Baghdad Burning

... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend...

Saturday, August 07, 2004
Clashes and Churches...
300+ dead in a matter of days in Najaf and Al Sadir City. Of course, they are all being called ‘insurgents’. The woman on tv wrapped in the abaya, lying sprawled in the middle of the street must have been one of them too. Several explosions rocked Baghdad today- some government employees were told not to go to work tomorrow.

So is this a part of the reconstruction effort promised to the Shi’a in the south of the country? Najaf is considered the holiest city in Iraq. It is visited by Shi’a from all over the world, and yet, during the last two days, it has seen a rain of bombs and shells from none other than the ‘saviors’ of the oppressed Shi’a- the Americans. So is this the ‘Sunni Triangle’ too? It’s déjà vu- corpses in the streets, people mourning their dead and dying and buildings up in flames. The images flash by on the television screen and it’s Falluja all over again. Twenty years from now who will be blamed for the mass graves being dug today?

We’re waiting again for some sort of condemnation. I, personally, never had faith in the American selected proxy government currently pretending to be in power- but for some reason, I keep thinking that any day now- any moment- one of the Puppets, Allawi for example, will make an appearance on television and condemn all the killing. One of them will get in front of a camera and announce his resignation or at the very least, his utter disgust, at the bombing, the burning and the killing of hundreds of Iraqis and call for an end to it… it’s a foolish hope, I know.

So where is the interim constitution when you need it? The sanctity of private residences is still being violated... people are still being unlawfully arrested... cities are being bombed. Then again, there really is nothing in the constitution that says the American millitary *can't* actually bomb and burn.

Sistani has conveniently been flown to London. His ‘illness’ couldn’t come at a better moment if Powell et al. had personally selected it. While everyone has been waiting for him to denounce the bombing and killing of fellow-Shi’a in Najaf and elsewhere, he has come down with some bug or other and had to be shipped off to London for check-ups. That way, he can remain silent about the situation. Shi’a everywhere are disappointed at this silence. They are waiting for some sort of a fatwa or denouncement- it will not come while Sistani is being coddled by English nurses.

One of the news channels showed him hobbling off of a private airplane, surrounded by his usual flock of groupies and supporters. I couldn’t quite tell, but I could have sworn Bahr Ul Iloom was with him. E. said that one of the groupies was actually Chalabi but it was difficult to tell because the cameraman was, apparently, standing quite far away.

The thought that Sistani is seriously ill does make everyone somewhat uneasy. Should he decide to die on us now, it will probably mean a power struggle between the Shi'a clerics in the south. Juan Cole has a lot more about it.

Last week churches were bombed- everyone heard about that. We were all horrified with it. For decades- no centuries- churches and mosques have stood side by side in Iraq. We celebrate Christmas and Easter with our Christian friends and they celebrate our Eids with us. We never categorized eachother as "Christian" and "Muslim"... It never really mattered. We were neighbors and friends and we respected eachother's religious customs and holidays. We have many differing beliefs- some of them fundamental- but it never mattered.

It makes me miserable to think that Christians no longer feel safe. I know we're all feeling insecure right now, but there was always that sense of security between differing religions. Many Iraqis have been inside churches to attend weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Christians have been suffering since the end of the war. Some of them are being driven out of their homes in the south and even in some areas in Baghdad and the north. Others are being pressured to dress a certain way or not attend church, etc. So many of them are thinking of leaving abroad and it's such a huge loss. We have famous Christain surgeons, professors, artists, and musicians. It has always been an Iraqi quality in the region- we're famous for the fact that we all get along so well.

I'm convinced the people who set up these explosions are people who are trying to give Islam the worst possible image. It has nothing to do with Islam- just as this war and occupation has nothing to do with Christianity and Jesus- no matter how much Bush tries to pretend it does. That's a part of the problem- many people feel this war and the current situation is a crusade of sorts. 'Islam' is the new communism. It's the new Cold War to frighten Americans into arming themselves to the teeth and attacking other nations in 'self-defense'. It's the best way to set up 'Terror Alerts' and frighten people into discrimination against Arabs, in general, and Muslims specifically... just as this war is helping to breed anger and hate towards westerners in general, and Americans specifically. A person who lost their parent, child or home to this war and occupation will take it very personally and will probably want revenge- it won't matter if they are Muslim or Christian.

I always love passing by the churches. It gives me a momentary sense that everything must be right in the world to see them standing lovely and bright under the Baghdad sun, not far from the local mosque. Their elegant simplicity is such a contrast with the intricate designs of our mosques.

There's a lovely church in our area. It stands tall, solid and gray. It is very functional and simple- a rectangular structure with a pointy roof, topped by a plain cross or 'saleeb', simple wooden doors and a small garden- it looks exactly like the drawings your 7-year-old nephew or daughter would make of the local church. This simplicity contrasted wonderfully with its stained-glass windows. The windows are at least 30 different colors. I always find myself staring at them as we pass, wondering about the myriad of shapes and colors they throw down upon the people inside. It hurts to pass it by these days because I know so many of the people who once visited it are gone- they've left to Syria, Jordan, Canada... with broken hearts and bitterness.

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