Photo Project

Check out this project I interpreted for with photographer Ilana Panich-Linsman for Iraqirefugeestories.org.

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Do Something.

It’s been too long. I have been caught up in all the glitz and glam that is America and neglected my writing. Lame, I know. But it’s true: craziness and depression are the best aides when it comes to artistic expression; and back in the USA I am just far too normal and happy.

That’s no excuse though. Since being back I have fallen off the wagon after over two years and resumed my NPR addiction – 2 times a day, morning and evening. I can’t stop. The result is my mind being overloaded by problems and ideas. I have to start doing something with all of it instead of just thinking about it and discussing it. I HATE just talking about stuff and never doing anything.

So I figured a good first step is to write again.

More to come…you can hold me to it.

Top Ten

After two and a half years I am leaving the Middle East and moving back to the good ‘ole US of A! My countdown for the best moments in Jordan/things I will miss…

10. “When forever is through, I’ll be over you.” – Cheesy overplayed 90’s love songs

9. Floating instead of having to actually keep from drowning – the Dead Sea.

8. Drinking Coronas from duty free on the Israeli border…or just Duty Free in general

7. Argila (Hookah) ….the gateway for all smokers who ever lived in the middle east

6. Pulling an all nighter to watch Obama win the election…then going to class drunk on no sleep and too much caffeine

5. Waiting is the hardest thing to do…although I won’t miss it…lots of waiting in Jordan

4. The sheep, goats and donkeys: driving this morning i had a surreal moment where “Circle of Life” by Elton John came on the radio. I saw two donkeys on the side of the road and for two beautiful seconds thought they were grazing antelope. oh the things you do to me, Elton. I will also miss lying on the customs card about being in contact with livestock….uh yeah, i walk through their shit everyday đŸ™‚

3.CHILIS BECOMING MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT – ONLY IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY COULD THAT EVER HAPPEN

2. MASTERING THE ART OF SARCASM IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE – PROBABLY ONE OF THE BEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF MY LIFE

1. THE FOOD! DUH. DO YOU KNOW ME AT ALL? TEA WITH FRESH MINT, LEBNEH, KIBSEH, SHWARMA REEM, FALAFEL AL QUDS, HUMMUS WITH FIL FIL, KANAFEH, TURKISH COFFEE, OOZIE, MANAQEESH, LABAN, LEMON AND MINT, GALAYAH, FATAH, ARAYAZ, SHAWARMAMA…


http://www.savedarfur.org/

Praying for One’s Enemies

I find it difficult to conceive of a more concrete way to love than by praying for one’s enemies. It makes youconscious of the hard fact that, in God’s eyes, you’re no more and no less worthy of being loved than any other person, and it creates an awareness of profound solidarity with all other human beings. It creates in you a world-embracing compassion and provides you in the increasing measure with a a heart free of the compulsive urge to coercion and violence. And you’ll be delighted to discover that you can no longer remain angry with people for whom you’ve really and truly prayed. You will find that you start speaking differently to them or about them, and that you’re actually willing to do well to those who’ve offended you in some way.

-Henri Nouwen

Pray for Nigeria.

March 7, 2010

Today in Iraq and around the world Iraqis are voting for Parliamentary candidates.

At 10 am there have already been 24 deaths and 55 injuries in Baghdad from mortar blasts and other attacks trying to deter voters from the polls.

Why is this day so important? Well firstly, it’s something the old Iraq was never privileged enough to experience. Under the Baath Party, the only name on the ballot was Saddam Hussein. Now, there is a sense of genuine democracy, however thwarted by militant and insurgent groups.

At it’s essence democracy is the representation of every individual, giving him or her an equal voice regardless of religion, gender or social class. That is a beautiful thing. I do not believe it is the end-all answer to the nation’s problems, but it is a start, and it is a symbol.

Change begins at the individual level. Healing begins when the individual realizes that change. Today Iraqis emerge from their muffled state. After decades under an oppressive regime, suffocating sanctions and endless wars and occupations, the current situation is equally grim. However, they have a voice.

In Arabic, “to vote,” Sawat, means literally “to voice.” Isn’t that great? Democracy may not restore security or stability to this troubled nation, but it may restore a sense of self, a sense of existence – of being heard. Many are literally risking their lives to be heard today. It’s tragically inspiring.

There are too many unknowns in the political climate of Iraq. It is such a convoluted and twisted mess. I start to pray, and I don’t know where to begin. So my wish for the resilient people living in the cradle of civilization is that healing would begin as they once again grasp that they are individuals worthy of choice and freedom.

Follow the Elections and happenings of the day, and please, pray for the safety of those going to the polls.

A Slow Death

4.8 million Iraqis have been displaced, internally and externally, since 2003. Seven years later, where are they?

Recently as I translated for an American photographer doing a project on refugee women, I was able to visit some of my clients in their home. I realized how valuable this time was, something I took for granted when I used to visit my Iraqi friends who have now moved to other countries.

I hear many stories in my office, and they do affect me. But there is something about sitting behind my desk that keeps some distance. It’s a protective barrier that I need most days. It prevents the experience and predicament of the client from completely overwhelming and engulfing me.

But then I go to their home. Sitting on the farash, those cushions on the floor, I see the lives they live. These individuals, two middle-aged sisters, came in the mid-nineties seeking medical treatment. Under the sanctions, the situation in Iraq was so bad that many couldn’t find basic items they needed, so medical supplies were scarce. They have lived in the very apartment I sat in for 11 years. Waiting. When I say apartment, I am speaking of one room with a small kitchen and bathroom. The neighborhood  is “local,” as they like to say, so the women don’t feel comfortable going out very often.

A man sat in my office yesterday. He was a leading commander in the Iraqi police force and he assisted the coalition forces in tightening security in Baghdad, Basra and Mosul. He and his family fled to Jordan after a number of death threats and assassination attempts. He has been here since 2007. Waiting. Frustrated when I told him that there was no news or developments regarding his file, he said, “Life for Iraqis is like a slow death. It’s a slow death.”

I visited the Noor Hussein Foundation a few weeks ago. I was interested in the services they provide for Iraqis and how I might refer my clients to them. I spoke with a doctor who heads many services at the foundation. She told me how they are initiating group therapy for refugees, trying to prepare them mentally for the fact that they may not be resettled abroad, or that perhaps they should try returning to Iraq.

According to surveys, the majority of Iraqis, when asked how they see their future, expect to receive resettlement to countries such as the United States, Germany, Sweden and Australia. When these expectations are not met year after year, the mental and emotional affects are severe and far-reaching.

The question remains: What should we be doing about the displacement of these people? I don’t have the answer. There is no doubt that the situation in Iraq, with the exception of Kurdistan, is far too unstable for people to return to their “normal” lives. If you think differently, ask yourself, Would I let my son, daughter, sister or parent go and live in Baghdad right now? (Without being armed with an automatic weapon).

Many of my clients are Asylum Seekers, registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Because many of them have not experienced direct threats, it is unlikely they will ever be resettled. According to regulations, they do not meet the criteria to be resettled. They do not deserve to be resettled. They can’t find work in Iraq; they don’t feel safe there. Unfortunately, these aren’t great enough reasons for them to move and live elsewhere, on another government’s dime or not. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Until Iraqis can safely return to Iraq, a wider system must be implemented for the displaced, one that addresses their needs beyond resettlement. There are too many holes in the system. There are too many refugees in limbo, barely surviving a slow death.

More:

http://fourpointeightiraqis.blogspot.com

http://blog.iraq-itag.org/?p=41