Friday, 21 November 2008

The Silence of the Damned

Today was a momentous day for me. It was weird to actually be able to see iraqi people so outspoken on something. Most people I have met grumble silently about how Iraq is and was forever cursed. Although I attended school on Thursday, and that was an event in itself, I will post about it once I get over my embarrassement about exactly how bad 'my first day at school' was.

Today, I had the intention of going to the mosque. Recently I had talked with someone, who reminded me of the all too real sermons at the mosque, and their sometimes ridiculous views, and I wanted to remember said sermons, but I couldn't. So I resolved to go to the mosque and silently listen and note exactly what was being said, and the views of those around me.
So, in preparation for the mosque, I washed and wore a long dress. Obviously no jeans and tight clothes were welcomed in mosques, and I didn't feel like attracting more glares and whispers, after the laughable first day of school.

Since the dress was strapless though, I had to wear a cardigan in the blazing sun. I honestly had expected it to rain. Anyway, travelling by car is a nightmare, I have waited at the endless, unmoving petrol queues, where 13 year old boys would try to sell you cold pepsi while you silently simmer in the heat , and frankly, I would rather walk, despite the dangerous implications that comes with walking. But then again, what isn't dangerous nowadays? Getting into your car and driving may mean that you are hurled into heaven at the speed of sound, and all that is left is the charred frame of the car. Getting into a taxi may mean that you are kidnapped and held for ransom, and walking, may mean that armed gangs will stop you in the middle of your leisurely walk. Then again, you might just live. And for that reason, I refuse to confine myself to the house, but prefer to wander the streets, surveying the smouldering remains of metal car, and listening to the wails of the annoyed housewife concerning the fact that the water has been cut off mid shower...

Anyway, my parents, siblings, grandparents and uncle all headed, walking into the main street. it took us around 15 minutes to get there. Then a taxi would take us near to square of Firdous , and near some mosques.

Less than half an hour later, we were at square of Firdous . And in the middle of what would unravel to be a pretty funny demonstration. We went quite early in the morning, and as soon as everyone had realised what would take place, plans were made to send all of us home. So, two taxis were called, my grandmother, mother, sister, father all got in, leaving me and grandfather and uncle to get into the other taxi. But we didn't. My uncle had spotted one old acquaintence and had stopped to talk about what most 26 year old iraqi men consider themselves to be experts at- politics. This would no doubt take a long time. So I used this oppurtunity mercilessly to convince my grandfather to let us stay in square of Firdous . Amongst the answers of "Its not safe out here for you" and " you could get killed or kidnapped", I managed to guilt trip my grandfather to allowing me to stay- after all I was denied the mosque visit. As well as that, i got the distinct impression that because my grandparents hadn't seen me for soo long, they would quite easily crack under pressure. And I used the excellent argument of " I could be dead any minute, at least let me have the satisfaction of saying I was there when that event took place, otherwise I would die with no achievements in life". I know this was cruel to the point, where it was evil, mentioning death around family and seeing them wince made me mentally slap myself for being so insensitive, but it was too late. i had said it, and my grandfather was convinced.
Now, it turned out, after walking a while, that there were plans for all muslims to pray together. Men at the front, and the women behind-so the men wouldn't be perving on the women as they bent down to pray. hahaha. Well, that's the reason I got told when I first asked why men prayed in front of women. I think i was about 11 at the time, and didn't get the meaning, but I remember the exact statement, and how the woman was trying to put it into a less vulgar way. I get it now. 6 years later.

Unfortunatly, i had given the hijab for my mum to take home with her, as the mosque trip was cancelled. So basically I wouldn't be able to pray. I was silently thankful. The floor was sandy concrete, and some of the men had purposely waited behind silently for the women to start praying first. but perhaps it was just my imagination.

Anyway, the demonstration got on its way, and again I stuck out ridiculosly. Most were men at the demonstration, and the other women were clothed head to toe in black. We stood calmly at the outskirts, as we watched a group of youth shout insults unneccessarily, in rejection of the military pact. Then we saw some guys doing, what can only be described as semi dance, semi jump towards the floor, it almost looked like a iraqi variation on the russian cossack dance done whilst they were on some halluciogenics. It made me giggle amongst the insults and chants.
Anyway, group by group, different 'sects' wandered into square of firdous. Each carried certain pictures and banners. It was quite fun trying to identify them, and naming each one a silly name. Though I did this mentally- I didn't want to find myself being heard by any. I even came up with some names for the foreign/american vehicles that worriedly passed by every hour or so. How did I name them- according to who was sitting on tip of the vehicle. Shallow to the max, but it spent my time until the real action began- which was the shouting and running.

