Monday, 12 July 2010

New Orleans Vs. Baghdad

News flash, Baghdad biggest lover had to say good bye and move to the United States, at least for a while. When I first arrived to the states in mid April, a TV show Called ( Treme) started on HBO . It tells the story of post Katrina New Orleans. As I watched Treme’s episode go one by one, I could not help but notice the similarities between New Orleans and my old beloved city… Baghdad.

Just like New Orleans, Baghdad was devastated by a nameless hurricane. Iraqis refer to it by simply “The Fall” in reference to the fall of Baghdad in April 9th 2003. Many Baghdad lovers, including me, prefer to think of it as the fall of Saddam’s regime rather than the fall of their magnificent city .

The thousands, who had to leave their houses , neighborhoods and friends and move to other states like Texas, reminds me of all the Iraqis, who were scattered inside and outside Iraq due to the violence and blind Killing and hatred that enclave their country. It is the most devastating thing that you leave your own home, which you own, and go somewhere else. I know it firsthand because it happened to me ...twice actually. first time was back in late 2006, when I left my house, which I own, and rented a small 2 bed room apartment in Karada, closer to my work, because traveling back and forth to work was getting more life threatening and more scary. And now when I had to leave Baghdad and move as a refugee to the United States.

One scene in Treme in particular immediately took me back to the darkest days of the sectarian violence in Baghdad. The scene where there were lots of white trailers in which dead bodies were kept for people to come and identify their missing family members and loved ones. This immediately took me back to the notorious Baghdad morgue. With an average of over 70 dead bodies retrieved from the streets of Baghdad at a certain period of time in late 2006 and early 2007, Baghdad morgue was so full that they used to have bodies lined up in the front lawn and yard of the morgue. What was even worst, is that the morgue was dominated by Shiat militias loyal to Moqttada Al-Sadr ,who would wrap up the relatives who would come to claim the bodies of their relatives and kill them as well. This forced many families to send only women to claim the bodies, or pay the militia men as much as 1 Million Iraqi Dinnar to get the bodies out to the families. Finally some people volunteered to take pictures of the unidentified bodies and started to bury them in numbered graves in Karbala south of Baghdad. Now there is a room at Baghdad morgue were families are still coming and looking at dozens of pictures in big TV screens trying to identify loved ones, who have been missing for a long time.

Great city with character and soul like New Orleans would never die as long as there are great New Orleans ‘s Lovers who would make sure that they will have The Jazz and Blues be heard all over the cafes and bars of their city. People making sure that the Mont Grow take place and Indians dance in the streets of New Orleans. So is the case with Arabian Nights’ Baghdad. Every time I went and covered a theater group, or Movie lovers setting up screens to project Iraqi Movies produced after the war, at the sites of bombings in Baghdad. What gives me more Hope is that all those Iraqi artists and movie makers are in their twenties and doing a marvelous job, against all odds.

I do not need to go through how well the US military handled the situation in both cities.

The Only difference between New Orleans and Baghdad is that Katrina took place in a single day and people had to deal with its consequences for a long time and the city of New Orleans is trying to recover from that single blow. Baghdad is living its Katrina for over 6 years now, and as people got exhausted from hearing about what happened in New Orleans and about Katrina and they decided that they want to hear no more, same is with Iraq, no matter how many Ktrinas or people die in Iraq no one wants to hear about it.