Wednesday, May 10, 2006

"You Have To Wear Abayia"

Kariem Tariq, a headmaster of a secondary school for girls in Haditha, a city part of Ramadi province, west of Iraq. Kariem headed to his school early in the morning on foot.

After making sure that everything was ok. He went to his office to look in some of the papers on his desk, after few minutes, he heard “ Salam Aliakum.”

Kariem raised his head to answer the salute, they were two men covering their faces with kufia and their guns on their arms. Kariem answered their Salam with fear.

He had never met these two men before whom one of them asked him with a serious tone “ Do you have an Shiite student in the school.” Kariem answered “ I do not know. I have never checked that”

The two men repeated their question with the condition, “ You have to kick any Shiite student out of the school.”

Kariem did not answer but the two men further added “ You have to order all the Sunni girls in the school to cover their faces or they will be dismissed of the school.”

The headmaster could tell from the two men accent that they were not Iraqi and might be from Syria, before he made up his mind about their identity they shouted in his face to give them a confirmation.

Kariem felt that his death was inevitable that day, he looked at the two men and said in a daring language“ I was in Syria few months ago, I saw Syrian women wear very western dresses, short and even without sleeves. Why do not you go there and tell them to wear at least decent trousers not Hijab.”

The two men became so angry of Kariem’s answer and warned him of dire consequences if he did not obey them and before he opens his mouth to speak two bullets went in his leg.

After few weeks Kariem went back to his school but he neither kicked out Shiite students nor ordered face scarf in the school.

I was in a Sunni dominated district in Baghdad with a US journalist, as usual kids surrounded us to see what was going on. Then they started to be very annoying. All my attempts to keep them away failed completely. I decided to seek the help of one of the policemen who was in a police car close to us.

I went to him and said “ Sir, can you help me with these kids, we can not work.” With one shout, he dispersed all of them. After few minutes kids started to creep again towards us. I went again to the policeman asking his help, the policeman answered me “ What can I do for them, they are Sunnis, they are Jews.”

I and a female US journalist went to Kadhimiyia shrine to talk with some Shiite clerics there. We put our Hijab and ran towards one of the shrine’s gates, all of a sudden we stopped by a group of guys sitting beside the gate with their Dishdash, unshaved beards and unwashed faces.

I asked one of them “What is the matter? We always come here and go inside without any problem like all the people who head inside.”

The guy told me ” you have to put Hijab.” I told him “We wear Hijab.” He said” This is not enough, you have to wear Abayia.”

I told him, “ This is nonsense. I have visited the shrine many times with this Hijab and no one objects.”

He said “ These are new rules, you should put Abayia on your Hijab.” I felt my patience
was running out but I had a journalist with me and should behave wisely.

I looked at the crowd coming out of the shrine and saw one of the shrine’s clerics whom I know. He smiled to me and came to take me in but again the guy interrupted him telling him that I should wear Abayia.

The cleric told him, “ They are ok, they are with me, leave them alone.”

I told my friend how rude was that guy by insisting on Abayia, the cleric said” Do not care about him, he is one of a bunch of guys who spend all the night drinking alcohol and do all bad things you can imagine and when they wake up in the afternoon, they come to sit here and behave as if they are clerics and very devoted Moslems, telling people this is Halal and this is Haram.”


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