This consisted of a guy baiting everyone about how we were betrayed by the government, and how America would stay to only kill more and rob iraq the chance of becoming independent. Then the people would rush right into the centre of square. they would then jump, whilst chanting. To each group there was a distinguished chant. To the Shias, it was about Muqtada, To the Sunnis, it was something about the government betraying the people. Anyway, everyone got along fine, as a mutual hatred bound both the shias and sunnis. Yes, nothing would bind these two sects apart from a mutual hatred. How typical. And quite cool in a way. We would have to find something which all iraqis hated to really bind this nation.

However, when police and the national guard started appearing, i got told it was time to go. And I think that it was- the crowd had become slighlty frenzied, and at one point I feared they would turn against each other. But they didn't. They continued to burn american flags. Just before I went, I heard a suggesting shout of "why don't we burn the english flags?". This was answered with "what english flags?". It made me laugh. I had to ask, where did this vast supply of american flags come from? My uncle relayed this to one of his friends who replied " we take them from the americans ". I laughed so hard, I had to wipe a tear away. the guy just carried on grinning. I really did want to know where though. i found it all just strange.

Anyway, I had not brought my camera, as I envisaged that i would visit the mosque and come home. Shame really, I haven't had a picture for such a long time. Walking out, we were met by some of the iraqi police force, and some militias who had joined to the iraqi police force. It was quite endearing to see gangsters and police working together hand in hand. Or rather gun in gun. each carried a AK47, pointed at the floor, which still made me shudder. It could kill.

By the time we left, the demonstration was now a demonstration worthy of mention. People were being shoved, the crowd looked like they simultaneously jumping together, an doll was being carried by waves of arms to the center of the square..it was almost surreal to watch. One of the guards/militia men decided that he would accompany us to the head of the street, for our safety. He kept chewing, and asking where I came from. We kept answering baghdad, and he nodded in clear disbelief. "No, kurdistan" he said. I pretended to look shocked at his very incorrect analysis. "Yes". My grandfather then clearly coughed in annoyance and stared the guard up and down. The guard then said ma asalaama (good bye) and scurried off. (Oh, and I got told that he guessed kurdistan, because most girls here don't wear bright colours, and usually have hijab, or uber long plaited hair.)

I wondered if a girl wearing a abbaya and hijab would have been offered the same treatment. Secretley I loathe that depending on what you wear, you could get killed or protected. For example, if I had worn what i wore today, to say, a more holier place in Iraq, I would probably have found myself being buried into the ground the next day. I kind of understand now, why some girls chose to wear a big black sack, to make them undistingushable to the outside world. Almost hide them. Sometimes, I do want to hide.

13 comments:

Anand said...

"Opinionated?" I just love your spunk. :lol:

Glad you were safe. Be careful. Have you checked out this Mosul blog yet?:

IraqiPlume.blogspot.com

You might like her blog.

I wonder, do most Baghdadis support violent attacks against the Iraqi Army or oppose them? How about the Sadrists and Sunni Arabs? Do Baghdadis like the Iraqi Army better, or the Iraqi Police? If you don't want to answer the question, then I understand.

touta said...

haha, lol, thanks, I have read her blog, and its really good, waiting for her new post.
Most baghdadis don't support attacks against the iraqi army, though a few insults such as 'colloborators' have been thrown around. The iraqi police are liked a lot less than the iraqi army. the iraqi army do get a lot of respect around here, but residents see the police as a corrupt force. i think sunnis are under the impression that iraqi police is governed by moqtada and gang, and essentially the sadrists. I know a lot of kidnappings have been blamed on the actual police themselves, or their ineffeciency. I'm not sure about sadrists, but to a lot of shias, the police are just bystanders.

Anand said...

Thanks for your response. Sandybelle has a good blog. She is so positive, upbeat, sweet, and optimistic. She seems to like and love everyone.

You, she, Sunshine, Abbas, Dr. Mohammed, Hayder EyeRaki, Gilgamesh, and others are the future of Iraq.

As you know Iraqis cannot count on any foreigners from any country to solve Iraq's problems. Iraq will have to create its own success through blood, sweat, hard work, tears, and "spunk." :lol:

I want to apologize that you had to see a bunch of fighting between me and a couple others at Abbas. Note that all of us value your words and perspectives a lot, despite our differences with each other.

I think Italian is a good guy who got very upset with me. I actually like him. He like you has a lot of spunk, and an amazing sense of humor. He is much more knowledgeable than he sometimes portrays himself as. Most important from my point of view, he seems to care about Iraqis.

You are right that the Iraqi police have problems. I sincerely hope they get better soon. American troops are leaving. And the Iraqi Army is preparing to hand off security responsibility for most of Baghdad to the Iraqi police in the next few months.

