Maps of Iraq Symbolize Unity Call
Tom Bullock reports many Iraqi flags are already flying, but not just because of Sadr's request. Iraqis are uniting against the sectarian influences tearing their country apart. There was a huge outpouring for the national soccer team at the Asian games. And Iraqis of all sects cheered as their nation's contestant won the Arab version of American Idol.
NPR's Jamie Tarabay reports on a more personal way Iraqis are asserting their national identity.
JAMIE TARABAY: Abu Sama(ph) leans across the counter in his jewelry store, holding a medallion-sized gold map of Iraq. He says the maps come in gold or silver, in different sizes and different weights. And, he says, they're selling at a surprisingly swift rate.
Mr. ABU SAMA (Jewelry Shop Owner): (Through translator) Many Iraqis are leaving Iraq, so they buy it and take it with them as a symbol so that when they travel to other Arab countries, people recognize them as Iraqis.
TARABAY: Because he's not leaving Iraq, Abu Sama asks he be identified by his nickname out of concern for his safety.
TARABAY: It's not just those traveling abroad who want the symbol of a united Iraq. Santa Mikhail, a Baghdad television reporter, said she's been wearing the map dangling from a necklace ever since the U.S. invasion four years ago.
Ms. SANTA MIKHAIL (Correspondent, Ashur Television): Sometimes people say, why you wear it? Just to show that I'm Iraqi. I love my country. I want the people know that I love my country. I'm against the people who want to divide.
TARABAY: But this little piece of jewelry may have cost some Iraqis their life. Atwar Bahjat, a well-known reporter for Arabiya Television, was wearing one of the map necklaces when she was killed by insurgents in the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad.
Ms. MIKHAIL: Actually, the camera man, who was working with Atwar Bahjat, he asked me to take it off. He said, please take it off because I don't like it. So he think it's bring bad luck.
TARABAY: Mikhail is standing in the Baghdad Convention Center covering a parliamentary session. Even here, she says, she gets questions about her sectarian identity.
Ms. MIKHAIL: Sometimes, when I make interview with someone in government or (unintelligible), he ask me, you are Turkmeni or Kurdish? I says, no, I'm just Iraqi.
TARABAY: It's the idea of an Iraq now lost that inspired Hallah(ph), a beautician, to buy her map necklace. Looking at different styles at Abu Sama's(ph) store in downtown Baghdad, she, too, asked only her first name be used for this report. She says wearing the necklace makes her cherish her country even more because now, it seems like it's falling apart.
HALLAH (Resident, Baghdad): (Through translator) It's a symbol of the country that we lost, and which we are trying to retrieve. We want to forget the grim picture, the injustice we live in. This is why I wear the map.
TARABAY: Hallah says she sees more women wearing the map necklace every day. Some men wear the map as well as a lapel pin, and Iraqi soldiers wear it on their uniforms.
Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.
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