TADHAMUN تـضـامـن

Tadhamun (solidarity) is an Iraqi women organization, standing by Iraqi women's struggle against sectarian politics in Iraq. Fighting for equal citizenship across ethnicities and religions, for human rights, and gender equality.

جمعية تضامن تدعم المساواة في المواطنة بغض النظر عن الأنتماء الأثني أو الديني وتسعى من أجل العدالة الأجتماعية و حماية حقوق الأنسان في العراق

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Back to Baghdad for Better or for Worse

Haider Al-Safi worked for the Baghdad bureau of 'The Independent' during the invasion of Iraq and the beginning of the war. In 2005, anxious about his safety, he came to Britain, where he has been studying journalism. Last week he went back to see his family. This is what he found

Tuesday, 24 March 2009
We had begun our descent. My homecoming, a moment I had looked forward to virtually every day in my four years of London exile, was here. I braced myself for the terrible missile-dodging, spiral landing into Baghdad international airport. But these are new times, and the plane touched down as smoothly and unremarkably as if I was coming into Heathrow. Well it might be true what people are saying after all, I thought to myself, maybe the security and the general situation in Iraq has improved quite a lot. It was not a thought that lasted long.

Tuesday 17 March 2009
Back at my parents' three-storey home, surrounded by excitable relatives, I began the lengthy process of inquiring after friends and family. But when I asked about my cousin, Jamal, who, like me, is 37, the assembled ranks looked at each other, as if to silently inquire whether they might be able to protect me from the truth. "He got killed by the death squads. No one knows why," my brother Hassan finally answered. And Jamal was not the only one. Another relative recounted how he was parking his car outside our house when he saw our 23-year-old neighbour being gunned down. "He said 'hello' to me few moments before his death. A car stopped suddenly and two guys shot him several times with an AK-47."
While we were talking, the electricity went off. Hassan got the private generator going but warned me with a laugh: "Don't expect this luxury to last for long. If you weren't here, we'd be making do with candles." I asked my mother how they managed without a constant source of power. "It is much better now since the weather is very good," she said. "It gets worse during the summer when the temperature goes over 50C." What about water? "That is much better. It is available, although not very clean, so we boil it to make sure it is good for drinking," she told me. "And, of course, we keep some reserves for emergencies when the water pumping stations stop for several days."
My family's main complaint was the difficulty in getting fresh fruit and vegetables. "Many times we go to the grocery store and find nothing," my father explained. "And when there is something to buy, it's very expensive, not like when you were here before." He was right – buying fruit in Baghdad is more expensive than London. Ten oranges might cost £1 at a UK market, but in Iraq it will be more like £7.

Wednesday 18 March
My first night's sleep was fitful – a mixture of the terrible stories reverberating around my head, and being woken by the buzzing of American helicopters flying low over our neighbourhood. I had assumed that, with the dip in violence, the nights would be quieter – but no. It was time to visit my friend Kamel Najeb, a policeman. He was so happy to see me and we talked about many things, but when I asked about his job he pulled a face, saying: "It is really bad, we don't know who our enemy is. We don't know who we are working for. We capture criminals and they get released later. Militias are getting information about us from very close sources, they have spies everywhere".
He told me he had moved house three times in the past two years, fearing for his family's safety. I left him to his fears, which had added to mine, especially his parting comment: "Don't say anything about anyone." That warning haunted me. We used to get angry about being prohibited from criticising Saddam Hussein and his Baathists but now we can't say anything about anyone. If people don't keep quiet, they can be buried alive.

Thursday 19 March
Today, I suddenly felt the need to visit my student stomping ground – al-Mustansiriyah University, which is the second biggest in Iraq and where I studied engineering in the 1990s. I tried to make my way there along the usual route but found the road blocked by a big concrete wall. When I did make it to the main gate, I noticed an even bigger change. Most of the girls were wearing scarves and few of them were talking to boys. Was this the university I spent four years in? It looked more like a sharia college. When did everyone suddenly become religious? I asked my friend Nawal, a 55-year-old professor, that very question. "Well, at least now we have some girls without scarves," she told me. "A year ago, girls could not come to the university unless they were wearing one. The militias were controlling everything including universities". Although Nawal thinks the situation is much better now, like everything else, it is all relative. I drove away, trying to forget what I had seen but also trying to convince myself that it will change soon.

Friday 20 March
You could call today Perfume Day. My brother-in-law's family had invited me for lunch on the other side of the city but, before I set off, my brother Hassan warned me to tone down my cologne. "In fact, it is better if you don't wear it at all," he said. "otherwise you will be stopped at every checkpoint and we will be late". I just laughed. "I will take the whole bottle with me, I think you are going too far," I told him. We came to one of the checkpoints on the other side of the Tigris. A soldier swung his bomb detection device around the inside of the car and the red light went off. "Please park to be searched," he said politely. I was already late so I asked him why that was necessary, and he said I might be carrying a weapon. "I believe in peace not in guns," I told him. "So you're probably carrying cologne," he replied. At this point, I presented my cologne bottle. After the bottle was removed, he swept the device over the car again and it passed the test. It seems the hand-held device can be set off by perfume and alcohol as well as explosives. At the next checkpoints, I started telling them about the cologne bottle before they even started scanning the car. Eventually we arrived at our destination, where I offered my apologies. "Sorry for being late," I told our hosts. "I got stopped many times because of my cologne." My brother stood there, smiling.

