I have read Riverbend's latest post about leaving Iraq, and I have read many comments by people who are saddened by her sad post. On Nabil's blog I responded to one of these saddened commentators by writing "Cry me a Riverbend!" Another commentator responded with this comment: "and as she said, sunni or shia, once they escape all are IRAQI. which makes me wonder, mojo, are you? cos you're the first iraqi i've ever experienced who doesn't seem to share that identity..."
I started thinking about our own escape from Iraq in 1982, and I wrote this:
"suz, I am an Iraqi American who escaped Saddam's horrors in 1982, when Riverbend's father was no doubt doing Saddam's bidding and grew rich from it. We didn't have the luxury of taking whatever we wanted with us (one suitcase for 4 kids), and we couldn't tell the world about it - our parents didn't tell us kids we were leaving the country until the day we left, because they didn't want anybody to know - they were afraid the Baathists in our neighborhood (one particular family, really) might suspect that we wanted to escape, which was illegal. Saddam's govt was kind enough to allow my mother and us kids to go to England because my sister was diagnosed with diabetes - she needed better treatment, but it was just an excuse to leave the country, and they didn't allow my father to go with us. I remember that night very well - my mother started crying before entering the airport because she didn't know whether she'd see my dad again - two of my cousins (my dad's nephews, much older than I) had already been executed and my dad's family was under suspicion of being against Saddam's govt. My mother's cousin's entire family was put in jail because one of their sons fled the army the year before. We are Shia, and what we were doing was very risky. My mother had to smuggle as much money as she could in her panties - taking excessive amounts of money with you meant that you weren't coming back, and that was illegal. Still, the money that we had in the UK didn't last long. I remember after a couple of months we started rationing our food - I kinda doubt Riverbend's family has to do that.
My father was able to join us a few months after we left. We were very lucky. Many Iraqi families were not as lucky. My father's best friend, an educated, courageous and most kind Sunni Arab, was executed in 1985. Read my first post to learn more.
I'm sorry that Riverbend and her family have to leave Iraq, but they are very very lucky compared to most Iraqis."