Mother Struggling to Survive Weeps as She Sends Son to Fight.
BAGHDAD, March 27 — The bombs crashed that morning on Baghdad, declaring war. At nightfall, Karima, a mother of eight, took her eldest son to the bus station, sending him off to fight in the north.
Their farewell was infused with the deeply religious idiom of Arabic, phrases at once formal and personal. “God be with you,” she remembered saying, as her 20-year-old son boarded the rickety red bus for Mosul, a 30-cent fare in his hand. “God protect you.”
Those words, spoken a week ago, were their last.
Her son, a tall, gaunt soldier known for his generosity, traveled five hours to man an antiaircraft battery in Bartalah, about 25 miles north of Mosul. She returned to her three-room apartment, tears running down her face, under a black veil.
“A mother’s heart rests on her son’s heart,” she said. “Every hour, I cry for him.”
In a city scarred on its surface by bombing and deep in its psyche by years of hardship, a week-old war is only her latest tragedy. The story of Karima is perhaps most remarkable for how unexceptional it is.
A short woman with worn hands, she has no money, no work other than selling chewing gum from a canvas mat in the street, and the dearth of hope that forces so many in this once-proud city to put their faith and future in God’s hands.
Speaking to a journalist, without the presence of a government escort, Karima expressed sentiments in Baghdad today that seemed confusing, even contradictory. Yet they remain common, coloring the Iraqi capital as it enters its second week of war.
She is a Shiite Muslim in a land ruled by a relentlessly repressive government dominated by Sunni Muslims. She takes pride in her son’s service in the army, but deems the war a waste and waits for news she hopes will never come. Her five daughters reflexively break into a chant in support of President Saddam Hussein, perhaps more out of fear than fealty. In more reflective moments, they speak not of defending his government, but of protecting their homes, their country and their faith from a war they consider an invasion.
Most telling are their priorities. They speak not of politics, not of ideology, but of survival.
“God willing, the war won’t last long,” Karima said. “I wish it wouldn’t have lasted one day.”