Thursday, 21 July 2011

New Year


New year’s eve was when we used to celebrate, not the 25th of December but the 31st.

That was when the tree was decorated, when the celebrations happened, and when the stuffed bird was consumed, sometimes turkey other times goose, with the trimmings.

New year’s eve was also when, for many years there was a special party at Uncle Henry (or Abu Joseph) house, special because it was fancy dress, and special because we were too young to go.

The people invited were usually the same group work colleagues, neighbours and friend of friends.

The costumes would be agreed in advance, no hired costumes here, all home made and very imaginative, I remember a pirate, and a princess, a Sheik and a belly dancer, and B once went as a Greek goddess in gold sandals and a toga that troubled her all night, and her Kaftan covered compaion was Demis Roussos of course!

We would go when we were as old as Joseph was the promise, he was about five years my senior and that seemed like an eternity, instead we would enjoy the preparations, laugh at our parents and their friends in their costumes, and then spend the night with Beebee.

Spending a night at her home was a rare and very special event, I loved her cream yellow bathroom suite, and spent my evening converting her multicoloured box of tissues into bunches of flowers, and she would let me sit at her vanity table with its curtained sections while she combed my hair, I would apply her hand cream and if I was really good be allowed a squirt of perfume from her old style scent spray.

Needless to say I never went to one of those parties, like all Cinderellas Uncle Henry and his family had to leave before the clock struck twelve, and they became frogs.

Here is hoping that 2008 will bring that all elusive peace to Iraqis.
And maybe the fairy godmother can magic us some happily ever afters and instead of leaving, Iraqis can start returning.



One night in December 2003 the Americans soldiers made their first visit to our home

As the twenty three year old in charge of the team of go-go-go Rambo wanabees who were sifting through my mother’s sewing and bags of wool twitched and worried, my father sat in the living room in his dishdasha, with a set of worry beads in his hand.

As the girls clothes’ drawers were opened, my father started a conversation with the young boy-man soldier, they chatted I am told for about fifteen minutes, during which my father had gone into his usual educational mode, as it became clear to him that none of these people had a clue about the country they had been sent to “liberate”.

As he talked about history, civilisations and architecture, he jokingly remarked that if they cared to look in the bookcase they would find tourist guides for England, Italy, and Sweden, three countries he had visited, and that maybe the soldiers should have read a tourist guide to Iraq before they came to visit.

If he had had a copy of this guide he may well have given it to them.

The pictures are of another Iraq, an Iraq offering non-religious tourism.
What I have not included in this little compilation is the final several pages, of usual guide book information covering details of the local currency, the electric current, the water supply and telephone numbers (old style landlines) for cinemas, theatres, nightclubs, hotels, swimming pools, as well as hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.

For those Iraqis lucky enough to have access to this medium, but unlucky enough to have missed out on these sites (or indeed services) before they were “liberated” I offer you an extract from a tourist’s guide published in Iraq 1982.

And to any foreigners thinking of visiting, don’t bother; there is very little left to see and in most of the country you are no longer welcome.


Muzzling those who bark, and barking up the wrong tree


So it appears that certain types of poetry will get you a prison sentence in the UK,
Someone sent me a link to this piece of news with a joking warning to beware.

Much of the attention paid to this case is from those defending her right of free thought and speech, I think there is another worrying aspect, although I have not read much of Samina’s poetry, having read the piece and the legislation used to cover her trial I remembered a two-piece drama I had seen on channel 4 one month ago titled Britz

A story of a brother and sister born in Britain to Pakistani parents, he is an MI5 agent, she a suicide bomber.

The first episode had every stereotypic box ticked, the young foreign boy beaten up, the blonde police officer forcing him against the wall with a “f***ing paki” accompanied kick in the groin, the family returning the sister to Pakistan to marry, where she is apparently murdered, burnt and buried by the roadside in a village where the animals still share the living quarters with the barbaric cousins.

In the meantime an Asian man is in custody somewhere in Eastern Europe being tortured to within a breath of his life while interrogated by his neighbour the MI5 stooge, who justifies what he is doing as “preventing the deaths of hundreds of innocents”, and concludes the night’s work with a drink of scotch and sex with his blonde fellow agent.

The second episode uncovered the truth behind the story, the sister is a medical student, a political activist rather than a devout follower of Islam, with a sense of injustice, her attempts at political dialogue foiled, her best friend committing suicide after detention under the terrorism laws for having too much pepper.

She escapes society and family to the training camps, and is dressed to kill in her explosive belt when the final scene brings her face to face with her brother, she ready to detonate, he on the hunt for the first British female suicide bomber about to blow up London’s financial heart.

One scene that struck me involved a conversation between the heroine and her London contact where she tells him not be to be sad for her, and responds to his reassurance that she will soon be on Allah’s side that “that is not what it is about”.

In addition to a more real view of what drives people to become suicide bombers I saw in this drama a depiction of how easy it is for evil to manipulate our need to “fit in”, a weakness clearly affecting some second generation British Muslims, growing up in a family that is “non integrated” and a society that is “non-accepting”, for the brother who was so desperate to be more British than the British he was willing to join the recruiters for spies on telephone conversations, grass his friends, and watch over the torture of another to prove his “belonging”, and for his sister who was so disaffected by the non acceptance that she is willing to join the recruiters for training camps in her university campus.
Who of the two recruiters is more evil?

The use of antiterrorism legislation to muzzle poetry and the training of a police officer I overheard knowingly explain that “you will recognise a suicide bomber by the fact that they pray or chant the Koran just before they detonate” suggests that despite pieces of drama like this, in the real world by continuing to concentrate on Islam, watching over its followers, and prosecuting people who scribble things on paper for terrorism, while ignoring the underlying grievances of previous suicide bombers, this country will continue to be at risk of missing a group of disaffected and potentially more dangerous angry people.

A&Eiraqi said...
Totally agree with you.
10 December 2007 22:32

Little Penguin said...
Dr, the thing about spotting a terrorist is that there's no point in scanning faces, outfits and dialects, what's more important is eradicating the ideology that justifies their means of having brunch with the Prophet.. By that I'm pointing my finger at those who implicitly and explicitly advocate that Muslims distance themselves from "the kuffar" - anyone who isn't Muslim..

The other day I was talking to a seemingly level-headed Somali girl on campus when she said she'd rather have Abu Hamza (Captain Hook) as the Muslim khaleefa than anyone who isn't Muslim.. "Brother, haven't you read the hadeeth that says 'support your Muslim brother, oppressor or oppressed' we have to stay away from them.. and if they're killed, well it's just their comeuppance"

The threat of radical islamists shouldn't worry only Brits.. but the whole world.. I mean, look at Iraq.. killing Manadeis and Christians and anyone who hasn't got a beard and who doesn't tuck his shirt in.. and I hope i'm not seen as taking sides here, many religious factions are culprits..

el muhim.. I didn't get to see Britz but it seems to have over-blown an already-farfetched scenario.. in any case, some aspects may well be true..

As for that lyrical terrorist, I was aghast when I read that piece of news on the paper.. seriously, British Muslims have got a lamentable image as it is, the least we can do is hide our faults and accentuate what's good about us.. write hate-poems and publish them on the net? how stupid and irresponsible can you get? This kind of thing is what The Daily Mail thrives on.. Dr, you have a case for arguing against prosecution of unorthodox creativity, but when it has the potential of making me pull the pin, I think it was only reasonable..

but then again, what's making her want to pull the pin?

Such a headache.. sorry to have rambled..

18 December 2007 14:04

3eeraqimedic said...
Dear Little Penguin, nice to see you once more, and please please ramble as much as you like here.
I am going to be honest again and then probably regret it and delete some or more of what I say.
Had anyone asked me if I would pondering such questions five years ago I would have laughed, just as I laughed (and cringed a little with embarrassment) when I watched some odd Syrian cleric make an absolute fool of himself on a TV programme some years ago.
At the time it was difficult for me to understand why the government allowed people like him to live off state benefits while he sprouted nonsense about making Britain a Muslim country with Sharia law, I also couldn’t believe how anyone with two neurons could listen to him let alone follow him.
But time has passed, I am not sure if people are different, if I look at people differently or if I just see different people but I am concerned, concerned by the sense of alienation in some people, an alienation resulting from a perceived injustice committed by their own countrymen, and rejection by others they thought would welcome them, the alienation creating a need to belong, and the incomprehensible (to me at least) need to find themselves in religion, a religion that they previously observed in what I consider a moderate manner, but now has become a sort of competition in devotion, and in observance, a sort of obsession that is truly worrying, not in itself but in the sort of blinkered view it creates.
What follows is then a second round of rejection for the visible expressions of the belief, a second round of displacement to a more “tolerant” country, the result of which is further sense of injustice and so on!
It seems to me that the more pressure is placed on people the more some of them seem to radicalise, it is another chicken and egg situation I am not sure you can really decipher what happened first, but I must say although I now feel more fearful of people like the odd cleric and what he was nattering on about, I am also very worried about the pressure being exerted on Islam and all Muslims to “reform” themselves or their religion because I know it is pushing some people the wrong way.
I have rambled enough, and if you do not understand what I mean it is probably for the best, but if you have read some of my previous deleted posts you may well comprehend what I am talking about!!!
18 December 2007 19:56

Occupation Science fiction style


There were lots of reasons why I liked Star Trek, memories of childhood evenings watching the black and white episodes of the original series back home, later many evenings spent escaping the harsh reality of the here and now into the fantasy world of a better future for mankind.

