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Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
 


Duraid Isa Mohammed, "Mr D.", was tragically killed alongside Yasser Khatab, a colleague, in an ambush just south of Baghdad on January 27, 2004. He was returning to Baghdad from a news assigment when the two-car convoy he was in was attacked by armed men. He and Yasser died on the spot of multiple gun-shot wounds.

He was an incredibly courageous, inspiring man who started this blog anonymously a week before he died. His words -- and those of the songs he loved -- speak for themselves.

He is deeply missed by his family and friends.

Duraid was 27 years old, and is survived by his wife and 2 beautiful young
sons.
 
Duraid liked to collect writings and photographs. Anything that
touched him... he copied and saved. The following was found amongst
Duraid's possessions after he was killed:

RISK

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams, before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing dies nothing, has nothing and is nothing.
They say they avoid suffering and sorrow,
But they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live...
Chained by their attitudes, they are slaves.
They have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.
-- Anonymous
 
This was one of Duraid's favourite songs. He played it over and over again almost on constant loop!

"Bring Me To Life" - Evanescence

how can you see into my eyes like open doors
leading you down into my core
where I've become so numb without a soul my spirit sleeping somewhere cold
until you find it there and lead it back home

(Wake me up)
Wake me up inside
(I can't wake up)
Wake me up inside
(Save me)
call my name and save me from the dark
(Wake me up)
bid my blood to run
(I can't wake up)
before I come undone
(Save me)
save me from the nothing I'e become

now that I know what I'm without
you can't just leave me
breathe into me and make me real
bring me to life

(Wake me up)
Wake me up inside
(I can'wake up)
Wake me up inside
(Save me)
call my name and save me from the dark
(Wake me up)
bid my blood to run
(I can't wake up)
before I come undone
(Save me)
save me from the nothing I'become

Bring me to life(I've been living a lie, there's nothing inside)
Bring me to life

frozen inside without your touch without your love darling only you are the life among the dead

all this time I can't believe I couldn't see
kept in the dark but you were there in front of me
I've been sleeping a thousand years it seems
got to open my eyes to everything
without a thought without a voice without a soul
don't let me die here
there must be something more
bring me to life

(Wake me up)
Wake me up inside
(I can't wake up)
Wake me up inside
(Save me)
call my name and save me from the dark
(Wake me up)
bid my blood to run
(I can't wake up)
before I come undone
(Save me)
save me from the nothing I've become

(Bring me to life)
I've been living a lie, there's nothing inside
(Bring me to life)
 
Post-Duraid

1 February, 2004
Sunday, 8.38pm local time
Baghdad

The radio continues to crackle in the background.
Ahmed Ahmed where are you? Live shot in 5 mins.. Nic Nic are you in your office.. Bassem is on the phone' Ingrid!'Ingrid!' Isti'ilamat... Isti'ilamat...

I hear my watch ticking incessantly on the nightstand' and I have put on a CD ironically called Silence to try to drown out this place. This place'

The Bradleys haven't started rolling yet outside my window. the checkpoint overnight shift hasn't arrived to replace the dayside contingent. The mortars haven't been launched yet... and the IEDs are still silent.
… the booms will start soon enough ... the rumbles that shake the very core of you…from inside out almost… the tracer fire… the wailing sirens... it is nearly nine o’clock. Attack time. Another night in Baghdad.

I am in a time bomb. This place is a time bomb. What hope I had that all would only get better… has dissipated. They’ve killed Duraid… and suddenly Baghdad is no longer welcoming. It has gone insane. It is an angry, volatile place…and without Saddam and with Bush far away, they no longer know who the enemy is. They don’t have a target for their hatred and their frustration and their grief… so they are just killing anyone they can. It is a family dispute gone haywire…and I am just a stranger looking in… how dare I? How dare I be here to witness their pain? I feel like an intruder in an otherwise honourable home.. I shouldn’t be here to see their shame. It is a country ready to implode… and I shouldn’t be here like a parasite taking advantage of their tragedy because it will make the nightly news…

BOOM!
One.
And it is not yet even 9. They have started early tonight… 10 minutes early.

