Monthly Archives: June 2009

Rays of Hope: A Social Report from Iraq by George Nichola

The most three common phrases that we do here frequently everyday are; “Its to unsafe in Iraq’, “dangerous nationality” and “Look how savages are the Iraqis”. I myself sometime follow the echo of these words, some of my close friends do already believe so…

I was about to believe these three awful phrases, but each time I discover that Iraq is not safe yet its people “the original ones” are kind, tender and supportive… yes believe me when I say this, perhaps you hear or see things about Iraq, which can be true or can be not true all the prospects are possible, some of you will not convinced with my idea and you may think that I am trying to decorate the Iraqi scene; I am not and sometimes I do agree with these three phrases yet sometimes I found myself not so sure for  particular events appear on the ground that make me not sure of what I feel towards Iraq. Well try to follow me in order to see whether there is good Iraq or it’s bad from the start…

One day as friends of mine and I were in our way back to home from work, in one of the most hot and sunny summer days of Baghdad, the car we were riding broke up suddenly in an area crowded of workers and simple people who gathered near my window looking curiously at us, my own concern was the ladies that were with us, how should I act? Should I send them by taxi home by their own selves? Or accompany them? Should I leave the driver who is my friend alone facing these people? I was truly confused the heat of the sun increased my tension… Suddenly, one of these who come too close and examined the hot parts of the car which were burning, trying to touch them by his bare hands… while everyone around us were laughing at him as he suggested to fix the machine after he knew that there was something wrong with the gear of the car, he at once asked one of the crowded guys to bring a peace of clothe in order to catch the hot parts; at first I did not believe he could help us and that he is massing up but what can I do I can not go and see what he is doing as I was standing near my colleagues window for other guys were getting close to the windows in an attempt to look inside the car, these humble people were too curious which annoyed me a lot, so I was like a guard watching the guys and the car as my friend disappeared, I terrified and I asked about him a boy who was standing near by me, he responded with a smile that he went to by Hydraulic acid for the gear…

Satar was the name of the guy who offered to help, he insisted on helping us while I and my friend asked him just to show us from where we can get a crane to lift the car to the mechanical; he was young guy about 29 – 30 years old, so active and optimistic that he insisted to have a shot to fix the car…

From time to time I was hearing “Ouch.. It’s burning… I can not affix this… hot to hold…”, while I was watching the guys, I was afraid that they would rob anything from the car or even from my friend’s pocket, I expected anything from them accept being good to us. After about quarter of an hour, the sun heat was still striking straight on my brain, sweating from every part of my body, I heard Satar saying I fix it… I could not believe that until did my friend drive softly in the road…

My friend offer or tried to give Satar any amount that he would demand but he refused to take anything, anything at all… while he was looking like need some.. he was a driver “services cars driver”.

I guess no one would do such help, exposing his hands to heat and they were burned several times and laid on the hot pitch of the road, which seemed to be burning for nothing…Do not agree with me?

Iraqis my friend, are well known maybe not in the western world but in the eastern world in general and the Middle East in particular with their pure spirit and their eagerness and readiness to help not only the native citizens but the strangers as well, perhaps they do help them more than they do with the natives, so my friend I do not know how to explain what is happening now in here… but I can tell you only this Iraq still had his own original feature, that’s why I still love my country, still need to smell his soil and try to help in restoring his old glory…

These guys I expected nothing good from them, I was thinking they may harm us but the fact was something different… Perhaps there were bad guys who wanted Iraq and it’s people to look savages but always the truth appears on the surface. The truth that Iraqi people are helpful, peaceful and like to live in harmony with each other;

I know some will not agree with me, for those I may say: its ok time will prove my words… yes it will!

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Zainab’s Al-Mutanabi Street Visit by George Nichola

Al-Mutanabi Street is a place where books of all kinds (political, historical, social, economical, medical, psychological…etc) are sold. Al-Mutanabi is a small and old district on eastern bank of Tigris, it consists of ancient buildings on each side and they are extended along the street; you can clearly see (Tigris) when you reach the bottom of Al-Mutanabi Street. Most of the apartments in these buildings are book stores or book shops. Al-Mutanabi Street is regarded as one of the renowned places in Baghdad as it refers to the cultural treasure of Baghdad in particular and Iraq in general…books

One year ago, in 2007 this street was subject of an explosive car, about 100 people were killed in that explosion which targeted the humble, educated and cultivated level of society. Students, teachers, professors, press and regular people who are interested in reading gather there in order to look for books, thesis, magazines…etc of their interest. People lost their sons, daughters, kids and even fathers or mothers in that explosion, some book shops owners lost 4 or 5 of their children in that day.

The explosion created fear, sadness and damaged the old buildings as well as in the old street. The street was shut down for several months yet Nori Al-Maliki (Prime Minister) ordered to fix the street and revive it once again. After it was fixed people were scared to go there at first, yet day after day as the security in the whole city of Baghdad and Iraq got better people started coming back to visit that old Street, this street was once again crowded with people, exploring, buying and searching for what they need of books as usual.

Today, Zainab and bunch of staff met near the river (Tigris) and started an amazing tour in one of the most famous streets of Baghdad. We started our tour  in “Gahwat Al-Shabandar “, “Gahwa” means coffee  shop, Baghdadi old coffee is a place where cultivated persons gather from all parts of Baghdad to see each other, as well as to sip tea “Istikan”. “Istikan” is similar to the cup but thinner from the middle and smaller in size than the regular cup of tea.

After taking pictures by an old photographer and having a chat, we left the place and started exploring books; Zainab was very happy, her eyes were glittering to see the old street been revived, people almost happy and less tension. Zainab bought couple of books about history of Iraq. She was peeking on all the books, there are book shops, books arranged on the floor or on tables or scattered books on the floor where you must dig and look for books by your own… Zainab stopped for about 10 minutes near a guy who sells old pictures of rulers, famous places, tools and transportation means of Iraq in (20s -60s) they were very interesting. Zainab bought couple of these pictures…

As we were moving among the crowd we noticed three guys with camera, they were interviewing people in Al-Mutanabi Street. They as we were passing beside them, one of the crew asked Ibtesam (IG officer) to interview her. They wanted to convey to the world that not only men in Iraq read and not only men are interested in books and literature… Actually women are interested also in reading in Iraq, there is a great number of women in Iraq who are interested in books and reading… Ibtesam with confidence made the interview successfully and she gave her opinion about why she chooses to cut her holiday on Friday and comes to visit Al-Mutanabi? Her answer was: to explore and update my library at home with everything new, my daughters like to read during summer holiday, especially those books that improve their English language.

Ibtesam

After books shopping, we had a short visit to the “Souq” the old public market; in the souq you can found all kinds of goods: clothes, Accessories, ancient tools and status that refer to Iraq famous figures and places…etc.

Then we have a stop at the Tigris banks where a singer accompanied with “Al-Qanon” player surrounded with people mostly men, there were few women as well, clapping and cheering the singer.

People, in Al-Mutanabi, old Souq and on Tigris bank sound as live is getting back to Baghdad in particular and Iraq in general gradually. That is important and cheerful thing yet we need to move, to do something in order to achieve a balance in society.

As we were crossing the river to the other bank (Al-Karkh) western bank of Tigris in a small boat, Zainab eyes were filled of tears as she was happy to see happy, cheerful and hopeful people along with others busy searching books, others trying to make a living, some other praying in mosques, all together composing the Iraqi society in peace and harmony regardless of their religion, political perspectives or areas where they live.

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