Sophia's Peace Work

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"I hate Iraq"

"Excuse me, can you tell me where the exit is?" the teenage boy asked me. We were in the park where I go to run at night and I pointed him in the right direction knowing full well that his questions was simply a ruse to initiate a conversation with me.

Soon he was sitting on the cement park bench next to me. Ah, well, I had intended to sit quietly for a few minutes to let my heart settle down after a 30 minute run in the park, but that was not to be.

Rasheed was rather atypical in that his English was excellent but sadly rather par for the course when he told me within a minute of sitting down how much he hated Iraq. I asked him why repeatedly and the best answer I could get out of him was that at his age (18) in American, he would already have a girl friend but that wasn't possible for him in Iraq.

Ah teenage angst. I've seen that here before, even the older men suffer from it.

Where does the problem lie, I asked him. In the girls, he told me. They refuse to have relationships with the boys (from what I've seen about how the boys behave, I really can't say that I blame the girls that much ... they risk a lot more than the boys do in taking on an Iraqi boyfriend).

I informed him that going to America might not solve all his problems. But he insisted that everything in America was better and that even the country was more beautiful. I tried to convince him that I had seen a lot of Iraqi Kurdistan and that there are places here of equal beauty but he would hear none of it.

Like nearly every other young Iraqi I've met, he was just bidding his time until he could leave.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The New Pig Hunt

H1N1 has put the scare into a lot of people here in Iraq and there have been a flurry of newspaper articles about the threat of "Swine Flu" as it is mistakenly known. Most of these articles include statements by boasting government officials on how they have the problem in hand, no cases have been found in Iraq, etc. etc. etc. But many of them end with a statement about activities to cull or eradicate Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) in Iraq.

Wild Boar can be found in the marshes and along many of the rivers but also in grass and woodlands. Many Boar are considered a nuisance to farmers because they have been known to dig and root in farmers fields and eat the cultivated plants. Many are killed for this reason and in the Mesopotamian Marshlands of southern Iraq Boar hunts are an activity with a long history (ie: to Sumerian times). Unfortunately for the Wild Boar, this new concern over the H1N1 virus, has led to another, if erroneous reason for hunting them.

Nature Iraq, an Iraqi environmental organization, just released a press release trying to educate people in Iraq about the issue. They state:

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) strongly counsels against the culling of pigs in the current situation with A/H1N1 influenza that started in North America. Scientific information currently available to the OIE and partner organizations indicates that this novel A/H1N1 influenza virus is being transmitted amongst humans; there is no evidence of infection in pigs, nor of humans acquiring infection directly from pigs. In fact, because of this confusion, the World Health Organization has renamed the current outbreak to one being caused by “Influenza A” not “swine flu”.

Despite this stories have been going around of efforts to kill the pigs in the south of Iraq using poison or shooting them from helicopters. All of this is pointless and is not ecologically justified or even economically feasible.

Wild Boar killed by hunters in Taq Taq on the Little Zap River, 2007