by Nour Hamed
Life is all about making choices; choosing to live in your home country should be normal. If your home country is Iraq though, things look slightly different. In a war-torn Iraq, the ‘normal’ is to chase an opportunity to leave. Thousands are seeking a stable country via political asylum and, if luck holds out, work. However, there are some who, although presented with the same opportunity to leave, have turned it down. Instead many have chosen to live and raise their families in ‘the cradle of civilization’, considering a battered and bruised Iraq as preferable to pastures new. To those people, and I am numbered amongst them, life is worthless without Iraq’s morning breeze, the delicious Masgouf fish, the wonderful nights spent on the banks of the Tigris River, and many, many other things that cannot be found anywhere else but here.
In other parts of the world, young men and women spend their 20s enjoying life, travelling and exploring what this world has to offer. It is worth considering that while some of them were busy deciding what party to go to over the weekend or what conference to attend, my friends and I were busy surviving war. We have spent the best years of our lives speculating when and where the next explosion will take place and how to avoid it. We have counted dead bodies on the street and played hide and seek with the rat-a-tat-tat of random snipers punctuating our play.
These experiences might seem unbearable to some, but they are part of what defines us, shaping our personalities and our lives. On a personal level, although horrendous, living with an expectation of daily violence is part and parcel of the lifestyle I have chosen. Iraq is my home and I will not allow a bunch of fanatic savages to uproot me. If I, an ‘owner’ of this land, give up, then who will resist? There are many of us ‘educated youth’ who know we need to continue to blaze the torch of hope forth – if not us, who? However, for many of us, although our passion is absolute, the reality of daily living provides a running and contrary internal commentary.
“What if I was killed or handicapped by an explosion? I will be of no use to Iraq”.
“ Might I not be more useful abroad, where I can actually live and voice Iraqi suffering?”
For some there is a breaking point. In a moment of candour, a good friend of mine who now lives abroad shared: “I left Iraq and I am not proud of it, but what other option did I have? “.
After this conversation, I had only one question in mind: what is the third option? People like us have only two options: we either choose to stay and suffer with no realistic end in sight or, we leave, starting a new life somewhere else. And, although this new place might be explosion-free, it has no memories, no family and no Masgouf. In these days of great human innovation, in our new ‘flat world’ where traditional barriers and boundaries have given way to the fluidity of cyberspace, a world where global citizenship is lauded – I cannot believe there isn’t a third option! If money drives progress, is there any way we can monetize a new way forward? Surely if enough international focus and trade comes to Iraq the good will eventually overwhelm the fanaticism that has caused this chaos.
I have not figured out the third option yet, but I once read that “Sometimes crying or laughing are the only options left, and laughing feels better right now,” so I will at least be smiling until we figure something out.
Ed Comment: This is a powerful, personal take on a situation that many young Iraqis find themselves in. Nina was created in order to contribute to the third option. By highlighting a civil society determined to offer inclusion and opportunity for women, it showcases that Iraq is open for business to an international community. By shining a spotlight on the positives Iraq has to offer, which includes a passionate youth – determined to build a strong, stable Iraq -Nina facilitates a forum in which perspectives around this third option can be shared and discussed. We ask readers of Nina, wherever you might be, to contribute to this dialogue, through knowledge-share and personal experience. Let’s find a third way together.