I no longer even run to see what it is. I no longer care. I no longer care if we get it on the air first.. I no longer care that we get the pictures or the story.. let these people get on with their lives! How dare we “journalists” watch their misery just to slap a few shots together to make a good package... and then call it a day. Because that is what we end up doing… we go from story to story… and then we call it a day and maybe just maybe write that best-selling book about our voyeuristic experiences and live happily ever after. Can I live like that?

It was different for Duraid. In more ways than one, he WAS the story. He was Iraq. It’s future. It’s hope. It’s heartbeat. Angry enough to take risks. Smart enough to still be cautious. Jaded enough to not be foolish… but with enough pride and hope to BELIEVE things would get better if he only took that one more step forward. One more step. One foot in front of the other… and he would get THERE. Wherever THERE may be. He believed in this country more than anyone I’ve ever met here. He believed he deserved better… that his family deserved better… and so he always gave 101%… expecting that somewhere out there, it would be given back to him.

And they put a bullet through his head.

I can’t even bear to think about it. I don’t want to think about it… but part of me thinks I should. I should piece it all together in my head like a newsreel so it’ll become ‘real’. (Oh the irony in that!) But I have to make it real. Because if not, I sit here at times expecting him to just walk through the door with that confident jaunt of his… a pack of red “Marlies” (as he called them) stuffed into his back pocket… his glasses sliding down his nose… beads of sweat dripping down his forehead (even in the winter)…a cigarette hanging loosely from his lips… and a sly, cheeky smile spread securely on his bright, bright face… his laptop held tightly under one arm… and a surprise package of Oreos for me hidden under the other. Or sometimes it would be a secret stash of M&Ms. He would tease me about my perpetual failed diet… but then he was really responsible for helping it fail! There was always Duraid rushing in with some thing for someone. But I remember mostly, it was black market goodies for Gamra. “You were always his favourite”, I was told just the other day. His “favourite”… it breaks my heart. He had become such a good friend. He very nearly saved my soul… and I never got the chance to tell him that.

I came to Baghdad a refugee. Broken heart held loosely in the palm of my hand. My mind numb from a constant barrage of wearying thoughts. I had no hope left in me. No pride. No will to live really I guess. It was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Everyday. Just one foot in front of the other. Duraid reminded me what it was like to smile. It was in Baghdad I remembered how to smile again. Oh the irony in that! Suddenly here, after 2 months, I’d found a home. This broken, weary spirit… got reacquainted with hope. Suddenly here, there was life! There were people who were obviously more exhausted than I and yet struggled to move forward with dignity and grace. They were shattered souls, and they held themselves together with pride. Being here finally brought me out of my-SELF. Duraid took me under his wing… and without knowing he had done s o, sheltered me from self-battering.

How do I explain my ties to Baghdad? I can’t. My family definitely doesn’t get it. How could you put yourself in danger, they first wondered. It’s funny - these out of town work trips. They create a different kind of bond… an intense chemistry that links you one with the other and fast forms a surrogate family. You put your lives in each other’s hands… and you have to build instant trust. It is almost instinct. My God what are we doing?

BOOM BOOM BOOM.
Not as loud as the first one… 22 minutes past 9. Sounds like mortar fire. I think. I am learning to tell the difference now. No sirens in the background. So they can’t have landed in the “Green Zone”.

Just a few days ago, I was playing backgammon with Duraid in the new “lounge” area. He was playing like an old hand - I could tell he was a master at this game. But I beat him! I beat him fair and square. Or he let me win. But then again, it’s all in the roll of the die isn’t it? If you get the snake-eyes, there’s nothing much you can do about it.

