularly attend for two important reasons: first, to get rid of their “Kirishs”, as most of them in terms of BMI (Basal Metabolic Index) criteria, exceeded the limit of overweight and considered as obese, thanks to billions of Iraqi dollars disappeared through out four years of corruption. And most importantly, to experience the socialising atmosphere of the gym and learn lessons from these innocent kids about tolerance, acceptance and loving each other.
*Kirish in slang Iraqi Language means "Fat Belly"
*to read the Guardian article about Iraqi Children titled "Children of War":

8 comments:

Ramshakle1 said...

(((My aunt who was living with us began wearing Hijab. She was considerably influenced by the success of the Iranian revolution of 1979. and from a young woman wearing bell-bottomed jeans trousers and mini skirts, reading romantic novels in English and listening to The Beegees, Abba, The Beatles and pictures of the Italian actor Franco Niro and Marlon Brando pinned to the wall beside her bed, she started praying regularly, reading the Qur’an and “Mafateeh Al-Jinan” (Keys of Heavens), going regularly to Khadhimya, Najaf and Karbala and talking about Al-Sadr and Bint Al-Huda)))
Al Maliki was in his mid 20s and Al Jaafari was in his early 30s by the time your aunt exchanged her Jeans for long skirt and Hijab.That makes your aunt a colleague of those 2 ,belonging more or less to the same generation ,sharing the same ideals and loyality.Knowing what Hizb Al Daawa hatched since it assumed power 2003 onwards and what crimes it did ever since ,I wouldn´t feel proud to have had such an aunt.
I´m sorry Exiled.I don´t mean to be rude.But that´s just the way I see it.
If Saddam and his Baáth stole our childhood then this post-saddam ,Irani,narrow-minded,retarded,corrupted shiit government is stealing our children´s childhood!
Have a better aunt !

Exiled Soul said...

thank you ramshackle, but at least her change was a pure personal religious experience not a political one as Al-Ja'afary or Al-Maliki have. "sharing the same ideals and loyality" If you mean here loyalty to Iran, she was not. my uncle who is mentioned was influenced by Che Vara and Castro but that does not mean he is loyal to Cuba or Latin America.
I agree with you about the rest

have a good day

Ramshakle1 said...

By joining the Daáwa party by the late 70s( or at least showing sympathy to it),your aunt has indirectly participated in strengthening the (false) cause of that party.She,Al Maliki and Al Jaafari and all the rest of that wave´s activists had a common pledge between them and signed on the same list.Even if ,as you said, her change was personal,that doesn´t free her from the historic responsibility of offering the league of the Daáwa party her voice.Her voice and other (truth seekers´ voices) were used to give the Daáwa party credibility and public dimension .AL Jaáfari and Al Maliki frequently said since 2003 that their (struggle) against Saddam´s regimen was old and publically supported from the inside.I get it that they meant the sympathy and support of the likes of your aunt.
Cuba and Che Gevara vs Farsi Iran :

Although both chanted exporting revoultion ,their ideologies were very opposite to each other (progressive vs retarded).Cuba and Soviet Union are not neighbours of Iraq and have never invaded Iraq before as Safawi Iran have done and theý never officially declared their intrests in expanding into the region not only on ideological basis but more as a frank geographical and demographical basis.Being a communist in the 70s Iraq is definitely not as dangerous and sensetive as being a Khomeini sympethizer.A communist in Iraq tried to model his life style and thoughts on the communist fashion but always dreamt of a free home country while a shiit who sympathizes with Iran and Khomeini is by nature of things welcoming the neighbouring and dominating Iran into his country.Look at the daáwa party of today and their relationship to Iran.!
So the comparison is not just !

Exiled Soul said...

