We had an interesting meeting at the clinic a few days ago. The director asked all employees to her room where we were politely asked to be seated by two people who mentioned that they were from the governorate office, but I suspect they work for the CPA. A middle-aged woman in Hijab and a tall skinny fellow wearing thick glasses.
They were supposed to gather information and our opinions on several issues regarding the future Iraqi government, they were touring hospitals, schools, and clinics to meet with people. I don’t know why but the situation felt rather awkward and funny, apparently I wasn’t the only one because I noticed that everyone else was smiling. They asked us a few questions about democracy, federalism, the form of the government, etc. I also felt that the two people who were lecturing us were in bad need themselves for someone to lecture and explain a couple of things to them. Toward the end of the meeting, the woman in Hijab progressed more and more into fiery talk until it was all reduced to recycled common rhetoric, that was when I started yawning occasionally glancing at my watch. As soon as I heard her mention “Sayyid Sistani (Allah preserve him)”, I began to think that discussion was futile.
It was nice however to watch the other employees talk, the discussion went something like this:
“How do you see the future of Iraq?” the woman asked us.
“There’s no use in anything” our biologist whined morbidly, “Iraqis don’t deserve a democracy. We need a firm ruler to prevent chaos, anything else is useless”.
“Yes, a firm and just leader” the registrar added, “We don’t want any new mass graves”.
“So you are already quite hopeless?” the woman asked them.
My boss was having a hard time trying to conceal her giggles. I was grinning from ear to ear as well.
“Excuse me, but I think what Iraq needs at the moment is martial laws” ,this was one of my colleagues. “Every nation implements martial laws at such times, it might sound violent at first, but there have to be some firm steps taken to put an end to the lawlessness and anarchy”.
“But don’t you think some innocents would also be caught up in it?” the man in glasses asked her.
“Not quite.. ” a medical aide chimed in. “When you catch someone guilty like a looter or a bandit I say HANG HIM on the spot!”. The evident glee in which he pronounced the words ‘hang him’ made me a bit uneasy.
“So what do you think about federalism?”
“No federalism”, “No no”, “Of course not” seemed to echo from all around the room.
“Do you understand what federalism is?” the fellow in glasses asked them, “Do you think it’s a ploy to divide Iraq?” he offered (it looked like that was what he thought).
“Yes yes”, the others replied in unison.
This was where I had to enter the discussion. “Do you actually believe the Kurds are going to agree to anything less than federalism?”, everyone remained silent. “I mean they have been virtually independent for 13 years. Why would they give that up?”. Some of them nodded in agreement.
“Yes, but Dr., they just want to seperate from Iraq” the medical aide said.
“They didn’t say so, even though they have that right. The Kurdish leaders have stated on many occasions that they aren’t interested in seperation, they just don’t want to be second class citizens”. This seemed to have convinced them and they let it go at that.
“So what do you think about the Transitional Adminstrative Law? Is it appropriate for the new Iraq? Has anyone read it?”.
No one had read it of course. I gave them a brief explanation about the rights and freedoms granted by the document, they seemed impressed but they objected to the article stating that two thirds of the population of any three governorates could annul the permanent constitution. Some heated discussion followed and we agreed in the end that the law was temporary and could be modified by a future sovereign government and that overall it was a very progressive constitution, while keeping in mind that constitutions are merely ink on paper and that Iraq had some good constitutions in the past, but that proper enforcement of the constitution was the most important issue.