More banging. I don’t think this is artillery fire. Sounds like hammering at a construction site. Another regular sound in this town. They are after all trying to rebuild.

There are just too many sounds at night. Not crickets or owls or even buzzing insects… not any of the gentle sounds romantics associate with evenfall. In Baghdad, the night resounds with noises human beings really shouldn’t have to deal with on a regular basis. Man-made reasons leading down the road to self-destruction. Darkness was always a tender friend… but I don’t trust it anymore. You never know what ugliness will face you in the morning after nightfall in Baghdad.

This was supposed to be about Duraid. Forgive me Duraid that my usually self-serving rantings have once again turned back in on its narrator. How has this come to be about how I no longer feel like I can do the “news”? How I can no longer be ‘detached’ from the ‘reality’ I am supposed to be ‘covering’? ‘Covering’… there. That word alone sums up the entire profession. We like to think we are separate or at least one-removed from a ‘story’ - beginning, middle, end. Structure. Dénouement. We hide behind our cameras and our microphones. We are only witnessing things happen to OTHER PEOPLE. How have I suddenly forgotten that? I feel like I was in a cocoon. A safe bubble from which I could watch the world go by and never have it touch me. But someone’s put a bullet thru my windowpane… and now there is no escaping from the hurricane outside.

And the wind continues to howl. Truly it does. How fitting would it be that on the day we go visit Yasser’s family to mourn with them… a freak thunderstorm rolls across Baghdad? I’ve never heard thunder like that. And the rain. I never realised how it could rain in the desert. I know Duraid, I know. I am an ignorant fool. There was so much I was looking forward to learning from you. You understood this place like no one does. Like an insider looking out to look in again. You could speak our language…just like one of us .. and your heart was rooted firmly on the Tigris riverbed.

My radio crackles to life beside me…
“Gamra...Gamra… where are you?”
On any other night... it would have been Duraid. “Gamra…Gamra… wenek?” Our secret code for it’s time to get out of the office and chill in the DVD room upstairs.

But this time it is Odai. Dear "Tariq". A humorous story I will save for a later day. We are all in mourning… he more than I I’m sure. And right now it gives me comfort to think he needs me around… I don’t think he knows helping him, helps me.

Above the Black Hawks begin to circle the night sky. And I sit here for the first time with my back to the window… like I can no longer bear to look outside.

Silence ends. I must go see Odai.
Evening in Baghdad.

My radio continues to crackle…
"Isti'ilamat... Isti'ilamat…"

BOOM.

9.50pm

GAMRA
Sunday, January 25, 2004
 
Lost and never found

Today it was a mix of emotions created by a big tour around town. A twon that is surrounded still by concrete walls and road blocks. There are smiles at the faces of policemen, but they are smiles of fear. The most ironic thing to find is law enforcement officers who are the most afraid residents of a town! You really get to a point where you just crack laughing at the most serious issue that you face... But, it miraculously still goes on. That would be something to really dwell on because it goes along with lotsa things that have surfaced and lotsa others that have gone missing...
It used be days full of joy, now it's days with nothing to them... The key to that joy was of two elements. Stay away from politics, and keep your religion to yourself. How hard is this to do? I mean, usually it is only normal to keep yuor true interests to yourself. Anyway, now you gotta be political just to provwe that you were not in the wrong politics. That might not make sense to you, but if you haven't been to Iraq, you won't find it easy to figure that out...
Now, back to the smiles. Kids' smiles are always the best coz no matter what happens, they would give you a true smile. Women's smiles on the other hand are gorgeous. You could always start a day with a smile of a woman coz some can make your day. Then comes the smiles from the old, they smile at you and think that you are still young to figure out life... But what do you do when all these smiles are suddenly changed into Russian smiles? You know many Russians smile with their mouths but never the eyes. I look into my people's eyes now and I don't see the smile there... Kids look at you with fear, women tend to avoid even looking your way coz you're a man, and the old just watchn you with wary eyes and tight mouths... Man, let me tell you this, a town without smiles is a dead town. We lost our smiles and all I hope is that I won't be walking down the street one day to find a poster that says, {SMILES: LOST AND NEVER FOUND}

Cheers.

