Two years after an eight-year exhaustive war with Iran from 1980 – 1988, in an ill-fated, immoral, and reckless endeavor, Saddam Hussein decided to invade Kuwait on August 2nd, 1990. The result was, according to Wikipedia, a “decisive Iraqi victory”.
This started an avalanche of geopolitical transitions in the area that essentially destroyed Iraq. The most significant change, in my opinion, was the UN economic and political sanctions. They were “a near-total financial and trade embargo”. The Iraqi economy is largely oil-based and not being able to export any oil meant an almost total collapse of the economy.
Iraq lost the ability to trade with the world. With already dying industrial and agricultural sectors, food shortage became extremely severe and price-gouging naturally grew rampant. In July 1992, at least 42 food merchants were executed for charges of price-gouging in a publicized national drama.
My amazing family shielded me, my sister, and my brothers from most of this. I was practically living in a bubble. We certainly weren’t spared, but our home always had a feeling of abundance.
In 1995, I started school and as kids do, I made many friends or at least classmates. One of which was Ali. Ali wasn’t exactly a close friend and was always quite. I honestly barely remember him but I remember exactly where he lived and how their house’s door looked. It was a five minutes walk from my house.
Maybe two years later, in the third grade, Ali continued to be my classmate, I caught a cold and missed a few school days. After school hours, I walked to Ali’s house to ask for his notes and catch up on homework. I wasn’t entirely fond of those visits to classmates’ homes unless you were visiting a good friend, they were always interesting.
You’d knock the door and brace for an awkward conversation with some parent of some type or another. Maybe a strict mom who would look you up and down, ask you questions about their own child, and if they were good at school, sometimes forcing you to lie. Or you’d get a curious nosy mother, who would question you about your own mom, “Does your mom have a degree? Where is she from?”. There is also a chance of a grumpy father who would ask about what your father did for work. You also occasionally get the tribesman who asked you about the tribe you’re supposed to belong to, something I never really understood, but yet I have a cliché answer to. On the other hand, sometimes, you’d get a smiling welcoming mom who gives you cookies and calls her kid right away and leaves you two alone. Or maybe they would insist that you have lunch with them if it was lunchtime. You really never know. In any case, after a few minutes of friendly interrogation (completely aware of the oxymoron), they’d ask you what you wanted from their child. You’d tell them, and they’d finally go in and call your classmate to the door or invite you in.
After so long, they called Ali out and he finally appeared from behind the black gate, I told him that I was sick and needed his homework, he probably was happy to help.
The exchange is a complete blur now, but he most likely shared his notes, told me what I should study next, and so on.
In the end, he said something that really stands out in my memory. He said, “you know, I wish I were sick myself because whenever I get sick, mom would make me some kebab”.