well mixing up things will not make it clearer. you can not call everybody sympathesized with the Iranian Revolution as welcoming its domination. Yassir Arafat and many other Arab leaders welcomed the revolution as well as many western thinkers just because it wasa popular revolution toppled a dictatorship. to be influenced by the revolution does not necessarily mean that you are pro-Iranian and welcome its domination. judging the history of Al-Dawa Party by their current actions is something misleading as the situation now completely different. moreover the Al-Dawa Party itself lost its appeal among Iraqis long time before the ivasion and the Party as it was in the 70s does not exist anymore. the Palestanian Liberation Organization signed peace treaties with Israel in early 90s, that will not delete decades of their struggle against occupation since the 60s.
again labelling every practicing Shia Muslim who has political views about Islam does not make him Pro Safawi"Iran". you can not describe practising Sunnis with political views like those in the Islamic Party as Pro-Saudis. sharing the same political vision does not mean necessarily sharing the same goals.
Re. the Communist Party.. the demise of Communism in Europe in early 90s will not erase the history of the ICP and its struggle. secondly, if the ICP come to power and failed we can not condemn all those whoo joined the Party since it was founded in 1935 for being participated in some way or another in their current actions now.
the loyalty of the ICP to the Soviet Union sometimes was their no.1 priority to the domestic agenda. many of its members were expelled from the Party in early 80s because they condemned the Soviet Union policy of supplying Saddam's regime with military arsenal, when Saddam at that time was executing Iraqi Communists in late 70s early 80s.
and lastly trying to paint a picture that all the Shiaa Parties and movements in Iraq act as a one homogenous group is something very difficult and arguable. their visions about relations with IRAN are completely different. look at the United Shia Alliance and the divisions among its factions and you will have an iea about the deep rifts between the members.

thanks and good day

Ramshakle1 said...

(((you can not describe practising Sunnis with political views like those in the Islamic Party as Pro-Saudis. sharing the same political vision does not mean necessarily sharing the same goals.)))

First of all Saudi Arabia has no political agenda or goals as mean and threatening to Iraq existance as Iran.
Second :I´d say Yes most of RADICAL sunni Iraqis (with wahabi/salafi tendencies) have Pro-saudi leaning.I´m talking from personal experience being a book salesman in Baghdad (in the Now destroyed Al Mutanabi Street).By that time I got to know a net of people who were all from the upper middle class and all college graduates and all radical sunnis.I remember that they tried to talk,look like,behave like saudis.Many of them have business ties with Saudia Arabia and I remember a particular one of them who foolishly insisted that he wouldn´t marry other than an Saudi woman !!!!
If that´s not Pro-Saudi then I don´t know what it is. When I say that your aunt shared the same ideals and loyality with Jaafari and Maliki I find no better word than (ideals) but as a token of good will and trust in your aunt´s intentions( whom I don´t personally know but use as a randomly selected sample of a common Safawi)as a token of trust I´d change the word loyality to (tendencey) which equals to the arabic (hawa),ie Hawa Irani and I assume that you are aware of the cultural charge which loads the word (hawa Irani,hawa Amawi,hawa Uthmani...etc..).
It is that tendency (hawa) that your aunt and her likes stand accused of.At least in my eyes.

(((judging the history of Al-Dawa Party by their current actions is something misleading as the situation now completely different. moreover the Al-Dawa Party itself lost its appeal among Iraqis long time before the ivasion and the Party as it was in the 70s does not exist anymore)))

It is now,after the invasion of Iraq, when the Shiit politicians(and namely the Da´awa party) assumed power and began their rule It is now that their theories,littrature and politics are expected to give their fruits.Look around you and see what fruits they are.!!!
Just when Iraqis were waiting for those (strugglers) to give them better life, those (imported strugglers) showed that they have only one agenda and one principle and one idea that lies hidden among thousands of papers of Shiit talk (I call it talk on purpose) and that idea or principle is :To annex southern Iraq to Iran.Contemplate the word Annex.

(((secondly, if the ICP come to power and failed we can not condemn all those whoo joined the Party since it was founded in 1935 for being participated in some way or another in their current actions now.)))

That´s a hypothetical question.But Ok.You see it depends completely on the type of failure ,ie,what are the assumed reasons that lead to ICP failing in fulfiling its promise.If the reasons were mainly because the Iraqi communists always and under all circumstances put loyality to Soviet Union as their priority(as what the Iraqi Safawis of today are doing) I´d surely condemn all the communists,even the pure and old ones who really believed in the Utopia or the Commuinst dream becasue by that time they will stand accused of falling for their (soviet hawa) fueling the political process that would have lead to Iraq being engulfed by the russians.Accused by the same logic I apply when I accuse your aunt.
But then again that´s all hypothetical and as I wrote in my previous entry Soviet union is not neighbour of Iraq and have never before invaded Iraq.

(((Yassir Arafat and many other Arab leaders welcomed the revolution as well as many western thinkers just because it wasa popular revolution toppled a dictatorship))).

You make a big mistake here.Pardon me.Arafat and some of arab leaders only applauded the Khomeini revolution because they saw of the (new revolutionary post-shah Iran) as a possible strong and rising ally against the west/zionism and they measured their support to Khomeini according the traditional give-and-take political game and NOT becuause the believed a word Khomeini was preaching.There is a big difference between (leaders) supporting Khomeini for the political benefits of it and whole sect of people (looking up to) Jamhoori Islami and dreaming of copying it in their home country.You dig ? tell me you dig please !