I have a question, again feel free not to answer it. Do most Baghdadis think that the Iraqi Army defeated rogue Iranian backed Jaish al Mohammed, and other Iranian backed special groups back in March through May? Do they think that the extreme Iranian backed Shia militias won?

Bruno use to post whenever a soldier in the IA dies, or whenever the IA performs poorly. I think he did that to anger me. He wrote many times that the Iraqi Army was being defeated by the militias it was fighting against it. Bruno has badly insulted the Iraqi Army many times.

I have noticed however, that Bruno is doing less of that recently. My hope is that Bruno might secretly realize that the IA are the good guys, and that he should root for them. I don't care whether he admits it out load or not. I am also glad that he likes your blogs and is willing to learn from you. You are a positive influence on him.

Perhaps the reason so many people like you is your positive upbeat spirit. If I am not mistaken, your own family likes you very much too, for the same reason.

A daughter brings light and joy to her parents, siblings, husband, children and the community at large. Your Mom and Dad are very lucky.

touta said...

thank you for your kinds words, you really don't know how much they've made me smile.
And about the arguing, don't even worry about it, but I am worried that abbas might get annoyed at the how much the comments trailed off. :) It was fun mediating though!

You are definatley correct about the future of iraq- we need to stand up on our own two feet, and seeing the demonstartion today gave a brief glimpse showing that iraqis can have peace.

As for the poilce force- they wander round aimlessly smoking, flirting or doing nothing in general, but the same cannot be said for the army.

As for your question, I don't quite know how to answer it. You see, people here are still holding their breath- they still don't believe that the fighting has finished, or been won by any particular group.
The shias in baghdad don't like the iranian backed militias, but they do believe however that the iraqi army has managed to somewhat control them.
The sunnis on the other hand, also respect the army, but it is evident, they don't think that this is the end of it. Many also claim that the militas starting to work for the iraqi army may double cross the iraqi soldiers.
As for the christians of baghdad, they are currently staying silent on the whole issue, but I get a distinct feeling that they are resenting iraqi muslims as a whole for the violence. Some of the older christians however blame the entire problem on iran.

That is the current situation. The people of baghdad have quite good trust in the iraqi army, something i was quite suprised, but also pleased to see, but I don't think anyone is quite ready to admit, that iraq may be showing the first signs of being at peace. I'm not quite sure that this will be the same situation, when i go to the governate of Diyala though.

Anand said...

Let your friends know how Diyala goes. When do you move?

Could we touch base offline via e-mail?

pepe said...

hello touta, i have some tips for you on anonymity. first use an email that hides your ip address, like gmail (yahoo exposes it). never display images that are inserted in an untrusted email text because the image might be in a site that can record your ip address (if the image is attached than it is safe). and you can use anonymous proxies (like ctunnel.com) to access suspicious sites. the proxy acts like a middleman, hiding your ip from the site. there are more advanced things, like the TOR network, but i think you don't need that level of security. any question, just ask.
btw, the dumb guy that invaded palin's email used ctunnel, but because he commited a crime the ctunnel guy handed his address to the authorities.

touta said...

pepe
so I should change my blogger email?
I will use ctunnel, and I think that it will otherwise be safe. I'm joined to a local network here, and because there are few internet subscribers here, i don't think that there is a big problem here yet.
Many thanks for your advice.
:)

pepe said...

touta, what email service are you using (yahoo, hotmail, gmail, etc)? it is not visible in your profile.

touta said...

pepe,
hotmail/gmail,should i make it visible?
anand,
i'm not sure when i go to diyala, because my parents keep changing their minds. I'm going to our village, and my whole family has made it pretty clear I won't be going out much, as everyone knows everyone else,but i'm only visiting for a week or so.I'll write as soon as possible, but for now,I'm in baghdad indefinatley.

pepe said...

touta, making your email visible is safe (but can be annoying :). your ip address can be traced only when you send an email to someone. what happens is that some emails can be traced back and some can't. some like hotmail and yahoo allow the receiver to trace your ip address, but gmail doesn't. so if you are sending an email and want to keep your privacy, use gmail. is it too technical?

touta said...

no,not too technical at all, thank you. :)
I suppose it would be better to give my email to those that ask it, rather than making it visible.
:D

pepe said...

some bloggers let it visible, don't know what is better. but the general rule is: always protect your ip address when contacting sites or people you don't trust. some programs like instant messengers can also reveal your ip. if you are not sure, just google it, like for example "msn messenger ip tracing", there is a lot of information on the net about privacy. cheers. :)

touta said...

thank you :)