Back in Cairo I was sitting in the hotel's garden reading a book when I was surprised by a man, who reminded me of one of Saddam's security guys, interrupting my quiet afternoon reading and telling me without any introductions "Don't believe them!".
"Who are they?" I asked "those people" he said pointing at the book in my hand and added "we have a very good system that is represented by the government and Islam. Maybe we need some minor improvements but those people want to blow up our culture, history and beliefs".
I could feel that these remarks would be followed by an informal interrogation with questions about my colleagues so I quickly ended the conversation and avoided going into details. However this came as a flashback from the dreadful era of dictatorship that I've forgotten over the past three years.
I could feel eyes following me and walls recording every word I say that for the first time in years I feel I need to watch my mouth in front a simple cleaning worker in the hotel who was cleaning up the conference hall after one of the sessions. He said "if you want to change know that we're on your side" it may sound like a friendly gesture but I got scared and my immediate response was "No, no! this is not about any change!"
I wouldn't worry about talking about a change when I'm in Iraq; pluralism is a fact here and every party is seeking a change of one sort or another but I was afraid to talk about a change in a place where only one opinion rules and dominates everything.
At that moment I felt the difference and wished I could immediately go back to Baghdad. I know the balance is a tough one but those who seek temporary safety will never get safety.
Aug 25, 2006
What we've accomplished in Iraq
Holmes, points out this post from Mohammed at Iraq the Model, who traveled to Egypt for a blogger's conference.