(((and lastly trying to paint a picture that all the Shiaa Parties and movements in Iraq act as a one homogenous group is something very difficult and arguable)))

I wish I could believe it but I can´t.You maybe right when it concerns Shiit writers,thinkers,journalists,TV-figures and more or less Tribal Sheikhs,but again I repeat :what about the masses.My and your neighbours,my and your family,my and your friends and work colleagues...etc?
I repeat : the masses,maybe unconsciously, create the social body in which this holocaustic poltical process is growing.My uncle still thinks he did the right thing voting for 555.God Damn him !
Have a good day !

Exiled Soul said...

thanks ramsahckle for your comments

1. "First of all Saudi Arabia has no political agenda or goals as mean and threatening to Iraq existance as Iran."

the ideas of Islam held by both Saudi Arabia and Iran are damaging to the same extent to Iraq. the Wahabi/ Salafi mentality inspired a long queue of suicide bombers killing Iraqis discriminately as exactly as the death squads linked to Al-Sadr and supported by Iran. the Wahabi/Salafi threat goes back to the early 19th century with the raids of AbdulAziz Bin Saud to Kerbala and Najaf.

2. "they have only one agenda and one principle and one idea that lies hidden among thousands of papers of Shiit talk (I call it talk on purpose) and that idea or principle is :To annex southern Iraq to Iran.Contemplate the word Annex"

i disagree with that. their only one agenda and one principle and ne idea is: to seize all means of state power and resources and distribute it among their close circles relative and elites through links within their families, Tribes and Party followers (exactly as what Saddam did). it is nothing to do with Iran. they follow any way that maintain their power: they welocmed the Democratic ways that the US called for because they know for sure that "democracy" in Iraq at this time will bringthem to power. if Iran, or any key player in the Iraqi issue have better offers for them to keep them in power, they will follow him without hesitation.
you keep insisting that Al-Da;wa Party is the representative of the Shi'aa of Iraq and the one dominating the governemnt. in fact, Al-Hakim and his SCIRI has more influence and more power as they have more access to financial resources and also means of violence(militias, army and police). Al-Hakim is the one who hold the idea of annexing the middle and the South of Iraq to Iran, first because he wants the Iranians to support him other than other Shiaa factions in Iraq, and thsi is most likely because he adopts the concept of Wilayat Al-Faqih exactly like the system in Iran. Al-Da'wa now has no popular support. it is a party of mere figures and that was evident when Al-Jaafary gave many concessions to Al-Sadr group to win their support and stand for PM position opposite to his rival AbdulMahdi, the candidate of SCIRI. Al-Sadr unfortunately is the main keyplayer in the Shiaa scene and there is no proof yet that he has ambitions to annex Iraq to Iran.

3. Re. the ICP, which i really respects its history and i personally consider him as the only patriotic Party in modern Iraqi history and the only one in which all sects of Iraqi society were represented. in fact it was a "mini Iraq" in its nature. this Party unfortunately put loyalty to the Soveit Party as a priority atthe top of its loyalty to Iraq. I already mentioned the example of the position ofthe Party from its members who opposed and condemned the Soviet policy of establishing relations with Saddam's regime and supplying his with weapons when at the same time this regime was executing Iraqi Communists in late 70s early 80s. these positions were also taken in the 2nd WW when USSR allied with Britain aginst Nazi Germany and atthe same time Iraq was under British Ocuupation.

4. it was very natural that the zeal of Khmoenie's Revolution to spread beyond Iran. Shiaa political Islam was revived by the revolution not only in Iraq, but in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. it is not something unique for the Shiaas. Muslim brotherhood ideals spread all over the world from Egypt to Indonesia. even non-Islamic movements try to copy each others if one movement achieved some success. for example, the free officer's movement in Iraq was established in late 40s early 50s but took its final form only when the free officers in egypt seized power in 1952 under the leadership of Abdul-Nasser. Abdul-Salam Arif was inspired by Nassir's nationalist experience of Arab Unity and tried to impose it on Iraq although Iraq is completely different from Egypt and Syria. in this context we have to look for the effect of the Iranian Revolution on Hizab Al-Da'wa in its 70s form and particularly on Mohamed Baqr Al-Sadr, their spiritual leader.

