We heard a press comment from our foreign minister about our country (Syria) restoring diplomatic relations for the first time in years with Iraq.
I always felt that Iraq is a very far away country, like it is in another continent, in another world. I was raised as all Syrians were on the idea that Iraq was an enemy. The disagreement between the ruling Baathist parties in both countries was fierce. This rivalry was in turn reflected in the relation between the both sets of people. Our eastern borders were closed, nobody used to cross it. Still in my passport the words that allows me to visit all countries, added to it in thick blue pen “except Iraq”.
During the first gulf war, the Syrians hid their feelings, which were hostile towards the US and in support of Iraq. Syria joined the international coalition, but people’s feelings were with Iraq, which was being bombed mercilessly. Nobody showed their feelings when the blood in amarya air raid shelter was spilt. There was a wall of fear, which was separating us from the closed and mysterious Iraq.
Our feelings died after the war due to the disillusionment during the war and after it. The borders were still closed and behind it there were people who were surrounded internally and externally. People who were oppressed and hungry in the same time.
The relationships improved before the regime’s downfall, the borders were reopened and the words “except Iraq” were dropped. But psychologically Iraq was still far and mysterious at the same time.
And then, the American war against Iraq started. This time the Syrian people were allowed to show their real feelings as it suited our government objectives. For a moment we felt Iraq was near but after the war ended, the wall came back even higher. There was an occupation army, bombs, terrorism, sectarianism, mass graves, kidnappings and beheadings. There was an American army, threats, and fear of chaos, destruction and democracy.
Today, even if the relationships would come back the wall has become higher, and Iraq is far away.
Translated from a Syrian blog called hunadimashaq (Here is Damascus).
Iraq is very near. Just remember in your hour of need,Iraqi soldiers were defending Damascus in 1973, and in our hour of need you accepted 200,000 refugees giving them a new lifeline out of the clutches of Saddam, when the French, Jordanians, and Kuwaitis were sending back dissidents to Saddam to be executed. You were there helping, while British immigration officers were harassing Iraqi asylum seekers, wondering why they were escaping Saddam. You were there helping, while Rumsfeld was shaking hands with Saddam.
Iraq is closer than you might think.