I’ve been hibernating since I heard the news about the massacre in El Kharadah district in Baghdad. It is the district where my memories from childhood were, the district where I was raised and taught to be a good woman and be good to others. In Al Kharadah I had my first love, it’s there where my heart broke and I cherished what life gave me after. The sky was filled with tiny stars, the moon was bigger and so were our hopes and dreams. The smell of the orange blossoms filled the street I lived in and the birds were singing in harmony during the four seasons.
I have lived in so many countries since I left Baghdad in 1978, but I don’t remember the addresses and the phone numbers in these countries. Our address in Al Kharadah was 22/4 Abou Klam Street, Baghdad and our phone number was 92408.
I visited Baghdad after the invasion in 2003. Baghdad lost its beauty after the American government launched their ugly war which was based on a lie. I refused to go back to Abu Klam Street because I wanted to keep my good memories and the nice image of that street in my mind. I was tempted to return a few times, but I resisted.
I heard the news about the explosion at al Kharadah district at midnight in Toronto. I called my relatives in Baghdad who live in the neighborhood; they all assured me they were well, but I was told that the news they were hearing were devastating. I called a dear friend a few times but didn’t hear from him and was worried. I kept emailing him and calling him but in vain. Finally he responded after a few days saying:
“I was in the area of the explosion. I pulled my best friend’s deceased body with my own hands. I pulled other bodies and buried them all the same day. I apologize for not being able to respond or talk. The smell of death is still in my nose. Life has no meaning any more. Am I living? I don’t want to live anymore.”
I found no words to respond to his note. In mourning words are mute. I wanted to be close to my friend in Baghdad, hold his hands and cry together for the loss of his friends and the other innocent Iraqis who wanted to celebrate the Eid. There were no fireworks to celebrate the Eid, only the wailings of women who had lost their loved ones. More than 250 innocent lives were lost.
I sat on a bench facing the lake in Hamilton, Ontario the day before yesterday. The sky was full of stars and the reflection on the lake was stunning. The scenery reminded me of Dijlah, the river which was close to our house in Abou Klam. I thought of the continuous suffering of the Iraqis since the invasion. A hundred people die in Iraq every day with thousands forced from their homes. Unrelenting violence, power cuts, water shortages make life unbearable for the Iraqis for day to day basis.
I came back from Hamilton the night after and heard the news about the attack in Nice. I couldn’t believe what I heard and watched. A dear friend was visiting Nice last week, I was horrified of the thought that she could be among the crowd. I remembered my friend in Baghdad and shivered. I kept looking at the TV screen and cried as I have never cried before.
A week ago in Baghdad charred bodies were pulled from the debris and in Nice the bodies of kids were covered with white sheets with their toys beside them. What do the Iraqis who were celebrating the Eid and the crowd who were celebrating a national day has in common? How do murderers give themselves the liberty to take people’s lives? How?
A murderer who was raised in a country that teach hatred by the name of Islam, or a leader who invade another country causing death of innocent people have something in common and that is hatred and rage toward humanity.
Damn you who took the joy from the Iraqis, from the crowd in Nice and from all of us during these continuous years of war. Damn you who turned our lives to fear, damn you who supported the killers. Damn them all.
Let’s mourn the death of the innocent people whoever they were, wherever they lived and let our love to humanity unite us to stop this hatred now otherwise it will hit us all.
Nesreen Melek is an Iraqi exile living in Canada.
First published in Counterpunch