Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Survivors of the Mutanabi Bombing

This is an interesting, sad, and hopeful story about an Iraqi man who lost his son and brother in the bombing of the Mutanabi Street book market in Baghdad last year. It reminded me that ordinary (and extraordinary) Sunni Arabs have also been victims of car bombs and suicide bombers in Iraq. Thank you David All for the link.

In the long anthology of Iraq's tragedies, the Hayawis represent the promise of the country's future. Despite their grief, they tenaciously refuse to surrender to the current turmoil. They belong to the fading but still influential group of middle-class Iraqis who are alarmed by their society's sectarian fissures and emerging Islamic identity and determined to preserve its cosmopolitan, secular nature.

In a country hobbled by a lack of basic services, high unemployment and scarce foreign investment, the family stands for a vibrant alternative. Violence has driven out more than 2 million people, draining Iraq of skilled professionals, but the rebuilt bookshop remains, an engine for fresh ideas and intellectual growth. Every day on Mutanabi Street, a Hayawi sells books, educating a new contingent of lawyers, doctors and computer programmers.

The Hayawis stay in Iraq out of nostalgia, nationalism and a sense of tradition, as well as economic necessity. When U.S. troops withdraw someday, Iraq will depend on families like theirs to rebuild itself, physically and psychologically.

"Iraq is my soul," the bald, silver-bearded Hayawi said. "I go and come back. But I will never leave."


I am always surprised by people who claim these bombings were the work of Americans who wanted to divide Iraqis.

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