By Layla Anwar
07/0607 "ICH" -- -- Have you ever
felt numb? Like a paralytic numbness?
I put the receiver down, stared at the wall, beyond the
wall and saw yet another wall, and more walls...
Unable to move, unable to take a step forward, a step
back. I was stuck in that spot for what seemed to be
I felt the warmth of the cigarette, its heat, getting
closer to my fingertips, almost burning me.
I guess the thought of being burnt took me out of this
trance like state...that state of being walled in.
Some of you may recall that I already have 2 relatives
who had been kidnapped and are now imprisoned in
Kamel, 60 plus, is still in American "custody".
He is sick and we have no news except that he is still
alive...at least we hope so.
Omar, 19 years old, also detained by the Americans. Seems
he has been transferred from American hands in Baghdad
and moved to Southern Iraq.
When we enquired about him, they said that he is in a
military hospital getting treatment in Southern Iraq.
That is very strange indeed. Bear in mind that Southern
Iraq prisons are run by the sectarian militias from Iran
and neither them nor the Americans actually provide any
medical treatments in "hospitals".
How long will he be there? What is he suffering from? Is
it possible to visit him?
None provides us with any answers.
I personally believe that Omar is dead. I believe that
Omar has been killed. Possibly under torture...most
probably under torture.
A few weeks back, Salam, another relative was kidnapped
and badly battered, bashed up. I have already relayed her
story in my previous post "Scream Quietly".
A few days ago, it was Raouf's turn. Now Raouf is very
I chose to call him Raouf because Raouf in Arabic means
"kind spirited, gentle..."
And Raouf is both. Raouf is a very gentle soul. A soft
spoken man, who cared about poetry, philosophy, arts,
animals, the land...which he cultivated with great care
Yes Raouf is a very loving person. Early 50's, handsome,
eloquent and very kind.
When a great aunt passed away, Raouf inherited a little
plot of land. He was not a materialistic person. He
contended himself with the little money that this piece
of soil gave him. He reared on it birds, chicken and a
few fruit crops and lived off its revenue.
Raouf lived outside of Baghdad, about one hour's drive
from the capital.
When things got very rough there, we suggested he moved
to Baghdad. Another relative lent him a temporary roof
where he could stay with his wife. He has two grown up
kids who have just finished medical school.
Raouf comes from a very well known family. Well known in
the sense that his lineage is made of learned men. In
fact his forefathers all the way down, were the first to
institutionalize the first Islamic Jurisprudence and
Theology school in 13th century Baghdad.
Raouf was getting restless in Baghdad. He missed and
worried about his birds, chicken, trees and flowers.
"Who will feed them, who will water them?" he
would exclaim. "I cannot abandon them. I am
going just for the day"... And he left.
He arrived home and to his plot of land. A few hours
later, a knock on the door.
He opened. Familiar faces from the district. Three armed
"Salam aleikom" he said. "Wa
aleikom" they replied.
Then, they blindfolded him, handcuffed him and shoved him
in a car.
His ordeal had started. His torture odyssey was about to
He was held for three full days and three full nights. He
was tortured NON-STOP for three full days and three full
They used iron rods, chains, rubber hoose, sticks...
Sometimes the three pounded him in unison. Sometimes they
would take turns.
The only respite he had is when they stopped for
Again, the interrogation, the senseless interrogation.
"What have I done" he would scream.
"We found an empty can of beer next to your
house door - why are you not growing a beard - why are
you not wearing a long "thob" ... and they
would pound him some more.
But fortunately they did stop for prayers and did not
- Ok how much ? he said
- 100'000 Dollars.
- Impossible. None of us have this amount.
- Who is us?
- Well, me, my family in Baghdad.
- Who is your family in Baghdad ?
- There is x. y, z and Layla A. Some lent me their
- So you are rich all of you.
- No, they just lent me an empty house. We are all
- Sell the house and the plot of land.
They dialled a real estate agent. Raouf talked to him and
begged him to find a buyer for the house and the land.
"Impossible" replied the agent, "none
The "pious" armed men lost patience.
So Raouf, tell us how would you like to die?
Beheading? Have you throat slit? or a few bullets in your
head? You choose ...
Raouf's wife showed remarkable courage. She was in
constant contact with the "pious" armed men.
She would talk to them, patiently with the voice of
reason. Sometimes begging, pleading. Sometimes reminding
them of their common neighborhood, people they both knew
, maybe a neighbor, a distant relative, a school, a
teacher, a grocer... Anyone, any name, any face that
could be used as a bridge back to life.
