The Martyrs’ Wall

Martyrs' Wall, Batha, Irak

“And they found therein a wall about to collapse, so al-Khidh restored it.”

It is fall and early in the morning. I have left the house to go to work. I know exactly what I will find every step of the way, for I have been following the same route every day for the last five years.

Just across from where I live, stands a pumping station. In front of its iron gate, sits the compound’s security guard, who is always on the alert for intruders. I greet him, continue walking and pass by Sulman’s and Hasan’s workshops, the blacksmith and the carpenter. I then cross the muddy area verging on the city park and my shoes get dirty. I reach the garage with the white fence, whose paint has started to flake. Next to it, stands a wall that is covered with pictures of martyrs. Most of them are wearing military uniforms, carrying guns and smiling. Some have even been portrayed leaning against tanks. They appear to be glowing.

I greet them as well, like always. Suddenly, I notice ...Read more

Rewriting the History of Al-Anbariyin

Kadhimiya, Baghdad, Irak

We are born with two feet, one to sustain balance and the other to venture into the unknown.

I yelled rather rowdily when entering this world, for I was being born not quite gently into a neighborhood of Baghdad that was just a little bigger than the size of a pea called Al-Anbariyin. I was beautifully bred and grew up looking forward to leaping into the future. I spent my childhood and somewhat belligerent youth amid the historical walls of the wooden houses with stained-glass windows and mashrabiyas embellished with carvings overlooking the street. To this day, the smell of those narrow alleys follows me wherever I go. It’s a place that has been loosely portrayed in several sagas, of those which get to be passed down generation to generation, as cloaked in mystery under a magic cloud formed by the smoke the chimney of each house belches in the afternoon, the steam rising from the bath houses to where Queen Alia used to take her son Faisal II, the former king of ...Read more

A Descendant of the Anunnaki

Great Ziggurat of Ur, Nassriya, Irak

What I am about to tell you happened a long time ago and it all began the day the first foreigner arrived to Nasiriyah, our holy city. He drove a fancy car, and wore French attire and shiny shoes. Not long after settling in, he began to evince an interest in objects of historical value. Soon, people were flocking to him to show him the articles of virtu that they had inherited from their forefathers, which ranged from ceramic pots to stone figurines and old paintings. He paid in American dollars.

The news about this antiques trade spread like wildfire, and before long, it had encouraged half of the city’s population to dust off their shovels in order to go profane and plunder the graveyards of their grandfathers, who had up until then been resting in peace for centuries. They were willing to pull out all the stops for the few simoleons they might earn from basically giving away the artefacts they had dug out from what their ancestors had decided to take to their graves. As soon as they had stripped the corpses ...Read more

Nippur’s Virgin

Finalist of the “Two Thousand Nights and Awakening” literary contest

Doubts over my gender nag and niggle at the back of my mind, driving me to a state verging on despair. In spite of being painfully conscious of how I choose my words and style my narrative to tell it, the story never gets to shine as bright and sound as salacious as the sequence of events it celebrates. And I am left to hark back to the poetaster mistakes I made when delivering the report, the biggest being lying by omission to my readers and thus depriving them of the pleasure of assessing the relevance to the story of the noise the night makes when locking its jaws on the sleeping townsfolk.

I may throw up later. Who knows? The entire world, perhaps? From where I stand, that seems pretty damn likely! People around here seem to be constantly monitoring everyone else’s every move. There was a time when the night kept secret the wishes people made to the stars, until someone recognized the value of being ...Read more


Niniveh, Irak

Oh, Jonah, the One of the Whale, forgive my tardiness! I tried to dispatch my case swiftly and now I lie condemned. Now that my number is up, I am counting the hours I have left. Eventually, I figured it out: your journey, its import. I burst out laughing, I regretted it, I felt like crying. I didn’t hold high hopes for the future. I had managed my expectations and commended my soul to God. My muscles twitched to the beat of the clock. I had shut my eyes to the truth year after year, until the truth decided to settle the score. I don’t care whether it’s Monday or Saturday, day or night. You, my boy, acquainted yourself with miracles throughout your life until the ground under your feet drew level with the sky. Now, you are about to be reunited with your mother. You’ll have to introduce me to Christ’s mother, the Virgin Mary. May God bless you both. Over a hundred thousand men were sent to Nineveh. They had been tasked with mending the logic ...Read more

The Daughter of the Marshlands

Praise the Lord

The Hawizeh Marshes in Iraq, near the Iranian border

The waters are crystal clear. Everything is covered by reeds and seagrass, and water lilies float on the surface. Here, in the south of Iraq, more specifically, in the Hawizeh Marshes, marine vegetation spreads all over a vast territory. It builds the golden houses where the descendants of the Sumerians live, those folks who are said to have crossed the magic emerald doors through which the uproar and babel of the world flees to join a distant past. Twenty square kilometers of permanently submerged ground and over 11,500 kilometers of land lying under water every now and then form the whole extension of this Garden of Eden, which is more commonly referred to as the Water Cities.

It is here in the Water Cities that our hero lives. She belongs to the conservative al-Sawaed tribe and is called the Bedouin because of her contoured eyes and henna-dyed hair, which she always styles into a beautifully shaped bun. She wears the bright colors of the marshland people, which provide her ...Read more

Choose your own adventure

Arranged marriages are not necessarily forced marriages

a) unless a slightly less-than-ideal situation arises whose gravity compels progenitors to arrange their children’s marriages wisely.

b) but all those who advocate for reinforcing either one hold that the bride should stay pure until she can practice meaningful sex under the umbrella of society’s consent instead of with the protection contraceptives and the exercise of caution offer.