I have just been watching a repeat, an episode from the Deep Space Nine series, titled “Waltz” produced in 1997.

This series unlike the others is based on a fixed space station, and involves a lot of wars and several rounds of military occupation.

The episode involves two main characters, the Federation (i.e. Earth i.e American) captain Sisko “the goody”, and the Cardassian (very nasty reptilian like alien) ex-station commander during the previous occupation Dukat “the baddy”.

If you read the transcript I am sure you will see why I wanted to share.

SISKO: All right you really want to do this? Here? Now?


SISKO: Okay. Let's do it. You were Prefect of Bajor during the occupation. True or false?

DUKAT: True.

SISKO: And you were responsible for everything that happened under your command. True or false?

DUKAT: True.

SISKO: So that makes you responsible for the murder of over five million Bajorans who died on your watch. True or false!

DUKAT: False. I tried to save lives during my administration.

SISKO: Evidence?

DUKAT: Evidence? He wants evidence. By the time I became Prefect, the occupation had been going on for almost forty years, but the planet was still not ready for full-scale colonization. Central Command wanted the situation resolved and they didn't care how it was done. I was convinced that a gentler hand was required to deal with the Bajorans. So in my first official act as Prefect, I ordered all labour camp commanders to reduce their output quotas by fifty percent – fifty percent! Then I reorganized the camps themselves. Child labour was abolished. Medical care was improved and food rations were increased. In the first month of my administration, the death rate dropped by more than twenty percent.
And how did the Bajorans react? On my one-month anniversary they blew up an orbital dry-dock, killing over two hundred Cardassian soldiers and workers.
I had to order a response. But even then it was a carefully tempered one: I had two hundred suspected members of the Resistance rounded up and executed. Two hundred lives for two hundred lives. That was justice -- not malevolence --justice.
But did I give up my efforts to reach out to the Bajorans? No.
I tried again. And what did I get for my trouble? An assassination attempt. On my own space station!
Another round of executions followed. Again, courtesy of the Bajoran Resistance.
On and on it went, year after blood-soaked year. Time and again, I would reach out with the open hand of friendship and time and again, they would slap it away.

DUKAT: I hope you're listening to all this.

SISKO: Oh, believe me, you have my undivided attention. Now let me get this straight: You're not responsible for what happened during the Occupation, the Bajorans are.

DUKAT: Exactly.

SISKO: So why do you think they didn't appreciate the rare opportunity you were offering them?

DUKAT: Because they were blind, ignorant fools. They couldn't see that if they had only chosen to cooperate with us, we could've turned their world into a paradise. From the moment we arrived on Bajor, it was clear that we were the superior race. But they couldn't accept that. They wanted to be treated as equals when they most definitely were not. Militarily, technologically, culturally -- we were almost a century ahead of them in every way.
We did not choose to be the superior race, fate handed us our role. It would've been so much easier on everyone if the Bajorans had simply accepted their role. But no... day after day they clustered in their temples and prayed for deliverance, and night after night they planted bombs outside our homes.
Pride. That's what it was.
Stubborn, unyielding pride. From the servant girl that cleaned my quarters to the condemned man toiling in a labour camp to the terrorist skulking through the hills of Dahkur Province, they each wore their pride like some twisted badge of honour.

SISKO: And you hated them for it.

DUKAT: Of course I hated them! Their superstitions and their cries for sympathy, their treachery and their lies, their smug superiority and their stiff-necked obstinacy, Yes I hated them, I hated everything about them!

SISKO: You should've killed them all.

DUKAT: Yes! I knew it! I've always known it!
I should've killed every last one of them and turned their planet into a graveyard the likes of which the galaxy had never seen!

I am pretty sure that the writer of this plot had in mind a European occupation and a non-Muslim occupied people, but you can see why it is a very bad thing to admit that you are an occupation force, even writers of science fiction shows know what that means. As do most ordinary people, even if they pretend otherwise.

Just as most people understand what is happening when occupation leaders start blaming the inferior non-grateful occupied people, or the incompetent non-trained political superiors, in fact everyone and anyone else for the terrible things that happen during their watch.

Yasmin (Blanche) said...
Amazing !!
I loved Star trek too.. it seems ages ago..
but 3eeraqi Medic, how can u get to watch these reptile like creatures now??!!
Even (our stratrek)was something else..
09 December 2007 08:52

3eeraqimedic said...
He he Yasmin spoken like a true trekkie yes the original series with all its shortcomings was the "real" thing.
Hope you are well, noomehilo has disappeared again.
09 December 2007 21:32

Crocogator said...
Bones (Doc),
I love Star Trek. They were always had some kind of historical or moral message, like when CAPT Piccard said "some of the darkest moments in my planet's history involved the forced location of people," in "Star Trek: Generations." Not to be a whiner, but we who had to go through the pain of childhood in the late 1970s call ourselves "Trekers" now. Admitting you watched the Original Series re-runs back then (before Star Wars) got you pounded in school.

Interesting piece. I was wondering if you ever got to see the last series "ENTERPRISE."

17 December 2007 18:50

3eeraqimedic said...
I did not appreciate the "moral messages" of start trek until I watched repeats, and I was spared Star Wars until the recent releases of episodes!
I am not sure I recognise your quote or its relevance, my all time favourite quote from Star Trek is "The Prime Directive" a treker or a trekie I am sure you will know why.
17 December 2007 20:17

Crocogator said...
I guess I was trying to make a point that both CAPT Sisko and CAPT Piccard were speaking more of Slave Labor and Concentration camps. This is my opinion of course, and I certainly hope I did not (and do not) cause any offense.

With Aloha,
17 December 2007 20:39

So many smiles


Three hundred and more
Dressed in our finest
Smiling for the world
Six years or more
Spent together

Some became experts
Others chose to serve
Travelling the globe
Or staying at home
Families and children
Tragedies and great hopes

But one amongst us
Had started
In marriage
A transformation

I watch and I listen
From afar
To Maha
The representative
Of the “people”
The champion
Of the “cause”

Her white coat long gone
Her black gown
For always to don
Her training
Not for healing
But for leading now

So distant we have grown
But on that day
We stood side by side
A white scarf sufficed
And we both smiled

Inside Sadr City Life in Shia Baghdad

The nights of the obturator nerve


To the non-medical reader you may want to click away now!

Tuesday morning would start early, it was our receiving day on the seventh floor the third medical unit, the second busiest day to be on-call after Monday, which was the fate of those working for the second medical unit on the sixth floor.

We would start out on the ward with a quick wiz around, checking the sickest, and taking the bloods, making our way in the underground tunnels to the pathology laboratories in the specialist building, and returning to split the day between the two of us, myself and M (another of the so called acute rotators i.e. in his first year of the medical rotation, but from another university and way too laid back for my liking), we needed to cover both the ward patients, and anyone presenting to the medical emergency room, so the day was split into four 6-hour periods, and we would alternate ward and emergency room, neither of us sleeping for the next thirty six hours at least.

Running down the stairs, and entering the emergency room with the team which consisted of the first year board students, a few years older than us, much more knowledgeable but still very approachable and keen to learn and teach, they would come down armed with their polystyrene cups of coffee (and occasionally the packet of cigarettes) and their trusty textbooks; Harrison’s textbook was the commonest, but S preferred Cecil’s and A would bring down his red and blue Anderson’s, we carried our handbooks, or occasionally Davidson’s.

There were still a couple of patients left over from the night before, and we would take over from the exiting team exchanging tales of woes at how busy the night had been, and receiving reassurances that the lady in the corner would be ready to go home soon, and that the young man was definitely a tenth floor patient, his discharge card attesting to the fact and the team were informed and preparing to receive him.

Going through the early morning preparations, checking the equipment, the cardiac resuscitation trolley, the glucose monitors, the venous cut down sets.

And then the work would begin, tens of patients would pass through the doors, the barely alive cardiac patients who would take up the attention of everyone for a while and whose arrival would be the trigger to summon help from the coronary care team, once they had stabilized him or her they would take the patient up to the unit using the separate guard-operated lift back to the coronary care unit on the eighth floor, through to the diabetics in ketoacidosis, who would tax our mathematical abilities working out exact doses of insulin and fluids (we did not have continuous infusions of insulin and had to check sugars and administer doses of insulin every hour for however long it took to stabilize the patient) , to the silly girls who had had an argument too many with husband or mother in-law and decided to have some sort of nervous attack, these usually presenting with pseudo faints or unconsciousness, or occasionally elaborate pseudo epileptic attacks, they would almost invariably be accompanied by a frantic often abusive husband (if argument with mother in-law) or brother (if argument with husband), these I found particularly time wasting and to my eternal shame I offered them no sympathy whatsoever and occasionally very unkind treatment.

I preferred the second shift, around lunchtime, and with a new set of board students this was a quieter time, and as the seniors were third year board students, and not based on the ward they generally had more time and patience to teach us and go through the limited number of cases in more detail.

With the evening came the visitors, and the occasional couple of people who would pop into the outpatient department whilst visiting to have those swollen ankles sorted out, only to be whipped across to us with a note from our fourth year board students suggesting we listen to the heart for the classic mitral murmur.

Slowly going through the patients, either discharging, or admitting to the counterpart on the ward, and occasionally pouncing on the tell tale white card sticking out of the medicine bag that was the clue to their prior visit, their prior diagnosis, and most importantly the team that would now be called down to sort out their returning patient.

