Sunday, November 04, 2007
I went to Mosul, we had two damns, one in the north of mosul, and one in suliemania, these didn't have enough military defense, so I went to kirkuk to the staff general Marshal to tell him about the lack of defense.
When I arrived they were having lunch, a whole heap of about 30 generals sitting at a huge table. The general marshal sitting at the head of the table. A muslawi.
I saluted, he called for me, ifathaal hooni (in maslawi dialect "have a seat"), I said I'm not military sir, he said you're better than military, come sit next to me,
I shook his hand, May Allah help you and bless you,
I told him the story. He told His assistant general to meet with him after lunch for amore official meeting because this was important.
Later on because I was speaking maslawi, he asked me where are you from ? I said I'm originally from Baghdad city, but Ive lived in mosul for 12 years and I'm taba3ia mosul.
He stood up and yelled "ishnoo ishqilit ? taba3yia irania ?" (what did you say ? you're iranian by ethnicity?) I said "Ya saidi I said taba3ia mosul, like you !" He sat down and was laughing. I didn't understand.
The other generals were asking me, what did you tell him ? I said taba3ia mosul, they said that;s what we heard.
I told him the whole story of my taba3ia again.
Who did you marry in Mosul ? He said who did you marry in Mosul maybe I know the family.
I told him "abdulhakeem amin" He was like "oh that guy was my commander when I was lieutenant.
the funny bit here is that this leutenant thought my grand dad was taba3ia iran, which would have been dangerous since the war at the time was with iran.
One time I was returning from suliemania to kirkuk to go back to Baghdad. Usually in the head of the city there would be a police station to monitor the entry and exit in and out of the city.
That day is was raining heavily, when I reached the police station, I tooted my car, no body answered, I dind't want to go out in the rain, so I drove on.
10 minutes later, a police car came chasing me, the guy in the car was yelling "RAUSTA RAUSTA" stop in Kurdish.
He asked why didn't you stop ? no one was there ! no you have to go back
So I went back, a seargant came out, took me inside, I gave him my Identification, he took it and put it away, SIT DOWN ! you're arrested.
I said thank you for arresting, but I need the phone, because I'll be late to an appointment with the general commander of the military. Can I call ?
So I called , the assistant of the commander answered, "come in where are you ? we're waiting for you " I said I wasn't close yet, because the searagnt took my identification and arrested me
He said "YAAKUL KHARA" give him the phone. (means HE CAN EAT SHIT!)
The seargant took the phone, suddenly he stood up to attention to the phone "YES SIR, OK SIR, YES SIR"
The assistant spoke to me again, come down now, bring the seargant with you.
The sargant gave me the card, and was so scared now he waslike a mouse, there were soldiers in the entrance of kirkuk barracks, they stopped us and cuffed the seargant and took him inside, by that time he was almost ready to pee his pants.
I came inside I saw the commander, "who is this idiot who did this to you?"
I said "Sir I beg of you, I don’t' want this guy to die from a heart attack, let him off"
So he called up his people "feed him and let him go"
The seargant got the fright of his life just now, so from then on he never got in my way again, other times I'd come down to them I'd give them the card, they'd so get outta here we know who you are, what would you like ? tea ? lunch ?
This happened to me a lot, but I never worried about it because I had in my pocket a letter from the minister of defense, and I wasn't doin anything wrong.
I hope you can understand it, I basically wrote down exactly what he said (with instant translation)
The mosul damn, I was the manager for the project. Usually large projects like this need a base marble on which is written the name of the project and the date . the price we got for the stone was 120 dinar. For one stone !
We went to the guy who sold us the stone,
salams, did you quote us the price ?
120 dinar is a lot, why so much ? ok let's count
Hillania (I don't know what this means)
It worked out to be 35 dinar, + 25 dinar profits, why 120 ? (this story is from the 1970s, when the iraqi dinar was equal to 3 US dollars)
He turned to the purchasing committee who had come with me, asking "why did you bring this guy with you ? I was hoping the guy from Baghdad would come down so I can charge him lots!" The purchasing committee went nuts and trying to shut this guy up "This IS the Baghdad guy !"
He; like "No, this guy speaks likes us !"
So I said "I' came from Baghdad but I'm taba3ia mosul" (taba3ia means have origins from that place or ethnicity)
He said what ?
I said "I came to mosul when I was 6, all my education was in mosul, my university was a mosul scholarship. I married from mosul"
He said "Well then you're one of us !"
So I said "Ok then give it to me for 40 dinar, you have a 20 dinar profit"
He's like , ok 50 dinar, fine.
They had sent the director of purchasing and administration to suprvise me, from the baath party official. He asked me what I'd done.
So I called up one of the purchasing committee members, his name was francis, I asked him "what do you think should I tell him the price or give him the whole story ? Francis said, tell him the whole story it was a good thingh you did.
