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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

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