Sunday, March 19, 2006

Voices of Iraq


I had the privelege of watching an extraordinary film with my Iraqi neighbors. A director gave out 150 video cameras to Iraqis and gave them the instructions to film whatever happened, to say whatever they felt like saying. That in itself is remarkable, when you consider what the Iraqis might just say, but even more remarkable is the fact that the American press and Hollywood have for the most part snubbed this film. I guess it shouldn't surprise anyone, really, since America - and Hollywood, in particular are of short attention spans and not particularly interested in what Iraqis might think or have to say.
Is it because the media wants to keep fanning the flames of Bush hatred? Perhaps, but the fact that this film has widely been ignored is telling as the film itself.
I sat in their house and watched their expressions as much as I watched the film. The opinions of ordinary Iraqis varied from man to child to woman, but listening to my neighbors reminisce about the woes they experienced under Saddam Hussein told me one thing. The Iraqi people have genuinely suffered, and the great majority of them want their freedom. And they want democracy.
Even more amazing is the quality of Iraqi women. Compared to women around the muslim world, the Iraqi women are advanced in ways their muslim sisters can only hope to be. Articulate, eloquent....millions of Wafa Sultans....and the one thing they truly want is the right to be equal to men in the eyes of the law. They have so far to go, and they are blazing a trail that men would do well to either step aside and let them, or join with them in blazing it. Either way, Iraqi women are not going to go the way their Iranian sisters did ignorantly.
Is a civil war inevitable? Perhaps. Perhaps it is a necessary thing. If tyranny in the form of a corrupt and brutal theocracy should ever take place, it will only come with the assent of the women.
Another amazing interview was with a man, furiously playing his piano. The thought of a man with a piano in the middle east is almost incomprehensible to me. Unless of course, you are talking about Israel. But the sight of a muslim Iraqi man playing a grand piano in his home completely startled me.
There are so many serendipitous moments in this film. I can write all night and day, and not list them all, but the most serendipitous moment is looking at the joy on the faces of ordinary people. The look of momentary surprise when a bomb in the distance goes off, and the resumption of life when the dust settles.
There are all kinds of people in this film. Shias, Sunnis, Christians, Kurds, children, women, men, religious, secular. Highly educated, uneducated, rich, poor and in between. If democracy succeeds, it will be because the Iraqis so desperately want it to, and if it fails, it is because their neighbors, and our fifth column in academia, the press and in the Democratic party want it to fail even more desperately.

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