Silk Road

When we thing about the Middle East how often do we merely think of the violence and the bloodshed?

A while ago I had the fortune of seeing the amazing Hidden Treasures from the National Museum Kabul exibition. You learn in school, of course, that ancient “mesopotamia” and all the other places that sound to the student more like fairy tales than actual locations were the cradde of civilisation during a time when Europeans were basically still living in caves. But it is easy to forget that all these marvels, Assur and Sumer and the Persian Empire, are the very geographic places we still see in the TV news all the time. I, too, forgot. Until some years ago I was at a UNESCO / Blue Shield conference and upon the long stream of presenters was an archaeologist almost in tears about the fashion in which Allied troops would trample throgh the very ruins of Babylon without even realising. Ulitmately she had a deck of playing cards, similar to the one featuring the US’ most wanted terrorists, printed showing the most important heritage sites of Iraq hoping someone would remember to thread lightly in these ancient lands.

These days I have been considering travel destinations for later this year and to my own surprise I found myself lay eyes on places I knew I cannot go: The ancient sites of Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan; the cradle of civilisation where every rock tells a story or two or three. I want to see how the ancient Silk Road winds through the ranges of northern Afghanistan and Iran; I want to see the marvellous Persian gardens and the ruins of all those places we learnt about in history class much like they were from another world. But of course I cannot go there for they are drenched in blood and chaos that can re-errupt at any moment. There are still, and that is for a reason, travel warnings for Iraq and Afghanistan and the boycott of Iran means you cannot even withdraw money from an ATM or use a credit card there – leaving you stranded without cash in an emergency.

So as I looked longingly upon those fairy tale places it dawned on me with new strength how much more there is to the Middle East than terrorism and war and IEDs blowing up everyone that comes too close. I wonder how long it will take until I can travel there and feel welcome and secure and all of a sudden I just cannot wait for the time when the conflict is nothing but a memory and heritage sites are being given a new lease of life.

Five years ago I went on an extended field trip to Croatia. I had been there as a child, before the civil war, and I still remembered the place nobody ever thought would descend into chaos; a place with people much as we were where we would go to unwind and enjoy the sea and the hospitality and great cuisine of her people. And then the war came and all we ever got to see again of Croatia were endless streams of traumatised refugees. For ten or so years Croatia, too, was one of these places you just could not go.

So going there again after the debris had been cleared and an emancipated Croatia was on its way of becomming an European Union member had something magic. Visiting Dubrovnik, that medieval gem that was almost destroyed by the ferocity of civil war but had been rebuilt to its fully glory was special. Yes, there were still the traces of shelled houses never rebuilt as soon as you left the main road; a reminder of just how little time had passed; but seeing Croatia again after the war was a pointer how there is always a time after. Eventually.

And now looking upon the Mesopotamian high cultures I wonder and hope whether in another ten years these, too, might just awake from their uncomfortable rest and once again become sites to be marvelled at by generations to come with the war but a chapter of a very, very long and glorious history.

– Migdalit


I love quotes! A How-To on going to war

Hey folks,

yesterday, when researching quotes for my democracy-article I found another rather intriguing quote from a not-at-all political correct source. (And one I know mentioning his name will boost my stats again *hehe*): Mr Hermann Goering, minister to a long-gone “1000 years” German “Reich”:

“Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

– H. Goering

Sometimes I think I have a clue where exactly in history to look for former US-President (George W. as well as George) Bush’s inspirations and historic mentors

Oh I just love historic quotes! And somehow I guess I’m into politically incorrect sources too:

“Don’t ever trust a statistic you haven’t forged yourself!”

