Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Falluja's Attack

Am I angry today? Yes, I am.

Reading and watching the graphic video of Falluja's attack took me back to my memories from "Black Hawk Down"in Somalia a decade ago.

Are there more disgusting acts these ex-Baathists will try to show the world in the future?

What the ex-Baathists are doing is helping people like me realize Iraqis are better off without Saddam. Today's photos show how brutal his party members were to the Iraqi people. What you saw today on the streets of Falluja was previously conducted by Saddam's henchmen behind closed doors.

What hurts me the most is people reading the report and watching the video -- I didn't include it because it's graphical by my standards -- would think most Iraqis support those criminals' acts and views.

I'm sitting here and wondering if the "positive" Iraqi bloggers are really making a difference in this world. You read our posts and think Iraqis are great. Then, you turn on the TV or read the newspapers and reconsider your opinions.

I know most Iraqis are like the Iraqi bloggers, who are trying to make a difference in this world. I know bad news makes more noise than the good news. I know I still have faith Iraq will have a great future. Then, I get depressed from time to time and wonder if this is just a fantasy, or it may become a reality in the near future.

Tonight, I'm going to watch "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"and drink Black Swan Shiraz, my favorite Australian wine. It will help me forget today's dark reality.




Black Hawk Down, The Book



Black Hawk Down, The Movie



Who Framed Roger Rabbit

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Sunday, March 28, 2004

Help With Treatment Of An Iraqi War Victim

As much as I'm happy for the removal of Saddam and his sons from power in Iraq, it fills my heart with sadness when children must pay the price for Iraq's freedom. But, as one of my readers told me, "freedom comes with a price".

Thirteen-year-old Ma’rwa Ahteemi sustained a spinal cord injury in late November 2003 during a U.S. mortar attack, which accidentally hit her home in the Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad. She lost five of her family members during the attack. She was paralyzed below the waist and subsequently developed life-threatening pressure sores. She spent almost three months in an American field hospital in Iraq.

With the help of Iowa National Guardsman SFC John Mileham, who is still serving in Iraq, and two female colleagues, Maj. Mary Adams-Challenger, an Army physical therapist stationed at Ft. Hood, TX and Maj. Sharnell Hoffer MD, a pediatrician from MN and member of the National Guard, Ma'rwa has been evacuated for treatment at the National Center for Children’s Rehabilitation (NCCR) in the U.S.

A special fund has been created to assist in Ma'rwa Ahteemi's rehabilitation efforts:

The Fund for Ma'rwa
National Spinal Cord Injury Assn.
PO Box 631002
Baltimore, MD 21263-1002

Please, help bringing a smile and a better future for Ma'rwa. The links I provided in this post has a link to a PayPal donation page. BUT, I'm sending a check to the above address to ensure it goes directly to her fund.

Thanks to SFC John Mileham, Maj. Mary Adams-Challenger, Maj. Sharnell Hoffer MD, senator Tom Harkin from Iowa, U.S. Department of Defense, the Coalition Provisional Authority, Iraqi Ministry of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Homeland Security for their help to bring Ma'rwa for treatment in the U.S.


UPDATE
If you are sending checks to the fund, make checks payable to "The Fund for Ma'rwa".

Thank you so much for supporting Ma'rwa.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Middle-East Pen Friends

That's what the BBC News call its new cyber project to build a bridge of understanding between two women. Omneya Al-Naggar is an Egyptian school teacher living in Alexandria, Egypt. Orly Noy is an Israeli journalist of Iranian origin, living and working in Jerusalem, Israel.

BBC Arabic.com has asked both women to exchange their views about politics, peace and life via e-mail.

In her first e-mail to Orly, Omneya wrote the following:

I see that we have a lot of things in common, being both working women, mothers, Middle Eastern and neighbours. Yet, there is a gap that divides our two worlds. It might be a similar gap to your two worlds of Iran and Israel.

Can we reconcile our divided worlds? It is a big job, and it needs an insightful spirit able to survive the pains of unwanted memories. We have to face the fact that yes we have a peace treaty, but we lack peace.

This is why we will always look at each other with a big question mark. Believe me I do not like this truth, but I have to acknowledge it.

After starting this project. Many comments were left at the BBC Web site. From reading these comments, I realized there are many people, who wish the BBC would come up with more of these projects. Many of the people, who left comments are either Middle-Eastern or Israelis.

I chose three comments, that caught my attention more than the others.