More often than not, we would have our regular odd patient, I am not sure what his diagnosis was, but to anyone stationed at the medical city at the time he was a benign, occasionally amusing regular, in his stripped nightshirt and hat, carrying his plastic bags, and demanding his saline drip (which we usually obliged) or occasionally demanding he have a urinary catheter placed (which we usually refused) he would be humored for a while if the room was quiet, and then discharged in a hurry once the flow of patients started to pick up once more.

Through the night the trickle of patients would continue, and as morning arrived we would start shifting the last few of our intake for the day up to the final beds or couches, and going through our notes carefully making sure all necessary test results were available for the consultant ward round, climbing up the stairs wearily now, and sitting down in the doctor’s office to write out the forms for the blood tests, the drug cardexes, the instructions for the nurses, and waiting patiently for the ladies from the canteen to start bringing up the patient’s breakfast trolleys, knowing they would never pass the weary doctors without passing us a tray with hot tea, a roll of bread, butter, cheese and possibly a hard boiled egg.

At some point during this day we would have done some reading, everyone was studying for some exam or other, the board end of year exams, the board finals, the foreign exams, usually membership of British royal colleges, and in our case an opening to take the American License exams, we used the patient note paper, and studied our craft, making notes as we read.
The image is one such page, with reminders of the nerves of the lower limb, including the obturator nerve.

saminkie said...
the nights of the obturator nerve is very clever nice brain storming title....from where you got that abitlity to creat such a nice title....3eeraqimedic I think you are creative....
know something....those days of rotation will always be on my personality changed while I was doing rotation.....thank you for such a nice post...(obturatur nerve....waow...nights of obturator nerve...I congragualate you again for such a nice title really)...
02 December 2007 14:50

3eeraqimedic said...
Dear Sami
Glad you liked it!
Yes the rotation changes one, entering a little hyperconfident inexperienced student we come out less confident more realistic slightly more experienced doctors.
03 December 2007 05:48



I was part of a jigsaw
Discarded by time

Part of a picture
Faded even in my mind

The paper picture

The wood pieces

The sharp corners
I once had

Faded and

The carved edges
I once had

To fit

The face
I once had

Crayoned over

Where I belong

A bag of spare pieces
A box of odds and ends
A bunch of bits and pieces

From all the games
And puzzles
That life
Left behind

saminkie said...
I saved this poem in my mobile phone to read it again and again....look 3eeraqimedic.. I do not like poems too much but I will tell you some truth....I did not like your previous poems...I read them but...did not like to think about them more...but this is really a poem that nead to be read in slow...spelling every word slowly...and i will do that tonight and comment are a poet now in my mind....
02 December 2007 14:53

3eeraqimedic said...
Dear Sami
Syria has clearly disoriented you!
This is not poetry, it is a paragraph of words with anything extra deleted, leaving a telegraph (or for your generation a text message)the minimum sufficient to convey the meaning, or remind me of the feeling
03 December 2007 05:52

saminkie said...
Dear 3eeraqimedic, so your paragraph of words was so briliant...I liked it and it also remembered me of the piecful days we lived in our childhood me and my siter playing the not more in Syria back to iraq waiting the visa to visit my a piece of jigsaw too...thanks for your nice posts..
03 December 2007 14:41

3eeraqimedic said...
Dear Sami
Hope you do not have to wait too long
I am glad you liked this piece, and I guess we are all part of a jigsaw, I hope you do not lose the other pieces.
03 December 2007 22:12

saminkie said...
3eeraqimedic you talked in one of your answers to one of my comments about psychoanalysis...and believe me..this what you call A PARAGRAPH OF WORD, and i still think its a poem, is the best material that a real psychoanalyst can go beyond symbols and start his/her is word with open ends..with diverging is so so nice and clever...and believe me 3eeraqimedic if you wrote it in a paper then show it to someone who loves poems and ask him this way: " I read this poem of papbl neroda (or octavio path or anyone) and did not understant what he means...please what he mean do you think?" and you will laugh really laugh on their answer.....hehehe...sorry to be silly...
04 December 2007 14:51

Women on a Journey between Baghdad and London


So I go to, or know someone who goes to an Iraqi event. I buy or borrow the book written by an Iraqi offered for sale at the event, and a little while after I have written about the event I write about the book.

On this occasion the book is a novel with five characters, I will try and not spoil it for anyone wishing to read it themselves, but suffice to say it is about Iraqi women in exile and the outcome is not rosy for all.

The five women meet in London, and with time on their hands decide to get together regularly in a café to chat and reminisce, the women are:

Adiba a communist tortured in prison in Iraq in the 1970s, she is alone in London, and has spent the past twenty-five years looking for her husband. He has been missing since they were both escorted off the university campus one ordinary day in Baghdad. She walks with a limp, and has undergone several operations and psychotherapy to help her cope with the after effects of her experiences.

Um Mohammed, is a brilliant cook, a genuine believer and devout Muslim, a kindly soul with a good word to say about everyone she meets, a Kurdish refugee who arrives in London with her son after the “Arabs burnt their homes”, her son finds a new life in London, and she is left to her own devices.

Iqbal is a divorcee, who is also a bit of a communist, she is juggling a hectic life bringing up a child whose classmates are up to no good behind the school sheds, working long hours for modest pay with Arab colleagues, as well as keeping a secret English lover.

Sahira, is another communist, a mother of three grown up children, with a husband twenty year her senior, himself an ex-communist who has lost interest in everything and everyone including his once beautiful wife.

And finally Majda, the mad, bitter and confused widow of an executed Baathist minister. A Baathist herself, whose family once offered a safe house to a young Saddam Hussein on the run.

As a woman who has spent a quarter of a century in exile in London Haifa’s description of London as seen through the eyes of us Iraqis, arriving here penniless and alone are painfully true, I recognised with several smiles and many more tears so many of the situations and circumstances. In fact I recognised myself, or someone close to me in each and every one of her five characters at some point or other.

When Adiba shops for dates she “searched the small print on the box to find out where the dates come from. She did not want to commit the mistake she’d made once before and buy produce from Israel.”
When her psychiatrist asks Adiba if she talks to her friends and family about Iraq Adiba answers “do we talk about anything else?”

When it is suggested to Um Mohammed that she need not take her large bag with her everywhere she replies, “Who knows when we we’ll need our papers? we always needed our documents or photographs or identity card in the past… can I leave the house without my nationality papers?”

When Sahira shows her daughter her Oxfam finds pleased that they are “ beautiful, cheap and have a designer label”, the daughter is shocked that her mother is buying “other people’s rags and rubbish”

In her introduction Haifaa says of her characters
“They live in London, stepping carefully in the streets of a new country, full of apprehension and a sense of longing for their families and country……..They feel lonely in this strange place, and new culture, whose only advantage for them is that it provides a sense of security-a feeling that proves to be false………Most of the time they live in the past, unable to enjoy the present, and not daring to think of the future.

Without giving away too much, life treats the women, as the author would like people of their background to be treated, with the exception perhaps of my favourite of the characters, whose final fate is what all women, or indeed men living in western cities fear may be our own fate every time we pick up a newspaper or listen to the headlines of the local news.

I recognised small elements of people within each of the characters, and maybe that was part of the problem I had with them and with this book, the features were just spread out a little thin between them, as though there was just enough material for two or maybe three three dimensional heroines, but the author had tried to make five people out of them, with the result that the original three women with whom she clearly identified more were portrayed in more detail i.e the Kurdish Um Muhammed, the torture survivor Adiba, and the Communist Sahira, and what little was left was sprinkled over Iqbal a young women with only a whiff of Iraqiness, and Majda the tyrant of the story, and the keeper of all that is evil in being Iraqi.

But the most disappointing feature of the book is how dated it seemed to me, although only published in 2007, it was filled with communists, and with so many more recent waves of Iraqi women in London, I expected a version of this tale to have included maybe the wife of a disillusioned latter day Baathist who gets into trouble driving her massive car in London, who befriends the overworked (organising recitals and wakes) wife of an absent grand Ayatullah, ah well maybe next time?.

saminkie said...
Iraqies everywhere got so much to say...they got to talk....write and draw...they got to express themselves...they got to drain their psychic abscesses that collected in their memories....
I liked the picture of the is is real...superreal...sureal...i hope someday i can be that professional in taking pictures....thank you 3eeraqimedic for let us know about the book...
03 December 2007 14:45

3eeraqimedic said...
"drain their psychic abscesses"
For those lucky enough to have "survived" and then the luxury of being "settled" this sums us all up I think.
I will be honest with you now I am a little intimidated by psychiatrists, I always wonder if I am being analysed!
take care
03 December 2007 22:17

saminkie said...
dear 3eeraqimedic, reagarding the term (psychic abscess) it is an old Freudian term still somtimes used now and then, I cannot give you a prefessional definition now but like the term implies it means all those repressed feelings that may hurt us in someway so that we got to (drain) them by talking, writing, any form of expression...
And belive me 3eeraqmimedic, some young psychiatrist may abuse others by their silly (overvalued) terms in an attemt to analyse (psychoanalyse ) them or to let them feel the power the psychiatrist got....
I don't try never ever to analyse somebody ..and even if I uncontiously do..I do not let him/her know anything...cause that can hurt....
Look regarding me, am a silly person who want to play Jigsaw again with my sister which I miss....I likke your post too much..and not trying to analyse just talking....i need some friends cause I feel lonely and the blog provided me with some cultured nice freinds like you...and I will never ever analyse you..I will just talk with you...and you know what? psychoanalysis is a subspeciality from
Bythe way when i write comments or posts in my blog I never go back to change words...this is my way of trying to be more true and you 3eeraqimedic for your nice posts and comments and be sure that psychiatrist who want to let us feel that they analyse them by gicing some remarks and comments are just showing and are abusing their profession....psychoanalysis is not a toy in the hands of children...take care and byebye...and keep writing such nice posts...
04 December 2007 14:43



Do you want to come shopping? So it would start, the call for volunteers, someone to talk to, and someone to help carry the shopping, company.
Usually the answer would be yes, knowing at some point on the trip there would be a treat of some sort or other.

