Samir came into my hotel room shaken this morning. He was caught up in another bout of road rage, Baghdad style. Despite the new Iraqi Government taking control on the 1st July things are still relatively lawless here. A driver was arguing with another driver both pointing a gun at each other. Samir’s car was sandwiched in, he couldn’t move. The police arrive grab the man’s hand and he starts firing.
The daily perils of living in a country where most households have guns. I remember when I first arrived, it seemed crazy. But now having lived here for over 6 months it makes sense. I would want a gun if I wasn’t living in my well fortified hotel. And when Samir’s neighbour was murdered on her doorstep back in March I took ‘the law’ into my own hands. Fadi, Samir’s 25 year old son had sold the family Kalashnikov thinking things were going to get better. Samir was worried about his son and daughter living in the resistance stronghold neighbourhood with only a hand pistol in the house. So I gave Fadi $120 to buy a Kalashnikov. He got one the very next day. It seemed a sensible thing to do at the time.
But Fadi has temper tantrums. He was involved in a punch up the other week with a driver who cut him up. Thank God he didn’t have his gun with him. There is a hole in the hallway of Samir’s home where he let a round off from the Kalashnikov I bought him. He had been arguing with his sister about the Muslim girl who he hopes to marry. Samir’s family are Christians and he feels it will bring shame on the family if Fadi marries her. He will have to become a Muslim himself in order to marry her. Anyway when the subject was raised, it led to an argument and Fadi grabbed the gun. Samir fought with him trying to pull it off him and a bullets fired into the ceiling. It could have killed either of them. I thought of taking the gun back but then thought about the risks they are living under in this part of Baghdad. In the end I decided to leave him with it hoping that he can marry his Muslim girl without the loss of any life.
I came back to my hotel to find the guard standing proud with a golden plated Kalashnikov. It looked like something out of James Bond. “Where did you get that ?” I asked. “$300 on the street.. it is beautiful isn’t it?” In a funny sort of way it was.