Iran News ...


Another "One Thousand and One Nights" tale from Iraq

By Massoud Behnoud, Tehran
Translated by Roya Monajem

What breathtaking eyes has this Hassan Esmail Abass, the twelve years old Iraqi boy burnt seriously during the bombardment of Iraq who has also lost both of his hands, and now known through a photograph that Yuri Kozeiv, the photographer of Times Magazine took of him and sent to all the news agencies of the world. At present and by the virtues of the very people who dropped bombs on their heads, he is receiving excellent medical care in a well-equipped hospital in Kuwait and there is a great hope that he may survive in spite of his serious bodily burns. On a TV program they showed all different varieties of artificial hands, two of which will soon, that is when American graciousness towards Hassan reaches its climax, be offered to him; two new, soft, beautiful hands.

They showed on TV how they were driving Hassan in a brand new and well-equipped ambulance, escorted by kind American army vehicles, from a miserable hospital in a Saddam City kind of town with almost no doctors and medicine and beds as the result of a horrifying plunder, to the airport to be transferred to Kuwait by a military airplane. One of Hassan's relatives, a mullah was running along Hassan's stretcher all the time, appearing very aggressive and angry, talking to every one in a threatening way, while there was no anger in Hassan's eyes; instead they were filled with life. Can this represent an image of Iraq's future made by beautifully manufactured American or British artificial hands?

Iraq is liberated, but not by her own hands. She is on her way again, but not on her own feet; there is life in her eyes, but she has sacrificed her arms for her liberation from the grip of a blood-thirsty dictator. She has suffered serious burns, like Hassan when a bomb dropped on his small hut and he was seriously burnt, but his eyes, it is as though that they stayed alive just to watch the world, and they are watching the world with complete amazement, as though discovering for the first time what a strange place it is.

He is the child of a poor family. His father divorced his mother years ago and he was living with his mother, step-father and six other siblings in a slum house in the south of Baghdad until that odd night when a bomb fell from the sky, killing his pregnant mother, his step father and all his brothers.

What a destiny Hassan and his lot should follow! During the two years that he went to school, everyday he had to sing hymns and repeat certain set of slogans before the picture of a man with a fat tummy, called Great Ghaed (leader) and the Father of the Nation, promising to sacrifice his life for Saddam Hussein. In his home area, the only firm building was the brick column of Saddam Hussein's statute, being ruined now like all the rest of the slum houses there. He grew up in streets and slept in a crowded room with a bad tempered step-father who used to beat them a lot, but everyday he heard on TV that his country is a very rich country and it is only the Americans and Zionists that do not let them have enough food and medicine. Then one night, while asleep, the planes of those very Americans flew over their heads and everywhere, including his body, was burnt and his hands flew off. Lying on his wretched bed with a burnt body, Hassan saw armed men in military uniforms, a lady looking at him affectionately and photographers who took his picture and sent it to the whole world entering and leaving. Now Hassan is as famous as his country, Iraq and his birthplace, Baghdad and now as a symbol of Iraq and a symbol of the kindheartedness of bombs and bombers, he is hospitalized in one of the best hospitals of Kuwait with the British Royal Army paying for his expenses and if he wishes, he can go to London to receive two brand new beautifully made artificial hands. Before the arrival of those kind soldiers, Hassan saw with his intelligent eyes that the nurse was conveying to everybody that he will die of infection and burns.

Baghdad was delirious for a whole week. Bewildered and astounded, she kept asking herself whether Saddam is really killed or whether he has really left. Most of the inhabitants of Baghdad stayed that week in their houses and while the whole city was immersed in darkness, they tried to follow the news of their country through their transistor radios to make sure that there is no Saddam anymore. And Baghdad fell, but when the seven American soldiers who were saved and released after two weeks of imprisonment continued to remain agape until they were actually in the plane taking them back home as it was only then that they indeed could believe that they were safe, it is quite natural for Iraqi people who had been prisoners of Baath Party for thirty five years, feeling unable to believe in even their own eyes so soon. On Friday, hundred thousands of them left their houses slowly to perform the first collective Friday Prayer in peace and without fear and to walk in streets shouting: "We want neither Saddam nor US," while their chief Mullah shouted behind the microphone: "Americans should leave before we start throwing them out."

It is true that people were happy that after so many years of fearing Saddam's secret police they could finally perform the Islamic ritual of Friday Prayer, and although Iraqi policemen in their new uniforms were still watching them, this time together with American soldiers, but nobody was arrested and imprisoned or killed for shouting certain slogans. Nevertheless, they like to be left alone and if they are to live without a dictator and in any ways that they wish, they do not like to see armed American soldiers standing in their alleyways.

But would this really happen? Could Iraq settle down presently despite all these conflicts going on there? What would those who are not only unfamiliar with democracy, but have been turned into a backward violent society due to long years of life under dictatorship are used to having a tyrant dictator over their heads and see his statutes and huge pictures everywhere and fear him to death, what they would possibly do with freedom? What would they really do with freedom, if the coalition forces abandon them? And if for this very reason these forces stay there until peace and safety returns to all the cities, it may take quite a long time. Will America succeed here as much as it was victorious in the war?

Would Iraq be able to construct a prosperous free society with two artificial hands like those of Hassan's? Can American or British made hands replace her real hands? Hassan's eyes seemed kind, laughing and full of zest and ardor for life, but the eyes of that Mullah accompanying him - perhaps his aunt's husband as he was the only person left with Hassan - seemed angry.

Would kindness remain in Hassan's eyes or would it be replaced by that same anger seen in that Mulla's eyes? or perhaps it will be replaced by that which fills the artificial eyes of Abuhamzeh who has lost one of his arms as well. The grapnel in the hands of Abuhamzeh is not kind, but the modern artificial hands are soft and pretty and kind, even though there is no doubt that they can not perfectly replace Hassan's real hands. And no doubt that those kind humanitarians of the world who are doing their best to save Hassan's life and have invited him to London, can not perfectly replace Hassan's real mother.

With the plot planned by computers, American soldiers have so far been quite successful to remove the lid of the secret treasure box of the legendary Baghdad, the city of "One Thousand and One Nights." There are many legends and miracles hidden in that box since thousands of years ago, and the story of Hassan and his mother is just one of them. Do Americans who are hurriedly giving the big projects of reconstruction of Iraq cities to huge companies have any time to listen to these tales?

Let us not forget that behind the stories of One Thousand One Nights that in the Middle East that every body grows up with them, there was a Shahrzad who was condemned to death by the order of a powerful King and in order to save her life, every night she told a story to the King that postponed her death for a night. For one thousand and one nights she told one thousand one stories until she outlived the King. Does this story toll any bells?

... Payvand News - 5/8/03 ... --

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