It's like a knife that cuts you
The wound heals... but the scar
That scar remains... (Poison - Every Rose Has Its Thorn)

It's the scars. They never heal, and never go away. And it's only you who can see them when you are on your own, so it's only you living through the memories again and again until you learn to just try to heal them from within. But how can you heal them when you are screaming within?


Friday, January 23, 2004
 
Here is an awesome qoute from a very good friend... Can't really say anything about it, but I will let you be the judge to it...

DESERT STORIES

i don't remember what day it was. all i know is it was hot.
like every other day this month has been.
hot. very hot.
there was a wind blowing... but nothing to bring the sweaters out for.
a calm, soothing breeze. a whisper. a soft caress. barely even felt.
phffoooo..... phffoooo....
it was august. in baghdad.
it was hot.

you could see the wind picking up the sand as you drove by.
carefully. gently. like fragile dewdrops... sand being lifted by tentative air...
phffooo.... phffooooo.... scattered across the desert by the August wind....

a tale of two people. two cities. two lives. three... four... 5 thousand.
all picked up by the surreptitious wind. phffoooooo.... phffoooooo... like a spiral out of control in a borges novel.

a labyrinth into another labyrinth. a maze into maze... endless cylces.. life into life... death.
a baghdad summer.

it was hot then.

i couldn't believe the stories that i heard.
"did you know? Aids! they brought AIDS to Iraq. it's an american conspiracy i tell you. an american conspiracy...Created in a lab.. created in a lab to take over the world..." phffoooo phffffoooo "i don't know how they managed it... but the bombing was a communist plot.. a communist plot i tell you. they are all MAD!" phfffooo "Why have children? They only break your heart in the end..." phffoooo phfffoooo "They are all crazy. They want our oil. That's all they are after. They just want our OIL..."...phffooo "Love! Love... love is the stuff for fools. You can't believe in love in this day and age... what do people know? We are all fools"...phhffooo

...."i am a poet. well... a poet underneath it all.
i work in a hotel. a big hotel. i carry luggage.
for americans.. for foreigners. for the white man.
i am a porter in a hotel.... but i am a poet i tell you... a poet... "

it is a hot August afternoon. i am in a baghdad tea shop at the end of the book market in the Old Town.
I am sipping tea.

it is august. it is the book market where tired old souls go to tell stories. to listen. to gloat. to
remember a time gone by when their lives mattered.
i am in a book market tea shop in baghdad in the middle of august.
i am thirsty.

He is fifty years old. At least. Fifty-five maybe. nearly sixty. he has carried more baggage than the stories he has hidden in his heart. you can see it under his eyes. he is a porter. a carrier of luggage... heavier than Louis Vitton. "Iam a poet i tell you. A poet!"

...phffooo...

His father was the first modern novelist in Iraq. Whatever that means. The first novelist. The first imaginative man? The first one to pick up a pen since Elvis Presley? The first one to picture a life beyond the sand dunes and the sand storm? The first one to put himself past the mirage the desert summer's created in his head??

phhfffoooo...

"We are a country dealing with our open wounds...". Open wounds indeed.
I knew what that meant. I knew what that meant. My love and my life ended on a quiet unassuming Tuesday night... i woke up and she was gone. i knew what an open wound was. i live with it everyday. I am not a porter in a hotel for crass white men... but i might as well be. i knew what it was like to live every day and carry old baggage. i knew what it was like to live with an open wound...

Iraq.

"Maybe if i let it breathe,... it will heal faster."
Open wounds heal faster if they breathe... right?
Who knows? It was August. The desert was curling up in itself.. .and the heat was building mirages. I was in a tea shop in Baghdad... and the ceiling fan was cutting through the hot summer air spinning tales as fast as tea leaves could brew . The caged bird sang. It really did. And even Maya Angelou wouldn't believe it. But there it was... a green piddly little thing... in a wooden prison above our heads...above the smoke... singing its heart out.

