Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September 18th, 2010

[Tonight] I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended.  Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.” – President Barack Obama, Aug. 31, 2010

In March of 2003 President Bush ordered US troops to invade Iraq in what was called Operation Iraqi Freedom.  About the size of California, Iraq has about 31 million people.  Since 2003, many citizens of Iraq have been killed, displaced, or listed as missing.  I met up with two young Iraqi women on Day 262.  Meet Rusol and Iman.

Fountain at Dupont Circle (photo: Reed)

Sitting on the edge of the fountain at Dupont Circle the girls talk and laugh with one another like any other 21-year-old girls in the US.  But I learn that these girls have lived a very different life than many of their peers here in DC.

Both originally from Baghdad, Rusol has been in the US for one year and Iman two years.  Iman, a Sunni, came here because her father, a former officer in the Iraqi military, started receiving threats from terrorists.  Rusol, a Shiite who lives with her mother and sister, also moved here in search of a more safe and stable society.  “There are no more beautiful places in Baghdad,” they said.  They have all been destroyed.  Life is very different than what they remember before the war.  “It used to be very safe there.”  Despite all of this, they are both quite unhappy here in the US.  “Living here is a little like jail,” Iman says.  “People just work all the time.  Before I came here I thought the US was very fun and lots of parties, but it has only been work, even on weekends, and no parties.”  Rusol agreed, “It’s not like what we would see on TV.”

Although they are both working now, it took some time.  “It’s hard to find a job here since we are still learning English,” Rusol says.  On this day they had both just finished their shift at their nearby job at a restaurant.  Rusol, an attorney back in Iraq, says that she would never tell her friends back in Iraq that she is working as a waitress.

People of Iraq

Day 262 was September 2nd which is in the middle of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is the Islamic month of fasting in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and sexual relations from dawn until sunset.  This month-long commitment is intended to teach Muslims about patience, humility, and spirituality.  I could tell the girls missed celebrating Ramadan like they would in Iraq.  They told me that when the sun sets during Ramadan, nobody is on the streets.  Everyone is inside.  “It’s a good time for dating,” they say.

I was curious about how dating was different for young Iraqis.  “Dating is not public,” Iman tells me referring to the fact that although quite common it is generally not welcomed by parents.  “My mom used to tell me that if I wanted a boyfriend that I should marry him.”  In spite of this, they told me that most young people do date.  They, however, said they were in the minority and didn’t have boyfriends.

I asked them what they are going to do with their five dollars.  

“I’m going to keep it,” Iman said.  Rusol didn’t know yet what she would do with it.  They said that although the Year of Giving would not be something that you would probably find people doing in Iraq, it could happen.  “Especially after the war. Nothing is strange now, you can see anything,” Iman told me.

Something that really struck me was that both girls said that notwithstanding the insecurity and potential dangers of returning to Iraq, they preferred to move back.  This made me so sad.  They have not integrated into society here and made friends.  Sometimes I think it is really hard to make friends here in the US.  Especially for adults. 

As we come to a pivotal point in the future of Iraq I wonder if things are any better there today than seven and a half years ago.  Although I have the utmost respect for all the military service men (US, Iraqi and other nationalities) that have served their respective countries there, it doesn’t sound like things are “better.”  So many lives have been lost.  Almost 5,000 US soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.  I have heard numbers from 151,000 to over a million.  The girls estimate was closer to a million.  My cousin made two tours in Iraq and thankfully he is safely back home in Tennessee now, however, I am sure his service there came at a cost to him.  

What do you think?  Are things better there today?  I would love to hear from some people in Iraq.

If there are any Iraqi women in the DC area that have went through this difficult period that Rusol and Iman are going through and would like to reach out to them, let me know and I can try to connect you.

Read Full Post »