One experiences thousands and thousands of events in this life: a life often ecstatic and exhausting, but rarely free and exhilarating.
By nature, a human’s mental ability to preserve is limited and thus we tend to forget many an incident. And then we totally forget what we have forgotten. But there is what is unforgettable:
The mother’s face.
A firstborn’s name.
The eye color of the first beloved.
And so on.
There is also what is unforgettable on the dark side of the moon.
A mock execution.
In February of 1963 I was in Basra coming from Baghdad. The Ba`thists had just mounted a military coup and were in control of Basra. Their militia, the so-called The National Guard, was armed with a mixture of Port-Said machine guns and other light arms. This militia had checkpoints in the city’s squares, neighborhoods, and markets. It was given free rein to arrest, torture, and even kill people, as if they were stray dogs.
“The National Guard” arrested me and took me to their headquarters, in the Association of Economists, near Shat al-Arab. The association was, just one day before the coup, administered by communists from Basra.
The building was full of young armed Ba`thists brandishing pistols that could go off any minute, because they weren’t secured. It was also full of detainees who were crowded in a hall not far from the street and the river.
The following day I was moved to a small room that had a bamboo chair.
At night, a young guard came.
He said: “I will leave the door ajar. I won’t close it. The hallway is right in front of you and it leads to the street. You might think of escaping.
Try it, but I will shoot you.”
I spent the night in that tiny room
I was exhausted and slept like a log.
The next day, at forenoon, the commander came. I remember that his name was Fathi. He owned a shoe store in Suq al-Hunud in Basra. Fathi was spiffy and was carrying his Port-Said gun.
He tied my hand to the back of the chair, then blindfolded me.
My wrist watch fell to the ground and I heard the thud.
He ordered that the door be shut and I heard it.
He said calmly: “We are going to execute you.
Do you have anything to tell us?”
I was too weak to answer.
He said: “So, you have nothing to tell us!”
I heard the machine gun cocked.
The bullets were out.
A single salvo.
I didn’t die.
As Badr Shakir al-Sayyab wrote in his famous poem “Christ After Crucifixion”:
I didn’t die. . .”
A few days ago, I read what my friend Wasif Shannun (he is in Australia now) wrote about his suffering after the 1991 uprising in southern Iraq, when he was with detainees in a camp administered by “Mujahideen Khalq” and how they used to cover the heads of detainees with black hoods to execute them.
How they covered his head more than once for a mock execution.
Wasif Shannun has been in Australia for about twenty years and he hasn’t forgotten what he went through.
So, there is what cannot be forgotten on the dark side of the moon!