Then came the funny part. Mr. Majeed keeled over dead.
November 13, 2007 4:04 PM   Subscribe

"The neighborhood of Bab al Sheik dates from a time, more than a thousand years ago, when Baghdad ruled the Islamic world... Ten centuries later, Bab al Sheik is less grand, but still extraordinary: it has been spared the sectarian killing that has gutted other neighborhoods, and Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians live together here with unusual ease." A NY Times story (by Sabrina Tavernise and Karim Hilmi) about interesting people in an interesting place. (Print version for them as wants one.)
posted by languagehat (15 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
it has been spared the sectarian killing that has gutted other neighborhoods, and Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians live together here with unusual ease.

posted by Balisong at 4:39 PM on November 13, 2007

"...but the war has been kept from its heart, largely because of its ancient, shared past, bound by trust and generations of intermarriage."

"Playing off the names for extremist militias, which in Iraq call themselves things like the Islamic Army, he refers to his group of friends as the Arak Army, righteous defenders of an anise-flavored alcoholic drink."

This is a great story, thanks for sharing it, lh.
posted by snsranch at 4:53 PM on November 13, 2007

Bookmarked for later Lh.

twin reapers ;)
posted by vronsky at 5:26 PM on November 13, 2007

In Dora, residents were from all over. That never seemed to matter until the basic rules of society fell away after the American occupation began. The only bulwark left against chaos was trust between families, and in Dora there was not enough.

That gets at something really important. Every now and then, you'll hear some American commentator say, "we gave these Iraqis freedom, and these boneheads just want to fight out their thousand-year-old grudges. Hey, what can you do? It was inevitable."

But the root of the problem was the chaos we created.

If someone eliminated all government functions from, say, Houston, people would turn to family and ethnicity for safety. It sure wouldn't be hard for things to spiral downward, with escalating tensions among ethnicities. And someone would say, "well, it was all inevitable. Look at the long history of racial strife in the South." And they would be wrong.

It's not that Iraqi politicians have zero responsibility for failing to form a government. But let's not lose sight of the root of the problem-- our careless, indifferent planning for the aftermath of our invasion.

Thanks, languagehat, this is a very good story.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:42 PM on November 13, 2007

A great article. I hope their peace remains.
posted by schroedinger at 7:12 PM on November 13, 2007

Ha, nice title. These sound like my kind of people.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:20 PM on November 13, 2007

That was a great article. Thanks, languagehat.
posted by homunculus at 8:50 PM on November 13, 2007

Very good article, thanks!
posted by amyms at 9:17 PM on November 13, 2007

interesting and hopeful article, Thanks! languagehat.
posted by Rancid Badger at 9:18 PM on November 13, 2007

Oops. The FPP was posted by languagehat, so I should use better sentence structure and punctuation:

That was a very good article. Thanks!
posted by amyms at 9:19 PM on November 13, 2007

A neighbourhood that dates back a thousand years? Bloody hell. How many cities even have one of those? I live in Mexico City, which is fairly old as cities go (if you count Tenochtitlan as the same city), but it's still missing about around 300 years.

And just when I'm wondering about what cities are the oldest, I find this Wikipedia list of the oldest cities, which doesn't even have Baghdad on it. Consider my mind boggled.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:38 PM on November 13, 2007

That Wikipedia list is bullshit—"continuously inhabited" is just plain false advertising. They seem to mean "inhabited places where artifacts have been found from a long time ago." As far as I know the oldest truly "continuously inhabited" cities (in the sense that they've been cities since the beginning) are Damascus and Aleppo; I've been to Aleppo, and it gave me a real thrill to think that people had been leading an urban existence there for thousands of years.
posted by languagehat at 7:18 AM on November 14, 2007

Most of Baghdad was mixed before the invasion.

In Baghdad, the Silence of the Lambs :
"I would like to agree with the idea that violence in Iraq has decreased and that everything is fine," retired general Waleed al-Ubaidy told Inter Press Servce (IPS) in Baghdad. "But the truth is far more bitter. All that has happened is a dramatic change in the demographic map of Iraq."
Many areas of Baghdad that were previously mixed are now totally Shia or totally Sunni. This follows the sectarian cleansing in mixed neighborhoods by militias and death squads. On the Russafa side of Tigris River, al-Adhamiya is now fully Sunni; the other areas are all Shia. The al-Karkh side of the river is purely Sunni except for Shula, Hurriya and small strips of Aamil which are dominated by Shia militias.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:48 AM on November 14, 2007

What a wonderful story. There's something so life-affirming about gallows humor.
posted by Kattullus at 9:40 PM on November 14, 2007

Geez. How did I miss this before?
posted by koeselitz at 12:29 PM on December 6, 2007

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