Untold story of an Iraqi

8th February 2008, Sriracha, Chonburi, Thailand
I was alone living in a remote place in Sriracha. Zia was my only friend. An Iraqi, who migrated to Thailand after the 1st Gulf War. He was a breath of fresh air to me. Perhaps the only person with whom I used to communicate freely.

Zia the ever-smiling Iraqi
Zia was living in Thailand for nearly seven years. He came over to Bangkok after the 1st Gulf War. It had been seven long years of exile for him.
Talking about Zia, the first thing I remember was his smiling face. He was extremely witty and used to joke about almost everything in life. Our topic of discussion somehow used to circle around religion, culture and habits.

I had never imagined Iraq and India, especially West Bengal had so many similarities until I met Zia. It might be because of the river-centric civilization. I found our food habits, community feelings, rich traditions, social upbringing and many more similarities.

I saw 13 of my brothers got killed...
I could never have imagined the pain behind his deep green eyes until that day. I read news about a young boy in Illinois who took a gun to school and killed 9 of his classmates before committing suicide. I was visibly upset that day when Zia said to me – “I was ten when I saw 13 of my brothers got killed in front of my eyes”. After so many years, I still could hear his voice and it was impossible to forget what he said after that.

The other side of Zia
It was one fine day in early 1991. In the midst of the first Gulf War. Zia’s father was a diplomat and had served as an ambassador of the state in multiple countries before he moved back to Iraq with his family in 1990. They had a huge villa and a beautiful family of five. His father was a close associate of Saddam Hussein and the villa was adjacent to one of the villas of Saddam. I still remember his green eyes as if he could visualise everything in front of his eyes while talking about his mother, his brother and his beautiful little sister.

Memories of Baghdad
But his expressions started changing when he started talking about the piercing sound of sirens. His memories of Baghdad were all about the sirens. He was small but matured enough to understand the meaning of that ear-splitting sound. It meant time to hide, it meant, he cannot play football anymore.

The day it all happened
That day, he was playing football in the lawn adjacent to his villa. It was early morning and not the usual time to hear the

All of a sudden, nothing exists

sirens. But it was not really the sound of the siren. He heard a heavy thud on the wall of his house. He realised the time was not right to play football and found himself lying on the ground with his other friends. It was probably the air pressure that forced them to the ground.

The first kiss of the Missles
He ran and found a huge hole in his beautiful house. It was still hot and smoke coming out of it. He had seen bullets raining from the sky before. He could even remember of those bullets killed his own uncle while he was trying to park his car. But he had never seen this before. He remembers his father told someone that it was scud missile which created that hole.

No Football from that day
That day onwards, his mother never allowed him to play football even in the day time. It was almost a life in captivity as they were not allowed to go to school. Having a funeral became a regular affair as almost every day his father came back with the news of someone close to them died either by a bullet or a bomb of bullets.

Zia was too small to realize why it was happening. The only thing that used to bother him was the reducing numbers of his friends. He felt, perhaps he could never be able to play football again.

It was another day, he remembered his father, a man of a strong character losing his patience. ‘Let us leave the house and take shelters with others,’ he suggested to Zia’s mother that evening over dinner.

We lived together, We die together
Zia was really happy hearing that as he knew all his friends were staying inside a bunker. In fact, he was pretty excited about the idea of living below the ground with all his friends. But his mother was not ready to leave. For the first time, he felt the fear of Gulf Was when his mother said with a rigid face, “we have lived in this house together and we will die here together”. He knew it was not funny anymore and I could see tears in Zia’s eyes when he was telling me about it.

God had something else planned for them. That night, the Iraqi Government warned citizens of heavy shelling and most of his family members left for a bunker near to their villa. It was that night the allied force dropped a bomb into one of those bunkers and hundreds of civilians died of suffocation.

That night, he lost 13 of his family members forever. His uncle, his cousins, his favourite aunt, everyone that he loved were dead. Zia’s family survived for that brave decision of his mother. But on that day, he realised something for the first time. The pain of losing someone at times overshadows the joy of living.

Gulf War

War made things difficult

Not sure whether it was a few minutes or a few hours, we didn’t speak. The sky was dark and clear with no trace of cloud. Among the millions of star perhaps I was trying to locate Zia’s uncle, his best friend. I was sure they all were looking at him and happy to see him survived.

I realised how weak we are. This man beside me had lived a life which I cannot even imagine.

Once a happy family was shattered forever. His father took political asylum in Jordan with his mother and sister. He was once the ambassador of Iraq in Thailand. That helped him and his brother to migrate to Iraq. But he was not even aware that day whether his family was alive. It was early 2015, I remember Zia finally came to know about his family in Jordan and thankfully all of them survived even the next Gulf War.

The Iraqi in Thailand
Zia had a girlfriend in Thailand. She was Thai. Zia told me once jokingly, Thailand is the only place where parents are happy knowing their daughter’s boyfriend is an Iraqi.  Zia tried forgetting everything about his troubled childhood. But that night, I knew, a person can forget everything except the pain inflicted on him in his childhood.

He was living an apparently happy life. I realised, like millions of Iraqi, even he dreams to be back in Baghdad. He still imagines an Iraq without war. An Iraq without any siren suggesting him to run for shelter.

He imagines an Iraq, where all his uncles and aunts with their sons and daughters having a feast over Masgouf, Tepsi Baytinjan and Tashreeb. He still misses the smell of Cohiba cigars that his father used to import from Cuba.

Don’t pull me into reality 
Life definitely has treated Zia badly. Worse than anyone I have ever met in my life. But that never made Zia a negative person. I have rarely seen someone so cheerful in life. Apart from that evening beside the coast of Sriracha, I have never seen tears in his eyes. And I wish him and millions of Zia around the globe to have a life without war. It is probably the worst thing to see human killing a fellow human. I wish a world without any war and any killing. If that means living in a utopian world, I am ready to be there forever. Don’t pull me into reality.

My encounter with death was different. Read it here. 

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  • Anonymous

    August 29, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Excellent description. I suggest you get more organized and publish your works.

  • Anonymous

    July 27, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Just a nondescript reader who chanced upon your blog and was held up.

  • […] Untold story of an Iraqi July 18, 2019 […]

  • Anonymous

    July 23, 2019 at 11:45 am

    If only wishes could come true!We live in a world that refuses to be informed by the past..but slivers of hope keep humanity going and […] Read MoreIf only wishes could come true!We live in a world that refuses to be informed by the past..but slivers of hope keep humanity going and we continue to persist..an anecdote well written Read Less

    • Sunando

      July 24, 2019 at 6:57 am

      True! It would have been great to know your name. Thanks for your appreciation.

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