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Living in Garbage


The dump is a dusty wasteland. Heaps of Baghdad’s rotting wastes are strewn about several square miles of the battered capital city. Engaged in their futile battle to remove the endless amounts of garbage from streets, blue garbage trucks rumble through the stinky dump, adding their loads of filth.

32 year-old Hattim lives in this wasteland with his family. “We are living in a dump. We are living a bad life. We have children, and no school. We have nothing. We are asking the new government to take small care of us. Not big things, just small things. We are transporting water with animals, with donkeys, and it’s not clean water. It’s not clean water at all and we have a lot of diseases.”

Hattim’s family, along with 35 other people, live in houses they’ve built out of old cans of cooking oil.  Dried mud is packed between them to keep out the wind and dust. Inside their makeshift home flies cover everything. A 10 day old baby sleeps nestled in dirty blankets as flies buzz over her tiny head.

Hattim continues, “We lived in the marshes and when Saddam dried the marshes he took our farms and everything and made military camps there. And now, we are living in a dump. The human, which is this holy creature, you can’t imagine living in a dump. Even God doesn’t accept that.”

Flies cover the walls, the ceiling and buzz incessantly around the family of 6. Hattim’s 40 year-old sister-in-law, Rana, lives in another home made of cans and mud. She enters Hattim’s to ask for some bread.

She holds her hands up towards the flies and says, “The flies are always with us. We have some animals and they live on things in the dump. We have no electricity and no water. Nobody is helping us and we don’t have salaries. Our parents had a farm and they lived in the south. But when they cut the water from the marshes, we started our problems.”

Outside Hattim collects small wood scraps and pieces of plastic from the refuse in order to make a small fire to warm his home. Two little girls, his nieces with dirt caked on their faces, play with an old piece of tire, throwing it back and forth.

He looks up at them playing before lamenting over his situation. “My brother has many kids. Some are five and six years old. I don’t have any documents for anything and don’t even have a food ration card. I have an Iraqi identification, which is of course worth nothing.”

One of his relatives, despite the horrible living situation, is happy to have his photo taken while Hattim pauses his discussion.

Hattim says the interim government promised great assistance for his family three months ago. “They said wait three months and we’ll send you to Mars,” he says to underscore the big promises made by the interim government to help the poor in Baghdad, “No, we don’t want to go to Mars, we just want a place on this earth.”

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More writing, photos and commentary at http://dahrjamailiraq.com

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