And so we would set out, my mother pushing the pram, with someone small inside, me walking alongside, in the days before our first car.
To the end of the road, with the old water tank, straight ahead through the narrow road that led to the main street, sometimes stopping at the pharmacy on the corner, the helpful pharmacist giving advice as well as prescriptions, the store part shelves of medications part cosmetics, accessories, and baby products, cerelac for the little one, a turquoise comb with “Made in Baghdad” engraved in gold for me.

Occasionally heading to the photographer, with his window display of family portraits, smiling babies, beaming couples, the drapes in the background, the coloured-in images, maybe to take a photograph for another application, or to pick up the passport style photos, with their elaborately shaped edges, in their little white paper envelopes.

Crossing the main road, and coming close to the main shopping centre, passing the falafel shop with the massive vat of boiling oil, the small containers of 3anba, and the sliced tomatoes, with the already slit open diamond shaped bread loaves ready for the crisp hot filling.

Along a little to the corner shop with the music blasting out, we would not go in now, maybe later, on the way back, and I would go through the new cassettes, always catalogued by artist and year rather than by album title, pirated and with no front cover, having to listen to a couple of songs before deciding to buy a copy, then waiting while the cassette was placed into the double deck machine in the back and a fresh copy was generated, occasionally with the tell tale blank gaps at the end of side 1 and the beginning of side 2.

Right across the road was one of the two sweet shops, the brother Shakarchee, sweets, and treats, sheker lemma and biscuits, baklawa and zlabya, always busy taking orders, and filling the van ready to make a delivery, a fancy cake, or maybe wedding sweets.

Carrying on to the “material” shop, my mother’s favourite, we would rarely miss this large double doored store, where she would discuss and debate the cloth on sale, poplin for shirts, the cotton for dresses, and the heavy cloth for curtains with the kham il sham for the lining.

Further down the grocers, with the staples, filling bags, and the metal basket below the baby’s pram with vegetables, fruit, tins of meat, and cheese, maybe some of my mother’s favourite Jibin oo sharee or as we called it “smelly feet cheese”.

The goldsmith, rarely entered, but frequently admired.

Coming to the end of the road, and to my least favourite part, the market stalls, the live chickens in little wooden cages, the sheep heads and trotters smelling and attracting the flies in the sun, the bunches of herbs dunked repeatedly in the murky water and spread out on show on the round trays, the tilting trolleys laden with the watermelons with a choice few split in two to show off their bright red spotted bellies.

Crossing the main road, turning round and returning on the opposite side, maybe stepping in to the second “material” store and asking the store keeper to bring down the rolls of colourful cloth from the tall stacks, and measure out a few meters of the cloth with his 1m wooden ruler.

The bookstore with boxes of pens and pencils, maybe if I was lucky a boxed set of colouring pencils, and a few of those colourful fruity smelling erasers, a geometry set for school, some colourful wrapping paper to cover the schoolbooks with and those special little ready made plastic book covers with their pouches for the front and back covers, in two sizes; large for the textbooks, smaller for the copybooks.

Several more grocers, several more bits and pieces, by now the pram becoming heavily laden, the baby propped up between the cauliflowers and the tins, a stop at the bread store, maybe picking up some laham ajeen, always stacking up from the freshly baked samoon, piled up still hot into the paper bags, munching my way through the crunchy pointed tips of a few on the way home.

Winding our weary way home down the now darkening side roads, away from the bustle with the sounds of crickets, back to the main street, picking up a pink ezbery ice cream on the way, and arriving home to unpack the shopping, uncover the baby, listen to my new tape, and show off my treats to those who had declined the first offer of going out shopping.

It is possible that some old timers will recognise the street, the memories are a mish mash of several years' worth of shopping trips. Very little of this will mean anything to those living there now or recently, my family look at me with amusement when I mention the water tank at the end of the road, probably one of the first of my landmarks to disappear.
saminkie said...
me and my friend went to the market before 3 days...we walked alot...alot...and alot...till a falafil restaurqant came infront of friend looked at me...examined my mental state with a smile..then...he told me "letus go eat" was near the garage of centrwal mosul many poor people were there eating with us...but after i finished my first sanduich..i quit wondering about the cleanes of the i asked the second...then got a crush for the third..and 3mba was spilling out of my mouth (just kiding)...and after that we drunk was something 3eeraqimedic...if i was living near you I would have bring you some....
14 November 2007 14:52

saminkie said...
That crush i got for the third sandwich made me think that it can cause addiction...can it? especially that smell of the indian it really from india?....anyway...addiction to 3amba flavoured falafil would be really interesting subject...
14 November 2007 14:59

3eeraqimedic said...
Dear Sami
You made me smile, how did you pick up on the Felafil!
Yes for me this simple dish has many very fond memories
But surely it is only when the restaurant is not clean that they will taste good, I have eaten them in places where it is polite to eat a sandwich with a knife and fork and they did not taste as good, but we have managed to find one place in London that sells decent Falafel sandwiches that are not pretending to be something else, the vendor is Palestinian and offers a special 3anba version for Iraqis rather than the usual tahina dressing.
14 November 2007 23:40

Yasmin (Blanche) said...
Dear 3eeraqi Medic,
what a post !! full of memories of our good old Baghdad..
the only street with a water tank i know, is Sharea el Tankee.. and there is a mrket place near to it..
could it be the same u r talking ab?? im not sure if there were more than one in Baghdad..
15 November 2007 07:48

3eeraqimedic said...
Dear Yasmin
I am not sure what exactly ,makes the street uniquely old Baghdady but it was, and for a generation of us in the 70s and 80s this is where time stopped and in that time bubble we remain.
I am not sure if the road was called Share3 il Tanky, the one I refer to was not very large on the road parallel to Omar Bin Abdul Azziz street, I get a feeling we are talking about the same place.
17 November 2007 20:06

Still waiting to return



Three trains
From seaside
To London
A ritual trip
In search of
A street
A smell
A taste
A sound
Something like home
And kebabs
And music

An Egyptian
Who knew
We all seek the familiar
The memories
A suggestion
A disc

On the floor
In the hallway
Of an empty flat
The music started

“I loved you in the summer”
That classical teenage pick up line

“Adaysh Kan fee Nas”
A school picnic

“Zahrat Al Madain”
Years of pride and of hope

“Ya Mukhtar il Makhateer”
The drives home

A story repeating itself

A muffled noise
From somewhere

“We will return
To our city
We will return
No matter how long the time
And how far the distance
The nightingale informed me
The bulbul still sings our poems”

The song drowned
The noise now filling the dark
Moaning from
The heap
Curled up
On the floor

Yasmin (Blanche) said...
dear 3eeraqi Medic,
Sa Narjeo , always was a Very sad song in my opinion.. before we even got aquanited with terms like Ghurba, Hujra, nostalgia, etc..
yr post filled me with sadness, filled me with realization for the millionth time of what we have lost and how much we miss it..
did u mean to say that the day Will eventually come when we return?? od u really blv there still is Hope??
i dont know.. my heart is filled with sadness, adn an urge to cry..
i miss Baghdad..
03 November 2007 09:22

A&Eiraqi said...
3mti & Yasmin
Do you still have a hope?
يا كلبي لا تتمنى ما طول جافانا الهوى وبطلنه
وك لا عين ضلت خاليه ولاضل ولف يتعنه
ولا تدك يالدكك قهر مقفول باب الجنه
وهي نوب ما مش ضنه
آه يا وكتنه الما صفت نيته وزرك عينه النه
وطحنه بوسط شلوه هفه وكل ذيب يبرد سنه
ردنه نكف ونهوش نحمي الروح ما أمجنه
وانته بجلاده عين صحت اكلنه
وما طول راضي بموتنى ستاطنه
آه ياخسارة نوحناويارخص ذيج الونه
ردفا علينا سهامكم واعلى الصبر دامنه
لااحنى للدنيا صفينا ولا هوى الدنيا النه
متبدل بطبعه الهوى لو احنى التبدلنه
آه ياهواهم باول ايامه شكثر دللنه
من وصل طينتها الضهر كلها تبرت منه
لاسالفه بشفة محب ولا عاذل اليعذلنه
وحشه دنيانه وصفت جنها ابد موش النه
متبدل بطبعه الوكت لو احنه التبدلنا

I know it sounds bizzar; but that what I feel

03 November 2007 10:07

3eeraqimedic said...
Dear Yasmin and A&EIraqi
Sorry I keep doing this, this video did make me a bit sad when I first found it and brought back memories of the CD I bought all those years ago.
But in fact for this week (until the next phone call) I am a little more optimistic, apparently things are 60% better. I do not promise to remain positive for long but will try and think up something happier to share.
take care
04 November 2007 00:34

Yasmin (Blanche) said...
3eeraqi Medic,
i forgot to ask u, if i may, where did u get this oooold film of baghdad streets?? its like a documentary..
the trip in the familiar streets was So touching..
05 November 2007 12:54

3eeraqimedic said...
Dear Yasmin
I am not sure where the film is from, but it was uploaded to You Tube by someone calling himself namirkh check out his You Tube collection they are reliably great, and he has access to all sorts of material from history to Iraqi TV programs.
06 November 2007 19:19

The Plight of Iraqi People under Occupation


The clutching at straws continues, another one-day event, sponsored by SIUI (Solidarity for Independent United Iraq), and advertised by the Iraqi league

I wanted to go, but at the last minute could not, but I got hold of recordings of the event, and having watched most of them I have put together a summary of the day's talks I have also extracted a minute of an accusation against the Iraqi Medical Association, who were the organisers the July meeting that produced my Mind the Gap post.