5. Iraqis inside Iraq live in an atmosphere of fear when survival and existence is the first and top priority and if the governemnt fails to provide it, no wonder all Iraqis will seek protection from local militias,l Parties, and tribes. and agin this is not specific for Shi'ass but for all Iraqis.

Thanks and have a good day

Ramshakle1 said...

((( Al-Sadr unfortunately is the main keyplayer in the Shiaa scene and there is no proof yet that he has ambitions to annex Iraq to Iran. )))

That´s not because the idea of selling-out Iraq to Iran is a (taboo) in Al Sadr´s patriotic dictionary.He did not give signs of it because he and his group of thugs and gangsters are satisfied playing it (small),ie act as a buffer between
SCIRI and al Daáwa parties to win ministry posts in return and at the same time managing his organisation of organised crime to gain more money and power from/on the streets .Al Hakeem on the other hand is thinking (big) .He dreams of some sort of shiit (imara) which is budding from the mother (Iran)where he will be some kind of a religeous (king).
But my claim stays the same: If Iram signals for AL Sadr to speak up about federalism of the south and to AL Hakeem to shut up about it ,ie to exchange roles,they will both do as told.Al Daáwa party is much weaker on the streets that´s right but they are much stronger inside the green area holding the post of PM that the americans officially deal with.It´s inside the green area where big decisions are made (mainly by americans) and it´s on the streets where these decisions become utilized.Hence,my constant tendency to look at the BIG PICTURE ,the over-all scene and throw all those shiit players in the same basket.I don´t think they are basically colliding ás you want to put it ,I´d say each one has it´s own territory to play on against the good and wellfare of Iraq while Iran act as the coach and USA act as a referee.That´s why I do not under-estimate the role of Daáwa party even if it has lesser supporters on the streets than it had in the 70s.

(((the ideas of Islam held by both Saudi Arabia and Iran are damaging to the same extent to Iraq)))

Leave history aside.Leave wahabi and shiit aside and think plain politics:names and figures here and today.King Abdualla of Saudia today and Ahmadi Negadi of Iran.Just think for second : Which of those two has more viable agenda in Iraq ?Which has more intrests in maintaing the chaos in Iraq?
You get it now?

(((Iraqis inside Iraq live in an atmosphere of fear when survival and existence is the first and top priority and if the governemnt fails to provide it, no wonder all Iraqis will seek protection from local militias,l Parties, and tribes. and agin this is not specific for Shi'ass but for all Iraqis.)))

Now this I often hear!
The Americans invaded Iraq and Iraqis did nothing,Americans appointed Majlis AL Hukum (which lead later to what we are witnessing now) and Iraqis did nothing about it (actually the masses were happy about it calling it democracy),and when Americans told them to go vote they were already polarised and fearful of each other
that each group voted for it´s sect which in turn lead to more violence .Saddam was there Iraqis were crying,Saddam went Iraqs were crying,Democracy came Iraqis are crying,democracy changed into Sectarianism while Iraqis are crying and they will always be crying .Why? because they failed ,their collective mind failed to rise above their fears and choose a better goverment.A government beyond Shiit and Sunni and Kurdi embracing Iraqiness (your concept).It is a historical challenge ,a decision that defines a nation in the course of history.Look at the germans and the japanese after WW2(to choose but the obvious examples).The japanese and germans had their fears and divisions and problems.Not similar to what we have in Iraq but they had their kind of problems but they rose above it.So please ,let´s stop giving explanations to why Iraqis did this or that after the fall of saddam.Explanations are NO excuses.
Besides,what about Iraqis in Europe? was their existance and survival threatened living in their luxury exiles? why did most of them vote for their corresponding sect or race?
I´m sure there is a social explanation to that (the kind of explanations that you seem fond of ) but what about the responsibilty? the historical responsibility to re-build Iraq from the ashes of Saddam?who takes that resonsibility if not you and me,your family and mine,your neighbours and mine...etc
It´s therefore I don´t have faith in the spirit of Iraqi people.They love to cry and complain and never rise to the level of responsibility.

Exiled Soul said...

Dear Ramshackle,
thank you for your last cooomet and I apologise for the delay,

it seems that we agree on many points and the main points that we are different are:
1. Loyalty to Iran: what does it mean and who is loyal and why Shiaas of Iraq are accused of being loyal to Iran.
2. justifying some of theacts of Saddam towards the opposition group. you think he was right when he did what he did. I believe that his actions were not and can not be justified.

Have agood day