My cousin, Salam

My Cousin My cousin, Salam, was born in 1994, the third son in my uncle’s family. The family's oldest son was born in 1989, and his name is Samer. The second son was born in 1991 and his name is Maher. In keeping with custom, my uncle was supposed to name his third son a name which complements the names of his other sons, Samer and Maher. For no particular reason, my uncle named his third boy Salam, which means peace in the Arabic language. I don’t know why my uncle decided to name his child that instead of following the custom; perhaps he was hoping to have peace in the family, but their life and Salam’s did not follow that path. My uncle’s life took a drastic turn when he was 18; with the beginning of the war with Iran in 1980. He served in the army for most of his adult life. The 1980s were very hard on all Iraqi people; many families lost their sons during that time. Sadness and fear were unavoidably prominent on people's faces and in their conversations. Women were especially affected by this great sadness. For this reason they mainly wore black colors, representing the grief that they felt. I remember, as an eight-year-old girl, seeing the pictures of martyrs hung upon walls in the homes of our friends and relatives. Some families had lost a son in that war, others lost two sons, and some had lost [...]

By |2024-01-31T03:44:58-05:00يونيو 14th, 2018|English, Short Story|التعليقات على My cousin, Salam مغلقة

Greetings from the land of Pharaohs

I left Cincinnati with all types of mixed emotions. My heart was very heavy after having lived there for eight years. This was the longest time that George and I had lived in one particular city since we got married. When we first arrived in 2009, we came on a student visa knowing that would only allow us to stay there temporarily. That was not a big deal for us because we lived previously as missionaries in five different countries with the mentality that our stay in each country would be relatively short, to the point that I felt that I was destined to live this way throughout my life, even though that was not my desire. In Cincinnati, God blessed us beyond what we could ask or even imagine. He opened many doors for us and enriched our lives in all respects. He gave us favor in people’s eyes, with those who have become lifelong friends, mentors, supporters and even people who treated us like their own children whom we literally call mom and dad. In Cincinnati our dreams were not just fulfilled, but also gave birth to new dreams. We first came with specific hopes and desires. However, God called us to be more courageous to ask, seek and knock in order to receive and enjoy His promises, because His promises are real for those who believe in Him. He opened our eyes and hearts to understand His grace. Through grace, we learned [...]

By |2024-01-31T03:45:52-05:00يونيو 12th, 2017|English, Short Story|التعليقات على Greetings from the land of Pharaohs مغلقة

High school years – Part 2

In the summer of 1988, on August eight, the Iraqi government declared the end of the war between Iraq and Iran. That date is firmly entrenched in the minds of all who lived through the war. Iraqi citizens were happy to once again live in peace and could begin to hope for a better future for their children. People everywhere celebrated that day, and in fact the celebrations lasted for weeks. Musical bands were performing on the streets in every corner, and people were dancing in groups and singing national songs. Everyone was happy over the end of the war, including families who lost their loved ones. While those families celebrated victory along with everyone else, their grief would not end in a day. These families had gone through a lot, their grieving would not end in a day or months or even years. I believe that the war between the two nations was over only at the geographical borders. The ramifications of that war for both nations would remain ghostlike, chasing both the oppressed and the oppressor. Both sides felt that their actions were meant to protect their own people. Nevertheless, what they did only resulted in destroying everything good in their people’s lives. Saddam Hussein’s policy toward the families of martyrs was very generous. He gave them many material privileges including a residential plot, monthly salaries and great opportunities in departments and institutions. Sadam controlled everything and everyone in Iraq. As minorities, we [...]

