Saturday, September 10, 2011
Last night, Hima Mesopotamia had its first fundraiser at the Kiwanis Family House in Sacramento, California. Over 48 people attended the talk by Dr. Nadia Fawzi on her life and lives of Iraqi's in southern Iraq. We were particularly delighted to have a large number of Iraqi's present. I learned last night that over 2,000 refuges have been relocated in the Sacramento area. Two men from the group Mesopotamia invited me to meet with them, to come to their homes, to listen to their stories.
Dr. Nadia Fawzi, guest speaker, Basrah Marine Science Center, Basrah, Iraq
Hima Mesopotamia is about telling people's stories. It is remarkably healing for a dispossessed people to have their stories told within the context of their culture, the land they come from, and their ancestors. We started out the evening with a movie featuring Dr. Azzam Alwash, Nature Iraq, and the Marsh Arabs. My favorite part of the movie is watching a small child rolling around and hugging a large water buffalo, as we in America might have our children playing and wrestling with a family pet dog. The mashoofs or boats on the water, the mudheif or guest house constructed of reeds, the remarkably buccaulic and tranquil floating islands of reeds. A hard life and a good life. When I think of Iraq before Saddam's reign of terror, I think of people living a subsistence life style on the marshes, entertaining guests lavishly, punishing enemies with a vengeance. Iraq also had an intellectual elite, with some of the finest colleges and best educated students in the world. Ramzi told us they had a final exam of advanced calculus, physics, physical chemistry, biology, arabic and english. The top scores, of whatever background or sex, went to the best Universities. I have been told that some biologists became biolotists because they couldn't pass the test high enough to become doctors or engineers. In Iraq, there were a lot of well educated and well paid women engineers and doctors before the wars.
Its sad how a tyrant, and those who allow a tyrant power, can destroy a world. The war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980's caused a huge debt, the loss of millions of lives, destruction of the border lands along the Shat al Arab. Saddam's incursion into Kuwait coast the country a great deal of lives, riches and the bad will of the international community. After the US invaded Iraq, the country is stumbling its way toward democracy. Nadia pointed out the Democracy did not arise organically from the people, the young, the inspired. It was imposed from the top down. What does Middle Eastern Democracy look like? I don't know.
I digress. Last night Nadia Fawzi gave a wonderful talk, sharing from her own life. She said she and her husband and four children moved to Yemen with almost nothing in their pockets, and were able to obtain jobs. Then they moved to New Zealand. Now her husband is in Saudi Arabia and her children are in both countries. Moving back to Basrah must have taken a great deal of passion, conviction and courage. Now the Marine Science Center scientists are going into the marshes and talking to the marsh arabs, finding what they need, and how their lives are. After three decades of war, hope is the greatest casualty. Without water, jobs, education, viable transportation to and from communities, healthy water buffaloes, gardens, or adequate fish, life is tough. There are high rates of infant mortality and birth defects from contaminated water and inadequate hygiene and waste disposal.
We had many students, members of the communities, and Iraqi's at the talk and good dinner and desert. To me this was a basket start, a beginning of creating a network where we can listen, we can hear the stories and tell them, and we can find a way to help. One thing we can keep alive is the knowledge that a healthy ecosystem is essential to keep functional and viable for a healthy human population.