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My Life
Daliya F. Shawkat
IraqGALLERYCONVERSATION
EDITOR'S NOTE
This story was first posted in the theme Culture & Conflict, May 2006. We are reposting it in War & Dialogue in the Stereotypes conversation to represent the voice of an Iraqi young woman and contrast her experiences to the stories in this theme from American soilders in Iraq.
My name is Daliya; I was born in Baghdad in 1982 during the Iranian Iraqi War.

I completed my primary and secondary school in Al-Diwaniya (a city south of Baghdad). Then I went to Al -Mousil (north of Baghdad) to study pharmacology in the University of Al Mousil. I completed the first year in Al Mousil then I transferred to Baghdad College of pharmacy - University of Baghdad.

Both of my parents were doctors and when I was young they frequently left me and my brothers and sisters alone in the house because they had to work. During the Gulf war my mom was a manager in a children and women's hospital in Al-Diwaniya.

In 1991, when I was in third grade, I remember that one morning around 4:00 am I woke up to the sound of the phone. I answered the phone; it was a man asking for my mom so I went to my parent’s bedroom. I woke my mom telling her: "Mom, mom, there is someone who wants you on the phone, wake up mom." She thought that the hospital wanted her for emergency case, so she picked up the phone and said, "Hello?” Then there was a silent moment; then she said "Ok, I’m coming now." I asked her, "What happened mom?” She said "Baghdad is burning.” I did not believe her at first because Al-Diwaniya was so calm. She asked my father to change his clothes and they went to the hospital. When they drove the car at that moment I heard an explosion, it was such a scary sound; the explosion had come from a gas station that had just been destroyed. Then my brothers and sisters and I stayed at home alone without electricity and without water. This situation continued and for forty days we did not go to our schools; my parents were in the hospital all the time. There was no gas in the car, to get to the hospital my parents had to walk.

At that time the city of Al-Diwaniya was out of government control. So, after forty days the American bombing was finished and there were no policemen in the city, poor people began loot the governmental institutions and the Iranian army sent soldiers to capture the city. They did not allow women to go to the street without a head kerchief. That situation continued for about ten days. After that the republican army came to the city and began to shoot everybody and destroy the civilian houses with rockets and bombs and they began to take young people away to kill them. Then the city returned to government control. The government decided to punish us by cutting both the electricity and water. There was not any food in the city and the salary was one dollar per month!

The situation persisted for about twelve years. We were able to survive because of my parent’s private clinic. But most of people lived from either loot or corruption. Decay was dominant in all the country. We prayed for a miracle to save us. In 2003 we heard on the radio that American forces were coming to Iraq to liberate us. We were so happy when the miracle happened and Baghdad fell. We saw American soldiers on their tanks in the street, we showered them with flowers and we were so grateful to be liberated. We saw the light of hope come from America.

But, the happiness did not last. Some parties came to Iraq and they did not care about anything, they only cared about their own benefits. The terrorists came to Iraq so easily because the borders were opened. The situation became worse day by day. When I went to my college I did not know if I would be able to make it back to my home alive. In 2003 when my family and I were living in the city of Al-Diwaniya, the phone rang and my oldest brother answered, he spoke in English for a while and then he call my mom to come to speak on the phone. When my mom finished her telephone call, she told us that the American ambassador wanted to see her in Baghdad. She went there and met him in the republican palace. He asked her one question "What is your opinion about democracy?"

Then after about thirty days the phone rang again, my mom answered and when she finished her telephone call she told us "I’m now a member in Iraqi government council." My mom was one of the three women in that council. You might think from this that we are a lucky family, but we were not. Other students began avoiding me in my college. I was alone all the time. I was so sad.

In 2005 it was my graduation year, when some other students and I in my college threw a party for our graduation, we were both happy and at the same time afraid about what the future could bring. For the party there was a music DJ and the students all wore clothes that were not permitted. During the party armed people suddenly arrived, wearing black clothes and carrying guns. They began shooting everywhere and they destroyed everything. It was my graduation day.
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