Letters from Iraq- Dec. 6. Karima and Safa
12/6 report from Steve
The day began with a reflection shared by Neville Watson, the 73 yr. old Uniting Church pastor from Perth, Australia. At breakfast, we met Anders, a Swedish journalist who was supposed to have been here last week but was unable to get a visa so stayed in Amman most of the week. He was to tour with the International Fellowship of Reconciliation but will now spend the week with us. The balance of the morning was taken up by doing office work- compiling bios of the whole IPT Team to distribute to the press next week.
This afternoon, Kathy took Dean and I to visit a widow with 9 kids who is being threatened with eviction by her landlord. He claims he wants to tear down her apartment to build something more upscale- gentrification in Baghdad! She is presently paying about $12./month for rent (remember teachers are paid between $2.50 - $5.00/month and she may have to try to secure a different place for close to double of what she is paying now. I think the landlord should reconsider as President Bush likely has other ideas about "urban renewal". Her husband was an indirect victim of the economic sanctions: he died in a car accident due to failed brakes, compounded by lack of spare parts.
The youngest in the family is an 8 year old boy, followed by girls who are 10, 11 (twins), 13, 14, and 15. There is an older boy who has been in trouble with the law for stealing a car but fortunately was released from jail with Saddam's recent amnesty. I did not meet the 9th child. These kids were full of life and the youngest asked me to take out my camera and loved watching the digital photos appear on the screen after he took some pictures. Of course, after that, all of the girls had to take some as well. We will try to find a way to print a few of them to give to the family. I wish I had brought the letter from Joey Olsen with his picture for this visit (I will do so when we can go to a school), but they all loved to see my school photos of Zach and Micah. The joy on their faces is tempered for me when I realize what the continued sanctions and threats of war hold for their future. Please continue to speak and act out to save these precious children of God.
This family is Shia, the majority variety of Muslims in Iraq, and they have a drawing of the martyr, Hussein, son of the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, who is especially revered her after he was killed in Kerbula, a city to the south of Baghdad. here was also a picture of Mary, mother of Jesus who is also revered. Kathy brought small EID gifts for the kids who were excited. Some of the IPT folk will take them and kids from a couple of other families in the area to an amusement park tomorrow as a special EID activity.
Cathy Breen to Dean and I to visit another family later in the afternoon, but the artist we hoped to visit was out with her 3 kids but her husband, Safa, was home. A devout Sunni Muslim (the other major sect which is a minority within Iraq but tends to be better educated), He talked about his service in both the Iraq/Iran War and the war with Kuwait and the US. (the latter is referred to as the short war.) He thinks Americans like Iraqis and their problem is only with our government. He claims Saddam has over 2 million soldiers so he thinks America will be defeated if they attack again. Sadly, like the 3 young men at the border crossing, these men have little idea of the monstrous force they will be up against.
He graciously served us tea (everyone does) but also brought out cake, bread and jam. He studied the Koran in the university and told us that it prophesies that The US, Europe, and Iraq will fight Russia, China, Japan, and Korea- followed by a war between America and Europe and Islam. He had no doubt who would win. (Shades of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson theology with an Islamic twist.)
We hurried back to our hotel for a IPT meeting to continue to discuss our schedules and strategies for our time here. Friday night, 4 of us went to the old city for a folk music presentation that Cathy Breen likens to a mix of jazz and opera. There is a "house band" a 5 member group the consists of hand drums, tambourine, flute, violin, and a stringed instrument one plays with two metal objects. The songs start out slow and almost always end with an upbeat flourish. Each song is typically 8-10 minutes long and there were 4-5 different performers we stayed to watch. Entry cost us a little over $1. for 5 of us, including Mohammed, our driver. Admission also included a glass of sweetened lemon tea.
Since none of us had eaten supper, we asked Mohammed what he'd recommend and then we asked him if he knew of a place that had good falafel and hummus. He took us about a 20 minute walk from our hotel to what appeared to be a fast-food place where we had hummus (2 bowls), falafels (about 20 balls), bread, 2 Pepsis, and John had a chicken sandwich- all for about $2.
I've gotten my first bout of sickness tonight and hoping to rest tomorrow, trying to shake it.