After the opened words from the Iraqi author Haifa Zangana, the meeting started with an overview of Forced Migration presented by the Director of the Iraqi League Mazin Younis and London based academic Dr Mundher Al-Adhami.

A concise presentation with several case histories of forcible deportation of people and families from all over Iraq starting with the family of an executed detainee taken hostage by the British forces to force his brother out of hiding in Basra in April 2003, the systematic displacement of families in certain areas of Basra, followed by the handing over of their homes to the militias, the extension of this policy to the American controlled areas, the map of Baghdad showing the five main entry points into the city which just happen to be the areas of greatest insecurities and ongoing “sectarian” or “religious” displacements.
Deadly distractions diverting attention from the entry and exit sites needed for troop movement.

The targeted murders of the intellectuals was detailed by Doctor Ismail al Jalili and was a followed by a presentation on the work carried out by Professor John Akker of the council for assisting refugee academics (CARA).

Dr Sawsen Ismail a senior lecturer in political sciences in Baghdad University gave a presentation on the situation of academics in Iraqi universities, the 200 plus murdered lecturers and senior lecturers, the 40% student attendance rates, and the virtual encouragement by the government of the taking of long unpaid leave by those students and lecturers it cannot protect and who are fearful for their lives, her talk was in Arabic which was simultaneously translated to English by the young woman chairing of the session; a third year medical student who left Iraq a year ago and is still waiting for admission to university here to complete her degree.

Mr Al-Shaikhly who only recently arrived from Iraq, started by a sweeping criticism of all the well known satellite channel speakers who were “unable” to attend the meeting in London, he went on to speak with passion of the situation of women in Iraq before and after the occupation, the daily toil to stay alive, the forces that had made her return to a “middle ages” role in her black cloak following the turbaned leader into the American tank protected parliament building.

He detailed the sectarisation of universities, hospitals, and ministries, giving an example of the non-eligibility of his son to attend the University of Mustansiryia. The indoctrination of elementary school students, with the daily reminders of the birth and martyrdom days of one or other of the imams.

He went on to describe the violent alteration in demography of Mosul and Kirkuk specifically, and was less than complimentary towards Jalal Talabani. His concluding remarks where “the Iraqi will remain, after the tanks have left, the price will be high, the time may be long but we the Iraqis will prevail”.

International Law Lawyer Sabah Al Mukhtar who made several points, starting with the Guantanamo situation, and how it’s (il)legal status and the world’s silence but more importantly the silence of Americans within government, parliament, and the legal system makes the apparent international acceptance of what continues to happen in Iraq easier to comprehend. He went through the legal options available to bring countries or people to trial for all the breaches in law that have been and continue to take place, international courts would need a state or an international body to commence proceedings The Arab League could, but clearly wouldn’t, individuals could take their cases in civil courts, an interesting example could be for an individual from Falluja to take Ayad Allawi (a British Citizen) to court in the UK, provided enough funds could be found, the one piece of advice he did have was to document everything and anything, anyone can and should do this even if just on a scrap of paper dated with details of the event be it personal injury, damage to property committed by the occupying forces, it may be used by future generations of lawyers to sue the occupying forces who legally at least would be held accountable.

He gave a breakdown of the 40.000 currently held detainees (outside the militia prisons).

He was asked a question regarding making a legal case for an international tribunal on the grounds of genocide to cover events in Iraq and it was in the context of responding to this question that he mentioned how the IMA formally objected to a submission made to the British Parliament to allow the British Medical Journal to be sent to Iraq during the years of the sanctions, an accusation of complicity in UN enforced genocide (no mention of the timing of this event or who was in charge of the IMA at the time).

Tahrir Numan who was chairing this session went on to speak amongst other things about the ongoing detention of women in lieu of their men folk by the American forces. The day’s final session was presented by Mustafa Elmara titled Control of Oil is the Mission. The common feature in this like so many other events is that they are preaching to the converted, with a small group of vigorous head nodding listeners, and one recurring thought at the end of all such events “what should be done? Can anything be done? “

A&Eiraqi said...
I was going to attend it but I didn't.
The thing is; watching the video I can say that the speaker said the truth.
That happened to us and when we complained they said it's Saddam's propaganda and there are ones who still try to put things as they're propaganda.
But; saying that someone was not accepted in a university for sectarian causes is doubtful; still accepting students for undergraduate studies is controlled by the ministry of Education and the universities have nothing to do with it; it doesn't mean there is no cheating in that; but cheating by accepting ones who are less qualified for it.
I totally agree with the way you ended the post; what will be done?
I don't think anything will be done.
31 October 2007 18:23

3eeraqimedic said...
I may have misquoted, I don't think he meant his son would not accepted in University but they he would notbe welcomed in the University I think you wrote something about Mustansirya yourself sometime ago.
As for the final statement it is why I started the post with clutching at straws.
31 October 2007 20:57

A&Eiraqi said...
I didn't deny the sectarian and militias control of Al-Mustansiriya university.
I just doubt not accepting the guy in the university.
At the end of the day; you're right I said before it has been Al-Musawiyia university.

31 October 2007 21:52

The God Delusion


I read this book some months ago, having blown my cover too many times to recall, and with Ramadan I found it difficult to post this before now, I have decided to do so but to my regular visitors a warning
As the title implies, if you are devout believer in God or Gods you may well find this post offensive, so please click away now.
To the casual reader this post is very long, and very wordy.

When I first started to question faith I did so from a selfish viewpoint, the faiths I had grown up with and specifically the one I was expected to follow left much to be desired, in my view at least with regards to the position of females in society, many would argue my conclusions but let us leave those discussions for now.

Having rejected some of the elements of the religion it seemed logical to start questioning others, and rather quickly thereafter to conclude that the whole “message” was a hoax, a very good one but nonetheless a hoax.

And at that point I felt a great sense of relief.

What a load of time I had saved, I didn’t need to read the whole convoluted and confusing text and argue each verse and all its possible explanations to find the errors, or go through each ritual and track back its roots in the ancient history of the people of the region, or delve into several assertions of miraculous pre-scientific knowledge hidden in text and prove their errors.

I did not need to do any of this for myself, and frankly that was all that mattered. It was never in my plan to change to world, or collect converts; it was sufficient for me to find that my doubts had co-sharers, and that there were many more logical alternatives to the angels and the eternal damnation.

But when the ground beneath our feet is dissolving, when our entity, our past, our life-long truths are being eroded, and in the name of a variety of versions of a single religion millions of our people are being displaced, tortured, massacred and worse, those close to me all seem to be trying to make sense of the events by concerted effort to further their knowledge in the religion itself (and embracing it even more wholeheartedly) or in the history of the region.

Every house I visit shows the evidence, the books abound, the history of Al Hajjaj, the history of the Abassids, the history of the Inquisition, the history of Islam, and the history of Iraq written by all manner of authors.

I even found a book published by some American church funded organisation called “What is the difference” which is a set of arguments to use against followers of other religions to convince them of the superiority of Christianity.

After resisting for a while I also succumbed.

True to form however I was more interested in why people follow religions in the first place rather than which of the selection of religions, sub religions, sects, and sub sects is the truer version of God’s message.

I started with a book in Arabic written in 1931 by Iraqi poet Maroof Al-Rusafi, and published in 2003, the premise of the book titled the Mohamadian persona was to very politely and rather apologetically suggest that maybe, just maybe Mohamed was only a genius, the greatest genius ever to have stepped forth on this magnificent earth to be sure, but maybe only a genius, and that the Almighty in all his greatness although clearly having all the wondrous features described by the genius Mohammed, maybe just maybe had not really said all those things in the Koran.
The method used was to do the whole “look here, in this bit of this Sura the grammar is odd, in this line of this Aya He surely cannot mean this because that would mean that” and so on.

I found it very hard going, and was unable to complete the book.

A book I managed to complete recently was published in 2006, by Richard Dawkins titled The God delusion.

From a Christian background and with a career in evolutionary biology, the author argues his case that not only is God a delusion but that religion is a force of great evil. The book relies very heavily on the theory of evolution; the concept is that if science can refute the religious idea of creationism then the belief in God should just dissolve.

It is not an easy read, and as I read late at night when my concentration is less than perfect I needed to read several sections repeatedly, and did not entirely follow the logic behind some of the chemistry and physics origins of earth sections.

The stated goal of the book is to “raise consciousness” in four separate elements.

1. To make people aware that they can question, and that ultimately they can leave “their” religions, yet remain happy, balanced, moral and intellectually fulfilled.

2. That if evolution is accepted as an explanation for all the incredible variety past and present in living creatures on earth, then it is likely that in time physics and chemistry will prove that the non living elements around us also evolved rather than were necessarily “created” by a super-powerful God / Gods of religions.