The first comment is from Arrie Devorah living in Washington DC, USA:

I am a DC journalist. I am also the sister of a man murdered January 29, 2004 in the bus bombing outside Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's residence. My brother Yechezkel Goldberg is the first Canadian murdered in these terror bombings. Soon after, I was sent the BBC link to their story on Yousaf Jaraa. His son Ali murdered my brother and ten other commuters that day. I spoke with the author of the BBC piece. Time well spent because for a single person, I am discovering in my brother's memory I am making a difference. Seven children are without a father. The BBC journalist is considering my request to facilitate my meeting Ali's family. No agenda. Just meet. Whatever is meant to be, will happen. It will be the first time family members of a bomb murder come together. Maybe with all your support, we can make it the last.

The second comment is from Samer living in London, UK:

I always believed that the silent majority in the Arab world and in Israel wants peace. I feel, as an Arab, that we are divided by misconceptions and by media coverage of the extreme. Initiatives like this one by the BBC definitely help bridge the gap. The tragedy of the occupation in Palestine, until resolved, will always be a barrier to peace in the Middle East, but peace can never be achieved without the active participation and faith of peace-loving Israelis.

The third comment is from Samia Adnan living in London, UK:

I am not surprised that the two young women 'clicked' from the first e-mail. I myself am an Arab and I wish that the BBC could apply this experience to a large number of Arabs and Israelis, no matter what their degree of extremism or moderation is, and it will prove far better than a million peace treaties brokered by politicians. This is giving the chance, for the first time, to humans to talk, not politicians. After all, it is people whose lives are affected, and I am certain that people in Israel and also in Arab countries want to get along with their lives in peace. Down with politicians!

I add my voice to the silent majority in the Arab world and in Israel, who wants peace between Arabs and Israelis.

We could achieve peace by starting dialogues like this one. It works.
After starting this blog, I started an e-mail exchange with an Israeli woman, whose married to an Iraqi-Jew and lives in Israel. We 'clicked' from the first e-mail. It's enjoyable how much I'm learning about her world. It was worth starting a dialogue with her.

Peace in the Middle-East will start with reconciling each other. It will start with listening to each other. Until then, I hope for less violence in the Middle East.


UPDATE
The project continues here. You can leave your thoughts in their comments section.

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Monday, March 22, 2004

Newroz Piroz, Happy New Year

Yesterday, I was so happy. Everything filled me with happiness. It was so weird, and I didn't know why I felt so happy.

Today, when reading Kurdo's World, I remembered that yesterday was Newroz day, which explains my happiness. It's the Kurds New Year day, it has been celebrated for thousands of years. Before all organized religions existed, Newroz was celebrated among the Kurds. It's a day full of dancing, laughter and food.

Even though I left Iraq 10 years ago, Newroz is still one of my favorite days of the year. For me, it means happiness and the beginning of Spring season.

I hope the best for the Kurds all over the world. They're warm and happy (and handsome) people if you get to know them.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Awards For World Music And Kathem Al-Sahir

It's nice to know the most famous Iraqi singer in the Middle East, Kathem Al-Sahir, has been awarded the Audience Award at the BBC Radio 3 Awards For World Music 2004. He also won the Middle East and North Africa category.

Non-Middle-Easterners may know Kathem from the "War Is Over" song with Sarah Brightman.

What made Kathem the favorite singer for many Middle-Easterners is his sensitivity. He's definitely the women's favorite singer. Men, including both my dad and husband, can't understand why he sounds like he's crying in most of his songs. He's our Julio Iglesias, excluding the good looks. Still, most Middle-Eastern women think Kathem is a handsome guy. It makes Middle-Eastern men wonder what women "really" see in this guy.

You would find more of Kathem's songs at this link.

If you want to listen to more refreshing Middle-Eastern songs, I recommend you listen to Amro Deyab. My husband LOVES his songs. He's also my favorite Middle-Eastern singer.

I hope you enjoy at least a song or two from the above links.


UPDATE
Here's a video link to Kathem's performance at the awards ceremony. The first song is a love song. The second song is about Baghdad. It's a very nice song where he desscribes Baghdad as his lover. Actually, it's a great song.




Harem

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Passion Of The Christ

I preferred not to comment on the movie till people got to watch it themselves. I watched the movie days after it started showing at movie theaters. I wanted to see the movie for myself before I jumped to any conclusions.