....
phhffoooo...

Light my cigarette. One puff and the world is at peace. One puff. And the summer tales unfold like the sands on a windy desert dune. The castles it built in the air. Oh the spectacle. The spectacle! Broken hearts soldered like sand in the summer heat.

The unflinching summer heat.
Iraq.
Soothing balm.

"A city without women is like a city without music". The porter said. The poet i mean. His heart was heavy and he held it in the cup of his tea. iraqi tea. sweet and tangy. A city without women indeed.
Sweet and heavy. You could slice it with a blink of an eye. Lashes would slice through the wounded heat.
Heart. I mean HEART. Lashes would slash through the wound.

....phffoooo....

"Come and tell me a story." My father put pen to paper. My father put pen to paper and he was killed.
he was killed for creating lives where there were only ashes. That is the tragedy of the desert. That is the magic of the sand dunes. The wind and the desert sun. Healing comes in the morning. If you let it.
The wind. The bird. In a cage. it doesn't matter.

Brew the leaves and the future will be in the cup by day's end. What does it matter? Truth is as steadfast as the August sands. Phffooooo........ phffoooo....

I am suffocating. My heart is broken. The wind is blowing.
It is August.... in Baghdad... the bird is paralyzed by the summer heat. Phffoooo.... phffoooooo.... its feathers rumpled by the sandy breeze.... clogged. Damaged... Burned.... Phffoooooo ... phffoooo.... a broken heart finds its mending in the August sun.... a porter lifts a white man's burden.... Phffoooo.... phffoooo... i pick up a pen to write.... and my blood is frozen solid.

I am cold. Very cold.

it is august in baghdad.... and the story has yet to be told.
Phffoooooo.... phffoooo.....

GAMRA 13/11/03



It's like a knife that cuts you
The wound heals... but the scar
That scar remains... (Poison - Every Rose Has Its Thorn)

It's the scars. They never heal, and never go away. And it's only you who can see them when you are on your own, so it's only you living through the memories again and again until you learn to just try to heal them from within. But how can you heal them when you are screaming within?

 
Today we could talk about lotsa things... Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 22, 2004
 
And the killing still goes on...
Women, children, fine young people trying to earn their decent living are getting killed everyday. Today I met with the father of one of those who were killed in the explosion at the CPA gate in Baghdad, ironically called The Assassins Gate. The father was solemn and very quiet when he told me that he would be a worse threat to those terrorist cells and insurgents than the CPA, Coalition Forces, and whatever government that would take over in Iraq. It is a man who lost his only son. A son who only last week celebrated his engagement...
How long would that go on? When will it be me next? How would I react? Every Iraqi fears one thing the most, the animal that is inside when anger takes control. It is the moment when you feel so mad that you keep very quiet that scares the hell out of any Iraqi. It is the determination to draw blood. It is the decision to take justice into your own hands.... It is the realization that the battle rages on...
In all these years, I have not seen so many stern faces around this town. Everyone is ready, everyone is prepared, and everyone is aware of the people around him. You cannot tell anymore whether there is a person who you can really know. You can travel the streets any time you want, but you gotta remember not to stay in one spot for more than 15 minutes. That's the time required for assailants to recon, assemble, and strike. If you are out of town, that time limit drops down to 8 minutes... Isn't that an awesome way of life?
Still, the dead are a big issue. I'm talking about those who fell dead since major combat operations started in Iraq. No one can give you an accurate figure regarding those Iraqis who died since March 2003. Red Crescent says it has no full access to burial sites, ministry of health says it was out of the picture for a long time, US military say they only keep records of some fatalities... So who the hell is gonna tell us how many Iraqis died? How would a mother that is waiting for her son to return know that her son is not coming back? Who would tell a wife that her husband was shot by some marines because he was trying to seek shelter from 30some marines firing at him? He wasn't even firing at them! There are lotsa things that people don't see simply because not all people can have a chance of riding with the military...
Man, fuck this shit! I'm going the fuck home.... Oops, I forgot. Which home am I talking about? If you have an answer to that, please let me know...



