A stroll down Haifa street...
Date: Saturday, January 27 2007
Friday, January 26, 2007
A stroll down Haifa street...
By Layla Anwar
Haifa Street in Baghdad was of course named after a Palestinian town now under Israeli occupation. It used to be a street, actually a neighborhood, where all denominations cohabited.It also had specially designed buildings overlooking the Tigris river, reserved for academics only.
Iraqi academic , from all backgrounds, "ethnic" affiliations, "sects" and "religion" and from different fields of specialization lived in those buildings on Haifa Street, rent free, courtesy of the Iraqi government. This was part of Saddam Hussein's government campaign to promote education and to encourage individuals to strive for a career in academic knowledge and teaching thereafter.
A letter was sent to me via e.mail, a letter of despair and tragedy written by an Iraqi professor who lived on Haifa Street. I am going to translate the whole thing for you.
"My name is Ahmed Kamal Nabil . I am a university professor since 1975. I live on Haifa street. On the 7th of January, I went out to buy some food since we had been without anything to eat since the day of the Eid (30th December). My wife, two daughters and one small grandchild stayed at home.
Since there was no transportation and in view of the military presence surrounding Haifa street, I was unable to regain my apartment fast enough. Moreover, an unusual movement in our neighborhood made me very suspicious . I saw some elements of the Iraqi militias shooting on the door of our building. I immediately informed my family by phone so they may leave promptly. They tried to but the militias refused them exit.
What followed was even more brutal. The upper floors of the building where we lived were totally destroyed and my wife was informing me (on the phone) that she and my daughters were few minutes away from an imminent Death. What could I do?
I begged a neighbor to help us. At first he refused, then he agreed to courageously face the American and Iraqi forces and come to the rescue of my family, thus helping them seek refuge in another building close by which was not targeted.
The following day, at dawn, my family discovered a dead street, in ruins. My wife and my kids left Haifa street with the only luggage they had, the clothes on their bodies. The militias raped our home . They ransacked and looted all of our belongings.
In the space of a few minutes, we lost everything we worked for and owned. My books, my souvenirs, my diplomas, my notes, my research papers and my personal diary. In sum, all of my memory carefully constructed over a span of half a century has gone out. Gone to sleep for ever. Now we are back to zero.
My family is scattered, lodged by different relatives and strangers. Throughout my career , I have never committed one act of hostility vis a vis the Iraqi authorities or the American occupation forces. I filed a complaint but the policeman at the station was unimpressed. He told me that my only crime is that I was living in a street of "terrorists."
If I had chosen to return to Iraq, my country, after studies in Europe, it was with the aim of bringing to my people the knowledge I acquired in the West. I have conducted and supervised dozens of Phd theses and I have taught thousands of students.
What happened to me on the 7th of January is tragic. Is that the destiny of Iraqi intellectuals and researchers? Is that the reward for those who opted for neutrality, independence of thought, spirit and honor? What crime have I committed by not wanting to give in to violence and terror and by insisting on continuing my work - that of teaching in Iraq ? "