In such an oppressive environment, love was lost. It was not a virtue anymore because it was for the weak,who would listen to his/ her feelings. While, many of my older cousins married for love during the 70s, my friends and I didn't. Love, kindness, and romance were all lost values.
I felt that men could not trust their feelings anymore. Even though they may love a woman, they would let her down to marry the one that would be chosen for them by their families. Some of my girlfriends broke their hearts and damaged reputation at school because they loved someone who would let them down at the end.
It was a common practice that the mother of a future groom would tell her future daughter-in-law that “He loved one of his classmates, but I did not approve of her. So, he left her.” This type of a statement kept me wondering “what kind of a man would do abandon the girl he loved. Would he be a trustworthy man?
I could not understand how an adult man would follow his mother like a child. Then, I came to understand that such a man couldn’t trust his feelings nor his judgment. To be on the safe side , he would follow “someone” who is more experienced in life such as his mother.
One of my girlfriends told me that if she wanted to move the furniture inside her house, she had to take “the approval” of her in-laws and place the furniture exactly where they suggested. I felt she was married to her in-laws, not to their son.
I earned my master’s and later my Ph.D. from Baghdad University School of Law. Both of my parents support my education. However, one of my aunts pulled me aside to tell me “no man would like a woman who is more educated than him.” While I could relate to what my aunt said, I could not appreciate a man who is afraid of competition; a man who thinks that any added value of mine is a minus for him.
I swiftly lost my belief in love and later in marriage.
To me, love is trust and kindness that fills life with joy and makes it meaningful. However, I felt that the regime utterly crashed “love” and replaced it with cruelty.
My small world gave me the power and inspiration to go on. My music, my painting, my cats; I had 15 cats, one dog, and one parrot. I found a home for all of them before leaving Iraq. All of the beautiful values that I could save from the cruelty of the regime. It is true that I could not save everything, but I saved enough.