A wedding marks Baghdad family's rising optimism
The Monitor checks in with the Methboub family in Iraq as they celebrate vows – and improvements in their lives.
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But less than a year ago, she was in tears over the possibility of an arranged marriage to a young man who had spied her at another wedding. The deal was struck by the families, and the two exchanged rings the first time she saw him. But it became clear that the man would not fulfill his promise to let Hibba continue her studies and eventually teach.Skip to next paragraph
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"He refused and said you must sit in the house and be a housewife," says Hibba, clearly appalled. "No more dresses; you must wear a [head-to-toe] abaya."
On the second day of the wedding, the preparty preening is briefly interrupted as an American foot patrol comes into view outside, stepping along the broken pavement, then stopping for a time past the gate, prompting a quip that the wedding convoy won't be able to get through. A few shots are fired beyond the patrol.
"They come every day," says Amal, as several relatives cluster around the second-story window for a look, careful to keep hidden behind the curtain. "We don't feel safer," says Zainab. "If they are attacked, they will shoot everyone."
What does Amal think, when she sees the Americans? "Nothing. Fifteen more years. It's like [they are] the Iraqi Army."
But nothing can dampen the festive spirit in this apartment, its spacious kitchen decked out with new pots and pans, a new stove and water heater, and even a microwave. It has almost 24-hour power, thanks to a nearby ministry.
"I'm very excited by this house, and every day I thank God. I feel safe because of this area," says Methboub, saying she is now "released from more than a dozen problems."
"Before, there was no power, no clear water, a dark stairwell, and rats; it was too difficult," says Methboub. "Our water tank had holes, the water pump did not work, and we always had trouble with neighbors kicking our generator in the hall until the muffler fell off. The owner knocked on the door every day, demanding more money."
Dire as it sounds, that will be the home of the newlyweds, who hope it will be easier to live there as a couple than squeezing in a family of nine. Methboub worries about further explosions. But limitations are forgotten in the new house, as a band and dancers arrive to see the wedding consummated in style.
The Methboub daughters fawn as Fatima enters the living room that is brimming with guests, resplendent in her white wedding dress. Bashar arrives with his friends, wearing a light brown suit and looking slightly overwhelmed. Driven to a frenzy by the beat of the drums and blast of the trumpets, the party claps and dances and sprays "snow" from an aerosol can before filing down the metal steps outside. Bride and groom climb into a borrowed black Mercedes, decked with flowers, Bashar at the wheel, Methboub and Fatima's aunt in the back.
The convoy sets off on a nighttime drive through Baghdad, horns blaring as cars travel three abreast, slowing only at single-lane checkpoints where smiling soldiers and police wave them through. In Iraq, after all the bloodshed of recent years – and all the suffering this family has experienced– the celebration is nothing short of inspiring.
Their destination is the Hotel Babylon, where they will spend their first night as husband and wife. The young couple arrive along with several other equally noisy wedding parties.
Before they can enter, there is a reminder that this is still Baghdad in time of war: The Mercedes is stopped at the gate and the trunk opened to check for explosives. But this is her wedding day, and Fatima can't help but smile happily through the glass.