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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Reminiscing with new acquaintance

I was lucky to meet in London, an Iraqi with whom I can share all the memories, views and the life we lived in Iraq during the 80s and 90s. Most of the Iraqis I have met in London, either belong to the generation who left the country before 80s, or were second-generation immigrants, whose idea of Iraq is inherited from their parents. There was no shared memory to reminisce about, nor a shared experience to discuss. But this new acquaintance provided me with what I needed. Yesterday was our second meeting, and for the second time we spent hours talking about the life we lived in the 80s and 90s. We shared cultural references that other Iraqis in London would never have understood, or realized its significance. For the second-generation young Iraqi, who was with us, we were speaking a secret language, she was unable to decode its references.

But the real exciting factor for me was the space of freedom to discuss Iraqi politics since the 80s without fear of offending someone who was hard-core enemy of Saddam, or someone who thought Iraq was done when Saddam ascended to power in 1980. It was refreshing to be able to breathe out thoughts that nowadays are considered forbidden sentiments that betray the Iraqis who suffered under Saddam.

I grew up in a family that was not interested in politics, nor religion. I was one of millions of Shia Iraqis who lived unharmed under Saddam's rule. My only grievances against Saddam was the endless wars we lived, growing up to the sounds of bombing and women and orphans wailing the loss of their loved ones. I am not minimizing the significance of these, but through my readings I can't toss it all to the shoulders of Saddam and the Baath and blame them for the increased number of widows and orphans in the country. There were two countries fighting in the 80s, and Iran had a big share in the Iraqi blood shed for this war. I also remember very well how the Kuwaiti delegation was indifferent when Saddam gave his speech in the Arab Summit in May 1990, where he warned them against trespassing on Iraqi's bordering oil well. Was it right for him to invade the country and allow the army to commit all these atrocities? Definitely no. However there is another side for the story, in which the ugliness committed in Kuwait was not totally Saddam's fault, but had to do with individual human conscience.

When the Iraqi army controlled Kuwait, many Iraqis went their and robbed and blundered the country, Yes, there were not stopped, but they should have never done that. My uncle used to drive a lorry there to bring different second-hand goods and sell them, but my dad warned my mother not to buy one single thing coming from Kuwait. I still remember the fight when my dad became mad at my mother for accepting a gift from my aunt, which was Kuwaiti dresses. He told her she would not stay at home if she would bring another thing from Kuwait to the house.

During the 90s, all Iraqis suffered because of the sanctions, and Saddam's started a phase of self-adulation, considering himself as the hero of Arab Nationalism against western imperialism, a postcolonial rhetoric as a feminist from Iraq I refuse to subscribe to. However, the US determination to invade the country, and their dirty game with the so-called Iraqi political opposition give some credit to this rhetoric.

Millions of Iraqis have rediscovered their history after 2003, under the confusion of the hundreds of media outlets that give different accounts of the 80s and 90s, and draw different pictures of 2003 aftermath. We were told of how Saddam's tortured and killed Iraqis who were opposing him, or suspected for opposing him. His sons emerged as sadists enjoying the atrocities they committed against Iraqis. Horrifying stories started to spread asserting the beastly nature of Saddam and his family, that we no longer think of them as humans, but more of mythic monsters that could have existed only in ancient barbaric times. But these stories did not conform with the kind of life we used to live in the 80s and 90s. At least, they didn't match the life I have lived.

Do I want Saddam back? definitely no. Do I have nostalgic feelings toward his rule. Yes, to certain extent. Any one of my generation, who grew up in the 80s and 90s, can't escape comparing between Iraq then and now. Even if their comparison ends illogically in favor of contemporary Iraq, at least there is something that provokes their thoughts to compare.

After 13 years of new Iraq and democracy, Iraq is living in worse conditions than what it used to be during Saddam's times, and this is enough to change the balance to his side. The number of Iraqis killed in those 13 years can be compared to 8 years of war, 1991 bombing and the sanctions years.

If those who rule Iraq today were the opposition Saddam was fighting and tried to isolate his people from, then hats off to Saddam, for they proved him right. These people are too incompetent to be rulers, to be given the power keys to my country.

Those who rule Iraq today have no vision, no plan for the country they rule. They are inconsiderate of the sufferings of Iraqis. They have turned our country to an abyss we just want to escape. Their only achievement which they take pride in is the religious militancy, and the spread of religious Shia rituals. Yes, marching, chest beating and wailing the religious leader who died 1400 years ago is far more important that the hundreds of Iraqis dying every week just because they decided to go to work, study and live a normal life. Religious parades, and loud commemoration of the Taf battle that happened fourteen centuries ago are more important than the millions of displaced Iraqis living in destitute in and outside the country.

They claim to fight ISIS because they reject their militant Islamic state, but they end up banning whatever goes against Islam, forming Islamic armed forces, whose loyalty is torn between Iran and Iraq.

I admit that I miss that solid firm rule, when my country was safe, secular to a certain extent, and when education was rewarded. I miss having an identity, a culture. I miss having a life that doesn't involve wailing and mourning for almost third of the year.



  1. dear Nadia, i do understand your confusion and puzzlement. Iraq future is foggy. we are not sure of anything. i used to be one of whom you described as a hard-core enemy of Saddam regime, but now I do realize the meaning of the old saying "a nation needs a 'ruler' even if that ruler was oppressive". what do we have now merely stupid, greedy thieves ruling a country that is regarded the cradle of civilization. we totally lost the enjoyment and the grace of being alive. I know through out history Iraq celebrates death more than life. yet, these days we are revering death and corruption of life, souls, spirits..etc....

    1. Dear Marriam. Thank you for your kind words. I know that my confusion has inflicted most of my generation. Even those who lost their loved one in Saddam's wars, they started to feel the same. The new rulers of Iraq have destroyed the country and robbed it of its culture and wealth. I remember when Tariq Aziz said "there is no opposition, they are just bandits who want to rob the country". Now I know he was right