– H. Goebbels

I just wonder whether those people who produced them some decades ago had any idea how accurate they would be …?

shabbat shalom and a magic weekend



nobody cares – especially not UNSC

Good morning everybody,

what I just had to read casually overflowing the headlines kicked me awake better then any coffee could have possibly:

UN security council approves Gaza cease-fire resolution

This happened just at the point where for the first time since I’ve come in contact with the whole mess in the Near East I’ve had real hope that the international community would come to its senses and recognize Israel’s right to defend her citizens. Where they would see that some 700 casualties, of which about 500 – even after UN-quoted Palestinian sources – are unlawful or lawful combatants is not a genocide. Nobody stopped the US when they marched into Iraq like Rambo killing thousands of actually civilians. Nobody gave a shit at UN. And now nobody gives a shit about Western Negev residents who have been under constant rocket fire for years while diplomacy – the carrot – gravely failed and failed and failed. There is no word of Israel’s filed complaint about weapons being stored at a UN school nowhere. There is not as much as a syllable about why Hamas kept promoting rockets instead of Pita – as Lila put it – over years and years thereby keeping Gaza residents depending on international food aid of which, of course, nobody mentions that it has been delivered by Israel and Israeli drivers risking their lives going to a place as dangerous as the crossings into Gaza. And no, not dangerous because the Israeli would shoot at their own people to prevent goods from arriving at Gaza – it’s sad but I know there are enough people cynical enough to actually believe that out there – but because Hamas does.

But the war has to stop. It has to stop now. So UN writes in her resolution which unfortunately doesn’t seem to have been published yet at neither UN’s Middle East site nor UNSC’s information center. I’d love to read it after all those hints in the media but I’m afraid the bottom line will stay just the same then that in Lila’s blog or the media: Israel has to stop her actions. Period. There seems to be some weak remark that “measures have to be taken” to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza (where did they get all those rockets from anyway? Have they really smuggled them all in over the last years? I wouldn’t have thought that they had so many Grad rockets in Gaza) and something about “stopping every violence against civilians” – of course without the slightest emphasis to Israeli civilians under fire but instead a lot about poor, suffering Gaza residents. Does UNSC really and seriously suggest Israel moves out of Gaza now while leaving Be’er Sheva under rocket fire???

Sorry guys, I have to comprehend that.

so long


Hunting Down Normality

Hey guys,

this morning before going off to university I read that Baghdad, besides terrorism and being a city in a state that might be more serious then “just” war, is planning an underground system. Something so striking normal and crucial for a city Baghdad’s size that, hadn’t I known any better, I would have sworn things were improving in Iraq. The article’s journalist astonishlingly describes a Baghdad that hasn’t been seen in the news lately; a city obviousely recovering slowly but staedily from a terrible war:

In October, planning got under way for an above-ground commuter train line in the city’s west, which is set to remove thousands of cars from an approach into Baghdad known as bomb alley. And throughout the weeks since, a series of roads, and one highly symbolic bridge, have again been reopened to cars and pedestrians. The al-Aaimmah bridge linking the mostly Sunni neighbourhood of Adhamiya and the predominantly Shia district of Khademiya was opened last Tuesday three years after nearly a thousand Shia pilgrims died in a stampede on the span.

Berlin-style walls put in place to keep Shias and Sunnis apart, have been gradually coming down. A 5-metre high barrier separating the Shia area of Abu Safeen and the Sunni zone of al-Fudal, was removed almost two months ago. Violence has yet to return. [source]

Could it really be that Baghdad is finally on its way of finding a new way of normality, of daily routine? Is the Great War of Christians versus Muslims or Westerners versus Easterners or whatever really moving on as are the US American GIs? Where to? To Afghanistan? Or still to Iran in the end?

Or is Baghdad no more, no less then finding to the same kind of normality Tel Aviv and Jerusalem found? Is it finally giving up on the idea that things might improve during any given time but trying to make a living of the situation no matter how terrible it is. With Israel generations and generations have fought their battles on many battlefields – situated in their home as well as at the frontline – nurished by the hope that their children wouldn’t have to fight anymore. I remember before I went off to Israel I talked to my boss at that time – an elderly man with a huge deal of life experiance who had become something like a mentor to me – and I mentioned it might be a good time to set foot in Israel for there had to be peace one day soon now and then I might be there before everybody else came running and get a lot of business opportunities out of it. He shook his head in sadness and replied he too, had thought that when he went to Isreal sometime in the 1970ies. Yet there had been no enduring peace. “But there has to be peace one day! This can’t go on like that forever!” I claimed. He said it very well could and today I all too often consider him being right.

