29 April 2017

Baghdad Burning Again

eplosion in baghdad
Picture from reuters.com
This is Baghdad tonight. A car has exploded and the streets of AlKaradah are filled with smoke and the smell of death and burned metal. People are shouting, trying to clear up the scene and deal with the wounded people. Just another explosion, just another dead Iraqi and just another day in Baghdad.
How can the leaders of Iraq sleep tonight? How can they sleep at all, knowing they can't bring peace to their home and people.
 
My heart goes to those who will be grieving tonight.
 

23 April 2017

Chubby Cheeks

cats
Photo from @hosico_cat

Pick another word!


Hate islam

Hate islam

Hate islam

Hate islam


I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post on "Weird Facts" page about a Muslim girl making a point on twitter and defending Islam. I thought it was strange for this particular page  to post a  political/religious article since it's not about that. I was curious to read the comments and what people thought about the story- It is true what they say, curiosity killed the cat. I am the cat in this case and my heart just died a little. Almost every single comment is hateful towards Islam and the middle east, I attached some of the comments as proof.
I am confused and I don't know what am I supposed to feel when I read these comments. I mean, I believe in one God. I pray 5 times a day, a prayer looks like Yoga steps so its like I do sport. I like reading, one of my usual books is called The holy Quran. I pay Zakat and once every year for 30 days I don't eat from sunrise till sunset. All that makes me a Muslim. So, a Muslim likes sport, reading, charity and diet! I see no terrorism, rape or murder here.
The "Muslims" those comments accuse of being terrorists are nothing like me, my family or my friends. So why are they calling them Muslims?
My passport says I am Muslim. Those comments are accusing Muslims of being terrorists. So its like they are accusing me of being a terrorist!
If Islam is about terrorism then we are not Muslims. If Muslims are not terrorists, then for gods sake pick another word to call those terrorists.




21 April 2017

Famous Iraqis

From the darkness of this sad world, rise a strong and successful generation. I will share with you some of the successful (By my standards) Iraqi people. Some are new generation and some are not.

- Zaha Hadid: An Iraqi/British architect who has won many great medals and awards.
Kathem Al-Saher: The Caesar of Arabic Song. He is an Iraqi singer and song writer. He is one of the few people I wish to meet in person.
- Riverbend: An Iraqi blogger, author of Baghdad Burning. Her identity is a mystery but I don't think I will ever read an article as beautiful as one written by Riverbend.
- Huda Kattan: Known in the makeup world as HudaBeauty, she is a blogger and the creator of her own beauty line called Huda Beauty.
Jafar Dhia Jafar: He is an Iraqi nuclear physicist. A Successful business man and a great person.
Zainab Salbi: An Iraqi/American author, women's rights activist, humanitarian, social entrepreneur, and media commentator. She is the founder of Washington-based Women for Women International.
Salam Pax: The famous Iraqi blogger and creator of "Where Is Raed" blog. There is a book about him.
Mina AlSheikhly: An Iraqi fashion blogger. I first heard about her when she was a photographer, her talent grew into fame. She is well known in the middle east social media @minaalsheikhly.
Rifat Chadirji: He is the greatest modern architect of Iraq. He is also known as author and activist.
- Raya Ani: Powerful Iraqi architect and urban designer, owner of RAW-NYC Architects.
- Dewan Architects: One of the top ranking Iraqi-owned architectural firms in Dubai. I admire them because they support young talents. They offer internships to the winners of Tamayouz Excellence Award.




19 April 2017

My first visit to Baghdad since 2006

The first thing I noticed when the plane landed on Iraqi soil was the huge Iraqi flag, hanging from the control tower all the way down to the bottom. I felt the pride of Iraqis, the feeling of belonging was so intense. I was so existed to hear people speaking Iraqi accent everywhere, I truly felt at home. Then the drive to my grandfather's house started- May god rest his soul in peace, the house where I grew up and had the most precious memories of childhood. I was trying to look everywhere and absorb everything, I couldn't get enough of Baghdad. Then we reached that beloved home, I stepped through its big rusty white gate and I felt magic, the feeling of tingling in your chest and butterflies in your stomach. Memories rushed through my mind and I really didn't know what to look at and where to start. My parent's were busy talking to the taxi driver and I just wanted the world to stop so I can keep his moment forever. The house, although occupies by people using some of its rooms to protect it from being stolen, was just the same and the unoccupied rooms were just the way we left them 11 years ago. My room was full of snow white posters dated 1999 and beautiful dolls and pink girly stuff that belonged to the teenage me. We spent the following week organizing stuff and preparing the ground floor of the house to be rented while keeping our stuff tugged away in the first floor. I went through old books, radios and pictures and I was in pain trying to decide what to take with me back to Dubai because I cant take it all. I ended up taking vintage printed photos and things that have personal value- things that belonged to my parents and grandparents. The week was also full of gatherings and meetings with old friends and distant relatives. Then the magic was over and reality came crashing down.
Baghdad looks like a ghostly circus, the architecture of the once dazzling houses and mansions is terrible. Bizarre decorations with absolutely no consideration for the context and surrounding vintage buildings. It is very obvious that the Mayoralty Of Baghdad is not doing its job, or the designs are not going through it for approvals before construction. The streets are dirty, the infrastructure is destroyed, there is no greenery and no public services. And the traffic, if I thought I had seen crazy traffic in Dubai-Sharjah during the rush hours, I was in for a big surprise. I have always considered myself an excellent driver but truth be told, if you haven't drove in Iraq, you know nothing about driving. There are no traffic signs and cars enter the intersection from all sides- it is a mess. Most of the beautiful luxury places are burned such as the Officers Club (نادي الضباط). I won't even start talking about the urban context of Baghdad.
I wanted to see the royal palaces but I couldn't for obvious reasons- they don't belong to the people anymore. You can't drive by and see the gate as before. I did however visit the most popular shopping place in Baghdad (Al Mansoor) area, it was almost the same as I remember. I used to go shopping for Eid in these streets, as usual I have memories everywhere.
My grandfather had Baghdad in his mind till his very last day. He wanted to come back, he wanted to see his house, his precious vintage car, his belongings and his dear neighbors. This is one of the many cruel outcomes of war. Grandparents are supposed to retire in peace among sons, daughters and grandchildren. Watch the lives of their babies as they grow up and become doctors, engineers, architects and lawyers. Instead they sit outside their homes, watching helplessly as the war takes away their homes, their past, their children and eventually, their lives.
I realised in this visit that Baghdad as I remember it, is gone. The things I used to write about in my blog are mostly gone. I used to dream about coming back home, while now I wonder where home is.