By |2017-04-12T09:36:13-05:00أبريل 12th, 2017|Short Story|التعليقات على High school years – Part 2 مغلقة

Singing and Writing Plays – Part 2

After settling into our new life, new neighborhood and house, my parents began searching for good schools for me and for my siblings. The good thing about living in the old section of the city was the ability to find a variety of schools within walking distance, especially for the elementary schools. This gave my parents them one less thing to worry about while they were trying to adjust to our new adventure. Attending church was and still is a big part of my people’s way of life. Church for most Christians was more than a place to worship; it was almost the only way to be connected socially and to be part of the community. Growing up in a Muslim country caused the minorities to hold on tightly to their beliefs. The Christian population used to be numbered at ten percent under Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party regime. Nowadays the Christian population has shrunk to less than one percent. People who were not involved in politics used to have a comfortable life and felt a sense of security. The life of individuals would only be threatened when they decided to rebel against the government. People would be arrested immediately whenever they expressed their feelings of dissatisfaction with the government or if they dared to share their political opinion about things they did not like. The Baath party had a stronghold under Saddam’s regime. The former president was expert at training the most intelligent [...]

By |2017-03-06T10:38:50-05:00مارس 6th, 2017|Short Story|التعليقات على Singing and Writing Plays – Part 2 مغلقة

Singing and Writing Plays – Part I

Despite all of the hardships we experienced and the confusion during the war years, there still laid a very thin line of hope in a fresh beginning. As a child, I was thrilled with the idea of writing and directing a play or a movie. In my small world as a child, I believed in my ability to influence my friends and some of my cousins to become part of the crew. They were excited about being on the team even though I only needed a few performers while I took on the role of the director. Whenever my parents would take us to visit our neighbors or our relatives, I would start pulling them aside to explain my idea. Then I would assign roles to my “Beginner actors.” Then as a team, we would look for a location where our movie or play would take place. Usually we would go to find an empty room but sometimes we would go to the roof of the house and then start to arrange the area. We gathered what was possible as far as furniture or clothes to use as part of the show. Once the stage was set, I called “Action” to begin filming. I created my own safe haven where I could let my imagination take me to a better place, where I could enjoy a peaceful life and have fun. I believed that was my way to cope with the stress during wartime. Three [...]

By |2017-03-06T10:38:56-05:00فبراير 27th, 2017|Short Story|التعليقات على Singing and Writing Plays – Part I مغلقة

The Outbreak of the Iraq-Iran War – Part II

The news constantly reported the Iraqi military victories and the number of the dead soldiers and prisoners of the Iranian army. The policy of the press was to cover up the defeats and the losses of the Iraqi army. However, the government could not fool the Iraqi people for long. For several years, there were massive casualties to soldiers and civilians in both countries and destruction to the military equipment and infrastructure. Many women lost a son or two, or even had been widowed at a young age. I personally lost several cousins to that war. We were, as children, surrounded by terror, grief, and confusion, which certainly damaged our childhood. That environment forced us to change rapidly from innocent children who were supposed to care mostly about playing and having fun to a confused version of childhood, we were lost between two worlds - the world of childhood and the world of adulthood. My dad worked two jobs as a teacher. He worked mornings at the elementary school and evenings at a literacy school for both men and women. The education system in Iraq was very strong. President Saddam Hussein ordered that the illiteracy rate in Iraq be eradicated. Anybody who disagreed with his plan to eliminate illiteracy could lose their jobs. At the very least, they would not advance or be promoted, even if they were the most qualified candidate. My dad used to travel a long distance to get to his work [...]

By |2017-02-17T21:41:40-05:00فبراير 14th, 2017|Short Story|التعليقات على The Outbreak of the Iraq-Iran War – Part II مغلقة

The Outbreak of the Iraq-Iran War – Part I

My parent’s happiness in having their first boy was troubled and interrupted with the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in the beginning of 1980. Their anxiety over providing a safe environment and the necessary financial support for six children was increasing. My parents’ savings were decreased little by little because the living expenses in Baghdad were much higher in comparison to living in a small village in northern Iraq. For many years, my dad’s salary was plenty not only to cover all of our needs, but we also had the luxury of traveling for vacation during the summer months throughout his early years of working as a teacher. Gradually, that lifestyle began to shrink as the years went by. My parents and the majority of other people managed financially was by sending their children to public schools which was paid for by the government. In addition, for many years most of the elementary schools would distribute breakfast to students and teachers alike at no charge. Great emphasis was placed on the importance of a strong Iraqi educational system, in the sixties, seventies, eighties and the early nineties. Families from all over the Arab world sent their children to study at the Iraqi colleges, especially to the universities of Baghdad and Mosul, which is the second largest city in Iraq. I remember waking up in the early hours and feeling excited about going to school with my younger sister, walking with my dad and holding his [...]

