Dear Iraq

By Banen Al-Sheemary, LSA Senior at the University of Michigan

Dear Iraq,

You think I have forgotten you, but I carry you everywhere. When I watch the world through my eyes, I see you. I can’t help but think of you with my every move and action. I always tie the struggle of the Iraqi people to my life. At least I try. I really do.

Driving on the outskirts of Fallujah, Iraq.

You know what God hates the most? Hypocrites. I feel guilty that I can walk into my house and turn the lights on whenever I want to. There is always an abundance of food in the fridge and clean running water available. I can sleep at night, safe and sound. After morning prayer, I watch the sun rise and say alhamdillah. The rays of light are from the same sun rising in the same sky, but you don’t get the feeling that I get from it. To you, it’s another hard day. Your days are tense and rigid because of car bombings and snipers. You have many days of uncertainty. Yet you still say alhamdillah. I get to hear birds chirping and the world beginning to wake. You are accustomed to the sounds of military warplanes hovering above you or tanks strolling down the roads. I never had to worry about military jets buzzing overhead ready to drop death and destruction. In stark contrast to what you suffer through, I see life here. This is why I feel like a hypocrite. If I don’t struggle with you, then I am a stranger to you.

Taking a walk. Samawah, Iraq.

I never told you this, but when I saw you after so many years, you were in the same immovable state. You couldn’t move forward. This made me hurt for you. You left my mind and heart scarred with what you made me see and feel. How is it that I still feel like an outsider? That makes me feel even guiltier for leaving you and for living my life here. I didn’t have a choice in the matter, so please forgive me. I was an infant being carried by my mother, over the border and into a refugee camp. I didn’t say bye to you because my chance of getting to know you was snatched away. But I’m older now, and I watch you endure time and time again. Helpless, I’m unable to take the pain away. I don’t even keep up with your news! It’s depressing and crippling to one’s soul. But I never forgot you Iraq. You never forgot me. I am my homeland. My homeland is me.

Picking an orange from a tree after sunrise. Hurriya, Baghdad.

I tried to understand your hardships. I try. The Tigris and Euphrates flow like my tears when I see you through that damn television screen, but it’s the closest I can get to you. These are your tears and they are the compassion that keeps you alive in your struggle. These rivers flow through the creases that define you. I want to reach out to you and hold your hand. Sadly, I would hold a rough hand indented with deep lines that would tell stories full of distress and grief. I wish they would tell stories of anything besides the sorrow and torment that you experience. But I will listen to your stories, because I want to remember you. God made hearing the most important of all our senses, so I will listen. These senses are the pathway to our heart. When I listen to the words that you speak, I don’t hear the beautiful poetry that you’re known for. I don’t hear the oudbeing played in cafes or children running around playing soccer in the street. I hear sounds of bombs and gunshots as women and children scream. I also hear the overbearing voices of American and Iraqi politicians making decisions for you. Don’t you tremble with anger after hearing their lies about you? You have been silenced by them! No, you are patient. This is why I watch you in awe and admiration. You have never experienced a moment of freedom. You have never lived. But you continue to endure and tolerate. I can only attempt to have the strength and determination that you do. I truly look up to you.

I always wished to take the pain away and hold you in my hands, but it is you that has been holding me all this time. You have taught me to be strong, patient, and enduring. I pray for you Iraq, but more importantly- I thank you. When we meet again I will be able to hold my tears back and raise my head high and proud. So I’m writing to you, to let you know that you’re with me, because of everything that you have made me.



"Long Live Iraq" on a bridge in Samawah, Iraq.

Watching the sun go down in Najaf, Iraq. Subhanallah (Glory to God).

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One thought on “Dear Iraq

  1. K says:

    Love this. ❤

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