River leaving Baghdad

I remember Baghdad before the war- one could live anywhere. We didn’t know what our neighbors were- we didn’t care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it- depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.

On a personal note, we’ve finally decided to leave. I guess I’ve known we would be leaving for a while now. We discussed it as a family dozens of times. At first, someone would suggest it tentatively because, it was just a preposterous idea- leaving ones home and extended family- leaving ones country- and to what? To where?

[…] So we’ve been busy. Busy trying to decide what part of our lives to leave behind. Which memories are dispensable? We, like many Iraqis, are not the classic refugees- the ones with only the clothes on their backs and no choice. We are choosing to leave because the other option is simply a continuation of what has been one long nightmare- stay and wait and try to survive.

On the one hand, I know that leaving the country and starting a new life somewhere else- as yet unknown- is such a huge thing that it should dwarf every trivial concern. The funny thing is that it’s the trivial that seems to occupy our lives. We discuss whether to take photo albums or leave them behind. Can I bring along a stuffed animal I’ve had since the age of four? Is there room for E.’s guitar? What clothes do we take? Summer clothes? The winter clothes too? What about my books? What about the CDs, the baby pictures?

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Categories: Politics


2 replies

  1. Thanks for posting this. I had been checking her blog every day to see if there was anything new, but I hadn’t in a while. Whenever there’s a lapse, I always worry that something bad has happened to Riverbend or her family. Not that her news is great, but at least they are okay. It breaks my heart to think of them (or anyone) having to leave their home and not knowing if they will ever see it again.

  2. I wish they would come to Australia!
    I have been following the fortunes of this family for such a long time. Riverbend will find it impossible to have a job of a family of her own unless she loses her city.
    What a terrible choice.

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