zondag 9 oktober 2016

Riverbend -- 9 oktober 2003

Riverbend is de schuilnaam van een Irakese blogster die van 2003-2007 verslag deed van de toestand in Bagdad en Irak. Het blog staat nog steeds online. De inhoud werd gepubliceerd als boek, dat in het Nederlands werd vertaald als Bagdad onder vuur.

Thursday, October 09, 2003
There, pulled up to the side of the road, with one armored car in front and one behind, was a huge, beige-green tank. My aunt moaned and clutched at her handbag possessively, “Is this a checkpoint? What are they searching for? Are they going to check us?” She was carrying all of her gold jewelry in the black, leather bag which, every time she reached inside to rummage for something, I imagined would swallow her up into its depths.

Iraqi people don’t own gold because they are either spectacularly wealthy, or they have recently been on a looting spree... Gold is a part of our culture and the roll it plays in ‘family savings’ has increased since 1990 when the Iraqi Dinar (which was $3) began fluctuating crazily. People began converting their money to gold- earrings, bracelets, necklaces- because the value of gold didn’t change. People pulled their money out of banks before the war, and bought gold instead. Women here call gold “zeeneh ou 7*azeeneh (khazeeneh)” which means, “ornaments and savings”. Gold can be shown off and worn, but in times of economical trouble, a few pieces can be sold to tide the family over.

Many troops claimed that they took gold from houses because they couldn't believe people like *that* could own gold... what they don't know is that when two Iraqis get married- regardless of religion- the man often gives the woman a 'mahar' or dowry, composed of gold jewelry. When a couple has a child, the gifts are often little gold trinkets that the parents can sell or keep... this was especially popular before the blockade.

“They might be checking houses…” E. said. We traveled the last kilometer home in a thoughtful silence, each lost in their own worries. I was worried about the computer. In areas where they claimed to have gotten a ‘tip’, the computers were often confiscated for checking, never to be seen again. I practiced various phrases in my head, “Take the money, gold and gun, leave the computer…”

At home, my mother was anxiously clearing up the kitchen. We told her about the tank ‘parked’ on the main road, “I know,” she said, rubbing at a stubborn stain on the counter, “It’s been there for the last hour… they might check the area tonight.” My aunt went into a tirade against raids, troops, and looting, then calmed down and decided that she wouldn’t hide her gold tonight: her daughter and I would wear it. I stood there with my mouth hanging open- who is to stop anyone from taking it off of us? Was she crazy? No, she wasn’t crazy. We would wear the necklaces, tucking them in under our shirts and the rest would go into our pockets. There would be ‘abayas’ or robes on standby- if they decided to check the house, we would throw on the abayas and leave the house calmly, waiting for the raid to end.

My mother had hidden our not-particularly-impressive valuables in a few ingenious places. It was a game for days, during May, when the raids began and we started hearing tales of the ‘confiscation’ of valuables like gold and dollars during the raids. Everyone started thinking up creative hiding places to hide the money and jewelry. Neighbors and relatives would trade tips on the best hiding places and the ones that were checked right away… the guns were a little bit more difficult. They were necessary for protection against gangs and armed militias. People were allowed to have one pistol and one rifle. If the troops walk into your home, armed to the eyeballs, guns pointed and tense with fear, and find an extra rifle or gun, it is considered ‘terrorism’ and the family may find itself on the evening news as a potential terrorist cell.


We went to sleep early… except no one slept. E. kept checking for cars or tanks and I sat listening to the night and trying to sleep around the jewelry, thinking of all the pictures I had seen of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe sleeping in diamonds and emeralds. At 3 am, I decided I wasn’t Elizabeth Taylor, took off the rings and bracelet and stuffed them in my pillowcase.

The morning eventually came, with no tanks- only some distant shots in the background and something that sounded vaguely like an explosion. E. said that they weren’t even on the main road anymore… apparently they had left during the night. I returned the jewelry, relieved, but my cousin kept it on, deciding she had grown accustomed to seeing a ‘wealthy-looking reflection’ in the mirror.

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