I liked the movie for many reasons. First, I was so happy to see a Jesus with brown eyes and Middle-Eastern looks. The old movies with a blue-eyed Jesus never worked for me. Jesus was born in Palestine. He was a Jew. It makes sense for him to have brown or black eyes. So yes, I loved his resemblance to my mental image of Jesus.

Using Aramaic language -- my native language -- for Jesus' daily communication made so much sense to me. At last, someone took the risk to use an ancient language in a movie telling an ancient story.
During the first few minutes of the movie, I had problems understanding the actors' Aramaic accent. Then I relied less on the subtitles. I was really impressed by some of the actors/actresses who mastered the accent to the point I wondered if these people were pure Chaldean-Assyrians, or were good actors who mastered their lines very well. In either case, they did a great job.

The violence may be too much for people who can't handle these scenes. BUT, we watch worse violence on movies produced for Halloween season and nobody complains about it.

Did the movie harm the Jews? In my opinion, it didn't.
You could look at the dark side and say, "Well, there were many Jews screaming all over the place demanding Jesus' crucifixion," or you could look at the bright side and notice how many Jews sympathized with Jesus during stations of the cross. I looked at the bright side. It could just be my personality.

Let's face it. If Jesus didn't die on the cross, then Jesus would never have risen from death after three days according to the prophecies and the Bible. So, please stop this nonsense of calling Mel Gibson's movie the worst movie ever made about Jesus' passion. The name sums it up, it was Jesus' passion. It was his love to humanity that made him accept this painful and deadly task.

Did anyone go on the streets killing the Jews after watching the movie? No.
Why didn't anyone go on the streets and kill the first Jew they met on their way? Because it's just a movie.

The movie made me reflect on my life. It didn't make me hate any Jew. I have Jewish friends. I would have been the first person to criticize the movie if there was anything wrong about it. I hope people see the movie the way I see it -- as a work of art. Again, it's just a movie.


UPDATE: The small community of Chaldean and Assyrian, who live inside/outside the Middle East kept the Aramaic language alive through the parents' commitment to teach the language to their kids. Chaldean-Aramaic is my first language. Chaldean-Assyiran parents don't allow their kids to speak any other language until they master their native language.

When living outside the Middle East, parents would allow the kids to learn the language of the country where they're living. This would prevent the kids from having any problems at school. Then the parents would start communicating with them in Aramaic at a young age.
My sweet nieces in Australia started learning Chaldean-Assyrian a few years ago. We motivated them by encouraging them to attend the Assyrian singers' concerts in Sydney.
My wonderful 10-year-old niece in Detroit enrolled at the Chaldean church in their suburb, where they teach the language to the kids on Saturdays. Since my niece learned the language, nobody can shut her up any more according to my sister. She really enjoys communicating with her grandparents in the Chaldean language.

So, that's how we saved this language for the last 2000 years.




Passion of The Christ

Monday, March 15, 2004

Spain Elections

I read a few of the Iraqi bloggers' posts today. I could see their frustration with Spain's election results. I did too. BUT, this is the Spaniards' choice. This is what they feel is the best for them at this stage. I respect their choice.

This is how democracy works. You can't force governments on people. People choose their governments. They also change them during elections if these governments are not what people want. That's what I want to see happening in the Middle East. We have governments that have ruled for years and years. After each election the same governments win with 99.99 percent of votes. In the Western world, you can't play this game. You win if people approve of your record.

Spaniards are mourning the victims of the train attacks. With most of the population being against war in Iraq. The results of the election didn't come as a surprise.

Now, did this make the terrorists win this round? Yes, it did.
That's the sad part many people around the world can't see. As Firas said on his blog, nobody is safe from the terrorists. This is bigger than Iraq's war. This is bigger than Afghanistan's war. Coalition forces were not stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan when the terrorists attacked the world trade center in New York city.

Wilfried Martens, head of the European People's Party, an umbrella group for European conservative parties said in a Reuters article that Sunday would go down in history as "the day when Islamic fundamentalism was seen as dictating the outcome of a European election,".

One of my readers described the terrorists groups as a cult. Unfortunately there are still people joining this cult, and there are more and more people who still believe the danger will not reach their doorsteps. This is how the terrorists will win more rounds.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Killing In The Name Of Religion

Since the attacks on the trains in Spain, I hoped no Middle Easterners were behind the attacks. In my heart, I knew the Islamic extremists were behind these attacks. I didn't want to believe it. Unfortunately, the Islamic extremists did it again.

