ad 4 Belly Dancer of the Year Contest

The picture was taken from the courtyard behind my office. The smoke is rising from behind the old Ministry of Records building. It is from the big car bomb of a couple of days ago.

Gilded Serpent presents...
Undercover Belly Dancer in Iraq

The sound is bass-y and the vibrations wash over me like a quick, strong wind. My heart races as I dive to the ground and wait for another. As we warily stand up and look around, a thick column of black, greasy smoke shoots into the sky. A car bomb just claimed the lives of 17 people. In that moment I heard death. I can't keep hearing this without having to run to the bathroom and shed tears for those whose lives have been snuffed out and for the families that will never be the same.

I work with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to support the rebuilding of the Iraqi military. I really want to help Iraq take of itself in a peaceful democracy without taking a murderous tyrant to keep control. I wish things were simple. War really is brings out the very worst in people, no matter what country you call home. Without diving too deeply into political waters here, I think there were huge mistakes made in the way the US came here. And certain individuals or groups of individuals have behaved abominably while proclaiming their righteousness loudly. We can't change the past and if we stop now, utter chaos will ensue. But democracy does not work well in situations where poverty is so rampant. For many, life is worse now than before. Then again some would say that the thousands of Kurds wiped out in one of Saddam's "chemistry experiments" would argue that point, if they could. It is a big, ugly mess.

I came here wanting to connect with Iraqi women. While women would NEVER screw up something as badly as this political and humanitarian tragedy, it's the women who bear a disproportionately large amount of the after effects. There are some of us US civilians who are doing what we can to help as many Iraqis as we can.

One of the young Iraqi men who works with us has supposedly brought dishonor on a young woman by being seen walking and talking with her at Baghdad University. He wishes to marry her. We took donations and paid her dowry. Her life would be hell if he did not "do the honorable thing". Sometimes he would take my car to visit her, so I felt irrationally guilty for some of her pain. Some things are very inconceivable to me in this place, like the bathroom conditions for the women working in the Ministry of Defense. One stall for 30 or more ladies with a toilet that rarely flushed. It was nasty. I tried to bring it to the attention of the maintenance department, to little effect. I was baffled. The men had at least 4 multi stalled bathrooms that worked and the women only had one toilet  that did not. It took days and threats from my supervisor to get it fixed. I asked, stupefied, why on earth it was such hassle. The answer? Basically, females did not matter enough. Women should not complain too much and heaven forbid they bring attention to anything having to do with their "nether regions". I wanted to cry. Either that or get really mad and throw something. (That type of behavior is rather frowned upon however.) The women who work in the Ministry are brave women. At first they looked at me with suspicion, not sure of my ethnicity. I sometimes get thanked when they realize that I share the Arab blood.  (I didn't have a choice, but hey! I like it!) When they see I'm trying to help, they are very happy to see me. Sometimes I get hugs from the grandma types; sometimes they shake my hand when I pass by. Then there are times military personnel treat me poorly because they think I am one of the local workers. That makes me absolutely furious. They usually get an earful at that point. Biting one's tongue is oh so hard. But as a civilian, I can usually tell just about anyone where to go and how fast to get there.well, JUST about anyone.

Don't get me wrong, as with any time a group of human beings get together, there will always be the very good mixed with the very bad. It just isn't black and white anymore, maybe it never was.

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ad 4 Belly Dancer of the Year Contest
ad 4 Belly Dancer of the Year Contest

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