I still remember my grandmother talking about Karrada when we’d visit my grandparents in Baghdad – the way the “R’s” would roll on her tongue as if to emphasize that it wasn’t another mere suburb but a main thread in the rich cultural tapestry of the city. It was the ‘80s. We slept on rooftops, snacked on watermelons and spent our days with two Armenian sisters who lived down the hall from my grandparents. The air was different in Baghdad. You could feel it. My mum always said our cheeks were rosier and we slept easier. It was as if the body instinctively knew we were home.
It was a different time. A time before cars laden with C4 explosives and suicide bombers. A time before the stench of Western hypocrisy made reading the news of events like the Karrada attack even more unbearable to stomach. A time when the country’s blood did not run like water into the Tigris and Euphrates every day. But those days are long gone, replaced by permanent heartache, a system that has failed them and a world that has forgotten them.
My grandparents live in London now. They are considered the lucky ones. Their Armenian neighbours still live in Baghdad. They stock up on supplies once a fortnight, too afraid to venture out unnecessarily. It’s probably how all Iraqis should live (or should I say how all Iraqis should exist because I don’t know many people who would consider that living).
Bomb blast after bomb blast. The international stage does not bats an eyelid. It’s just their way of life. An everyday occurrence. Surely the grief isn’t as raw and the pain of trying to identify their loved one’s mangled remains doesn’t run as deep anymore. Haven’t they developed some sort of immunity to this by now? They’ve been through it so many times before. I mean it’s not like the attack on a night club in Orlando, or the Bataclan threatre in Paris. Those victims were just young people, far removed from the problems of the Middle East, enjoying life. But the Iraqis – well they’ve grown up like this. That’s just the way it is for them.
Why does it seem to be a bigger deal when terrorist attacks hit Europe or the US? Is their life worth more? Is their blood thicker? Or maybe it’s just that Iraqi and Syrian flag colours aren’t interesting enough to light up the Eiffel Tower or the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
Well I’m here to remind you that NO. Their life is not worth less. That it doesn’t get easier to keep burying loved ones, even if it’s happened before. That their blood still runs red. And that they are just as deserving of a bright future as anyone else.
91,115, 161, 200, 215. The death toll from the deadliest attack since 2003 keeps rising as civilians pull remains out from still-smoldering buildings. The good Samaritans don’t even wear masks as they battle heat and the stench of burning flesh. Some even carry out charred limbs in their bare hands. I have seen no officials on the scene. No one dressed in an army or police uniform. Perhaps the risk is too great, though I cannot imagine what could be greater than this.
Eyewitnesses talk of entire families whose bodies had fused together in the inferno. They came to Karrada to celebrate together; to enjoy life. And they met their end, a ghastly, unfair and unjust end together. That was early Sunday morning. The photos of the dead are hard to look at. Mainly young men, but far too many children as well – all with their lives ahead of them. They leave behind grieving parents and families, some of whom have had to search through fridges at the morgue looking for remains. I don’t want to look photos of the dead but they deserve for the world to know they existed. They had families. They had dreams and ambitions. They were here. So I look at their faces, as heart breaking as it is and suppress the urge to scream at the world, “Look at their faces. LOOK AT THEM. How is this right? How is this fair?” And though today their story is pushed down to the bottom of the newsfeed as the world gears to occupy itself with the next fleeting event, some of us still Pray for Baghdad. It’s the very least we can do.
Postscript: If you would like to do more write to your local politician or United Nations representative and use your social media platform, like Facebook and Twitter, to make your voice heard.