Ramadan Ends Amid Grim Mood in Iraq
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
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And I'm Melissa Block.
This is a festive time for Muslims. The Eid al Fitr holiday marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. After a month of fasting during daylight hours, Muslims return to normal life with feasts, new clothes and visits to family and friends. In Iraq, though, this is the third year the holiday mood has been soured by fear and uncertainty. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Baghdad.
PETER KENYON reporting:
In Baghdad's Zayouna neighborhood, Sunni Muslims at the al-Yakin Mosque(ph) usher in the holiday by reciting the takbir praising Allah.
(Soundbite of Muslim worship service)
KENYON: For observant Muslims, Ramadan is a time for self-denial, a withdrawal from earthly pleasures so as to become closer to God. The Eid al Fitr is a time of renewal and celebration, a time to appear in your best clothes, new ones if you can afford them. Twenty-eight-year-old Suhama Shmari(ph) is out in one of Baghdad's commercial districts, but she's not buying bright-colored clothes; she's dressed all in black, the only splashes of color coming from her red hair and a gold necklace. Shmari's outlook darkened after her brother was killed four months ago in one of the countless episodes of violence that punctuate the days here with scenes of tragedy and embarrassment.
Ms. SUHAMA SHMARI: (Through Translator) I remember when they first came, rolling their cameras while we were falling down with the grief. It was a bomb at the end of our street. He was only 35 years old. I'm young, but what's the point of living. My mother and father became old after my brother's death. We've been trying to open a new chapter in our lives, but we cannot, so you expect me to go and buy clothes for Eid? No way.
KENYON: All Iraqis have these days, says Shmari, is the black cloth, a reference to the ubiquitous black banners announcing funeral arrangements for yet another dead Iraqi. A tall 50-year-old woman in a full-length hijab echoes the view of some older Iraqis. Aum Zayad(ph) has come to recall the days of Saddam's brutal dictatorship almost fondly.
Ms. AUM ZAYAD: (Through Translator) I wish the old days would come back. At least we were comfortable--psychologically comfortable. Now the salaries are higher, but there is no grace in money.
KENYON: Inflation is a frequent complaint among those Iraqis who are now making money. In most cases, far more than they earned under Saddam's regime. Prices have kept pace or far outstripped salaries in some areas, but those with incomes are now also targets for Iraqi gangs of kidnappers and extortionists. In another Baghdad neighborhood, 36-year-old Faris Mahmoud Jabbar(ph) says flatly Iraqis have no Eid. Jabbar is a small-business man who says his hopes for a better life after the American-led invasion have been buried under a security situation that seems each year to defy predictions that it can't get any worse.
Mr. FARIS MAHMOUD JABBAR: (Through Translator) Everyone's doing whatever he likes. Look at the cars in the street. You don't know this car belongs to the police or to a political party. Are they arresting a bomber or just kidnapping someone--political or religious reasons? Your neighbor--will he be beheaded and for what? No one knows the reason for anything.
KENYON: A young schoolteacher, Zaneb Abdel Rahim(ph), shopped for holiday clothes for her three daughters. She says things seem to be getting more difficult year after year. Even so, she says when her battered country asks her to vote one more time next month, she'll brave the bombers and gunmen and head to the polls.
Ms. ZANEB ABDEL RAHIM: (Through Translator) We get tired, you know? The people get tired. We want peace. Of course I must go to vote again because I want the situation to be settled for my family, for all Iraqis. We've grown weary of all these killings for the past 35 years. We just want peace.
KENYON: Political leaders in Baghdad and Washington are hoping that Iraqi resilience will prevail over the seemingly endless misery many of them face. For now, though, it's another somber eve in Iraq. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Baghdad.
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