His wife reminded me the way Shehrazade recounted endless
tales to Shahrayar the king from the Tales of the 1001
nights. Thus delaying and preventing her beheading.
Except Raouf's wife tales was to prevent her husband's
She must have struck a chord somewhere in their
They dropped him on the 4th day, in the middle of the
night, on some dark street...
Raouf carried his wounds and his broken body and walked
for miles before he could get any help at all.
And us, for three days and nights we would roam the rooms
like animals in a cage, pacing back and forth...Praying,
crying, bargaining, pleading, supplicating, begging, God,
the Universe, the Darkness, the Silence, the Walls....
When Raouf finally arrived to Baghdad, the whole family
went to visit him. A sight that could not be described in
Raouf was so badly tortured, he was unrecognizable. You
cannot see his eyes anymore. His face, his nose are so
swollen , as if about to explode with pain and hurt.
His body, his body, the marks of a thousand rods, chains,
sticks on it. His legs, his back, his chest, his arms,
his stomach... His white shirt was dark brown with blood.
Someone took pictures. For the memory, for the record,
for the family album. An Iraqi family album.
Even though, I am certain that Raouf will never need
pictures to remember. I know his character and his
predisposition. I am sure these marks will stay with him
It is a miracle he did not die from the torture. He has
hypertension and a kidney condition. He could have easily
died from a brain hemorrhage due to the beatings, or from
kidney failure or from a cardiac arrest.
It is a miracle they let him go in exchange for nothing
because there is nothing to give.
It is a miracle they did not kill him.
It is a miracle they did not drill him...
Look at us. See what a grateful, humble people we have
become. We are grateful that our loved ones are tortured
but not killed or drilled or have their eyes pulled out.
See what an obedient, grateful people we have
become...You must be so happy at our docility now.
But Raouf died on the inside...I know it.
His voice was barely audible...He would speak and then
his voice would gently fade away and his lips would stop
"It hurts to breathe" he says. "It
really hurts to breathe."
Then he manages another sentence, that he keeps repeating
like some sacred mantra.
" I will crawl on all four to the border. Am
willing to beg or become a street sweeper in Damascus.
But I will not stay here anymore. This is no longer my
And his voice disappears again.
"Take the pictures" shouted another
one. "Show it to the UN. Show it to the
World...Take the pictures with you."
Take the pictures like you take a postcard and show it to
others. Share it with others. A postcard from Iraq.
After the visit, some took turns to vomit, physically
vomit, the sadistic, vicious, cruelty that Raouf had to
Raouf is beyond recognition, a reflection of what has
become of Iraq - Beyond recognition.
I reflected later on the "purpose" of it all.
Why did they do what they did?
And now I am absolutely convinced that these armed men,
so called "Al Qaeda", them along with the cars
bombs, with the sectarian militias and their torture
centers and their drills...are paid, trained and ordered
by an American - Mossad - Iranian consortium to apply
Bremer's policy: " Let us bring them down to 5
A deliberate policy to empty the country by terrorizing
all of us . I am certain of that.
And I say to these hyenas.
Have it all. Take it all. Swallow it. Gulp it down. Gob
it up. And choke and die on it.
Take Iraq. Take it all.
This is no longer our country.
Mother said " May God guide them ".
Auntie Sameera said : " Umm Layla, are you crazy
? Why do you pray for their guidance"
To which Mother replied : " So maybe they will
turn their attention elsewhere, away from us and forget
Yes take it all and forget about us.
So when some bastard writes to me calling me a "negative,
whining, drama queen" because I am not using my
"talents" to "uplift" the arrogant
western minds into "Forgiveness and Beauty" -
Notice how the occupier asks the occupied to uplift
I offer this postcard from Iraq instead of my usual
It does have a "positive" side to it. Raouf is
still alive but a very broken man who is willing to
become a street sweeper or a beggar in Damascus rather
than stay one more minute in "Free" Iraq.
Yes take it all and forget about us. Just forget us...and
let us breathe a little.
For it hurts to breathe, really hurts to breathe in Iraq.
Layla Anwar : All you
need to know about me is that I am a Middle Easterner ,an
Arab Woman - into my 40's and old enough to know better .
I have no homeland per se . I live in
Iraq,Lebanon,Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Egypt
simultaneously .... All the rest is icing on the cake.
Please visit her blog http://arabwomanblues.blogspot.com