I miss home. Perpetually. I scroll through my twitter home page, with journalists and analysts sharing articulate insights into the politics on the ground. The terror and dominance of ISIS, the tensions in Jerusalem, the simmering chaos in Baghdad: I watch the images of war paint my screen daily as winter sets over Britain.
I went to a bonfire last night and lit my first firework, it reminded me of when I was 11 in Baghdad, I was on a Ferris wheel in a theme park and I saw a firework fly into the sky and I remember thinking ‘how great! Even in times of war they still have fireworks’ only this one didn’t go off. It continued to travel through the sky, arching high. Then it fell, there was a moment of calm, everyone held their breath in the stagnant air. Then the ground shook and my ears hurt. People screamed, my uncle drove on the pavement. We got home, ate watermelon and laughed about it.
It’s Eid! A very warm Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim and non-Muslim friends on this beautiful day. This is the time of year when millions of Muslims flock to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina and millions more celebrate with their brothers and sisters in Islam all over the world. It is the time of year we’re meant to be even more compassionate and charitable and distribute food and money to the poor and impoverished. We buy new clothes, give presents and pray with the community.
This Eid, I’m sitting looking out at a rainy suburban street, 99.2 miles away from my mum and dad and many thousands more away from my family and my sun scorched land. If you over-think it, it’s a pretty grim state of affairs. These ISIS loonies are reducing my home to a childhood memory, these Zionists are bulldozing and blockading land which is illegal any way you look at it, and these Western governments are aiding and abetting all manner of sins in my name. If I was a glass half empty kind of a girl I wouldn’t want to get out of bed, I’d put on a Hugh Grant movie and eat bread and Za’atar to wash and wish it all away.
First let me start by saying that I am sorry for your loss. Sincerely. The agony of losing a son, let alone losing one so publicly and in such savage circumstances, is the worst thing a parent can ever do and I wish it on no man. I watched the coverage and, like the rest of the world, I was rightly disgusted.
The slaughter of your son was gruesome, but a big part of why the world has seen it is because he is an American and I do not resent that, I’ve long since realised that a man’s passport puts a diplomatic price on his value. When I was 12 in 2005, we were trapped on the border between Iraq and Jordan and bombs, bullets and fear fell like rain on the cars around the crossing. We would have died if the American troops hadn’t saved us. They gave us food, water and medical care in their compound. All because we were British. The circumstances surrounding the death of your son were extraordinary. However, the nauseating reality of his death has, unfortunately, become ordinary. Deaths are not new to the region.
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.
The front page of yesterday’s French paper Le Figaro was emblazed with the words ‘Irak: Les Djihadistes aux Portes de Bagdad’ – the Jihadists are at the doors of Baghdad. I picked it up on the way to work at the Iraqi embassy in Paris. The situation in Iraq is beyond strained: Mosul, Tikrit and Kirkuk have all gone and if Baghdad falls, then Iraq, for all intents and purposes will be a failed state, run by no one in particular save a terrorist organization that is now richer than some counties. As of yesterday morning, ISIS were 60 kilometers away from Baghdad, driving in American Humvees (oh the irony) having already seized a helicopter. There have been clashes 30 miles north of Baghdad between the Iraqi government forces and militants in the city of Baquba but so far the Iraqi military forces are holding off the militants.
In real terms, president Nouri al-Maliki has given no reaction, having failed to achieve a quorum in parliament imposing a state of emergency or to get permission to ask the UN for drone strikes. He has made no statement on the loss of Mosul, Kirkuk or Tikrit.
You might not be aware, but Mousal, Iraq’s second largest city, fell to rebels yesterday. I work at the Iraqi embassy, something felt off, a colleague spent the day glued to the computer and everyone seemed on edge. Even the weather was stormy and tumultuous. It didn’t feature heavily on the news: it was the fourth piece down on the Guardian under the information that Theresa May wasn’t a bloke (shocking) and Le Monde and The Times weren’t featuring it much either, Facebook was quiet, Twitter too – but for me, and those with a finger on the hot-blooded Middle Eastern pulse – this is terrifying news.
The country has been increasingly unstable due to a plethora of reason, not least due to the turmoil in Syria. The Iraqi elections took place at the end of April, a government still hasn’t been announced, but Nouri Al-Maliki, the President who seems to be losing control of the dire situation, has urged the Parliament to declare a state of emergency in the country as 15,000 Mosul residents have fled – mostly further north to Arbil in the autonomous Kurdistan. Violence has spread like wildfire and hundreds of prisoners have been released as prisons were set alight and the army abandoned their posts. Indeed such is the havoc that people are leaving on foot or driving away in abandoned police vans with those who tried to fight lay dead on the streets.