A young woman's quest for true love in Baghdad
The eldest daughter of the Methboub family, which the Monitor has profiled since 2002, maintains her conviction that true love is possible in a society of violence and fixed marriages – despite her own bumpy road.
(Page 2 of 2)
"She's a very stupid girl, not a lucky girl!" jests Fatima as the revelation sparks a furor. Mahmoud pulls a sheepish grin and expresses mock indignation.
"It is a very innocent relationship," explains Fatima, when the hubbub calms.
In Pictures Troops come home
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"They are kids, having a crush," says sister Duha, who declares that she, at least, has not been smitten by the love bug.
Love in a society of fixed marriages
The family is poor – so poor that when the Monitor first met them, months before the US military invasion, they had sold furniture a day earlier to pay school fees.
But the curvaceous and practical Fatima attracted the attention of a number of suitors, some of them so much older that their interest provoked mirth for the family.
Fatima dismissed them all, including one man who was rejected last-minute at the courthouse, even after gold had been exchanged between the families.
Fatima was instead waiting for the right man, for true love in a society where fixed and early marriages remain common.
And then it happened – or so Fatima thought.
While she was spending so much time in the kitchen of the decrepit family apartment, she started a secret 15-month courtship with the young man she could see in the adjacent building, just ten yards away.
The rest is sumptuous history, at least for this family. "It was love at first sight," the clearly elated Bashar said after their engagement in early 2007.
The young couple played with each other's emotions, even as car bombs rocked the neighborhood and twice broke the glass in the family apartment.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: An Iraqi couple finds love amid the shattered glass
At one point Bashar painted his kitchen window so that Fatima could not see him. Fatima then employed brother Mahmoud – and his good throwing arm – to pelt it with potatoes, tomatoes, and onions.
"She was so arrogant, like a queen," Bashar told the Monitor back then. He said marrying Fatima was "his destiny."
'There is still love!'
Yet the jubilation that swept this household on the wedding night in January 2008 – delayed for months because Bashar's brother was shot while trying to escape insurgents – did not last.
"There is no future for me – the future is sleeping," says Fatima, resigned at the age of 24. "It's too difficult to divorce if you are a girl, and everyone talks, talks, talks."
Bashar has not yet agreed to a divorce, though meetings are imminent between the families to officially end the marriage.
Still, Fatima has indirectly seen quite a bit of Bashar, watching him sometimes from Zainab's balcony as he smokes a water pipe at a cafe across the street. At Zainab’s apartment – just a few feet away from where her and Bashar's place remains locked – Fatima often plays with her nephew Fahed, who in turn plays with her hip-length hair that has deliberately not cut since the wedding day.
"Sometimes you remember the good things," Fatima says. The rest of the story has been too painful, and for now she rules out searching again for true love.
"I don't have the capability to reach those levels of love," Fatima asserts. "There is no more trust. I don't have this [loving] feeling anymore."
"The love for everyone ended in 1990," says Duha, speaking of the year that Iraq invaded Kuwait, prompting a war, more than a decade of stringent sanctions against Iraq, regime change in 2003, and sectarian war and insurgency ever since.
But with that, Fatima breaks out of her funk with a shout. "There is still love!"
IN PICTURES: Troops come home