A day with Doctors without Borders / Médecins sans Frontières

There is no light in the room, it is still very dark and I can hear the chanting of the morning prayer “Allaaaaah Akbar”. What time is it ? I look at my wrist where lays a watch too big for me. Why do I even carry a watch like that ? Ah… I remember now. I use it for the GPS. It is just after 5 am, I slowly wake up and I switch the light on. It’s still dark in the room and the light is still off. It must be an electricity cut again. It happens a lot here. In a few seconds I’ll probably hear the neighbourhood generator roaring in its attempt to take over the house’s needs in electricity. “Drrrrr!!” Ah.. here it comes and all the electrical equipment starts again. It’s like a badly tuned orchestra playing in my ear. In both my ears. I think I need a coffee. Or maybe two.

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In my attempt to leave Kuwait, I ended up in Iraq. You might want to know how this happened and I can give a fairly easy answer to that. Doctors without Borders happened. It was a lifelong dream to join them and my lifestyle in Kuwait brought me to a point where I had to choose whether I accepted the fact that I was contributing to the horrible things happening in the world or whether I wanted to do something about it.

And I made my decision. Maybe it was the labour’s living conditions I couldn’t bear to see. Or maybe it was just because I wanted to feel better about myself. A selfish reason to help people. Is that even selfish ? Does this make us a bad person? or does doing a good thing, regardless of the motivations involved, automatically brings us the favours of the gods ?

But here I am, 4 months later, slowly discovering how a country has suffered from the constant wars, the manipulation from the west, their greed and their violence. And what for ?

A young women once said to me: “Every day they were patrolling on the street, looking for Saddam’s friends, but they liked to shoot everything and everyone even though you had nothing to do with the government. We were terrified and hid in the house, behind a desk or in a closet, in the room furthest away. They killed thousands of our people every day but nobody cared about that. They were American, they could kill whoever they liked. And you know the funny side of this ? We welcomed them with open arms when they arrived. We welcomed the devil! Can you imagine that?”

In Iraq, everyone has its own horror story. Everyone has seen things beyond our comprehension and imagination. They were witness of horrible acts and mostly it involved their own family members. We, as westerners, don’t even experience a little bit of what they went through in a lifetime, and yet we are afraid of them when we really should help them. That’s what we do with MSF. At least that’s what we try to do. But how can we achieve that when the country is a constant battlefield since the 1980s? When there are so many generations affected? There is so much to do.

An older man, once, told me a story that changed his life: “I saw my brother murdered in front of me. We were entering a store and the terrorists shot him in the middle of the day. I had to run away. I left everything behind. I left my city and my brother was dead. Why ? I knew why. So did he. The American occupation revived a hundred years old sectarian issue within the country in order to reach Saddam. Different branches of Islam who are now blaming each other for the things that happened. Did they know the terrorists would take advantage of it as well ? Did they know it would become even worse ?

I went to the Iraqi film festival held in Najaf, Iraq. I saw short movies based on true stories of war. How a young man sent to the front, shot a video on his iphone in order to say good bye to his familiy because death was taking him to a better place. How a child lost all his football team in a bombing. How an orphan was acting daily scenes of his previous life to keep his parents alive in his mind. It was disturbing. But I guess we all need catharsis somehow.

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Iraqis smoking shisha and eating nuts

 

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