Iraq War’s smaller picture
By Raja Abdulrahim
August 23, 2007
Warwick — It was a single gunshot that interrupted Nesreen’s morning wait for her carpool to work.
Not an unusual sound on a street in the center of Baghdad, but this bullet found a victim; a man in his mid-40s standing near Nesreen, whom she had often seen waiting for his own ride.
The man lay on the ground, blood spurting like a fountain from the hole in his temple, his fingers twitching.
The busy street emptied of its inhabitants. Nesreen frozen by fear — wanting to help and at the same time wanting to run — didn’t move.
Strip the Iraq War discussion of talk about troop withdrawals and surges, democracy building and terrorism fighting and what is left is a harsh look at daily life under occupation and war. Nesreen, 38, who arrived in the States from Baghdad in early July, shies away from the political and instead focuses on the daily horrors, indignities and humiliations Iraqis suffer.
Last night, the English literature teacher at a girls’ high school in Baghdad spoke in Warwick, the latest stop on her informal speaking tour that has taken her to churches, to media interviews and to a MoveOn.org press conference.
“What is important is the feelings of the Iraqis, their lives, their situation,” said Nesreen, who does not use her last name for fear it could endanger her or her family when she returns to Iraq.
When she first arrived in the United States, Nesreen refused requests that she talk about the recent documentary “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib.”
“Iraq, all of it, has become a prison,” she said, sitting on a brown corduroy sofa on the second floor of a Warwick home; her white headscarf hung undone around her neck.
If the constant coverage of the political and military foibles are the bigger picture, Nesreen is the rarely seen and heard smaller picture of curfews, gas and food shortages and bullet-riddled and tortured bodies on the way to work.
“A lot of people say ‘oh, a lot of Iraqis died, that’s terrible,'” said Bruce Wallace, a Brooklyn high school teacher and member of the September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, who has corre sponded with Nesreen for years. “But they don’t think about the Iraqis that are alive.”
In July, a curfew cut off her family’s ability to buy gas for the generator on a sweltering hot day. She awoke at 2 a.m. to hear her 4-year-old nephew, drenched in sweat, crying from the heat.
Her brother was unable to turn on the generator even as his son begged him and tugged at his pant leg.
“He cried. He cannot offer his children some fresh, cold air,” Nesreen said, tearing up at the memory. “And he stayed up all night fanning his son.”