By Farah Erzouki, Sophomore at the University of Michigan
Between 105,718 and 115,471. With an extra 13,750 on the side; added on from War Logs Wikileaks (via Iraq Body Count). The number of people who have been killed in my Iraq. The only time I have hated numbers more than in Calculus class is now, when it has contributed to the dehumanization of my people. Nothing angers me more than the world seeing my brothers and sisters as numbers. Nothing angers me more than the propaganda machine we call mainstream media, that so cleverly and brilliantly masks the realities behind the invasion and occupation of Iraq. If the implications were not so devastating, I would commend these television networks for how perfectly they portrayed Operation “Iraqi Freedom” to favor the United States, the benevolent supreme.
Don’t get me wrong, I take pride in being American and I experience freedoms and opportunities in this country that I would not otherwise be able to experience. I will always be thankful for that. But this does not mean that we should turn the other cheek, or that we should not be critical of our country when our government does something wrong. I refuse to applaud the actions of a nation simply because I am a citizen of it. I refuse to congratulate the soldiers who were ordered to kill my innocent family members. I refuse to follow the hegemonic discourse I was taught in the classroom my entire life.
I am an American, but my heart is in Iraq. I, like many others, feel an unbreakable bond between myself and my native homeland. I would even go as far as to say I feel a similar bond towards Palestine and other countries facing occupation and oppression. You can try to call me anti-American or unpatriotic; both characterizations are untrue. But the reality is that I will always have a place in my heart for my country, baladi.
As I grow older, I begin to feel more and more conflicted between my American identity and my Iraqi identity. I was naïve to the racism and intolerance that exists in this very country towards my people. I did not realize the truths behind what really went on in the war, and what my government was really doing to my blood. The video below will explain all too well the realities of what soldiers in Iraq were told to do. We’ve been lied to; we’ve been told that those soldiers were protecting our country and that the casualties are simply an inevitable fact. As untrue as this is, the worst part about it all is that innocent civilians have died at the expense of “our country’s safety.” Nothing will ever compare to that.
The more I learn, the more I am consumed by realized emotion. The heartbreak of my entire family evacuating Iraq to different countries, afraid and separated from one another. The guilt of not understanding the gravity of the situation in my homeland at the age of 10. The anger of hearing of innocent men, women and children being killed for looking or acting a certain way. The sadness of the debris and catastrophe left in Iraq; a depressing aftermath of a depressing occupation.
As a friend once so eloquently put it, “I just want to hold Iraq in my hands”. I want to visit my homeland for the first time since 2002 and tell my people how sorry I am. I want to comfort them and reassure them that they are not hated. I want to tell them that not everybody supports their dehumanization and demonization, and that many people are outraged by our government’s actions. I want to make sure they know that they did nothing wrong to deserve this, because if anything, Iraqis hate Saddam and his debilitating regime more than anybody could ever fathom.
The death and destruction of the once so beautiful Iraq was started by Saddam Hussein, and finished off by our own military. Same crap, different Saddam. I hope to visit my homeland as soon as I possibly can, but for now a girl can only dream of going Back To Baghdad.
“This is for those that won’t live to see the future. Sorry that I wasn’t there, sorry that I couldn’t help. I’m sorry for every year, I’m sorry you’ve been put through hell. Still I feel like an immigrant; Englishman amongst Arabs, and an Arab amongst Englishmen.”