As it appears to me the young generation of Israel – people my age – have pretty much given up on the idea of peace anytime soon. They are the third, sometimes fourth generation born into the conflict, they have never known anything else. So all they do is trying to get through one day after the other; ignoring the conflict; ignoring the danger. They go out partying all night knowing that it could very well be their very last night. There’s no sense in waiting for “better times” anymore for that “better times” might never take place. Never at all.

Is this the kind of normality Baghdad is heading for? A normality of war and terror. Just not giving a shit anymore out of desperation and hopelessness. I hope not!




Shabbat Shalom everybody,

I have introduced a new category to my blog which is simply to be labelled “hope.”. Hope as in: “those (people / things / organisations / facts / …) give me hope.” It is a tragedy yet a fact that within history and journalism things that give us hope are way less important then those that take it from us. Yet perhaps we have to remember that this doesn’t mean there are less things that would give us hope out there then things that’d take it from us. Never believe in statistics you haven’t forged yourself.

This girl however should absolutely be a part of history as it is passed on to our children. It’s not making a mistake to begin with that counts but hitting the brake early enough:

Girl suicide bomber, 13, hands herself in to Iraqi police

A 13-year-old girl wearing a vest packed with explosives turned herself in to Iraqi police north of Baghdad yesterday because she did not want to become a suicide bomber, the US military said.

Iraqi forces in the restive city of Baquba removed the bomb from the girl, who then led them to a second vest, also loaded with explosives.

Lieutenant Commander David Russell, a US military spokesman, said: “Reports are that she approached the IPs (Iraqi police) saying she had the vest on and didn’t want to go through with it. If she was forced to put on the vest or if she did it voluntarily, that is still being reviewed.”


A german source added the girl led the policemen directly into the terrorist’s hiding place where another explosive vest was found.

I hope there are good souls in Iraq right by her side who’ll make sure she’ll have a safe life someplace – either in Iraq or even better outside – which won’t be an easy task to accomplish after someone handed her photograph to the press. She’s a brave girl. I mean she’s only 13 and had the courage to do what a lot of 31 year olds would never have done: She hit the brake in time. She really deserves a reward. And she deserves to be remembered as a good example by her own people as well as by everybody else.



Well, that’s new

Hey there,

so terrorist attacks of all kinds are as normal in Iraq as thunderstorms are in Austrian summers. So reading this I was kinda startled:

Jihadis Despair of Iraq

Yaman Mukhaddab, a popular contributor to al-Hesbah (the most exclusive Jihadi forum), wrote an essay on July 21 in which he expressed alarm at the low morale and pessimism of some of his fellow forum members on account of al-Qaeda setbacks in Iraq.

One brother, he notes, said that the jihad in Iraq is ending like the jihad in Algeria (badly).

Another brother criticized Mukhaddab for being optimistic about Iraq.

A third said the situation is out of control and the outcome is already known.

Mukhaddab responds that such pessimism is unwarranted.  As scripture says, victory will come after severe testing.  And things can turn around at any time.  If AQ is able to strike the U.S. or if the U.S. strikes Iran, the mujahids in Iraq will benefit greatly (he doesn’t explain why).

Mukhaddab ends by reminding his readers that there was a similar level of despondency after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan but things turned out well in the end.

Despite his optimism, the fact that Mukhaddab would admit that other Jihadis on al-Hesbah–where the most influential pundits hold court–are souring on Iraq means that al-Qaeda is truly almost done there and that foreign fighters will be looking for greener pastures.

