The million-person exodus

While some journalists remain embedded with American troops in Iraq – “Being out here, the one thing that is most striking is how cut off you feel from the political fight over Iraq back home” – my friend Mike Otterman, author of American Torture, recently visited Syria to speak to refugees fleeing the Iraqi carnage:

Aisha approached our crowded table, navigating around the sheesha pipes scattered across the smoky Damascus cafe. Her eyes barely lifted from the grimy tiled floor when she began murmuring something under her breath. Tamara, my Arabic speaking colleague, translated: “She says her husband wants to kill her. She wants to tell us more.”

We were in Jeramana – an Iraqi enclave seven kilometres south east of the gritty Syrian capital – talking to Iraqis whose lives have been eviscerated in the wake of the US-led invasion.

Aisha’s eyes spoke volumes as she told us her story.

Aisha is 25 years old and was born in Al-Saydiya, a predominantly Sunni area in Baghdad. She divorced her husband five years ago. “He used to beat me so much I had to leave him,” she said haltingly as she pulled at the ends of her hair.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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