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Best of Blogs Round-Up: Thursday, March 16, 2006

Quote of the day: "I think we’re moving into an era when we will define ourselves more by the technologies we refuse than the ones we accept."—Douglas Rushkoff

Featured Blog I: Iraqistan
Uprising Anniversary

[The author describes himself as "a young reporter in a destroyed country torn between politics and violence."]

While I was watching the news last night, I recalled how Iraq looked almost the same fifteen years ago. When the gulf war in 1991 started, we fled to Karbala to stay in the house of my mother's cousin. Baghdad was falling apart by the heavy bombings the Coalition forces had launched as a response to Saddam's invasion to Kuwait. I remember that day and how my father drove the car all the way to Karbala while my mother kept reading verses from Quran. I was 10 years-old at the time, but I remember every single moment we went through then.

In the wake of the 1991 Gulf War that drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait and on March 1st, Karbala was strangely quiet. The war was over as we heard on the BBC which we used to listen to by a small radio that works on two double A batteries. We made the decision, we should go back to Baghdad and we did. Of course, nothing in Baghdad was left but destruction: no water, no electricity and no food. Until now I can't imagine we managed to live and restore our life until 2003.

The news came as fast as thunder. Uprising occurred in Iraq after the seize fire was announced. We were stunned. Who dares to get rid of Saddam? What a huge challenge! Who were they and how did they manage to do so? To discover that, it wasn't that difficult. They were the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south. Baghdad remained as it is because Saddam's forces were in complete control of it despite the complete destruction of the infrastructure.

On March 5th, I recalled my cousin coming to our house beating on his head. He had a serious break down. " Khalu [my uncle] They killed him," he said to my father with tears washing his face of my other cousin. Thamir, who was killed was a thirty-five year-old University Professor. He was assigned by the government to teach in Erbil in northern Iraq. One of the government's condition at that time to be accepted as a University professor was to join the Baath Party and that's what Thamir did. He did not know this will be the cause of his death.

Peshmerga, I recall my other cousin saying, killed him just because he was a Baathist. "They did not understand he had to join the Baath Party," he said. Then I remembered how Thamir's wife and her two babies came from Erbil to Baghdad after he was killed. Iman, the wife was putting on torn black clothes, bare foot carrying one of her babies on her shoulder and walking with her other baby all the way to my aunt's house. The moment she arrived in the house, she fainted at the main gate. Women and men ran towards her. She did not wake up until they threw water at her face several times. Weeping and wailing for the loss of her beloved husband, she narrated what happened. I was looking in daze. I didn't understand what was really going on.

"Where is your husband," she recalled the Peshmerga saying. "He is not here," she said and of course, she was lying because she felt they came to kill him. They did not believe her and broke into the house and pulled Thamir from the room he was hiding in. "No, No, please. He is a father of two babies," she pleaded to them. They did'nt care. Instead of kidnapping him, they killed him in front of her and the two children. "They cut him into pieces in front of me," I recall her saying.

Bad news was coming like bullets in our chests day after day. While we were in the funeral of Thamir, My mother's cousin came from Karbala to Baghdad. Crying, his wife hugged my mother and said, "They broke into our house and burned it down. We are not even Baathists. Why did they do that?"

We did not know what to do. Our fate was ambiguous as it is right now. Would we flee? Where to? All Iraq was burning. We had to sit and wait for the day we die or see others die.

We all wanted to get rid of Saddam and the start of the uprising was moving in the right road. But when the Badrists, supported by Iran and the Kurds supported by US and Britain started to do it randomly, the uprising started to be different. It moved away from its main aim in fighting Saddam. The revolutionaries preferred to kill all the Baathists even though some of them were forced to join the party. Saddam, who was the most powerful dictator in the modern history, seized the opportunity to kill the Shiites and the Kurds whom he and his party oppressed for decades. It was his chance to do so. He ordered his men to use bulldozers and bury the revolutionaries and their families alive. No mercy was ordered. All should be dead and that's what exactly happened except for the Iraqi Kurdish areas as they were supported by the US and Britain.

Hundreds of thousands of Shiite families were missing. Their remains were finally found after the dictator's fall in 2003. Even children with their dolls were found buried alive in hundreds of mass graves.

In my own point of view, the discovery of these remains in the mass graves and the 35-years oppression to a specific sect and ethnicity, problems still exist. The Badrists, who came back from Iran after failing in ousting a strong regime, came back with full hatred to the Baathists. This time, they were not random. They were under a militia and a political party that paved the road to them to continue their plan in getting rid of the Baathists. I heard from people in contact with the Badrists that this time, they have lists of Baathists names. They started in 2003 in killing them in allover the country and the list has not been emptied yet. It still has as many numbers as they expected. Some senior Baathists were able to flee the country and went to another Baathist country, Syria or maybe to Jordan.

These men, the Badrists, are in power now and they are using the same way Saddam did in dealing with the people. "If you are against me, you are my enemy," is the slogan they raised for almost three years after the fall of the first dictator. No one can criticize them in public and no one is able to stop form their continuous assassinations that reached even non- criminal Baathists now. And oops, I might be killed if anyone of them discovers this post and knows who I am!

Happy Uprising Anniversary!
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Featured Blogger II: Waylaying Wall
Is That a Torah in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Imagine a world where any time you, a man, saw a woman, you’d begin to think of sex. Imagine a world where any time you heard a woman, especially in prayer, your attention would wander from the prayer and focus on, well, sex. Imagine a bus ride where a woman sat next to, in front of or behind you and in combination with the rocking motion of the bus, your mind suddenly filled with thoughts of…sex. Think of a walk down a sidewalk, past a woman wearing a short sleeved shirt when first your mind races to think of sex and immediately converts the thought to the action of spitting on her.

All those wasted erections…

It seems that some folks do not wish to see any women any time, because their strong sex drives compel them to think of any and every woman as a moving target. “Wow, there’s a female homo sapien! Boing!” of course, they dress this up as seeking decency, but in reality it is indecent to reduce females simply to sexual beings. Perhaps if within some of these communities women were allowed to become rabbis and learned torah scholars, they would be perceived as more than just these fuckable objects. Maybe. Why do I risk the wrath of Laya and a few others for being critical of those Orthodox Jews who have pushed women out of their sight so that their desire, drooling and instantaneous erections would be avoided? Because the Western Wall belongs to all Jews and not only the Orthodox.

A plan put forward by a haredi deputy minister would completely segregate the main entry-point to the Western Wall, in the latest Jewish controversy over the division of sexes at the Jerusalem holy site, officials said Thursday.

The proposal presented by Deputy Transportation Minister Shmuel Halpert of the United Torah Judaism Party, which is currently being studied by the rabbi of the Western Wall and Jerusalem police, would see the central entry-way to both the Western Wall and the Western Wall plaza entirely separated by sex.

At present, signs reading men and women appear at the main security check at the entrance to the Jerusalem holy site, but the directives are not rigorously enforced.

“I am acting on behalf of thousands of haredim who frequent the site daily who complain of the physical interaction with women,” Halpert said in a telephone interview Thursday.

So tells us Jerusalem Post today. Of course, there are all kinds of non-Orthodox groups up in arms over this, but there’s a good chance it will happen. If it does, I would hope that every woman in Israel sidle up to a haredi man on a bus, because they won’t be getting any of that action at the Kotel and might be missing it.

Tomorrow I shall be hearing a woman sing at my Conservative synagogue. I sure hope I can control myself.

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