[Published here on December 28, 2021]
The decline had been steep and painful already. By the time Lebanon entered 2021, thousands had already lost their jobs, around half the population had been plunged into poverty, and the explosion at the Beirut port the previous year had stolen lives, limbs, and homes.
But this year, Lebanon simply began to come apart at the seams.
“Three weeks on, I am still filled with rage. But when it roils near the surface, its bubbles pop pathetically, hissing: ‘Nothing will change.’
[Published here June 1, 2021]
“Money makes the world go round” is a well-known saying. In Iraq, however, it is “dirty money”. Even after more than a year living in Baghdad, I still got surprised by how much of public life in the war-weary country relied on the circulation of illicit funds – and how formalised this corruption had become.
[Published here May 2, 2021]
I still remember the day we met, Baghdad and me.
It was the first day of November when I cut through a sky of easy, gentle blue to touch down at her airport. I was surprisingly calm about being introduced, despite her intimidating reputation as dangerous, scarred, broken. She’s seen a lot of ugly shit in her long, long life, everyone reminded me, and it shows. They continued: You’re making yourself miserable. You’re making your parents miserable. As my move approached, my coiffed aunts only grew more incredulous. “Baghdad?” they squealed, clutching their pearls. “But why?”
[Published here July 16, 2019]
Her dark hair was pulled back by a white scrunchie and she had chipped pink polish on her nails. Like any teenager, I thought. But the words she spoke were as far from a carefree teenagedom as you could get.
[Published on AFP’s Correspondent Blog on May 24, 2019]
Mosul — “There are families living in this alleyway.” The Arabic words were hand-painted in red, black, and blue on a tattered canvas, pinned up where a small side street led off a main thoroughfare in Iraq’s Mosul. The alleyway looked anything but livable — bullet holes and craters from mortar rounds still scarred the walls around it nearly two years after the fighting had stopped, and sewage water gurgled down the cracked pavement. The banner, my AFP colleagues said, was hung to alert passing aid groups to needy residents eking out a living, unseen, in the battered labyrinth of west Mosul.
“She died and she took her secret with her. Her secret was making every person she met feel like she liked them the most out of everyone.”
My grandmother, Yvette Daher Ghazi — Titou — passed away just shy of two weeks ago. Since then, I have been thinking about how to best compose a tribute that would at once make her smile, ring true to those who knew her, and demonstrate to those who didn’t just how profoundly she touched the lives of everyone around her. I think the short quote above from her brother on the day of the funeral is a good start — the rest will be a mix of memories, details about her, and things I continue to learn even after her death.