City of New Beginnings | Shako Mako

[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?”‬ 

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‘Worse than a jungle’: the cartel controlling Iraqi borders | AFP

[Published here March 29, 2021]

Along Iraq’s borders, a corrupt customs-evasion cartel is diverting billions of dollars away from state coffers to line the pockets of armed groups, political parties and crooked officials.

The prime beneficiaries are Iran-linked Shiite paramilitaries that intimidate federal officials who dare obstruct them, sometimes through chillingly specific death threats, a six-month AFP investigation has found.

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