Is the “Peace of Iraq’s Mothers” even possible anymore?

Some accomplishments make you wish they weren’t necessary. My essay about hope amidst the devastation of war in Iraq continues to resonate, now finding its second reprint, when all I really want is for it to lose its political power, for it to become obsolete and irrelevant.

That it appears in yet another anthology about peacemaking, Finding Our Common Chord, is a reminder that peace, security and hope remain elusive for far too many Iraqis who have endured far more already than a human being should have to bear.

“The Peace of Iraq’s Mothers,” short as it is, concludes with a sort of mini epilogue, a looking back and wondering if the work we did really brightened any futures as we had hoped.

Photo by أخٌ في الله … on Unsplash

Every time I hear the news from Iraq, I remember those families. Nour should now be finishing elementary school. Does her smile still glow? Do her big doe eyes still dance? I cannot imagine what she has seen….

This reprint almost begs another epilogue, as the forgotten women and children of Iraq and Syria face another devastating transformation, a new cycle of loss and rebuilding.

How It Ends

That epilogue has been done for me, in a sense. There’s no way for me to follow up with Nour and Serdar and Amreeka now, but stories like theirs are all over the displaced persons camps that are all that remains of Da’esh’s reign of terror in Iraq and Syria. Recently, I’ve been listening to NPR’s Embedded podcast, which has been telling some of their stories in a miniseries called How It Ends, and I urge you to hear them for yourself.

Now that ISIS has lost its territory, what happens to all the people from around the world who ran off to join it? Their governments don’t want them. But their families do. We follow them as they try to get their loved ones out.

In one episode, “The Brother,” a sister tries to convince the Canadian government to help her brother, their citizen. When they tell her that going to Syria to find her brother was a bad idea, and against the urging of her parents and husband, she takes matters into her own hands.

What would you do if your brother wound up far away, having made a terrible mistake? What would you do if it involved ISIS? How far would you go?

In the most heartbreaking episode, “The Search,” a Florida father searches for the children who were stolen from him when his wife left him to live in a new Muslim “golden age” that wasn’t at all what she had been enticed to believe.

For the past four years he’s done everything he can to try to get them back. And now that ISIS has lost all his territory, he wants to know… Where are they?

And then there’s the episode called “Judgement.”

What does a country do with tens of thousands of people, who might have collaborated with ISIS? What counts as justice? And what’s just revenge?

That doesn’t even begin to address the fates of freed but dishonored Yazidis after they were sold and resold as sex slaves, or children of rape who can’t accompany their mothers back home, or orphans left to find their way back to society, or British and American fighters whose citizenship was revoked when they tried to go home….

My country devastated Iraq in a mendacious storm of revenge — for the tragedy of 9/11, for the first Gulf War, for the assassination attempt on the President’s father … it hardly matters why — that set off a wildly careening pendulum of revenge compounded by more revenge compounded by disaster capitalism.

When does it end?

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