Many of the Iraqis we spoke to on that day were upset with institutionalization of an ethno-sectarian quota system.
When I was 12, Saddam Hussein, vice president of Iraq at the time, carried out a huge purge and officially usurped total power.
I was living in Baghdad then, and I developed an intuitive, visceral hatred of the dictator early on.
Shortly after our visit, Iraq descended into violence; suicide bombings became the norm.
The invasion made my country a magnet for terrorists (“We’ll fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here,” President George W.
I left Iraq a few months after the 1991 Gulf War and went to graduate school in the United States, where I’ve been ever since.
In 2002, when the cheerleading for the Iraq war started, I was vehemently against the proposed invasion.
Basra was the only major Iraqi city I had not visited before. The city had suffered a great deal during the Iran-Iraq war, and its decline accelerated after 2003.
I was going to sign my books at the Friday book market of al-Farahidi Street, a weekly gathering for bibliophiles modeled after the famous Mutanabbi Street book market in Baghdad. I didn’t expect the beautiful Basra I’d seen on 1970s postcards. Basra was pale, dilapidated and chaotic thanks to the rampant corruption. Nonetheless, I made a pilgrimage to the famous statue of Iraq’s greatest poet, Badr Shakir al-Sayyab.
Three months later, I returned to Iraq for the first time since 1991 as part of a collective to film a documentary about Iraqis in a post-Saddam Iraq.
We wanted to show my countrymen as three-dimensional beings, beyond the binary of Saddam versus the United States.