Living with Iraq’s thugs
: The sad truth of life in Iraq is that the Thug-in-Chief may be in captivity, but all low-level thugs are still out there, making life miserable. Zeyad tells a frightening story:
While we had just finished dinner at the doctors residence and were getting ready for tea, two armed murderous looking guys entered the residence without any notice and handed one of the doctors an envelope. They were from maktab al-sayed al-shahid (Muqtada Al-Sadr followers). It turned out that the doctor had ignored a lightly injured sheikh at the hospital earlier that day while treating another emergency case of a car accident. The sheikh left the emergency hall seething and shouting that the doctor would pay for this ‘disrespect’. The letter inside the envelope was signed by the office of Al-Sadr and it was some sort of a subpoena for the doctor to come immediately to the office to explain his behaviour or otherwise ‘face grave consequences’.
Needless to say, we were freaked out by this whole exchange, and the doctor looked like he was hit on the head with something….
However the relatively good part is that many people from the village were outraged at this thuggish behaviour from the Hawza. I heard things like “They want to turn Iraq into another Iran”, “Aren’t they doing the same as the Ba’athists did?”, and “I would rather have Sharon rule us than any of those tyrants”. “Why don’t you inform the British?”. I struggled with myself to remain silent about the whole thing without expressing any views.
My fellow dentist woke me up at night and asked me if we should just abandon the whole internship and get back to Baghdad. “Ha! An atheist Sunni and a Christian. What do you think they’ll do if they find out?”. We discussed the thing for about two hours and in the end decided to stay and take as much care as possible not to offend the locals, to stick together, and to keep a low profile in the area. I’m already lying to everyone about my Sunni background, and my neighbourhood in Baghdad. I’m even contemplating faking prayers and acting even more pious than the rest of them. heh. Let’s just see how this turns out.