Aka, Signs of a Dying City … From Thoughts From Baghdad, with many thanks.
Signs of a Dying City IV: Can’t Even Say Good-Bye
I wasn’t fully moved by 24’s post on a cousin leaving Baghdad until a similar situation happened in our family. Just about the time I was looking for a flight out of Baghdad, I heard the news that Aunt W and her family were leaving Baghdad for Syria. I was shocked by that news.
Aunt W has always been a cornerstone in the family. It was at her house that we spent our first weeks in Baghdad while we were looking for a place of our own; it was at her house that the family gathered for Eid celebrations; it was at her house that we went to chill when we needed a change of pace. She was the one who mainly took care of my grandmother in law, who drove her around, made sure her needs were met. And in early December 2006, we got the call that she had finally had it; they were leaving their beloved homeland and families within a matter of days.
Aunt W lived at the border of Adhamiya/Seleikh. The final straw for them came after the Sadr City car bombings, when the family got numerous calls from friends to leave their home, who feared for their safety against reprisal attacks. Aunt W had already faced having her husband’s office damaged by a nearby bomb, had faced having a son arrested by the Iraqi army, had seen numerous friends’ husbands and sons disappear and die. The only thing she could think of was being slaughtered in her own home. She could take no more.
What is so significant about this story is two things. First of all, that people who are so settled in their homes, in their lands, are forced to leave is a huge misfortune and hardship. Imagine right now that you have to leave your comfortable, newly furnished house in Anytown, USA because suddenly, it isn’t safe to live there anymore. What do you do with your home? You can’t sell it for a profit, you can’t sell your furniture for a profit; everyone else is leaving town, and no one wants to buy. You end up losing everything, and moving to a new, unknown world, with no friends, no relatives. It’s difficult.
The other thing that struck me about Aunt W’s leaving is that we could not even say our goodbyes to her. The situation has become so bad in Baghdad, that many people are choosing not to travel to different parts of the city, fearing for their lives. We couldn’t hold a farewell party for her, we couldn’t even drop by for five minutes of goodbyes. One day, she just up and left Baghdad, after making her phone calls to her sisters, mother, nieces and nephews.
And the same thing happened with me when I left Baghdad. In the summer time, when I came to the States for a visit, I made my rounds to the relatives, for a short goodbye. This time around, when I will likely not go back for a long while, I could not make those rounds. I could not visit our grandmother in Adhamiya to bid her farewell; and I don’t know when I will next see her, if I will ever see her again.
The best summary of the situation there was seen in the eyes of my 25 year old cousin in law, who travelled with me by airplane from Iraq to Amman. She has also left the country, to complete her medical studies in Jordan. In the car, on the way to the airport, she sat with her 8 month old daughter in her hands, wiping silent tears from her eyes. She was saying goodbye to her beloved family, and to her beloved Baghdad, which had been so changed by this last war. She did not know when she would next see her Baghdad, and she did not know what it would be like next time she saw it.
Farewell Baghdad, from all your loving countrymen.
And there’s this little tidbit to underscore what Fatima is telling us just above:
€45m needed to cope with Iraqi exodus
One in eight Iraqis have been forced out of their homes because of conflict, the United Nations Refugee Agency has found.
According to the Agency, the current exodus from Iraq is the largest population movement in the Middle East since the displacement of Palestinians following the creation of Israel in 1948.
The Agency needs more than €45 million in the coming year to take care of the almost four million internally displaced persons and refugees under its care.