It was made out of cherry wood. The many years of rocking, dragging, and kicking that it had endured were long gone, though the scratches and the indents were still clearly visible to the naked eye. Those children had become adults, some of them were probably now deceased. That small area in Baghdad had become a representation of poverty. The sole user of the chair was a woman everyone came to call Jadah, meaning “grandmother,” though her given name was Basimah –– which meant “smiling.”
It stood in front of her family’s house. Jadah could often be found sitting in it, slowly rocking back and forth. But she could no longer live up to her birth name. She had not smiled in years. Her eyes, a comforting brown color and framed by sparse but long lashes and wrinkled skin, observed. A woman was weeping for her husband on the second floor of the building. A dog, a dusty brown-grey coat of fur hanging off of a skeleton, limped towards a garbage dump. Lastly, she noticed what was once a cheerful storefront, now closed with most of its items stolen. Jadah Basimah had seen it all happen.
The chair had stains from food and drinks that the children had consumed. Jadah remembered talking to them, though she couldn’t anymore. She had become mute. But, she could still hear. She could still see. Jadah used a notepad and a piece of charcoal from the now-dilapidated store to communicate with her family. Or what was left of it. Jadah’s grandson had been taken by the Shiite. Her son had died from a gunshot wound. Left was her daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
It had a missing arm and the whole structure creaked when Jadah got up slowly to go back into the house. It was dinner time. Her daughter-in-law had set the table with three half-full bowls of rice and a larger bowl with cooked lentils and small pieces of chicken. Jadah flipped to an empty page in her notebook. She scribbled a bit, and presented the picture to her granddaughter. She had drawn a cup of water. Her granddaughter obediently fetched a chipped orange mug from the cupboard and filled it with water taken from a large pail sitting in the coolest corner of the room. She offered it to her grandmother.
It’s soothing mahogany color had gradually faded from constant exposure to the sun.It was the next morning. Jadah sat down in the rocking chair. Her daughter-in-law was getting ready to go to the market. As she left, Jadah waved goodbye with a rough, freckled hand. She was scared for her. It was not safe to leave, yet it was not safe to stay. In fact, it wasn’t safe anywhere. People were being kidnapped and suicide bombings happened regularly. Jadah prayed that it wouldn’t happen today.
It had witnessed birth and death. Jadah had too. One day, she saw a group of suspicious-looking men lurking around the end of the street. She didn’t care. She had nothing to lose. Even if they were Shiite, it didn’t matter. It wasn’t her fault that the ISIS had killed people and taken over the government and. The men left soon enough. Jadah glanced back inside the house. Her granddaughter played with a straw doll that she had made herself and quietly hummed a made up tune. The girl was young, but she understood that she was Sunni and they were Shiite. They were different.
It was breaking. There was an explosion. Jadah saw the charcoal smoke rising in a plume. Men were running, frantically calling out, “Was it a suicide bomber?!” Jadah looked around anxiously. A million thoughts ran through her mind, but she couldn’t say anything. Her granddaughter had stopped playing and was frozen in place. She promptly dropped the doll, ran out the door to the smoke and then towards the market. In all the confusion, Jadah lost her notepad.
This story is based on a recent suicide bombing in a market south of Baghdad. In this particular one carried out by the suspected ISIS, thirteen people were killed and at least 25 were injured.
ISIS –– alternatively known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria –– is a Sunni militant group with a harsh interpretation of Islam and has a large presence in several governments within the area.
Words by Sophia Wu, Image by Buzzfeed, Editing by Jon Bernson and Campbell Gee