12. My family are in Iraq

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I was planning on starting this post differently; I was planning on writing about the realities on the ground in Iraq. The diplomatic ping-pong that journalists love to devour, the movement of X terrorist group from A to B with a battle at C, a break-down of the change of allegiances: how this week we were shown how today’s enemies are tomorrow’s friends and today’s friends are tomorrow’s disgraced enemies. I was going to narrate how my week working at the Iraqi embassy in Paris has been one of the hardest weeks of my life with all the turmoil and infectious feeling of helplessness.

But 20 minutes ago I called my aunty Hanan for news of my family. Turns out my aunt-by-marriage’s brother was killed three weeks ago. He was in the mosque praying when a bomb hit and he died. His wife perished in a separate incident last year. He was born in 1985 and has left behind three young children. This sounds too tragic to be true – worthy of an x-factor sob-story – Middle Eastern edition. But this is the reality. For my family and for millions of others. I sit here, protected by the safety of the western world that helped to destroy my mother’s homeland and I watch the news and see it from how you all see it, but then I talk to my family and suddenly it’s not some white, middle class journalist telling me how sad it all is, it’s my cousins – my age or even younger – telling me they’ve joined to fight. It’s the knowledge I might never see them again, or if I do it’s with the realisation they might have killed a man. It’s the knowledge that at any moment, Iraq’s feeble legs could give way and the whole nation will topple.

And I don’t blame them for joining, I don’t blame Al-Maliki’s ineffective government, hell I don’t even blame America or ISIS to a great extent. Because what I’m realising is, it’s all political. It’s a double speak and double think. What’s going on in Iraq this week has taught me that this is bigger than any of us realise, bigger than anyone of us can ever fathom. There’s an overarching global policy that does not involve Syria for the sake of Syria or Iraq for the sake of Iraq. It’s what allows Saudi Arabia to funnel millions to fund terrorist organisations, whilst being friends with the West, it’s why we’re now turning on al-Maliki after propping him up for years, it’s these and millions of other hypocrisies. And to point fingers of blame is almost pointless, because the conflict is not black and white, there are a tens of players and frankly, no side is blameless, no side is good.

When you read the paper and turn pages or hear the news and flick channels, remember that events in Iraq and elsewhere are people’s families, memories and blood ties. Remember that due to the nature of immigration and refugees, you may well sit on the bus with someone who is kept awake at night with worry for the future. Realise that the crisis is not merely a political one, or a diplomatic one. It’s one that is so complex and multi-faceted that it affects you and your future too. The more I live the more I realise how fucked up it is, I’m writing this out of sadness, out of bereavement, but my intentions are true. Iraq is burning, the Middle East is burning, the elites are concerned, the foreigners are unaware, but the people, the ‘sha’ab’, are war-torn and psychologically tormented with the fear that they might be dragged out of their homes and killed at any minute. The people are hungry, for food, for petrol and for stability. Think of them and think of my 29 year old uncle-in-law and his pointless loss of life next time you think about Iraq.

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