By |2017-02-07T12:29:29-05:00فبراير 7th, 2017|Short Story|التعليقات على The Outbreak of the Iraq-Iran War – Part I مغلقة

The Coming Messiah – Part II

My parents wanted to have the biggest party ever to celebrate my brother’s birth. Why not? Is not that what they were praying and hoping for through many years? They were no longer considered to be the abnormal family. The son they had now had changed their status to a “normal family”. After all, he is the one who will carry on the family name. As this little child would grow, he would become more familiar, not just with his privileges, but also his responsibilities as a first-born son. Let us not get distracted and worried about the future of this little boy. Let us first celebrate his birth which brought hundreds of people to the party that evening. In reality, even my parents told me the number of guests attending did not exceed a hundred people, but I did not want to change the number in my recollection of this event, because, for my understanding as a child, hundreds was any number larger than ten. At least it felt this way to me at that time. All of my cousins, relatives and friends were invited to join us to celebrate my brother’s birth. There were many people attending that day. AS children, Most of them we did not know. In fact, our guests knew that my dad, teacher Luke, had a bunch of girls, but finally God had granted him a boy who would carry on his father’s name. At the celebration, some people [...]

By |2017-02-17T21:43:35-05:00فبراير 1st, 2017|Short Story|التعليقات على The Coming Messiah – Part II مغلقة

The Coming Messiah – Part I

As a family we were all longing and expecting a victorious birth of a son to come into our lives, to satisfy our needs and fulfill our dreams. The child who would bring hope and joy, and give us a purposeful life, as Jesus did for all humanity. The birth of a son into Arabic culture brought with it the expectations of a “savior”, the one who would protect, carry on the family name and provide for our needs. In the summer of 1979, my mom was expecting to give birth to her sixth child. She was feeling extremely different this time. She was positive that she would have a boy. Her doctor, however, could not confirm her feeling of being pregnant with a boy, even though, Baghdad was the best place for people to have access to modern technology. But still, the sonar device to detect the sex of the fetus had not been invented yet. Wouldn’t it be great for my mom and many other women at that time, to be able to know for sure the gender of their babies previously? The colors of my mother’s feelings had to stay neutral just as it was for her baby’s clothes colors, all also neutral. Although she had plenty of pink colored clothes, she dreamed of buying clothes in blue colors, just for one time in her life. My mom had to preserve her hopes and the excitement of having a boy to herself [...]

By |2017-01-27T23:36:54-05:00يناير 27th, 2017|Short Story|التعليقات على The Coming Messiah – Part I مغلقة

Five Daughters & No Son – Part II

The political situation in northern Iraq was not stable. Tension between the Iraqi government and the Kurds was increasing. Kurds wanted their own independence apart from Iraq. They showed this by being rebellious against the government, which only created a chaotic environment and made it hard for my family to have an appropriate and safe life. Even though my dad was earning a good living, still he couldn’t risk the unpredictability of the political situation any more. He needed to think big. Nothing seemed bigger than moving to Baghdad, the capital, where he could give his family a better life. Bagdad in the late seventies was flourishing in every aspect. There were a lot of opportunities to work in better schools and that is what happened for my father later on. With every baby girl came additional burdens. The burdens were a combination of different feelings of fear, anxiety, shame and loneliness. My parents are the most kind and loving people you can ever imagine. That is not just how all of my siblings and myself view them, but also everyone who has met them and knows them personally, including their sons and daughter in law. The culture, however, and the environment they grew up in was very harsh. Culture and traditional expectations have been rooted deeply for hundreds of years and it is so hard to change or even modify them. Honoring and keeping the cultural traditions that we inherited without questioning could easily [...]

By |2024-01-31T03:46:02-05:00يناير 25th, 2017|English, Short Story|التعليقات على Five Daughters & No Son – Part II مغلقة