Why are they doing this? This is the question I have been asking myself many times. What religion permits this kind of act? Don't tell me there is somewhere in Islam where it permits the killing of innocent people. If there is, then I probably never knew my Muslims friends very well.

These extremists are destroying the reputation of many good Muslims who are trying to build a good and decent life in America and other Western countries. These acts of terror are widening the gap between the Western and Middle Eastern societies. It's not helping anyone.

Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber, was sentenced to death after being convicted of his brutal crime. You'll never find someone in America who sympathizes with him. On the other hand, Bin Laden is still considered a hero by some people in the Middle East and Asia. That's how wide the gap is between the Western and Eastern worlds when it comes to dealing with extremists of any type.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Letter From Myriam

It always fascinates me when someone sends me a letter to criticize my writing. Here's an example from a person called Myriam at e-mail address mfitz@skynet.be (I usually keep people's e-mails and names secret unless they spit posionous thoughts at us):
  • Marhaba,

    I wonder how an Iraqi can feel happy when her country is OCCUPIED.

    While you rejoice thousands of Iraqis continue to be humiliated,imprisoned and killed by foreign invaders. Iraq's oil revenues will go towards making BECHTEL, HALLIBURTON, KB&R, BUSH and Co richer than they already are.

    Iraq has lost its sovereignty, if you do not understand this it is probably because you ONLY listen to Western voices and read Murdoch's press. Your analysis of the situation is superficial and biased.

    The signing of this project of a new constitution has not been approved by the Iraqi people yet, it is the product of the US administration and of a group of people which were selected by the US. This project does not represent the will of the Iraqi people, it has been imposed on them. It is not a happy end.

    Iraq's troubles are far from over, in fact it is only the beginning of a new chapter in Iraq's history of liberation from foreign invaders.

    It is for the Iraqi people to decide if they are given a chance.

    How easy it is for you who live abroad to forget about BUSH's lies to attack Iraq, about the destruction of Iraq's civil infrastructure, the thousands of civilian deaths, the economic sanctions which were imposed on the Iraqi people for more than 13 years.

    Have you forgotten that the reason for the US and UK's pre-emptive war of aggression on Iraq was to find WOMD!!!

    Have you forgotten that their reason for imposing the immoral and illegal economic sanctions were the WOMD!!!

    All lies, they knew Iraq did not have WOMD, it was just a pretext to attack Iraq.

    Ask yourself: Why doesn't BUSH attack N. Korea?

    Why doesn't he oblige the Zionist State to give up its WOMD?

    LIES, LIES, LIES, nothing but LIES. The tragedy is that Iraqis continue to be the victims. Nothing can be built on LIES. The President of the most powerful state on earth continuously speaks of ROGUE NATIONS and of EVIL, but he is a preacher without morals, without honor and without a conscience.

    In solidarity with the Iraqi people,

    Maa essalama,
    Myriam

The sentence I liked the most is "In solidarity with the Iraqi people,"

Hmmm, Where was Myriam when Saddam gassed the Kurds in Halabja in 1987? Where was Myriam when Saddam killed thousands of Shia for no reason in 1991? Where was Myriam when my best friend's brother was put in jail in 1991, disappeared, and is still missing till this moment? Where was Myriam when Saddam forced the Chaldean and Assyrian population to write "Arab" under their ethnicity group since the 1977 census? Where was Myriam when Saddam wanted to force the Christian students to learn the Koran and its interpretation at high schools during the 70s? I give thanks to our bishops and priests who protested and prevented this rule.

And Myriam seems to forget who liberated Europe from the Nazis, or maybe she's an immigrant to the continent, or maybe she thinks the Holocaust was imaginary or exaggerated.

If I was biased as she said in her e-mail, I would not have watched the movie "Mystic River" with Sean Penn since his political views were opposite to the Bush administration's views regarding WMD. I also would not have cheered loud when Sean Penn won the Oscar this year for his role in this movie. This is what America is about: freedom of speech, religion and press. Go read the American Bill of Rights.

Saddam himself was a WMD. Period.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Iraqi Interim Constitution

It was nice to wake up this morning to news of the Iraqi Governing Council approval of the new Iraqi interim constitution. This is another step forward for the Iraqi people. Hopefully, they will forget their differences and work to rebuild a united Iraq. This is what Iraqis really need these days.

I'm so pleased with the new Iraqi Bill of Rights. For the last few months, I got concerned over Iraqi Christians and other minorities rights under the new constitution. I think I'm satisfied now.