3. That to indoctrinate children in parental religious belief is a form of child abuse, and that we should all of us flinch whenever we hear a phrase such as “Catholic child “or “Muslim child” instead of a “child of Muslim parents”.

4. That being an atheist is something to be proud of, it nearly always indicated a healthy independence of mind.

I have no problem with his first three conscious raisers, and in this book I found another; the non-benign nature of “Non-fundamentalist, sensible religion, which may not be damaging young minds, but it is making the world safe for fundamentalist by teaching children, from their earliest years, that unquestioning faith is a virtue”

I am not convinced with his fourth statement mainly because it is arrogant.

The book has been reviewed by both sides of the argument elsewhere, I would like to quote some sections I especially liked.

“American polls suggest that atheists and agnostics far outnumber religious Jews, and even outnumber most other particular religious groups. Unlike Jews, however who are notoriously one of the most effective political lobbies in the United States, and unlike Evangelical Christians, who wield even greater political power, atheist and agnostics are not organized and therefore exert almost zero influence. Indeed organizing atheists has been compared to herding cats, because they tend to think independently and will not conform to authority.”

So there you have it, herd the American atheists and America will stop meddling in our affairs.

“God is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction; jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Although this description of the God in the religious textbooks is true, this is the sort of description used to soften one up, usually before waging war against the people of this unpleasant character, often a war wrapped in a few “ we have no problems with the people, just the leader” pacifiers.

Sociologists studying British children have found that only about one in twelve break away from their parents’ religious beliefs.

Hopeless then! In fact this is rather frightening if you think how followers of orthodox forms of the three monotheistic religions place such importance on hyper-reproduction.

Why do we so readily accept the idea that the one thing you must do if you want to please God is believe in him? What’s so special about believing? Isn’t it just as likely that God would reward kindness, or generosity, or humility, or sincerity? What if God is a scientist who regards honest seeking after truth is the supreme virtue? Indeed wouldn’t the designer of the universe have to be a scientist?
Why should God value dishonestly faking belief or even honest belief over honest scepticism?

Now this bit I liked very much, oh the arrogance of us scientists!

In his intriguing argument of natural selection being more likely than design as the producer of the variety of living creatures and their wonderfully complex organs I liked the “Climbing Mountain Improbable” argument, so if you imagine a mountain with a structure of complexity or great beauty being the summit, the design theory for creation requires that the summit is reached in a massive jump from the ground and requires the workings of a God, however, rather neatly evolution goes round the back of the mountain and creeps up the gentle slope in small steps.

The message from the intelligent design theory to the scientist: If you don’t understand how something works, never mind; just give up and say God did it. You don’t know how the nerve impulse works? Good! Please don’t go on to work on the problem, just give up and appeal to God.

I can imagine many imams sympathising with this train of thought.

Though the details differ across the world, no known culture lacks some version of the time-consuming, wealth-consuming, hostility-provoking rituals, the anti-factual, counter-productive fantasies of religion.
The old Northern Ireland joke “Yes but are you a protestant atheist or a catholic atheist” is spiked with bitter truth.

So true, except in our case the joke will start with: and before I behead you for being an atheist are you……?

It made very interesting reading, although it answered some of my questions about the how and why of religion, it did not really convince me strongly to stop my agnostic-atheist-agnostic indecision.

I have for some time felt that (giving people the benefit of doubt) the three Middle Eastern religions were started as social experiments in reform, based on human ideas of right and wrong, which have in common this singular mighty God as the filler of all gaps in knowledge and trump card used to answer all unfathomable questions. That in itself does not mean there are no beings out there who are more intelligent or more powerful than us, although they did not create us, nor have any interest in our daily activities, they may have mistakenly made contact with earthlings and hence the whole Gods in the sky stories (you can see I have watched way too much Star Trek).

What I had lazily wanted, and unsurprisingly did not find was the absolute scientific proof for the absence of God. I admit my expectations were unrealistic, after several thousands of years of argument and counter argument it was unlikely that I would find the proof in a paperback from Waterstones.

The book puts forward several arguments for the low probability of His existence, but because all the scientific evidence is not available yet, it resorts to luck or chance repeatedly to explain away certain tricky questions, maybe statistically more likely than a God but I am not a mathematician, and struggled to understand it all so I suspect the vast majority of people would still hedge their bets and go for what the elders told them was the truth rather than what a few scientists say – this propensity to believe our parents and elders is of course a very useful evolutionary feature, and also makes religious belief so easy to spread and is dealt with in some detail in the book.

What this book, alongside a couple of documents I received by email after a previous posting, and the chance discovery of the blog of a well respected and internationally renowned British colleague who is “praying for the salvation of Christians from the damaging effect of Islam” and “is preparing for the imminent return of Jesus” did, was raise my consciousness to the similarities between the delusional thought process going on in some very intelligent and occasionally very powerful American and British Christian minds and those going on in some Muslim minds.

I respect the fact that the main arguments of the author are kept within Christianity, it is an uncomfortable truth that even someone like myself will feel a stirring of indignation if non-Muslims have a go at Islam while putting forward their alternative religion as being so much more peaceful / more genuine / more progressive etc. and also why I was initially so impressed by Ibn Warraq’s “Why I am not a Muslim” when I read it several years ago (although I wonder about the motivation of someone who goes on to write a book called In Defence of the West).

One thing that intrigued me about the book, and even more so about the author's website was an uncomfortable sense of the absolute conviction of Richard Dawkins and his followers in the superiority of his theories.

It reminded me of the absolute conviction I have seen in so many religious people, the superiority of their faith and often fatally the superiority of their sect, I have never understood how people can quite happily ridicule the rituals of yearly visits to burial places, from the lofty height of the “superior” ritual of anual pilgrimage to a gold draped meteorite, or how people can confidently assert that a book written two thousand years ago was clearly altered, from the altogether more solid position of leading their lives and condemning others on the basis of the actions or words of a man conveyed verbally for a few hundred years.

Although clearly conviction in scientifically proven fact is different “ fundamentalist know they are right because they have read the truth in a holy book and they know, in advance, that nothing will budge them from their belief…..When a science book is wrong, somebody eventually discovers the mistake and it is corrected in subsequent books. That conspicuously doesn’t happen with holy books” and science can repeatedly and with ease that increases with time refute religious myths, this has not yet made much difference to the proportion of the world’s population who still follow one of the three religious “gifts” our part of the world has given to mankind.

It is fascinatingly irritating how the exact word of God is extremely flexible at times, allowing a variety of interpretations of a piece of text when the literal meaning is proven wrong “well the six / seven days were never meant to be taken literally, it is symbolic” whereas when it comes to other parts of text they must be obeyed to the letter and offenders must be punished in “literally the way God states” and no we cannot change this because we cannot possible know any better!

Human knowledge has not yet reached the point of scientifically refuting the existence of God, in time it may well be able to do so but whether that will change the course of humanity is another matter.

Richard Dawkins presented a BBC programme last year titled “The root of all evil” and in this book he asserts that the world would be a better place without religion “imagine no 9/11, no Israel-Palestinian conflict, no Northern Ireland conflict etc”, elsewhere in the book Richard Dawkins is fairly certain that all the problems in Northern Ireland would be over in a decade if it weren’t for separate schools and rarity of mixed marriages, well as is clear in my country where previously one third of marriages were inter-sect, and as far as I am aware there were no such things as sect specific schools none of this protected people from worse fates than those seen in Northern Ireland.

Returning to my point about the superiority of personally held belief, I think it is this very human failing of arrogance (of which I am as guilty as the next person) rather than the religion itself that is the root of all the human suffering caused in the name of ideas, whether they cloak themselves with religious mythology or admit that they are the brain child of social reformers, or just plain power greedy mind manipulators.

Because this conviction in the superiority of personally held belief is such a widespread human character, according to evolution it must have some very powerful survival advantage.

This is my simplistic thinking; I am sure others will improve upon them.
I suppose if you have no maps, no aerial views of the world and yet you build your boat and set sail, because contrary to everyone else’s opinion you are absolutely sure there is land beyond the water you make the survival of your genetic makeup more likely if you are proven right, so the gene for conviction survives, likewise any of a whole host of human discoveries that at the time must have seemed magical or fanciful, the ability of human beings to be absolutely convinced they are right based on a hunch or subjective evidence or even occasionally without a shred of evidence has on the whole probably meant we have advanced our knowledge, and thus our chances of survival, it is in some occasions an evolutionary advantage for people to be absolutely sure they are right.

It may be the terrible but unavoidable price we pay for this advantage of arrogance “misfiring into arrogance of the superiority of personal delusion” that millions of people need to die for, or as innocent bystanders of “holy” wars fought by others in the name of these firmly held delusions also called religions.

In time I suppose humans will evolve out of this monotheistic version of the delusion, just as we evolved out of all the other ancient religions. However history tells us that in the meantime what tends to happen is the replacement of one religion or ideology with another more “modern” or more “pure” version of the religion / ideology which spreads - to quote the author – “like a mind virus” spontaneously, or at least when its’ followers kill off enough of the dissenters.

Who knows maybe the Darwin / Dawkins arguments will be the new religion, but I dread to think of all the rituals and fanciful stories woven by the followers of the enlightened prophet Darwin and his great disciple Dawkins (and their sons and rightful heirs displaced by someone else) fighting those “non-believers” in a few hundred years time!

saminkie said...
You said you questioned your faith from a selfish point of view, and I wanna say that what you did was the right thing. You got to view your religion (and other religions) selfishly, or if you like to use a better word, egocentrically, or use the sentence (from a personal point of view) to be deplomatic.

