Tuesday, May 18, 2004

In Our Name

From Mohammed at Iraq the Model:

The point behind all these pictures and stories I mentioned is that the people started to speak out and express their feelings and here we’re in great need for support from the free world to back the progress. Moving back is absolutely unacceptable; we’ve put our feet on the right way and we need help from the others. Never let the bad pictures lay their heavy shadow on the good, bright ones. The negative media want our eyes to pause on the bad events to win time in this worldwide battle and to make us forget the good pictures that encourage us to keep the momentum. This includes most of the major western media.

They are ‘unconsciously’ supporting the terrorists and the totalitarian regimes in the region to stop this great progress. The media have managed to create some distrust and hate between some Iraqis and some of the coalition and the west in general. Well, not in my city, it seems to be immune to their poison.

The road is long and hard but together, we can do it.

You probably read this blog already, but if you're not, start now. And be sure to check out the links to other Iraqi bloggers on the right side of the page. If you want to know what's happening over there, cut out the middleman. Listen to what Iraqis themselves are saying. Because if you wait to hear it on the evening news, you'll never hear stories like this one:

On the road to the residents’ house we passed near the coalition base in Samawa; the striking and ugly feature of this base, like any other one is, the concrete wall that surrounds it. These walls initiate a sensation of fear in the hearts and a feeling that there’s a huge block between the people and the coalition. I understand the security necessity of these walls but they still form an unpleasant sight for everyone, except this particular one. The coalition forces here invited all the kids-and their parents-in the neighborhood for a special festival, the kids were given paints and brushes and a definite area of the wall was assigned for each kid to paint on whatever he likes and to sign his painting with his/her name. I leave it for you to imagine how this hateful wall looked like after this festival. It became a fascinating huge painting that gives a feeling of brotherhood and friendship. These paintings eliminated all the psychological walls between the folks and the coalition here.

At the end of the festival, gifts were given to each kid; toys, clothes, candies…
You can’t imagine how happy the kids were when they stood proudly pointing at their paintings; flowers, birds, hands shaking and the flags of Iraq and the coalition countries, and then pointing to their names; Zahra, Mohammed, Sajjad, Fatima… together with phrases like; yes for peace, Saddam has fallen and many others. No one can watch this without having tears filling his eyes and I feel sorry that I couldn’t take pictures for this carnival, as I wasn’t there when it happened, but the people there told me the whole story.

And this one:

The pictures I see are so many and they bring hope, I remember the last day I spent there before I returned to Baghdad, and I was watching Al-Samawa local TV (now they have their own local station) and it was broadcasting one of the sessions of the district’s council when a woman stood up wearing the traditional costume and behind her was a group of women, she started to yell in the face of the chairman of the council saying “Listen to me! You can’t ignore our voice anymore. These women elected me and put their trust in me and I demand authorities like those of men. My voice will not stay low from now on and I have to give those who elected me what they need”. I don’t think you can realize the meaning of this picture. It simply means that we have moved tens of years forward in a matter of months and we have broken the chains of a long dark past. The cry of this woman was enough to awaken me to the great progress that happened.

Whenever I read a story like this, I cannot help but think of my trip to Europe in March of 2002. I had a friend living in Brussels, and so I went over to spend spring break with him and his girlfriend. Pretty much everything in Europe is within easy driving distance, especially if (like me) you grew up in Kansas and are used to long stretches in a car. So we went up from Brussels to Amsterdam, which I had never visited before.

As we were coming out of the Rijksmuseum (Rembrandt! Van Gogh! Vermeer! Duerer!), we found ourselves in the midst of a stream of people, on their way to a protest in a nearby park. And on nearly every person there was a sticker: Not In Our Name. (Actually, a lot of the stickers said "Niet in onze naam," but you get the picture.)

This is what I think of every time I see any news at all from Iraq or Afghanistan. A roadside bomb kills an American GI-- not in your name. A hellfire missile kills four Iraqi children-- not in your name. Prisoners mistreated and humiliated in Abu Ghraib-- not in your name. You were right, bad things have happened. And not in your name.

On the other hand... An Iraqi woman stands up in a town meeting and demands rights for herself and her sisters-- not in your name. The Iraqi national soccer team winning a spot at the Olympics, motivated by love of country and love of sport, not by the threat of torture and death for them and their loved ones if they fail-- not in your name. Millions of Iraqis with cell phones and internet access, busily finding out about the world outside their villages and cities-- not in your name. Iraqis setting up their own newspapers, and television and radio stations-- not in your name. Iraqis marching in the streets, peacefully protesting against Coalition Provisional Authority policies-- not in your name. Iraqis protesting against the terrorists who attack Coalition forces-- not in your name. Shi'ite pilgrims making their way to sacred shrines, free to worship as they choose-- not in your name. Iraq's marshland ecology being restored, along with the culture of the marsh Arabs-- not in your name. Money from the sale of Iraqi oil, flowing not into the pockets of the dictator and his cronies (or crooked UN bureaucrats) but back to the Iraqi people themselves. Baathist thugs awaiting trial for their crimes-- not in your name. Local elections all over Iraq-- not in your name. Sunnis and Shi'ites, Arabs and Kurds (as well as marsh Arabs, Assyrians, Turkomens, etc.), all working together to govern their own country-- not in your name.

All this, and much more, is not in your name. I am happy with the choice I made. I take the good and the bad together, working to reduce the bad, and knowing that in the balance it is good. This was right. And every year that passes will show more and more that this was the right decision, the moral decision. And I will not be ashamed to stand and say that it happened in my name.


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