Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Um Noor: Inside Iraq

April 16, 2007

Is there a proverb that says everything unpredictable happens in the morning?

A knock on the front door at seven in the morning is not predictable; I jumped. What now?

I look out the entrance window hesitantly to find a small lady covered in black from head to toe, standing outside.

Um Noor!

Um Noor (mother of Noor) is a sweet soul in a tiny frame, who used to come help me with household duties once a week, from 2000 until I went away in Feb, 2003.

I am ecstatic! I have been trying to find her ever since I came back; she is so energetic and so proud of her faultless work.

I open the door with a cry of welcome on my lips, and she comes in. She looks at me and bursts out crying.

And the story comes pouring out.

She was happily married for twenty years, when Iraq was occupied.

After a while strange, little used words start flying around.

Sunni … Shiite … Sunni … Shiite … Then fighting started breaking out because of this long submerged difference. In her neighborhood, as in the greater majority of Baghdad's neighborhoods, no one is really sure who on their bloc is Sunni, or Shiite; and nobody really cares.

Soon after, the IEDs and car bombs started taking their toll from people still bewildered as to: Why is this happening?

BOOM! She loses her husband, on his way to work, a Shiite.

Being a Sunni herself, she is urged - very strongly - to move away; their part of Amil is Shiite controlled.

Having nowhere to go, she stays.

A car stops in front of their home.

BANG, BANG, BANG! She loses her son (20), her brother, and nephew

She takes her remaining children and flees, finding no haven - except in Abu Ghraib, (Sunni controlled) where she lives in perpetual fear lest her dark secret be uncovered: that her kids are – of course – Shiite.

Her two remaining sons (16 and 10) live imprisoned in their hut; she has buried all their IDs and tells everyone that they got lost …………and as a result they cannot receive rations.

They are starving to death.

How, and why, has it suddenly become important, this Sunni – Shiite business; and since when did Iraqis care?

I myself had not even heard the terms until I was an adult.

How to help????????

Can anyone see a light at the end of this dark, dark, tunnel?

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