Friday, November 5, 2010

Feelings of Uncertainty before the First Gulf War.

I was living in Baghdad with my family during the first Gulf War 1990-1991. The neighborhood where I was living was mixed Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, and Kurds [1]. My family consisted of my father, my mother, my sister, and myself [2].

It would be an understatement to say that we were afraid. No one knew what would happen. Rumors were everywhere; would the regime use chemical weapons? This was a legitimate fear because Saddam’s regime had just used chemical weapons against the Iraqi Kurds in Halabcha—an Iraqi village that opposed the regime. The regime also used chemical weapons in Iraq-Iran war 1980-1988 [3]. The possibility of using these weapons again was highly likely.

Most people were more afraid of the regime than from the coalition forces.

With a terrified mother, a younger sister, a working dad, I spent most of my free time trying to seal every little hall that my family house had –a two level house. The day before the war, I tried my best to fill every container that we had in our household with water. My concerns and those of my neighbors, friends, and extended family were that we would run out of water. Additionally, we didn't know how long the war would last and what would happen to us. My mother made four small bags that went around the waist for each one of us and split her golden jewelry [4] into four shares and forced us to wear these small bags all the time. My mother thought that the country might enter into chaos and the Iraqi currency would not be used or not worthwhile and we would use the jewelry for food or other emergencies.

Two days before the war a widespread rumor circulated all over Iraq suggesting that the Ba’ath party would organize nationwide demonstrations to ask the leader i.e. Saddam Hussein to order the withdrawal of the Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Hours later, the leader appeared on the national TV saying “what you have heard were just rumors, the Ba’ath party did not call for demonstrations, and Iraq would not withdraw from Kuwait.” As such, our last hope of avoiding the war vanished [5].
Finally, the deadline approached the operation of the Desert Storm took place, the air strikes were launched on the eve of January 17th,  1991.

[1] Many Iraqis myself included feeling offended when they are asked to reveal their sect or religious background, not because they do not appreciate their background, but because they feel their background is part of but does not define their identity. In a Survey carried out by the United States Institute of Peace in 2006, Iraqis referred to themselves as Iraqis above all. 
[2]  I also had 15 cats, around 2001; I adopted a dog and a bird. All the cats ganged up against the poor poppy, so I gave him to my cousin. I also found another home for the bird as the cats were trying to eat him all the time. Then, I started finding homes for the cats as I had more and more responsibilities. In Iraq, there are no animal shelters and no animal food so, I used to feed them for the leftovers.
I even acted as a vet; helping some of them give birth, address eye problems, and stomach problems. My mother helped a lot as she loved cats.
The busiest time was around March. Many cats would give birth around that time, then the mother would get hit by a car or attacked by wild dogs, and the neighbors would bring the babies to my house because they did not know what to do with them.  I would feed them and take care of them.
I recently adopted a cat while living here in the U.S. He keeps me company and brings joy to my life.
 [3]  United Nations Environment Programme, Desk Study on the Environment in Iraq, Geneva, 2003P.24
[4] Most Iraqi women own golden jewelry. As part of the marriage tradition, the husband should gift the wife golden jewelry. When a baby is born the mother would receive golden jewelry as gifts.
[5] Most Iraqi people heard about the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2nd  of 1990 from the TV and the radio station. At first, no-one knew what had happened. All  TV programs on the national channels, (we had only three owned and administrated by the government,) were interrupted. The national radio station was broadcasting war songs or verses from the Qur’an. Before I learned about the invasion, I assumed that the programs meant that a high-ranking official had died. It was not until the evening of that day that Iraqi people knew that their army invaded Kuwait.

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