As statistics go, at least 655,000 Iraqis have
died as a result of the occupation, now in its fifth year. Every one of them
has left behind once loved ones to mourn the loss and to think of what might
This is the land of the Arabian Nights, and of love stories that became fables
far and wide. In these stories, in the traditions of which they were born, the
lover thought nothing of giving up his life for a beloved. But no one thought
death would come to this land under the present circumstances.
All who have died had their own love stories, if not all romantic ones. And
that must be a million of them. The figure of 655,000 of Iraqis who died
as a result of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation came from the British
medical journal Lancet based on a study in July last year. The number would
have risen significantly after one of the bloodiest years of the occupation.
The deaths are not the only tragedies to have fallen upon Iraq's love stories.
"We were engaged to be married after the end of the war," Hussam
Abdulla, a 28-year-old engineer from Baghdad told IPS. "We thought the
war would not last more than a month, and so we planned our marriage for May
2003. But everything went wrong. I was detained for two years, and my fiancée's
family had to flee to Egypt because her father was a senior army officer whose
life was threatened first by occupation forces and later by death squads."
Abdulla's engagement never led to marriage.
And it was the lucky ones who fled the country early. Others stayed on to face
death, detention, or a living hell at home. Army officers, doctors, journalists
and artists came particularly to be targeted by death squads.
"I thought the man I loved simply dumped me," a 25-year-old woman,
who asked to be called Arwa, told IPS. "He told me he will call me as soon
as he finds a job in Jordan, but he just disappeared. His family told me they
did not know where he is."
Much later, she was told he had been detained by U.S. forces near the Jordanian
border. "The US authorities said his name did not exist on their files.
But I will wait for him, even if I have to wait all my life."
Tens of thousands of detained Iraqis have never been found on any US military
records. Their families still do not know whether they are dead or alive.
"I told my fiancée to find herself someone else for a husband,"
32-year-old Khalik Obeidy, who was visiting Baghdad from Fallujah, told IPS.
"I lost my job as an army officer, and my family house was blasted during
the US siege of Fallujah, so our marriage seems to be next to impossible.
"But also, getting married in such a situation will only mean more agony.
And bringing up children is more than difficult. My fiancée still says
things will improve, she says she will wait. She's crazy."
Stories of broken engagements and marriages are everywhere in Baghdad.
"In 2006, I sent my wife and two daughters to Jordan for work, and I was
supposed to follow them after selling the car and the furniture," 40-year-old
teacher Tariq Khalaf from Baghdad told IPS. "But my father died, and I
had to stay here to look after the rest of the family. Now I don't know whether
to bring them back to this Iraqi hell, or just stay separated."
Jassim Alwan, who recently made the dangerous trip to Baghdad from Samarra,
90km north of the capital city, tells the story of 23-year-old Abdullah that
everyone in Samarra seems to know.
"He has a scruffy beard, and he keeps wandering the streets," Alwan
told IPS. "Abdullah is now better known than the mayor of the city. He
was a wonderful guy. And then his bride was shot by US and Iraqi soldiers at
a checkpoint. The poor guy could not stand the shock."
This is the kind of love story Iraqis tell nowadays. "The country of the
Arabian Nights and of wonderful poetry is no longer good for love," Maki
al-Nazzal, political analyst and poet, told IPS. "All Iraqi poetry under
occupation is now about death and separation."
(Inter Press Service)