Sunday, August 03, 2008

Iraqis in London

It is unbelievable the number of Iraqis in London and the rest of the UK. I've been spending a lot of time in the UK this summer, and I am amazed by the number of Iraqis living here. Many of my uncles, aunts and older cousins moved to London in 1992 and 1993, after Gulf War I. Two of my uncles were lucky enough to have been studying in the UK in 1980, when Saddam took over. Needless to say, they did not return to Iraq. So I have dozens of cousins who spent most of their lives, if not all, in the UK. My youngest cousin, on my mom's side, is two years old. My oldest cousin, who's been in the UK since the late 70s, is in his late 50s now and he has two teenage children. How is that possible? My dad's sister is in her 70s, and started having kids long ago. My mom's brother is in his 50s, and he can't stop having kids!

Outside my family, I am surprised by the number of Iraqis in London. It seems that at least half the Iraqis living in the UK arrived in the early 90s. I am pleasantly surprised by the number of Sunni Arab Iraqis who hated Saddam enough to flee Iraq during his rule, and many of them fled in the 80s. London has always been the center of political opposition to Saddam. London continues to be an important scene for Iraqi politics, and much of the talk these days is about the corruption and incompetence in the current Iraqi government. Many Iraqis here, even Shia, are anti-American. Another older cousin of mine (on my mom's side) is married to a religious woman who believes that the US brought Al Qaeda to Iraq, and the Americans are responsible for the bombings of markets. When I heard this a year ago I said this doesn't make sense to me. She responded angrily by telling me that as a Muslim I should not defend infidels! Her 19 year old son, who grew up here, was a tad embarrassed by her, and he argued with her (quite loudly) that this kind of thinking is not understood by an American.

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