Looking at my recent posts, the word 'Shi'i' seems everywhere, I have been ranting too much, way too much about that ; so I thought I'd do this post to remember my good times with them.
Most of my college friends were southern Shi'i, when I first started learning about the differences and hostility between Sunnis and Shia in 2006, this created a dilemma for me, I would spend the night getting so pumped up with rage when learning about the Shia doctrine, and then I would go to college, and that frustration would all fade away the moment I met the first one of them.
When I went to UNHCR back in September 2007, I did not hang out with the elegantly-dressed Baghdadis, instead, I immediately connected with a southerner from Basra ; I can't help their simplicity and modesty, soon enough I was sitting with the whole mashraga, Nasiriya, Hilla, you name it. it felt back like college for a brief while. However, being in Jordan, none of my friends are here with me, and this has naturally led to some imbalance on that point, this post is aimed to at trying to regain that balance and to remind myself and you that it wasn't some apartheid segregation and that only religion is keeping us away from each other.
Sixi Princi: Princi is my best friend, we worked together on a lot of video projects (notice the early use of the name "Abbas" in this post, subconscious?) he is one of the nicest people one could ever hope to meet, he's now in Sweden and has long hair, beware. Princi has a picture of Sistani above his bed, but he is not an orthodox Shia, for starts he thinks it's completely valid to pray with Sunnis (and he did pray with us in public once in a Sunni mosque amazingly in 2005! Was it so good so late?) and last I heard he doesn't even believe in Mahdi.
Eihab: Eihab was a tall, strangely white, bald dude from Kerbala with Turkish descent. He was a very close friend of mine, an atheist, but like most Iraqi atheists his sectarian identity did not fade with his religion (he chose the 555 bloc). Like me, in his latter days Eihab became more aware of his sectarian identity, but that never affected our friendship ; we joked about it all the way until he died. He was killed in 2006 and he appears in the tribute video I made for him and three other dead pals.
Jidida: Jidida is a Baghdadi who had affinity for Muqtada al-Sadr. He's such a modest dude, he also bore intense hatred for the Badr brigade, who were unmistakably Iranian to him, but more so for Saddam Hussein. I talked about him earlier in my blog here.
Muqdad: Here comes the good stuff. Muqdad comes from Najaf, and he was named after Al-Muqdad al-Aswad, a companion of Ali (he too, is aswad, very dark-skinned), however, I think his similarity with the prominent companion ends about here. Muqdad was a very, very, very horny, muscled individual who'd tell us hilarious fantastical stories about his fake misadventures. God, those were the days...
Mudhaffar "Giraffe": A tall guy from al-Misyab, Mudhaffar was a very simple individual with a very imposing neck, he also asks every new girl in college to be his girlfriend.
Weezi: One time I burnt the garbage can with a hastily-thrown cigarette in our college department as a joke, Weezi instantly searched me out and introduced me to the "cool" community due to that feat. I didn't know Diwaniya people were famous for their wise-cracking until I met Weezi, a Yoda-like smartass character who, in his own words, if he ever wanted to talk to you then that means he wants 5 bucks.
Hamchi: Hamchi was an ultra-religious, Persian-accent-during-prayer Badr-sympathizer from Najaf. He thinks I will go to hell because I don't pray the Shi'i way and he thinks praying with Sunnis is a sin that rivals drinking wine, he was also one of the nicest people I have ever met. I used to mess with him about his suit and ties almost daily, it was with Hamchi that I engaged in the little *honest* sectarian debate at my college and it always ended so respectably, Hamchi is married now and he's working somewhere in the south. Last time I heard from him he wanted to elect Mithal al-Alusi. Both Hamchi and Eihab appear in this early post.
My time with those people were some of the best I have ever had in my life, I never felt strange or detached between them, we never discussed religion or politics, it was all regular college topics: girls, girls and girs. On the contrary, they were so easily lovable and very fun-going and hip, you can understand how difficult it is for me to talk about the huge sectarian differences when all my friends are of the opposite sect, of course, I am aware of some limits, most of these people, for religious reasons (including me) would not marry of the opposite sect (in fact, I did want to marry a Shi'i girl in particular just to annoy a sectarian member of my family, but on thinking it through I realized that the sectarian differences are just too great ; maybe if she's secular, and hot), but it is largely for the memory of those people that I do not want Iraq to divided, it is for those people that I feel truly belonging and I do believe a secular government is necessary to strengthen those ties and de-emphasize the hostile history. Looking back, it's hard for me to decide which is real and what to embrace: the violent religious and historical enmity, or the honest transcending feelings of friendship? I guess it's a problem for all multicultural societies.