The following is part of a series of letters from a participant in last year’s Meretz USA Israel seminar, currently doing development work in Iraq. We are posting the letters anonymously to prevent any negative consequences for the author.
Here are a couple of other things I don’t get: the impact of terror and the role of Iran. In terms of terror, Americans and Westerners feel it least, because we have a pretty good level of protection. Up the ladder come Iraqi men. I read a story on the wires that people named Omar (a name more common among Sunni than Shia) are changing their name to Mohammed in fear for their lives. I had a casual conversation with the Iraqi doctor on compound. He said the few doctors left in Baghdad are being systematically killed. He stays here most nights, rather than going home. His mentor was killed Wednesday.
The most subject to terror are women. An Iraqi woman, who helps women form businesses, has been kidnapped twice and threatened numerous times for her activities. She does not even give her name out, much less her contact information, except to trusted friends. The Shia (and perhaps the Sunni, too) do not want women out of the house – or able to earn income, even if their husbands are dead or unemployed. These representatives of god are willing to assassinate to support this important principle of morality. Yet in Saddam’s time, 60% of university graduates were women – largely because the society was secular. That women should have to fight for a return to Saddam’s time is an unspeakable irony.
Iran’s not so hidden hidden role: Iran is the shining star of modernism in the area–it produces the most educated population, the best doctors, the most advanced technologies, the highest average standard of living, even the best food. It also is a deliberate and vicious force for social disruption and violence. Committed to an aggressive ideology and pushing Shia forward everywhere, they are the leading funder of terrorist and insurgent activity (I distinguish the two by identifying the first with a method of operation and the latter with a goal). Both operate here. So does unofficial/official government terror, in an effort to make sure that certain insurgent Sunnis (and Palestinians still loyal to Saddam) get their come-uppance; all contribute violent diversity to Iranian death squad types. Almost all key military officers and government officials have spent extensive time in Iran and/or been trained outright there. Someone in the US once said that the Iraq war is over and Iran has won. This makes sense to me.
One of the programmers has told us that he dreams of Iran – that is, when he can sleep. They are not pleasant sojourns into which the sandman gently leads him by the hand. He stays awake much of every night, rifle on his lap, in fear for himself, his mother, and his little brother. We offer him a room here in the compound, but he won’t take it because it would leave his family without protection. And this is only the second level of terror.