Thursday, July 30, 2009


      Back in 2006, the worst year according to locals, random men kidnapped by 15 year old cousin Ali and drove him to a mysterious location. They arrived at a house and threw him in a dark room, door locked. “We have your son. Don’t tell the police...or we will kill him. Don’t tell your family...or we will kill him. Don’t tell anyone...or we will kill him. $50,000.”
      “Where can we possibly get $50,000 from?!”
      “That’s not our problem. Sell your jewelry. Car. House.”
      His thirty-some year old father managed to work the money down to ten Gs. He wanted proof that his son was alive. Ali got on the phone, worried for his father’s health and his own life, he said “Dad, I am doing great. These guys are treating me well. Please don’t worry.” His father was told to go to a certain alley, alone, at 2 pm the following day. My uncle and his family spent the night stressed and unsure as to whether or not they would see Ali again. The next day Ali’s father met the man in the ally and handed him the cash. “Go find your son. Good luck, he should be around here.”
      Abu Ali searched the whole neighborhood only to give up by 8 pm. He went home, in sorrow, to tell his family that Ali was gone. By 11pm, the doorbell rang. It was Ali, with eyes blackened. The random men had given him a couple of dinars and dropped him off at a random neighborhood. A young man saw him roaming the streets, and he asked the young man for his cell. The man heard Ali’s story, trusted him, and swore he would take him home.

       That’s one story out of three of kidnapped cousins. Ali's story is unrelated to sectarian violence completely--as my dad's family falls ambiguously between Sunni and Shia lines.
Though kidnappings have decreased, they are the main reason why we were very careful to admit that we lived abroad. The wrong people may see moneybags when they look at foreigners--since, as I've quickly learned here in Baghdad, desperation leads to crazy actions.
All the chaos and tragedy results in an unwelcoming environment for major construction or improvements in infrastructure. Consequently, one may assume that the [sub, sub, sub] sub par quality of life may lead to frustrations and increase chaos and tragedy.

      Where does one begin in rebuilding an entire country?

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