lunes, 10 de marzo de 2008
BAGHDAD - Karada is a bustling mosaic where people from different ethnicities and sects and places in Baghdad come to shop. Security here started to improve over the past few months, and people started to breathe again. Shop owners, after a long time of sitting jobless, are trying to do the same job they were doing before in 2003.
Every day, more people have come to Karada to shop.
One of them was my good friend Qusay, 29, who was married two years ago. He comes from a wealthy family. He was kindhearted, helping beggars whenever he encountered them. For many years, Qusay liked Karada and got to know a lot of clothing store owners. He was a good customer.
On Thursday evening, he was walking with his wife and young niece through Karada, but he never realized it would be his last time shopping. One of the two bombs that struck the area killed Qusay and severely injured his wife, Razan. They had been walking together, but their bodies came to rest in different places.
Qusay had lost a cousin in a suicide bomb attack one year ago. Despite that, he was full of hope. His father asked him many times to leave the country and live with his brother in Germany. But he did not like the idea of leaving Baghdad. He traveled to Syria and Jordan many times, but each time he got homesick.
He married Razan, a friend’s sister, and she is also my friend. I knew both of them since we were children. They were a lovely couple, but now he is dead, and she is in a hospital.
This incident in Karada brought back to my mind the bloody attack that struck Mustansiriya University and killed many students in January 2007. It was a nightmare, and so was this one.
Some people are reconsidering whether to go walk in Karada. My wife doesn’t want me to go. It is not a safe place anymore.
My brother, who had rushed another wounded friend to the Ibn al-Nafis hospital after the blast Thursday night, told me he saw our friend. “I saw Qusay, our friend and neighbor, whose body lies there,” my brother said. “His wife was seriously injured and had surgery. No one knows what happened to their young niece. It was a shocking scene. I cried. I couldn’t stand it. Corpses were lined up in the hospital corridor. Most casualties were women.”
The day before the bombing, Qusay had been shopping at the small market my brother owns. Imagine seeing your friend alive one day and dead the next. It is hard.
“We were the only survivors in this explosion,” said Razan after she regained consciousness. She had undergone surgery for a bad injury in the colon. A big chunk of her right-side triceps muscle flew away from her body and some shrapnel penetrated her body.
There were two bombs in Karada, one after the other. Qusay was still alive when Razan last saw him.
“He was beating his head when he saw me on the ground,” Razan said. “He shielded me from shrapnel.”
She thought he was still alive. She was surrounded by many relatives and friends. All lied to her on this issue. They told her that he was in another hospital and he had a slight injury and would soon visit her.
The couples were walking in Karada to buy jewelry.
How long should we strive? Who is going to help us here at this critical stage, apart from God? It is too much.
Iraqi security forces all over the country and specifically in Baghdad have done their best to crack down on violence. However, what they are doing is like a tug of war. They tighten their grip some of the time against the militias and Qaeda, but let it go or unleash it most of the time. It is not because they deliberately want this to happen, but they are still new, and they want to protect their own lives.
They are fighting ghosts who set up I.E.D.s and appear from nowhere without warning, and then disappear. The battle is much harder than Mr. Bush expected. His own army, the strongest in the world, could not cope with the situation. The Iraqi government doesn’t tell the real numbers of the dead.
In Baghdad, no one knows when he will die. It is like a line we are standing in. One day a friend dies, another day a relative, and so on.
I have started to ask myself, is this country cursed? I should go back, sink into the history, and look for answers. Some Shiites say it could be so, because it was the people of this country who killed and mutilated Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Muhammad. Some Sunnis would say it could be the curse of the monarchy during the 1950s that the people were not satisfied with, and were happy when it was toppled.
God, are we all bad people here? If so, why do you not use your superior power to terminate this country. Or if not, why don’t you help people to stay alive, next to their beloved.
At some moments, a thought comes to my mind, and I become at this moment a disbeliever, when I believe that God does not care for Iraqis anymore. What is true are Oliver Goldsmith’s famous words, that “one half of the world are ignorant how the other half lives.”
Whatever the reasons behind this killing were, this country kills people’s hopes.
Khalid al-Ansary is an Iraqi employee of The New York Times.