Regarding the word, a hoax, am not that good in english but doesn't mean deception? That implies that the religious men/women and prophets knew that it is wrong. I thinkl they really believe of their religion…most of prophets (I think) believed thathey were prophets…they did not attempt to decieve..but…whether they were true or wrong..this is the question..

Anthropology was the science that gave me the best explanations about religion and why people follow religions in the first palce as you qeustioned…and you know what?...i think it was in Iraq where it all started, there in the south, in the marches, where the 4 rivers of the sumerian heaven that it all started, you can see how much is taken from sumerian stories and ideas into the mandies (sade2a manda2eyoun) religion and then to other religions…it is a heritage of believes changing over thousands of years….

3eeraqimedic thank you for that frank bright courageous post…
31 October 2007 07:54

saminkie said...
Am reading these days TOTEM AND TABOO of Sigmund Freud and it is about the origins of Taboos…and believe me 3eeraqimedic it is more enjoyful to read Freud than to read Richard Dawkins, cause I think Einstein had made physics inaccessable to the nonprofessionals in physics and after him all professionals in physics and related things like richard Dawkins is really tuisting the mind in a bizzar way…I think many of them have some mental bizzaries…some schizotypal traits…(that doesn't mean psychiatrists and psychologists are not bizzare sometimes, Freud himself is neurotic)…
31 October 2007 07:54

saminkie said...
Did you hear about the God gene?
31 October 2007 07:55

3eeraqimedic said...
Dear Sami
I had transiently forgotten your interest in world religions, well thank you for "publicly" commenting on this post, selfish / egocentric both do not sound very complimentary.

As far as the hoax is concerned I felt that I had been tricked hence the use of the word.
Only the people themselves whether prophets disciples or religious leaders can know whether they genuinely believe what they say, or realise they are deceiving people but think it is in their best interest, or deceive them intending to gain from the deception, I did go on later to say that they probably were social reformers who used the tools available at the time to spread their ideas.
And yes religions are all our fault and boy are we paying the price!

I must admit I have not read Freud possibly because I had pre-judged him as rather single-minded!! I will take your advice though.

And finally no I have not heard of the God gene, is that some gene that makes you more likely to be religious? But I will look it up.
31 October 2007 21:10

Little Penguin said...

Like Saminkie, I applaud your willingness to discuss a subject of this scale in front of people. When it comes to matters like this, there's nothing to be ashamed of. It's those sheep who are spoon-fed their beliefs that should snap out of their intellectual siesta and start thinking for themselves.

Many will (and have) been offended by this post, but I didn't. If anything, it shows you've got a functioning intellect..

The question of the need for religion can be tackled from endless viewpoints.. Marx said it's an opium of the masses.. Weber says it's a remedy for times of distress.. He says this and he says that.. Personally, I feel that I can't afford to rely on my very own moral evolution to come to a conclusion as to what is right and what is wrong. I can't live half a century and then realise that I should've done something differently.. Religion, albeit restrictive for the vast majority, is necessary for the smooth functioning of human societies.

Be it an indefinable superpower that defies logic and physics and metaphysics and chemistry and all that - or a wooden horse.. both will do their bit to maintain some sort of social order.. How just and reasonable and socially satisfying this authority is depends on the kind of regulations that it serves to maintain.. Hindus categorise people in accordance to their castes, some Muslims are so matriarchal is disgusting, some Christians are so celibate they turn into peadophiles - these aspects of religion are unpleasant indeed, but that shouldn't be anyone's excuse to claim the absolute rebuttal of the need for a religion..

In any case, it's not purely a question of texts and miracles and praying and starving .. it certainly involves a degree of intuitive desire to cling onto something beyond our comprehension..

I would go on but i've an anthropology essay to finish..


P.S: hope you liked the Iraq poem..
14 November 2007 19:32

Little Penguin said...
sorry.. patriarchal.. certainly not matriarchal.
14 November 2007 19:43

3eeraqimedic said...
Little Penguin
Well well I had you down as one ptential offendee (is that a real word?) pray tell me who did I ofend? or at least tell them I am sorry, but I have never hidden my position regarding religion on this blog (although in the real world it is another matter)
One of the things that Richard Dawkins stresses repeatedly is that just because we need a delusion does not make it any less of a delusion, and although rules are clearly needed for functioning society why follow illogical or even potentially dangerous rules?
Beyond our comprehension I can accept, but I just can't square that with the messages as allegedly sent by such a powerful being.
Dear me I should have just stuck with my original "At this point I had a great sense of relief" and stopped there!
15 November 2007 00:19

Comment deleted
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.
17 December 2007 02:38

3eeraqimedic said...
An open message to visitors
Do not use my site as an advertising tool for your “oh so innocent” little campaigns for “modernising Islam” which include rewriting history to suit your whims and fancies, trying to erase crimes committed by Christians and Jews and criminalising freedom fighters and national patriots.


Ayamkum Sa3eeda


Will it be tomorrow or the day after? That was the question.

The television told us, until the television told us we would be prepared for both possibilities, homework finished, school uniforms ready, schoolbags packed, just in case, at the same time the house cleaned, the kitchen filled with the aroma of baking, the visitor’s room ready and welcoming, also just in case.

In our dishdashas or baza pyjamas, peering through the windows willing the crescent to show itself to our pleading eyes, we would carefully keep note of the television waiting for the news, the official declaration, seen or not seen?

With the news over we would then either reluctantly creep up the stairs and get into bed, or scramble down begging to be allowed to stay up a little later as the theme music changed and "il layla 3eed" started playing to the background sparkly images.

The next morning we would rise very early, tumbling down the stairs to wish our parents “happy days” and get through the breakfast quickly so we could at last don our brand new clothes and shoes, garments bought or sewn several days or even weeks in advance specially for the occasion.

Looking our best and with parents eventually prepared (only when you get older do you realise how many other things the adults had to do before they could leave) the journeys would begin, it always seemed to be a race, carefully orchestrated and involving meticulous attention to hierarchy so younger members of the family (even if they were in their sixties) would visit the older ones, and in turn receive visits from those younger, the same applied at work so juniors greet their seniors, and so on, we would start with the neighbours in ever increasing circles of distance, tasting samples of every household’s pastries, and repaying with our own on the return visit.

After this there would be a visit to the relatives no longer with us, a special prayer for my grandfather, his father, and the uncles buried not far away, with the annual reminder of each and every one, their names, their achievements and the stories of their bravery.

Then it was time for the first half of the family members, those relatives living nearby, the first and second cousins, some with their own children, all in our new clothes, all under strict instructions to “behave well”, “speak politely”, “thank everyone profusely for the 3eedyia” (gifts or traditionally coins given to children by older relatives in Eid), “never take more than one Mackintosh sweet” (why was it always Quality Street) even if offered repeatedly, and “under no circumstances get our new clothes dirty!”

At lunch time we would congregate at my grandmother’s house. A large meal, lots more people, gifts for the children and often a special television film.

In the evening the cycle would continue, with the slightly more distant relatives, who also lived slightly further away, the visits becoming briefer, the sweets and pastries much less tempting now, with many more istikans of chai to help digest the various parts of the meals.

By the second day our list of visitors and visits would be getting shorter, and our patience in waiting to spend our money would be shorter still.

A trip to Luna Park, a special toy, and many sweets later and becoming rather uncomfortable in the not-so-new clothes, and the not-so-comfortable shoes the days of celebration would rapidly come to an end.

And tomorrow we would go back to school, back to friends, to compare notes, to compare 3eedyias and gifts, and to take whatever was left of the pastries to who ever could manage another one the day after the Eid.

If you celebrated today or if you are celebrating tomorrow, have a good Eid, and for our country and people may the year ahead bring liberty, peace and prosperity.

A&Eiraqi said...
اسعد الله ايامك و كل عام و انت بخير
13 October 2007 09:21

saminkie said...
ayamkum sa3eeda....nice post...i like it when you talked about the BAZA pijamas...
13 October 2007 15:32

3eeraqimedic said...
Glad you liked it, it was very much as usualy influenced by Yasmin of noomehillo.
Ah yes brushed cotton never brings back memories like baza does!!
14 October 2007 00:50

Yasmin (Blanche) said...
3eeraqi Medic,
i miiiis el Bejama el resembles the good ooold days..
Kol am wente bekher my dear..
16 October 2007 07:57

3eeraqimedic said...
It is always the little things
best wishes for a better year
16 October 2007 18:56

Sour sixteen


I was ten, the oldest and the lucky one; I got a room to myself.
On the second floor, windows facing the road.

It had been L’s room. L died shortly after his mother, his clothes were found in a neat pile by the river edge, no one spoke about L; in fact we children should never have overheard the story of the clothes and the river.

He had painted one wall of his room purple, moving into his room was strange, I was an avid reader of horror stories, the Amityville house fresh in my mind, and I had nightmares in that room for some time with L peering in through the windows watching me.

The purple wall had gone by the time we arrived, but it took me some time and many “pushing the boundaries” battles with parents to convert the room to my liking, with cushions on the ground, and ruche curtains (in pink I am ashamed to say!).

An entire wall dedicated to my bookcase, with everything from my childhood comics and annuals, and later my teenage magazines, from school books, to my storybook collection, my fathers’ old Arsene Lupin and Sherlock Holmes detective stories and my own Agatha Christie series, later joined by the heavy tombs of medical books, the largest and a cause of years of teasing at college my Grey’s anatomy (this is the most comprehensive anatomy book but at over 1000 pages most first and second year medical students find it too heavy going), and my trusty skeleton (in his cool box, wrapped in tissue paper, surrounded by pieces of polystyrene, with his hands in surgical gloves).
Medical journals, atlases, picture albums, cassettes, and a few trophies completed the collection.