16 April 2017

@smoothiethecat

cats
Photo from @smoothiethecat

This is Smoothie, from the Instagram account @smoothiethecat. It is said to be the most photogenic cat in the world- I agree. 

13 April 2017

Social Media Before, During & After War

I have been on Facebook since its  original appearance-  a collection of profiles you could visit to know a person's favourite colour and other personal information. I think I prefer it that way, it was unique and served its purpose as a social media website. It wasn't open to the public during the war and I think we were lucky that it wasn't. Why? Because people on Facebook don't always bother to check the accuracy and reliability of the critical information they are so recklessly sharing. An example would be the false news shared during the Mosul war. Some despicable creatures use this flaw to share false and incorrect news to make people hate a particular group, religion or nationality. This action causes what I call a digital civil war- where people attack each other through comments.
 
I am not targeting Facebook, this digital civil war is happening on other social media apps as well, like Instagram and Twitter but since Facebook is the most used app for various age groups, it causes the biggest damage. I have said it in Baghdad Girl and I will say it again here, the media is supposed to be an HONEST tool of delivering news to the people, right or wrong, good or bad, it should be delivered as it is. I got so much criticism when I defended Saddam Hussein for being wronged in the time of his execution in 2006 but I didn't care. I said what needed to be said since no one else bothered to do so. I later found out that many people felt the same way, hence Riverbend's post "A Lynching" in December 31, 2006. Back to the original subject, Facebook in the middle east or at least My Facebook, is so confusing. You see posts of people dying in Mosul, then you see posts of people having lunch in a fancy restaurant. Instagram is no different, you see people posting giveaways and others crying over their childhood house which has been destroyed with a bomb during the recent ISIS war in Mosul.
 
It's like you have to divide your day into two parts, one is for living and being as happy as you can be and the other is for mourning the deaths of loved ones and supporting relatives and friends who are still stuck in this ugly war.

You can't let go, but you have to somehow join the flow..

12 April 2017

@hosico_cat

cat
Photo from @hosico_cat























This is Hosico, from the Instagram account @hosico_cat. It is one of the most lovable cats that I always look up. 
I decided that I will still post cat pictures in this blog because I still love them, but I am gonna do it differently this time. I will introduce you guys to real cats that belong to real people.

11 April 2017

Here we go again

The decision to write again was made. I have been thinking about blogging again for so long but I was worried that no one will be interested in reading an Iraqi blog again, but I will take my chances and hope to find you all again. Things have changed since I started Baghdad Girl blog in 2004- I have changed. Baghdad Girl blog used to talk about the difficulties and ugliness of war by the 13 years old me while Baghdad Girl: Part 2 will talk about the survival after war by the 20-something me. We all know that war is ugly and there is no need to state the obvious anymore.
I visited Baghdad last February for the first time since 2006. There are no words, pictures or videos that can describe what I felt when I saw my childhood home, my relatives and neighbours who still remembered the little girl I used to be. Last week, I saw clearly and personally the damage and consequences of war, not only in the destruction of civilisation and cultural values but the way our lives changed from that of our parents and grandparents. I am truly and deeply sorry for those who lost their chance of saying goodbye to their old lives, for they will never know how much we changed. This visit was a huge wake-up call for me. I realised that we (Those born in late 1980s and after) are a new generation who has to figure out how to live, we have no role models and we can't follow the footprints of our parents and grandparents because they either don't exist or can't work in this time. For example, our parents are struggling to figure out a retirement plan because there is no retirement system for refugees and those who live outside their home countries.
I will speak in this blog for my generation. We have no past and our future is unknown, but we will survive.