Impossible made possible: how Americans taught Iraqi women to carry arms

01 апреля, 2011 Categories: English, Reports by Комментарии к записи Impossible made possible: how Americans taught Iraqi women to carry arms отключены

Every man and woman in Baghdad possesses some sort of weapon. I got to know this by accident as I heard it mentioned by a lady you would think to be the last person to have anything to do with weapons and ammo – a lovely gentle thing, with her eyes down, sweet voice, and her heart burning for democracy and everything Western. And, aside from that, with an unbending will.


Every man and woman in Baghdad possesses some sort of weapon. I got to know this by accident as I heard it mentioned by a lady you would think to be the last person to have anything to do with weapons and ammo – a lovely gentle thing, with her eyes down, sweet voice, and her heart burning for democracy and everything Western. And, aside from that, with an unbending will.

This is a special breed of women unseen anywhere in the Muslim world except for Iraq, where it was spawned by war, poverty, and despair.

She is a 43-year-old wife of a sea captain and mother of three. She has seen the world: when she was young her husband took her along on his trips. They live now in different towns, and though she gets no help from him, they did not apply for divorce.

We were taking a walk though the University’s park, one of those few places that still retains the flavor of the long forgotten tranquil city life in Baghdad, when we heard some shots fired in the distance. I asked what it could be. She looked around, took a look at her watch and said casually:

— They have shut off two traffic bridges across the Tigris today, so the jams are huge. Someone must have got fed up with waiting, or is in a hurry, and started shooting in the air. Others try to get out of the way of such people, so they can make it through the jam.
— But you have police all around. Wouldn’t they want to arrest that guy?
— No, why? Everyone has weapons.
— Really, is it allowed?
— It is recommended.

Why they check for phones, not guns, in Baghdad

That was when I got an insight into why all those security checks in Iraq look so weird: they would go over one’s passport details for ages, but never take a look at what’s in a person’s suitcase or car. They would check for a bomb under the car and never care about a gun on the car seat.

It is quite astounding that you cannot take pictures of anything or anyone at all, even children would shoo at you, and you can’t talk to anyone either, but you are free to carry an Kalashnikov. You’ll be asked to leave your cell phone with the security in a public place, and yet no one will mind your gun resting under your seat.

— But why so?
— Because guns are for self-defense, while cell phones can be stuffed with explosives.
— Do you have a weapon as well?

I’m still hopeful that she is merely pulling my leg.

— Of course I do. But I don’t carry it on me.
— What is it that you have?
— I keep a gun at home. It’s not loaded, so it’s just a pop gun.

And she showed me how to use a “pop gun”, and the way she moved made it so clear that she knows very well how to handle a weapon.

— What kind of gun do you have?
— A small ladies’ gun.
— And that’s allowed?
— I’m telling you, it’s recommended. It’s completely legal. Female students are requested to carry a gun.
— What’s the use of a gun if you can’t handle it?
— Everyone can handle it. My sister is a great shot. My daughter is great with knives, and she carries a knife. Those who can’t use either can use a stun gun.

Saddam’s Weapons Ban

— And how did you learn to handle a gun?

And she tells in her sweet voice a story of her father. He is 85. He has traded weapons all his life.

I’m asking if I could see his store.

— Oh, he never had a store. He was an illegal dealer. He had many friends in Turkey and Russia. When we were kids we played with guns, not dolls. Sometimes we had rare antique guns, very expensive ones.
— And he’s still in the business?
— Oh no. When Saddam came to power (in 1979 – NK), trading weapons became very unsafe, and he closed his business.
— So people had no guns during Saddam’s rule? There was no arms trafficking?
— No, they didn’t. All this started about six years ago. When my father was in business, he traded custom-made beautiful guns. He rarely traded regular and combat weapons.

Do you see the difference?

— Why are female students recommended to carry weapons? It is a Muslim country, and women are protected by the state and law, aren’t they?

She protests. She says these days Islam fails to protect women. That is exactly why female students are recommended to carry weapons – for self-defense. She recalls that in 2005-2007 young women were abducted, and even killed.

— And even raped.
— But can this be in a Muslim society?
— Our society has been destroyed. They were raped by the scum, not Muslims. Do you understand the difference?

I am trying to understand. I can’t recall any reports from Christian countries which would say that a murder, or a rape, or a bombing was committed by Christians. Why do we call them criminals, not Christians, although they must have been born into Christian families, and went to church on Sundays, for baptizing and weddings?

Why do we never see in regular reports that a thief was Catholic, or a conman was a Buddhist, or that a murder was committed by a Jew, or that someone was raped by a Baptist? And yet why do we see every day reports of crimes attributed to Muslims, not criminals?

What’s the point of an unarmed individual?

We watch groups of female students pass by.

— Would she have a gun?
— Of course. Or a knife.
— And this one?
— Trust me, all of them.
— And that old lady?
— The old lady might be unarmed. But she never goes anywhere alone.
— And my driver has a gun, too?
— Of course he does, he’s your bodyguard. What’s the point of an unarmed individual?

I looked around and I saw them in a different light, all those men and women of Baghdad who never smile. I could see now why they don’t like to be asked questions, taken pictures of, and generally distracted from their grim every day routines. And I could understand now why my driver never lets me leave the car stuck in a traffic jam a mere stone’s throw away from the hotel and just walk there.

— Anyone on a bus could be right now making a call instructing someone to kidnap you – because it is obvious that you are a foreigner, and whether you are Russian or not, they will deal with it later.

That is what my interpreter told me while locking all the car doors, while I was sure she and my bodyguard were merely making a bit of a comedy show for the sake of giving us some entertainment in a traffic jam on a hot day.

What a strange world we live in. We talk about democracy in the country where women must carry weapons and face the threat of violence every time they leave their homes. And yet, President Obama proudly tells the whole world about democracy being built here. While the country where weapons were carried only by the military was called a tyranny, and such country had to be bombed, shelled, and thrown back into the Middle Ages.

The Founding Fathers of the United States believed democracy was a community of armed men. America is proud of its cowboy past and today’s democracy.

What does the world see? It sees that everywhere the US comes, the level of violence in society rises by dozens of times.

Americans have perfectly mastered the art of transforming other countries – mostly those with oil – into fields of corpses and smoking ruins and calling these sinister pictures an achievement of democracy.

In Iraq, Americans have managed to achieve what seemed next to impossible: they have armed Muslim women and deprived them of the protection a Muslim woman has in a Muslim society.

So as to make the clarity vague, many organizations have been established to protect the rights of Muslim women. The organizations prove that the main threat to women is the kerchief on her head, not the US-imposed order.

Dirty Dancing

In the rundown Palestine Hotel, where the electricity supply can hardly be called regular, every night from 23:00 a nightclub is open. Drinks are served and girls dance on stage. They are drunk. Or they pretend or seem to be such. They dance fully clothed and without male partners, because men do not dance to such music, but they sit at the tables, smoking, drinking and watching. At 05:00 they all leave when the curfew is over.

There are video cameras set up there – to broadcast the odd dancing on a special channel. This is why the girls try to avoid showing their faces, so that their parents and neighbours don’t have the chance of seeing them. This is another trend of Iraq’s democracy – happening every night.

A former pilot and now a manager told me about this clandestine club. He only smiled bitterly when asked him if he was glad to be living in a democratic country now.

— Do you mean this?

He looked around the dusty ruins of what used to be a luxury hotel.

— Is this country a democracy? Earlier, when I flew aircraft, girls would not drink or dance in clubs. And now I pretend we are renovating these ruins and our daughters pretend to be having fun.

Russia Today 06 September, 2010, 14:30

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