Sophia's Peace Work

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Let us hear your voice!

That was the translation of the colorful billboards leading into Zarqa, a small town near Amman, Jordan. The billboards were calling Iraqis living in Jordan to come to the polling centers and cast their votes for the candidates of their choice ... though their choices were limited and ill-defined.

I was traveling into Zarqa (incidentally, I was told that this is the hometown of Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist leading a portion of the resistance in Iraq) with my Iraqi friend S., who was registered there to vote for the Iraqi Transitional Assembly.

"You don't have to tell me," I whispered on the bus to my friend, "but who are you voting for?"

"I will tell you," he said quite formally, "I am voting for Allawi (Ayad Allawi is the current Prime Minister of the Interim Government and heads one of the lists on the ballot)"

"He is not the best one," S continued, "but it is a beginning."

The polling center was at a secondary school in central Zarqa and security was high, though voters were few. In fact, S was the only one there to vote. It was the last of three days that was alloted to voting outside the country (in Iraq, today was the only day of voting).

Here is what a friend in Baghdad wrote to me about the day of voting in Iraq itself,

It was really spectacular today. F (an Iraqi friend) called sometime in the afternoon. Said he woke up and as he was about to leave his home "they" began mortaring his neighborhood. SO he postponed leaving. But he did look out the window and was shocked to see hundreds of people walking to the polls despite the mortars...a human wave of voters! Can you imagine?

S (another Iraqi friend) said there were folks lined up to vote when he got to his polling station before it opened! Hundreds of people -- and even though gunfire broke out no one left. The stories I heard today -- as if people felt freer than usual to speak about their past horrors. The unification of the Iraqis with themselves...the poll workers, the police, The National Guard many of whom are in their 20's, and the voters. All coming together in a show of defiance and strength that those cowardly fuckers cannot escape from seeing. Let them see.

Here is my friend S standing next to the election list. Each list has a name of the party, a number and a list of one or more members of the list. There is no description of who these people are or what they stand for. In a few cases, the parties have omitted the names of their members for security reasons.

S and the inked proof that he voted. Sorry for the smudged face but I want to try and protect his identity.

Friday, January 28, 2005

What's that on your finger?

A Kurdish friend of mine is in Amman right now ... he's been here waiting to vote in the Iraqi elections. Today was the first day of elections outside the country ... the vote, here in Amman atleast, will extend for three days but (an I'm not sure of my details here) it wont occur in Iraq until Monday, Jan 30th. When the Iraqis vote at the polls, they make them put their index finger in a pot of ink that stains your finger and is supposed to last several days (that way they know you have voted and there isn't any double voting).

Here in Amman, there are many Iraqis ... most came here to get away from the violence in Iraq. Some friends went out on the street and asked Iraqis who they were voting for. Many who they spoke with were planning to vote for Iyad Allawi's list ... which is essentially a vote for the interim government that Iraq has right now. It will be interesting to see what comes of all this ... but the acid test will be at the polls in Iraq.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

No Good Options?

I friend and I sat up late in our grungy Amman hotel arguing. It was nearly 2 am and in a few hours my friend was about to fly to Baghdad. I am staying safely in Amman, Jordan for the foreseeable future. We argued about alot of things ... all of them related to the situation in Iraq and in the way of certain arguments we argued around and around and roamed from topic to topic until we really weren't sure what we were arguing about anymore.

But in the end, I remember that we clearly differed on the issue of whether the U.S. troops should stay in Iraq. My friend said yes, I said no. I think if you went to Iraq, in many places you would hear the same argument and hear the same difference of opinion among Iraqis themselves.

Essentially, the yes argument is that if the U.S. troops leave, the country will only descend into further chaos. The no argument is that, while yes, the country would probably remain unstable for some time, the violence couldn't be any worse than it is no and at this point many people are fighting just because the U.S. is present. I would also add, as I said to my friend, that Iraqis are not given much credit by those who argue for the troops to stay. I think that Iraqis would face a long uphill battle, one that they did not even choose but was forced upon them, but that with the absence of the Americans, Iraqis would rise to the occasion. I would also say that it is pointless to get an honest opinion from the current Iraqi regime on this question. They will uniformly say that the Americans should stay ... but it was the Americans that put them in power afterall, so they tend to be a tad biased.

For me I think of what happened at Tal Afar (Go to the bottem and check the entry for Jan 21st, 2005) when a U.S. patrol, with dusk upon them, did the right thing ... they followed all the appropriate orders and precautions ... they fired into an approaching car that didn't stop when ordered to ... as the car rolled to a stop, the cries of children could be heard from within. The soldiers opened the door and found the bloodied corpses of a mother and father in the front seat ... and six young, screaming children in the back seat all basically unharmed came tumbling out. Who knows why the father didn't hear the warning shots ... maybe the voices of six children in the back seat was loud enough to drown them out ... maybe in the dusk, the driver just didn't see. Who knows. It was a mistake and the troops most likely did what they were supposed to do. But now six young lives are horribly traumatized. No, more than six ... for what has this done to those young soldiers?

One can only say that perhaps, they should never have been there in the first place.

Perhaps my friend is right and the removal of U.S. troops would lead to an even worsening spiral of violence. But it is ultimately all speculation on everyone's part. We are not likely to find out as the leadership in the U.S. is bent on staying put. I just wonder how many Tal Afars, how many destroyed lives await us in the future under the present course.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Recently Arrived in Amman

Eleven hours and I finally made it to Amman on a cool and rainy night. Once I made it to the hotel it was like a big reunion. Many Iraqi friends where there (it seems that those who can are leaving Iraq until after the elections). Even a friend who was supposed to be in Iraq was there (having been forced back after making it as far as the Baghdad Airport ... apparently, she thinks, they just took a disliking to her).

There are alot of Iraqis in Jordan ... many government officials keep offices here (I've heard that Iraqis complain that the interim government is rarely inside the country) and there are many conferences here in Amman concerning Iraq because it is simply safer to do them outside of the country. I'm hoping to get clued into some of these events so that I can connect with the local Iraqi expat community.

But for now I must simply settle in and find a good, cheap place to stay.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

An Akashic Records Reading

Before leaving my home to return to the Middle East where I will be starting a job with an Iraqi Non-Governmental Organization and a promise of low-pay, long-hours and poor appreciation ... a friend gave me an Akashic Record reading. For those who, like I, may not be familiar with this term, I have included the following quote about them.

"The Akashic Records or "The Book of Life" can be equated to the universe's super computer system. It is this system that acts as the central storehouse of all information for every individual who has ever lived upon the earth. More than just a reservoir of events, the Akashic Records contain every deed, word, feeling, thought, and intent that has ever occurred at any time in the history of the world."

Since I really didn't know how this worked I just asked a few general questions about some friends in Iraq and I asked if my new job with the Iraqi Organization would work out.

My friend said various plausible things about my friends including giving me an amazingly accurate description of one of them. Then she proceeded to tell me that my new boss was a scam artists and that I shouldn't take the job.

"I've never had such a clearly negative reading before," she said, "I'm sorry but I'm just telling you what I see. It would be a big mistake to take this job."

Well, I thought, it's too late now!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


A hectic schedule and a stomach bug have delayed me from posting as promised. I am making my way East thought and will post more extensively soon.