Monday, 10 September 2012

The Paper from Najaf - 1

There's no such thing as 'middle' in Iraq any more. It's either dirt poor or stinking rich. I constantly feel guilty and unable to put up with the antics of the so called (boring) bourgeois.

The endless dinner parties, the stretched smiles, the endless questioning , and the hapless endeavours to show off to one another.
Unwilling to participate in such a monkey's tea party, I ended up constantly being criticized, so I did what I normally do. I ran away! Not literally, but figuratively speaking.

My normal refuge (my grandparent's house a few blocks down the road), was empty save for the guard outside. And he wasn't great conversation. They needed cooler climate, so I sorely missed them for a few weeks. I would sneak in, to the detriment of the guard, who constantly worried 'something would happen'. He refused to understand why I preferred to spend my hours wallowing around an empty old house instead of my parent's excessive furnishings.

I don't want a headache, I would reply laughing. Yet he would still usher me out, his hands flapping like chicken wings, as his eyes quickly darting from left to right. 

Anyway, back to the main event!  So as soon as a trip to Diyala was discussed, I grabbed the opportunity over enthusiastically, despite knowing I would inevitably suffer under their archaic rules for a while.

My father was already there, and the rest of the family had to stay in Baghdad. I decided I would make the trip alone. After all, they did all trust the driver. I could also use the situation to my advantage, to convince them to actually let me drive around.

The drive was quite short, as far as any road trip around Iraq goes. I sat at the back, where the air conditioning wasn't as effective. Halfway through, at a village stop, I switched to sitting at the front, grinning at the cooler blast of air.
Although young, the driver doesn't speak much, and instead grunted a minimalist conversation. He does however, give a lot of commands. After a while, my polite acceptance wears off.
'I wouldn't have sat at the front, if I knew you'd make me your right arm'
His laugh echoes in the empty car for a while, but thankfully he starts to pay more attention to driving.

As we draw ever closer to the village's winding dirt roads, he tells me politely if I want to wear my hijab now. I tell him I don't wear one in the village, and he asks if there's been any backlash against my father because of it. I shrug. How would I know.

He reminds me of the lies that I'm supposed to remember. I wasn't studying abroad, but in Baghdad, and I haven't visited, because education takes up all of my time. 'Take it seriously', he tells me earnestly, as he catches a glimpse of me smiling.

I stand sheepishly at the door, with no luggage. Nothing I could pack would be useful anyway. After listening to the shouting caused by my not so timid knocks, the worn gate is opened.


jnana said...

I remember when I came on a trip to Iraq how I had to pretend I'd always lived there, for my own security. And how any driver would immediately know I haven't as soon as I open my mouth.

I love Iraq with all its imperfections. I don't know if that's good or bad..

Sandybelle said...

I have never been to Diyala at all, I've been to Baghdad and most of cities in the south, and the north surely ;). it must be so nice out there ;)
'wooooow mu3anat el-hijab?!!! dont remind me!!! hehehe

You know what? you were so lucky with such a driver, I always had blah blah blah drivers and I had to listen, surely ,why not, since im that so polite respectful listener , lol ;)

It's so exciting Toutati :D as always :D

Bisma M said...


My name is Bisma M and I am a student in the U.S. I am working on a research project about Iraqi youth and their views on democracy and sectarianism. I came across your blog and I found it extremely beneficial to my study. If you could help me answer some questions or direct me to Iraqi youth who have an opinion on this matter, I will be extremely grateful. Please let me know at

Bisma M

JG said...

The class stratification thing is sad and leads to problems everywhere. The gap here in Ireland gets ever bigger.

Hope you have a good trip, Touta. :)

Touta said...

having an impossible love is always good!

And yes, to think life and death hangs on your accent is slightly disturbing :)

ahhh ya 3iyooni! Ma3zooma to diyala 3la 7isabi!! You have to see it, it has a unique beauty, you know each place has its own special something :D
I prefer blah blah drivers, time goes quickly with them hehe
adri, shlon wiya halswalif maal hijab wa abaya fe Iraq Al-Jadidaa...

Check your email :)

Really? Even in Ireland? It's hard to imagine, but it's a sad case of being greedy, the gap is horrendously large, I do know some people preferred it when most Iraqis were all poor lol.
Thank you! :)

Ali said...

Very nice blog brother! :)

don't forget to join the iraqi social community on:

Thank you
Shakrun warda!

JG said...

Very much so, Touta. The gap between rich and poor is far wider now than it was 20/30 years ago. And now with the recession and all; well it impacts disproportionately on poorer people.

...and you're welcome. :)

Mezraab said...

Threshold, of the memory, the only place where silence is the only expression, blindness the only sight, the chasm within an only fulfillment.

An artistic palette of words, grateful to the moment that created it. :)