It's like a knife that cuts you
The wound heals... But the scar
That scar remains... (Poison - Every Rose Has Its Thorn)

It's the scars. They never heal, and never go away. And it's only you who can see them when you are on your own, so it's only you living through the memories again and again until you learn to just try to heal them from within. But how can you heal them when you are screaming within?

 
Tonight we will have a chat about those civilians who died when major military combat started in Iraq.
 
Here's a little qoute from my best music friend; someone whom I grew up with and still like for many reasons. One of them is that he sometimes speaks for me the words that I cannot find...
Here's a little bit of Bon Jovi

In the heat of the streets of the city
A young boy hides the pain
And he walks so tall, trying to hang on
But he knows he’s going down again
I know he’s going down...

Darkness fades he’s the prince of his city
In a place where they all know your name
You can see in their eyes life so paralyzed.
You're just a pawn in a losin’ game
You lose at life, it ain’t no game

 
OK, so when a new kid is born to two cool parents who take care of him and let him live a real free life, that kid is bound to have lotsa experiences the hard way. Yet, it is only fair to give these folks credit for at least bringing someone who has a heart to this life...

First, let me tell you this. I work as a journalist now with a big corporation, I was a basketballer in college, I was a DJ in my Baghdad, a war-torn town by now... Now, when you deal with music, you keep your feelings alive. And when you keep them alive, you just risk having a broken heart time after time. But who cares? If rules were made to be broken, hearts should follow the same rule... Anyway, maybe I'd say things that I have not said to some friends before. But the idea of blogging might be the solution to what I have been looking for. I know it is late, but I can't let these emotions and memories just fade away...

Today, I had a strange feeling about where this place is going to. I was thinking about the mess it was when I realized that it would only end up in a bigger mess. It is sad, but there's no other way that I can really predict. this place is just strange because you could fall madly in love with it, yet at the same time hate it like nothing before. Sometimes you just wanna break free, at others you just want to stick around and give it all you've got. people here are a wierd mix. some would show you so much friendliness while others would just show so much hatred for no reason that you just wish you had the key to some nukes... But in general, people here are good-hearted and kind once they realize that you have no bad intentions for them... That comes as a result of living in a police state for too long.

Here's a town that I used to drive through 3 or 4 in the morning with no threats or worries at all. Now I can't even drive through it. It used to be full of life, now it is dead as it could be. That death brought more death; not to people, but to many live hearts... hearts that have started bleeding long time ago, and they still are...

It's like a knife that cuts you
The wound heals... but the scar
That scar remains... (Poison - Every Rose Has Its Thorn)


It's the scars. They never heal, and never go away. And it's only you who can see them when you are on your own, so it's only you living through the memories again and again until you learn to just try to heal them from within. But how can you heal them when you are screaming within?

Yours Truly
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
 
Jan. 21st, 2004

This is day one.
It is time to start telling the story of a heart that's been locked behind steelbars. It would take ages and ages to fill the pages with the story that comes from a war torn country... Iraq.
Just a note to start with. When someone talks to you about the thousands of years of civilization that this country had, please ask them about the thousands of years of wars that took place or started from that land. Yet, there is still an intersesting story to tell about a generation that lost contact and was blamed for many mistakes that it had no hand in. Hail the 70's and those who were born in Iraq then... Keep your eyes open for someone who had a life and let me know about anyone who claims to have one now... This would not be about politics, this would be about right and wrong. This would also be about those weeping hearts that were left unattended to...
Will be back for more.
Cheers

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