It seems a marriage of terror and hatred; an unending reign of violence.
Every day, on the same side of the webpage right towards the bottom is a link to some article on Iraq. The stories are usually no more than a few lines, often just a short paragraph telling the place, the time, and the number of casualties. A café in Kirkuk decimated. A checkpoint in Mosul blown apart. A neighborhood in Baghdad ravaged. I look up from my computer and peer at my students filtering into class. They are from Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad. Did they know any of these people? Is it a constant worry that one day it might be their family? At times I cannot comprehend growing up as they did. Maybe many of my other students who are from the Kurdish region of Iraq can’t either. Saddam’s regime is something they hear about from their parents, their uncles who fought against them. That choking feeling of wondering if this trip to the supermarket will end in disaster is not something they (or myself) have had to comprehend.
I thought I must be mistaken. Surely this amount of violence couldn’t be occurring everyday in the same areas. If it were, wouldn’t there be more media, more shock, more people buying albums on iTunes to donate money to the cause? So I kept a piece of paper by my desk, and every day that I noticed an incident, I recorded it. I have since filled up my days for this week.
It is because I currently live in this country that I am so aware of this now, I know. But I can’t help think about how a place with such a death toll can be so easily ignored. Is it that people have come to expect this from this region? When the news anchor mentions that 20 people were killed in a restaurant bombing, is it easy to tune it out because, well, it’s Iraq; that happens all the time…
These people are no longer statistics to me. Every holiday break as my students depart, I pray they return safely.
The north of the country is not without its own issues. It is by no means a paradise for those outside of the expatriate community or those lucky enough to come from affluent families. An article a friend told me about today highlights the struggle of women in many villages around this area. These are the stories that almost never make it in the news; often overshadowed by louder headlines from the south.
In spite of it all, I look at the faces of my students each day, and I see a brighter future. I have Kurds and Arabs sitting in the same room, working together towards a common goal; an education. I know they think I’m nuts when I tell them I can’t wait to say I’ve known them when they go on to do great things, but I am serious. They will be the generation that moves this country forward. I can only hope that with their education comes the ability to throw off the anger and fear of generations past, to ignore stereotypes, to focus not on what has been done to them, but what they can now do together.
Others with more experience in the region, or masters degrees in political science may scoff; call me naïve or fanciful. I refuse to be swayed. Those ‘others’ have not looked into my students’ eyes. They have not seen what I have seen hidden in their depths. Have not witnessed what they are capable of when given the chance to shine, and told that, ‘yes, you too are valuable.’
“We're all human, aren't we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”