In Iraq, the Methboub family waits – and copes
The Methboub family, which the Monitor has followed since 2002, work to free a son from jail and anguish over a daughter’s soured marriage. They had little hope Sunday's election in Iraq would change their lives significantly.
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The precedent of paying was set early on by the desperate but vulnerable family, says Hibba, one of twin daughters who are in their last year of school. “It was [so] from the beginning, because we were so anxious to get him out, we paid – and they took this as a cue,” says Hibba.Skip to next paragraph
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“We had no previous experience,” states her mother, diplomatically. “Other [mothers] pay, and they get this one out – or [the police] can ‘lose’ the file for two to three years.”
“If no one pays up for certain people, and no one looks after them, they let him stay,” affirms Hibba, who is studying art. As a final bribe, the family shelled out $500 to bring the court date forward by four months. They were promised that, this time, the release of their beloved Ali is all but certain.
A pilgrimage to pray for Ali
Just to be sure, a host of family members made the early February pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala in commemoration of the 40th day of mourning after the death of Imam Hossein in AD 680 – a journey that attracts millions of Shiite pilgrims each year.
Ali called them while they were traveling and warned them to be wary of attacks and explosions set by Sunni militants that this year killed dozens, as in years past: “Don’t go! It’s dangerous!” Ali pleaded. But then he asked: “Did you pray for me?”
“This is one of the main reasons we went there – to pray for him!” says Duha, the other twin daughter who now studies at a trade institute.
That effort for their brother turned into a reason for mirth and then playful argument between the two sisters, a common occurrence in this Spartan home.
This tight-knit family has survived the rigors of Iraq, from regular neighborhood car bombs to close calls of every sort, from shrapnel in one daughter’s arm to slipping on the stairs during a blackout in the 2003 US bombing of Baghdad, which left a scar on the bridge of Duha’s nose.
The Methboub matriarch, interviewed before the March 7 election, was convinced that the vote would not improve the lot of poor Iraqis like her family – nor the security situation, which has shown recent signs of deterioration.
Several suicide car bombs in late January targeted three hotels in Baghdad, none of them far from the Methboubs’ two family locations. They were reminders of a dark past.
“From the balcony, we saw the bodies taken away in the back of trucks – even police trucks,” recalls Methboub. “For three days, I couldn’t eat or drink. They are innocent. Why is this happening to them?”