Saturday 21 March 2009
It was the first day of the Persian new year celebrations – an important occasion for the Kurdish minority but a national holiday for the whole country. I had totally forgotten about it. Then I saw many families and youngsters queuing to enter al-Zawra, the biggest park in Baghdad. I hate queues but when I saw that one – getting longer and longer by the minute – I felt optimistic. When I left in 2005, all the parks were closed; no one dared to gather in public places because they were too scared of suicide bombers. Now, children were standing with balloons, vendors were busy selling cold drinks, everyone was smiling. I talked to a family who had come all the way from south Baghdad, "We cannot keep ourselves locked inside our houses, even our children became a bit wild," the father explained. "The situation is much better and we need to forget what happened. We must look to the future."

Sunday 22 March
I got a phone call from friends to have lunch at the restaurant where we'd had our last meal before I left for the UK. On the way, I stopped to pick up my friend Abdullah. He kept saying how much better the situation in Iraq is than before. "Listen," I told him. "I keep hearing this ever since I got back. What is much better? It is much worse than when I left four years ago." Abdullah just laughed. "Well, now at least, we can go out to have lunch. Before, the longest journey would be between the fridge and the dining room. I gained 10kg." I had noticed he was limping when he got into the car and asked him what had happened. Abdullah explained that he was trying to fix his television aerial when a sniper shot him in the leg. "TV was on the only way to know what was going on outside the house," he explained. "But I was lucky. Some people got killed."

Monday 23 March 2009
A highlight of being back in Baghdad has been seeing my two nephews for the first time. Musafa is two and Mohammed is three. It was great to see them in the flesh, to hold them and kiss them. They started calling me amo (uncle). I used to hear this word before from my friends' children but it was meaningless compared to hearing it from my nephews. I have been thinking a lot today about what the future holds for them. I dropped Nihad – their mother and my sister – off at the secondary school where she teaches and, seeing the students rushing to classes, joked that it wouldn't be long before her two boys were joining them. But she was in no rush. "Everything needs to be fixed in our schools. We don't have many desks, toilets are bad, refurbishment is a myth and, on top of that, corruption is everywhere. So I wish the whole system will improve before they go to any school." I was shocked by her answer; she knows what she is talking about because she is an experienced teacher. I wonder whether my two nephews will get the same level of education their mother and I got. Nihad is adamant they will not. "Education is not a priority now," she says. "Security is more important than anything else".
It has been an overwhelming week. While I was away, I thought about Baghdad all the time. Now I'm back I find myself thinking nothing has really changed, but the people who stayed reckon it is much improved. That just makes me realise how bad things must have got. The invasion was six years ago and the only thing I am certain of is that the people and the city have suffered enough.
Some names in this article have been changed to protect people's identities

Petition sign and circulate:

Release Iraqi women hostages, victims of terrorism themselves

بعيدا عن الوطن؛ حراك التضامن مع الوطن فنا، شعرا وكتابةً
Away from Home; Memory, Art and women solidarity: you are invited to an evening of poetry and music 22/3/2017 18:30 at P21 Gallery London click here for more details
Public meeting at The Bolivar Hall, London Sat.14/5/2016 at 15:00 IDPs : Fragmentation of Cultural and National Identity


Protest the suffering of Iraqi Christians: No to terrorism No to state terrorism.Hands off our minorities. Hands off our people. Shame on the human rights violators on all sides. Assemble 11:30 on 28/7/14 near Parliament Square, near Westminister tube station London. For more past events click here


Useful links

Halt All Executions! Abolish The Death Penalty!

We women of Tadhamun condemn the persisting practice of arbitrary arrests by the Iraqi security forces. We condemn their arrests of women in lieu of their men folk. These are 'inherited' practices. We are alarmed by credible media reports of the Green Zone government’s intentions of executing hundreds of Iraqi men and women.

For more info click here

Professor Zaineb Al Bahrani of Columbia University NY speaking at a our meeting on the destruction/damage to historical sites in Iraq

On youtube: Part1
Part 3
One more video:

Human Rights Watch: No woman is Safe


Articles published on this site do not necessarily reflect the opinion of WSIUI or its members

المقالات المنشورة على هذا الموقع لا تعكس بالضرورة آراء منظمتنا أو أعضاء منظمتنا

Samarra Minrate built in 852 AD

Samarra Minrate built in 852 AD
Building of 1 500 massive police station !
From the angle of the photo, it is possible to calculate that the complex is being built at E 396388 N 3785995 (UTM Zone 38 North) or Lat. 34.209760° Long. 43.875325°, to the west of the Malwiya (Spiral Minaret), and behind the Spiral Cafe.
While the point itself may not have more than Abbasid houses under the ground, it is adjacent to the palace of Sur Isa, the remains of which can be seen in the photo. While the initial construction might or might not touch the palace, accompanying activities will certainly spread over it.Sur Isa can be identified with the palace of al-Burj, built by the
Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil, probably in 852-3 (Northedge, Historical Topography of Samarra, pp 125-127, 240). The palace is said to have cost 33 million dirhams, and was luxurious. Details are given by al-Shabushti, Kitab al-Diyarat.
Samarra was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO at the end of June. The barracks could easily have been built elsewhere, off the archaeological site.--
Alastair Northedge Professeur d'Art et d'Archeologie Islamiques UFR d'Art et d'Archeologie
Universite de Paris I (Pantheon-Sorbonne) 3, rue Michelet, 75006 Paris
tel. 01 53 73 71 08 telecopie : 01 53 73 71 13 Email :
Alastair.Northedge@univ-paris1.fr ou anorthedge@wanadoo.fr