Sitting on the wardrobe, watching over me as I grew were my childhood companions. Two dolls; birthday gifts for my second and third birthdays, a sad teddy bear, and a grey poodle.

In the corner of the room my chest for the future, a small collection for my future home, handmade delicate tapestries, tablecloths, and bedding, curtains and cushions, waiting for their new furniture.

Under the bed was my special box.
An envelope with a ring, a letter from a teen admirer, three books of illustrated poems, black and white paintings, a small blue photograph album, an autograph book from primary school signed by my teachers, and by C, S, and N, and my white diary.

When I came to leave, my sisters queued to move in, some things would be used again, the books read over the years by many others, the skeleton traveled all around Baghdad for years in his cool box, the clothes worn out before conversion into patchwork bedcovers.

I went through my boxes, and imagined what would happen as I crossed the border, inspections and checks, how could I explain a party gown, brand new tablecloths, how could I explain the college photos, the poetry, the books, I could not risk it. I left it all behind, with me traveled only a few books and my white diary.

As I watch and read about people recording the packing of their lives, into boxes, into spare rooms, blithely organizing things away knowing they may never return, I remember those days, and I remember all those things I packed away in 1991, as I left my room for my sister, and I imagine all the things my sisters packed away in 2004, stacked up in my room to be locked up leaving the rest of the house for the relatives who would later be forcibly removed, and I imagine my room as it used to be, and I try not to imagine what it may be like now.

If you are leaving and cannot take it all, think of this, try to put your things in safe hands, try to distribute them thinly, try to let others enjoy or benefit from them, and destroy what you cannot bare to share, and if you can, photograph everything you love but must leave behind, in years to come your memories will fade, and you may never see your home again.

The image is a note written in haste, folded several times and crushed into my pocket, it was handed to me by my grandmother on the morning I left home for “a little while, until the situation improves”.
The text reads, “We place barriers in their hands and barriers behind them, and their vision will be blurred, and they cannot see” verse 9 from the 36th Sura Y.S (pronounced Ya sin)
Her advice to me was to repeatedly read this as I approached the border, and the patrols would be blinded and I would be able to pass.
Yasmin (Blanche) said...
Dear 3eeraqi Medic,
Yekhabbol !!.. Sooo touching..
it was always painful that one has to leave for good but cannot take the most precious things that sometimes mean nothing special but for this person in particular..
i still remeber things i left home, they were nothing valuable, but to me each piece held a memory..and was special..
i feel like crying.. yr post so deeply touching im thinking of writing a post about the things i left at home and still miss till this day..
PS: i left a 2nd comment on yr previous post..u once again took me back in time..
01 October 2007 09:59
Little Penguin said...
3eeraqimedic, I'm in awe of your honesty..

your accurate account of decade-old events is disarming to say the least..

It puzzles me as to why this is.. this life.. why does it pan out this way? I dont think it's nostalgia that compelled you to write this particular post.. discussing one's possessions and the dreadful thought of mis-handling your personal history, history which is cosmically-microsocopic yet sentimentally enormous.. writing about this is definitely the result of an enduring sense of betrayal by our surroundings.. by our life.. If I were you, I wouldn't have written this to feed a sense of longing and nostalgia.. I would be in desperate wanting of and an undying yearning for that kind of life.. music on the BBC World Service, book cases full of your own periodicals, stories and stuff.. all of that.. but I would mightily angry.. fuming..

This is not how things should be..

Have you tried retrieving your infantile best-friends and other items belonging to your mesmerising years in Baghdad?

The verse in the picture.. that single-handedly propeled me to many stories of my childhood when Mama would comfort me when I was afraid of the teachers finding out I had messed up my homework or not done something properly..

Allah Kareem Dr.. Allah Kareem..


P.S: sorry for my rambling.. i just couldn't cut things short.. i dont think we ever should when it comes to matters of this scale..
01 October 2007 13:52
3eeraqimedic said...
Painful yes so many years later and so many hands later "my" things odd isn't it.
You are right it is the personal memories attached to simple pieces that are just meaningless to anyone else yet represent a lost time.
01 October 2007 19:05
3eeraqimedic said...
Little Penguin
Well this got you going didn't it!!!
I am one of millions of Iraqi who have over several decades gone through this and no this is not the way it should be, but I was relatively lucky, I had time to plan and years after the event to have fragments "smuggled" out to me, but I think we appreciate different things at different stages of our lives and you can never really predict which scrap of "worthless" memories you will miss several years down the line.

My piece of paper with the verse I have cherished for all these years a momento of the sentiments on that day, I am glad they brought back pleasant memories of soothing mother's prayers.
01 October 2007 19:14
saminkie said...
3eeraqimedic that was one of the most beautiful lines I read these days....well 3eeraqimedic I miss my things and home too especially because I didn't imagine when I left that it will not be safe to go there again, I left many things there....Anyway look...AL JAHIDH was asked once, what made people more wise? he answered: 3 things, travelling, travelling, and travelling..
I know we Iraqis are not forced to leave our places but...
04 October 2007 11:09
3eeraqimedic said...
Dr Sami
Bitter sweet isn't it? I know what you mean about not knowing it would not be safe to return, and it is not possible to predict that.
Yes travelling does indeed increase the knowledge, but so much nicer if it could be followed by return home, I hope you do not stay away from home for long.
05 October 2007 21:18

My first concert


My taste in music is something of an embarrassment to my younger sisters, and in time I will probably be banned by my children from ever mentioning my love of the Depeche Mode, UB40, Billy Idol, Madness, Soft Cell, and of course John Lennon.

The music of the seventies was not my thing, I never “got” Abba, or disco.
But for one night I was willing to pretend otherwise, although I am not absolutely sure, I think this event took place in 1979.

A teenager in the late seventies I was into what teenage girls were into at the time, music, boys, and magazines on both topics.

The music was pop, in charts as played by the BBC world service, or selected records on Radio Kuwait, the boys were on the front covers of my magazines, or better still the centre fold posters.

The magazines were called Pink and Jackie, colourful, glossy, arriving without the attached free gifts of plastic trinkets, or lipsticks (where did they go?), they showed us little snippets of a different lifestyle, fashions (thigh high wool socks, white with thick blue or red stripes worn over skin tight jeans!), and each issue would have a couple of posters to adorn the bedroom wall, the only ones I seem to remember are a group of rather ugly balding chaps called MUD whose songs I had never heard! And someone with long blond hair whose name sounded like a loofah.

The news spread like wildfire at school, there was going to be a concert, a band coming to perform in a theatre in Baghdad.

Who was it going to be?
Who cared?
We had never been to a concert before; we all agreed we must go.

Myself Aseel and Mina were dropped of at the entrance and left to our own devices for however many hours the music blared out.

It started out really reserved, the front seats were taken up by older rather timid types, our seats, reserved in the stalls by parents wishing to keep us safely away from the crowds were abandoned within moments of the first notes, as we descended down to try and join the few youngsters dancing.

The boys drifting down to join us, giggled uncontrollably at their intentionally hysterical dance moves, and at the staff dragging everyone away from the stage.

We returned to our seats during the interval, sneaking up the steps, we saw members of the band having a drink, sweating in the stifling heat, they seemed extraordinarily tall, and had their hair in dreadlocks.

As my friends egged me on I approached, trying to appear suave and sophisticated, and asked for an autograph, then realised the only paper I had on me was the crumpled wrapper of a chocolate bar!

They must have been amused, because they obliged, I treasured my crumpled piece of wrapper with its scrawled signatures for some time hoping one day it would be worth something.

The music was deafening, the lights mesmerising, the band sprawled across the stage, and the applause went on and on.

As the concert came to an end, the band was thanked; a promise was made that within a few months Gloria Gaynor would be singing, “I will survive” from that same stage.

She never came.

We never got to go to another concert.

Who was the band that played in Baghdad in 1979 you may be wondering

They were called Earth Wind and Fire.
Yasmin (Blanche) said...
dear 3eeraqi Medic,
I remeber vaguely the concert that took place in Baghadad, m not quite sure it was 1979 but it might fit into my memories.. and as u said , i dont think tehre was any other band visiting afterwards.. so i suppose that was it..
u took back in time.. to teenage old schol..
Very nice post..
30 September 2007 07:52
3eeraqimedic said...
long time no see hope all is well
I am also not sure it was 1979, possibly before but unlikely to have been after, did you go? or just hear about it?
30 September 2007 13:41
Yasmin (Blanche) said...
3eeraqi Medic,
No, i think it was 1979, or 1978, i did not go myself, but my closest freinds did go..all i remember is the fuss and excitement that filled their talk for a long time before and after going..
im not so sure either about the name of the band, does Magna Carta ring a bell? or is it only my imagination??
in any case it seemed you and i moved in very much the same circles..
very nice post once more..
01 October 2007 07:03
3eeraqimedic said...
Oh Yasmin
Honestly I sometimes think I imagined it all, or it was all a dream, maybe it was maybe it was never meant to be a different world, a different time, but you were there too so it must have been real, not just my imagination.
The same circles, the same time, that is why we understand each other, and why I said a while ago the people we miss are no longer there they are dispersed everywhere little specks of what was once our home.
01 October 2007 19:00