Friday, October 14, 2016

My Son: Help From an Unexpected Source!

The past few months were the most difficult in my life. I I have lived through a lot in my life including witnessing the atrocities of the civil war in Lebanon, where women and girls were raped, living under Saddam’s Regime where the Iraqi police arrested my nine-year-old friend, surviving a suicide bomb attack on my life in which four of my bodyguards were killed. So what happened during these few month?
How I Looked, During, The Last Few Months

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Middle East Heroes

As I was surfing the web looking for op-eds discussing the Iraqi paradoxical situation, I came across a headline featuring my best friend’s name.  I immediately recalled our last heated discussion.
My friend and mentor, Ammar Al-Shahbander, asked me to go back to Iraq and work with him on promoting freedom of expression and empowering women. I declined; I didn’t want to go back.

I felt that I already jeopardized my safety and that of my family and friends. Ammar was disappointed. He said, “If you don’t go back and help, and I don’t go back and help, who is going to build the country?”  “I just can’t,” I replied.

I felt I couldn’t do it again to my son. Both of us suffered a lot.  Just like many Iraqis, we have been shot at, survived bomb attacks, threats, separated from each other, and lived in fear. Even though I wanted to help, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. My mentor concluded the conversation with deep disappointment.
( Ammar's name  in Arabic calligraphy ) 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Search for Things Right in Front of You!

“Have you looked for something that is right in front of you? You searched high and low to find it while the object was in an obvious place,” My friend Nadia asked.

I knew Nadia from work. Both of us are linguists, but we work in different departments. 
“Many times, Nadia, I once spent half an hour searching for my glasses, only to be told that I was wearing them,” I replied.

“But why are you asking?” I followed
“You see, today at work my fellow linguists analyzed a text focusing only on direct meaning,” Nadia said.

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.
“They overlooked the hidden message while it is right in front of their eyes! How could they?” Nadia said with frustration. 

“Did you try to bring it to their attention, perhaps, they missed it?” I said.
“You see, they shouldn’t miss it, to begin with. Using verbal nouns in criminal statement should have been analyzed and examined,” Nadia said
“In what way?” I asked.

“Mishka, you know verbal nouns mean that the action isn’t limited to time, which different a verbal noun from a verb. The verb has a tense, past, present, or future. But a verbal noun is limited to time. It is continuous,” Nadia explained.

“You were examining a criminal content?” I asked.
“Yes, using verbal nouns means the action will keep accruing which poses a higher level of threat,” Nadia explained.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Lottery: Reality VS Fiction

Yesterday, I read The Lottery; a short fiction written by Shirley Jackson. The story portrays a community gathering to play a game of lottery. Children run around collecting stones for a drawing to take place to see which woman would be stoned. No trial, no guilty verdict, just a sentence of death. In the story, men stride in as the shepherds and women reluctantly join as the sheep to the slaughter.

In the end, Tessie; a mother and wife, is stoned to death by her community. Even Dave, her son, is given small pebbles to throw at his own mother. While the story is set in an American village, the symbolism of women’s suffering is universal.

Jackson presents a patriarchal society, where men come first as they converse with each other, but they don’t include women in their discussions. Similarly, in peace processes, women are left out, even though they didn’t wage the war. However, the warlords, all men, are seated at the negotiation table.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Just Add Water!

How can there be a connection between safe drinking water and insurgency? Is it possible?

On 24th of August of 2004, I survived a suicide bomb attack in which four of my bodyguards were killed. Mousab Al Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq at that time, claimed full responsibility and called me “the leader of the infidels.” Perhaps he was overestimating my capacity, I thought. After all, I was not working on security issues at all! In fact, I thought I was as far away from dealing with security issues as would be possible for a government minister. At least, that was what I thought.