[also see Arabic original text: 7-21-08-ekhlaas-yaman-mukhaddab-criticizes-pessimism-about-iraq]

Even more just a couple of posts above the same author added:

[…] the Washington Post gives us further evidence that Iraq is a sinking ship for al-Qaeda and Afghanistan is the lifeboat, at least for the senior leadership. Amit Paley has written a well-sourced articleon the departure of Abu Ayyub al-Masri (aka Abu Hamza al-Muhajer), the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, for Afghanistan. […]

I mean I would wish this to the people of Iraq who have suffered so much because of all the attacks and the US’ response and I’d also wish this to the families of and US American soldiers who are caught in that hell of a place called “Iraq” that used to be a 1001 nights paradise back then.

 A failing of al Quaida terrorism in Iraq could (!) mean there would finally be hope for peace and Iraqis returning to some kind of a normal life where the US American troops with their guns and strange culture wouldn’t be needed anymore and could finally leave. And of course the thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syrian and Jordanian exile could finally return. A scenario which has seemed to be nearly impossible lately. Who knows what hope Iraq finding its way back to normality could cast even outside Iraq? Would people get the message that “Jihad” isn’t the sole answer?

Yet what does it mean for Afghanistan? Do the allied troops stationed there have a change to stand enforced Taliban / al Quaida on the long run if the emphasis of al Quaida operations was moved to Afghanistan? And is the country just a couple of years after the war and with half of it still in Taliban hands strong enough to preserve the freedom it built up in the northern cities in that scenario? I hope so … really do.



Counting Sirens

Shalom everybody,

So today I thought about something special for you; you are to be introduced to a side of my person you most likely do not yet know. It’s poetry. You knot, the thing you can put even those feelings into that would otherwise object from being told.

Green Zone

ya allahu take good care
of my mommy
she’s gone so deep
into the danger zone.
Ya-allahu let her be soon
back here save and sound.

And on the market
there is a blast,
all light and flames,
eats her alive.

And in the green zone I hear
little soldierboys singing.

I wrote this one in March after I had been talking to a young man who then worked as an African contractor of the US Army in Baghdad. He told me about the Green Zone, the zone where Americans and their contractors are working and living (he actually had never left the “Green Zone” and wasn’t likely to). He told me it’d be a whole world of its own where one would find pretty much everything you would find in the average US American city: Cinema, the usual fastfood chains, even a theater and concert hall. And it’s at least somewhat safe thanks to strict security procedures and rarely any Iraqis working there. 

Learning about that somehow triggered the poem that can be read above. The idea of how it must feel for people in Baghdad who have nowhere safe to run to to know that there are sanctuaries for the US Army’s personell that are what they crave for so much: At least a little bit of safety.

I am recently reading a novel by Yasmina Khadra (who’s actually a man who’s true identiy hasn’t been known for quite a while). It’s called “the sirens of Baghdad” and features a generic boy of a Iraqi village and his developement into a suicide bomber. I’d love to know where Khadra’s way of describing something so terrible in such a natural way, one that even allows you to feel emphaty with a murderer comes from, he sure is a gifted writer.

Anyhow when it comes to sirens I wrote one about that too in March which is not about Baghdad as the first one but about another city that in some ways could be called a twin city of Baghdad: Jerusalem.

counting sirens

I have been
counting sirens
all night
worrying where you are

What is the critical number?
How many
ambulance cars a night?

I have been
counting sirens
all year
wondering if one day
I would stop.

In intifada Israeli cities, especially Jerusalem, you’d know if another terrorist attack happened by counting sirens. If there are too many of them; to many ambulance cars, firefighters and police at one time you’ll know. It has somehow developed into a science of its own.

I remember how when I lived in Tel Aviv and it was a hot night I couldn’t sleep and I too was listening, without knowing about people counting them during the intifada by then, to the ambulance car’s sirens – that sound like the American ones by the by – wondering if one night I would hear too many of them. Actually the first couple of days my body tended to be flooded by adrenaline when there where more then two or three but as time passes by the critical number rises. It’s just the usual thing: Denial. The art of survival in a sourrounding that could give you PTSD within the minute.

Yet even now that I am back to safe little Austria the sirens have never again been the same to me.