When I returned to Baghdad, the official dude told the minitester, the minister was my friend, I knew him from before. He sent for me.,
At his office, he took me to the board meeting room, I told him the whole story and he was laughing , He then sent me a letter of thanking and appreciation, with a 100 dinar bestowment.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I woke up feeling the car coming to a stop; I lift my head from the makeshift front seat bed. After 12 hours of driving, my body had gotten used to the bumps and shakes accompanied with driving on the Iraqi interstate freeway, or whatever they call it down here.
"Where are we?", Jabbar, my driver, doesn't seem the least bit perturbed, he did however look a bit nervous from the way his eyes kept darting around, he pointed "That way is Falluja, you go I cannot take you further"
Squinting my eyes I could see a city about half an hour's walk. Although the term city could hardly be used for these rows of mud brick houses and scores of minarets standing tall amongst the ruined city, it looked like a medieval township. "Jabs mate, you've come this is far! Can't you take me closer?"
"No Sam this very dangerous for me, these Dlaimia will kill me" Apparently those 'Dlaimia' didn't like my driver so much" It'll be fine bro just take me a bit closer!" My driver looks at me with unease "Sam my friend, Iraq is a big country with a lot of beoble" "a lot of beoble fighting all the time all the beoble" Wow. I was surprised things here were so bad this guy couldn't come within half an hour of cities. I'm so glad I didn't bring any large suitcases outside the car I hugged Jabbar and thanked him, I handed him the money but he didn't accept it. "Sam ya akhi, you will need this money more than me" He looked at me in sadness, "Sam you are a good boy, be careful there a lot of bad beoble here, do not die", and with that, he drove away. The half hour walk to Falluja was exactly as disgusting as I thought it would be, the ankle deep mud tried its hardest to halt my march on the city. The sun was giving me all it had-even thought it was almost 4pm; I was glad then for the heat wave Melbourne was experiencing before I left, otherwise I would not have been standing now, battling this lake of mud.
Finally I made it to some houses, all laid out in neat rows which had now deviated and went every which way. I could make out people now, five little kids running around what looked to be a soccer ball but was not, screaming their lungs out at each other and the ball. They were all wearing the same long dusty outfits, it was very impressive how they could maneuver a ball or even run with a dress that reaches to their feet, but there they were doing it! Women dressed in large shawls covering their hair, almost hovering it seems because their clothes covered their feet. There was an old man walking very slowly with an ancient stick, had he been in Australia I would have thought he was taking a nice stroll down his street, it was a very quiet moment then and I was about to take out my camera and filming but thought the better of it. Just then, a loud voice sounded in the horizon, first it was that single strong crisp voice that called and stretched for a long while before a symphony of voices all alone but together non the less joined in this call, these calls, strong yet calming, powerful and beautiful, with their long melodic tones and sad rhythms, overwhelmed me again and again, washing over me like deliciously hot water in winter time, and I remained in place determined to feel every decibel of sound, the hair on my body stood in anticipation and relish for this sound, for that minute I wanted nothing more than to be in that place, at that time, and listening to that call.
Thus, it came to and ends, and opening my eyes after what felt like the best shiatsu massage ever, before me was a city transformed. The kids playing soccer had tripled to about 12 and were all leaving the dirt square soccer field, I could easily make out dozens of people all leaving their homes, all walking in the same general direction.
So I started walking along, initially nobody noticed me, but an aussie with a Stussy backpack and ozi rags can only blend in for so long in a city like Falluja, the little kids were pointing at me, the women eyed me from the corner of their eyes and spoke feverently to each other, some men were looking directly at me with a mixture of surprise and amusement.
We finally reached our destination, a tall minaret with an impressively built mud brick mosque, it had the same color tone as the houses and other buildings here but it was a lot higher which made it stand out.
I walked in, half way through the flood of shoes on the floor I realized that I should probably take off my shoes as well, I stood there for a second admiring my white adidas shoes amongst the sandals and slippers, praying no one steals them I walked in, the mosque inside was a lot cleaner than I gave it credit for, the carpets were bright red, the walls were a subtle white creamy color, everyone in the mosque was dressed in white or gray. I sat in the back and waited to see what would happen. People were walking in and making what seemed to be random prayers, one of the men noticed me sitting and walked over to me "Alsalamu alaikum"
"Hi" I answered, feeling sheepish; I'm supposed to say something else
"You are Amereekany?"
"No, I'm Australian, I'm here to make a documentary" then remembering the right term "Making a film about Falluja"
"Filim?" He looks at me for a second "where you are living?"
Realizing that I had nowhere to stay "Nowhere for now, are there hotels around here?"
"This is Falluja, not Seedny, but I will find you a blasé" I watched him walking over to the front side of the mosque and started speaking to a man also dressed in a long dark grey dress, but who also sported a beard and a funky red top. They looked at me and spoke some more.
The man came back to me and offered me a smile and his hand "My name is Abu Ali, you will stay with me"
I shook his hand and took his smile "Pleased to meet you Abu Ali, my name is Sami"