Creating domestic spaces of refuge – map 9

This piece is a joint autoethnographic map of the seemingly fleeting yet deeply traumatic few months that followed the night Baghdad was struck in March 2003. Sana and Farah lived in Baghdad within two kilometres of each other, their friendship was strengthened by a shared fear of violence in addition to their family ties. They were both recent university graduates, Sana having just completed her Masters a week before the invasion of Iraq, while Dr Farah Murrani had recently graduated from Baghdad University Veterinary School. Their map traverses material and the spatial quests in seeking refuge, from the makeshift corner in Sana’s house nearby the built-in cupboard in the living room, to Farah’s dining room table that was large enough to have Sana’s family of four nest underneath it, to the old blanket that took on so many different functions: memory of childhood; warmth; intercepting shattered glass from reaching one’s body; and a hiding place found in the seam of the blanket where money was kept safe as Sana fled the country a few months later; and finally, to Farah’s major contribution to her field, veterinary medicine, in finding refuge for all the animals in Baghdad Zoo just before leaving Iraq a few months after Sana’s departure.

Neither have since been back to Iraq, Farah comments:

Years later when I saw on television what was happening on the streets of Baghdad when the sectarian violence kicked in, my heart broke, because I knew that once upon a time none of this mattered to Iraqis. It was that same neighbourhood that stuck together, Sunni, Shia, Christians and so on.

I do not associate home with Baghdad. It is a place that I love but it is not home anymore. I do not have anything that ties me to it anymore, the people have changed, the way of life has changed, I do not recognize it anymore, I do not know it.

South Africa became home just by default, that was my first place of refuge after leaving Baghdad that I felt a sense of home in.