I have a deadline today to finish a story about deaf and mute in Iraq, all the required material is at my hand except to back up the story with a graphic about them pre and post war, a routine procedure we do with any story we write.
I asked the driver to come early in the morning in hope to catch the Director General of the Social Affairs department at the Ministry of Labor, she is the only one who can help in this field.
I did not need to set up the alarm o’clock to get up early, explosions did their best to wake me up in time. The driver arrived with his red van and made a miss call for me, code we agreed on means that he is waiting outside the house.
I jumped in the car and headed to Beirut square in Palestine street towards the ministry which is only 15 minutes far of my house.
Just close to Mustansiyriyia square, men with black suits were putting barbed wires and trees trunks, they pointed to us to go back. I remember now, today is the anniversary of Immam Hussein funeral, sure it won't be an easy trip, only God knows what will happen today.
I jumped out of the car and told one of the black suit men, “ Iam a journalist and supposed to cover Husseini funeral, can I have my car in.” the man replied that he wish he could let me in but he had an order not to let any car pass through the crowd of pilgrims.
“Ok, let us try alleys.” I suggested to the driver who proposed to go back to the office and skip the idea of going to the Ministry. I do not blame him he does not know what is a deadline.
We found a street with few pilgrims carrying red, white and black flags and pictures of Imam Hussein, we drove to the end till we found ourselves at Canal street. Cars were heading wrong sides but I insisted to continue. I raised my head to look through the window, God, black waves of people were coming from Sader city, hundreds of old and young men and women were marching towards Kadhimiyia shrine on foot, even babies carried on their mothers’ arms were participating in the celebration.
Now, it is the end of the Canal street, I was trying to reach one of the streets that lies in front of the ministry to park the car and go on foot to see the D.G but for my surprise, I fond myself in a strange neighborhood, I opened the window of the car and asked one of the passerby, “ Is this “ Al-Qahera” district?” “ No, this is Saliekh, where do you wana go today? It is better for you to go home, all roads are blocked.” The man answered me.
I told him I need to go to the Ministry of Labor in “Al-Qahera” district. ”you have to go left and then straightforward you will be in front of the ministry but do not take this street, he pointed to a small empty street in front of us, an hour go a man was snatched by three gunmen.”
Finally we were in front of the ministry, I jumped out of the car and ran through the crowds who were chanting and beating themselves “ We swear with the name of God, we will never forget you Hussein.” I crossed two streets and now Iam at the ministry, Thank God 1000 time, I looked at my watch, it was 10:30 am. Two hours from my house to the ministry which is 15 minutes far of where I live!!!!!!!
Let us forget about that and go inside to get the graphic, otherwise the editor in Washington will be upset and change his idea about me, how can I explain to him Shiites’ rituals while he has never been in Iraq.
I have to go to the reception first, the door is closed. Where did they go? A man came to me and asked me what do I need? I told him I need to see the D.G. a lady wearing black hijab came to me with a glass of yellow juice “ Drink and read “ Fatiha” for Immam Hussein.” Fatiha is a verse of holy Quran used to be read on dead.
It was really a difficult choice especially when my eyes fell on the huge black barrel of juice made of recycled plastic, she was filling the same glass from to everyone passes inside. But I did not dare to refuse her glass, I closed my eyes and took sips with set of verses of holy Quran in protection of any possible diseases.
I am at the D.G office now, so happy and full of confidence that nothing can stop me of getting what I want. The male secretary was sitting in front of an old wooden disk covered with a broken mirror chatting with an old lady.
“ It is better for me to go back to my old job and stand again beside the traffic light begging people for some pennies.” The lady told the secretary out of her anger for not getting her ID from the ministry though she has applied for it a year an a half ago.
“ You will get it just be patient, it is not you only, there are hundreds like you.” He told her. “ I had even sold the only carpet I had at my single room for the sake of this ID, in hope I will get your subsidy, now I left with the ground only.”
Then an old man from Nasiriyia province arrived for the same thing, I felt I should tell the secretary that I have an appointment with the D.G to let me get in because I do not have time though it was so interesting to listen to the people there.
"The D.G could not make her trip to the ministry because roads are blocked today." The secretary told me while he was talking with the old man.
I need to get the statistic the D.G promised yesterday, I told the secretary, where is the Statistics department?
I can not take you there unless you have a written permission from the D.G?
She gave it to me orally yesterday and told me if I could not find her today, I can go directly to the statistic department.
The man looked unconvinced and hesitant to let me go there and asked me to contact the D.G.
I can't find her, there is no network.
You can go but Iam not responsible of the result, recommendations I have not to allow journalists to get inside the ministry's departments only if they have written permission.
I ran to the statistics department through dark passage , I found the room which was full of six disks and piles of files. There were four men with a lady wearing black hijab. I explained to them the reason of my visit.
One of the men pointed to the woman telling me that she is the one who can help me.
I sat beside her and told her that I need a statistic about deaf and mute in Iraq pre and post war.
Again, she asked me for a permission, I told her that the D.G gave me a permission to do that but she is late today because of Immam’s funeral.
The woman was cooperative, she brought me all what I need, I wrote most of the information I was looking for but suddenly, she looked at me and said " No, I think I should ask the director of the media department because Iam not allowed to provide you with all these information without a permission."
God, why did she remember that now, I do not have time, I answered her while I was doing my best to restrain my anger" Habibti, Iam looking for a statistic about deaf and mutes not about Mukhabarat or national security."
Even though, she replied, stop writing, I will go to the media director.
At this point, I felt I must do something, after all this strife, Iam not going to go with empty basket to the office and fail to meet the deadline for the story.
I remembered this Iraqi saying “ If you were not a wolf, lions will eat you.”, I snatched the paper I wrote the information on and put it in my pocket and picked up a piece of paper from my notebook and started to write with crazy speed some of the information I dictated , in case the woman will come and take the paper from me.
I finished writing and put the paper on the desk, then the lady was on my head " you are not allowed to take statistics today, come tomorrow with a permission and we will help you."
I thanked her and said " This is really unfair." She told me that media director wants to see me because I should have seen him before I came to her." "No problem." I answered her, she led me to the director of the media department.
The man said" Iam very sorry, the D.G is not in her office today. We can not give you the statistics, come another day. "
I ran to the red van which was waiting for me outside chanting " if you were not a wolf, lions will eat you.”