To be honest, I haven't read the whole text of the new constitution. I'll read it after publishing this post. I am really happy for the Iraqi people.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

The Internet And My Circle Of Friends

I read an article on Sydney Morning Herald titled "Confessions of a blogger." The article talks about Dallas-resident Leia Scofield's experience with the blogsphere. So, I decided to forget about world's current affairs today (they will still be there). I decided to write a "thank you" post to all my readers.

Today is the 4th anniversary of meeting Mark, my husband, on the Internet. We met a day before the North Texas Irish Festival. So, we're going to the festival this weekend.

A year later, we had our Justice of the Peace wedding. It was a day before St. Patrick's Day. I call it our immigration paperwork wedding. We had it before the church wedding so we could start the immigration process. I'm not sure how the Irish connection works for me. I know the internet does work for me.

When I started this blog, I hoped to find a few of my old friends from Iraq. I did. Here's the best instance:
A nice Basrawi guy named Hani Anders, who lives in Sweden, found my blog and recognized my name. He e-mailed my details to a dear friend of mine, who lives and works in Jordan. The friend e-mailed me back and asked if I still remember her. I did. It's not easy to forget good friends.

Hani, you have no idea how happy I was to receive Maysa's first e-mail after I lost contact with her 15 years ago.

Because Maysa is still living in the Middle East, she's in touch with many of the people we both know from Iraq. So, I'm finding more people than I thought when starting this blog.

On Feb 28, 2004, I wrote a post on higher education in Iraq and asked people to help Adli Juwaidah with his efforts to improve the work of the Department of Higher Education in Iraq. The next day, I received an e-mail from Hani telling me he knows Adli and his brother very well but lost contact with him 10 years ago. He was very happy to find him again.

Because of this blog, I now have a blend of good friends from different genders, religions and political preferences. That's how lucky I am.

OK. It's 6:27 a.m. I need some sleep. I'll be back to serious blogging next week if not earlier.

Have a nice weekend everyone.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

They Killed Imam Al-Hussein Again

I woke up this morning to news of the terrorist attacks in Karbala and Baghdad. I tried to find any words to write. I couldn't. I'm still speechless.

This is the holiest day for Shias worldwide. For this to happen on the 10th of Ashora, is like watching Imam Al-Hussein being killed again and again and again.

I'm a Catholic who was born and raised in Basrah, where most of the population is Shia. Most of my Iraqi friends are Shia. Every year, I looked forward to Ashora because it meant I would have delicious food cooked by our Muslim neighbors.

Until the mid 1970s, Iraqi Shias were allowed to celebrate Ashora with all it's rituals. I was too young at the time, so my parents did not allow me to watch these rituals on streets of Basrah.

Did I get terrified during those days? No, I didn't.
None of the Christians living in Basrah did. These were peaceful celebrations. It may seem weird for some people (including myself). BUT, I believe in everyone's right -- anywhere in this big universe -- to have their religious rights protected. These rights include celebrating their holy days the way defined by their religion. Whether I agree with the rituals or not, that's not important unless it harms other people. I want other people to have what I want for myself.

I've been reading all day the reaction of Iraqi people. Yes, Shias are angry. But, who of us wouldn't be if their church got bombed on Christmas or Easter Day and we witnessed friends or family members dying in front of our eyes?

Yes, some people inside Iraq will blame the coalition forces for one reason or another. Please, remember these are people in mourning. Iraqis blame the government for any bad thing happening to them. It's part of the Iraqi culture. Right now, CPA and coalition forces are considered the government in Iraq. So, when you watch the videos or read the news, don't be surprised of such accusations.

Did I expect this to happen on 10th of Ashora? Yes, I did. The foreign insurgents who have been trying to divide the Iraqi population for the last 10 months couldn't find a better day than this holy day to attack the Iraqis.

Did these people, whoever they are, achieve their goal? It's up to the Iraqi people to answer this question.

"We call on all dear Iraqi sons to be more vigilant against the schemes of the enemy, and ask them to work hard to unite and have one voice to speed up regaining the injured country's sovereignty and independence and stability," Al-Sistani said in regard to today's attacks.

I agree with him. Let the Iraqi people unite for once in their life. Let's not accuse each other. Let Sunnis put their hands in Shias hands to pass these hard times.

I really can't find more words to say. I cried. I got angry like the rest of the Iraqi people. I can only say, "Let the Iraqis unite against the terrorists."