Dr Ula Merie is a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Babylon, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Architecture, Iraq, originally from Baghdad. Sectarian violence in Baghdad between the years of 2006 and 2007 tore part of Ula’s house to pieces displacing her and her family multiple times into different neighbourhoods across and over the river Tigris as well as national and international borders. Ula took refuge in safe places varying between the comfort of her parents’ bedroom to a rented property across the other side of the city to her area in Dora, to water tanks on the roof tops of houses, escaping sectarian violence, specifically threats and attacks against women.
After that missile destroyed part of our house, we had to leave. At that time, the Sunni areas were being attacked by different groups. We ended up in a rented house in Felisteen Street, with my uncle who at the time had received death threats for being an academic professor in the university. This is where I finished my last year studying at the University of Baghdad, Department of Architecture. The journey to the university was always traumatizing, you see so many young bodies and corpses on the streets.
On top of that was the mess that mixed families endured. I am from a mixed family. I do not consider myself a Shia or Sunni. I hate this division. I consider myself a Muslim. My father is from a Shia family and my mother is Sunni. Most Baghdadi communities are mixed too, for example Felisteen Street that we stayed in was a mixed area. Concrete walls were everywhere around neighbourhoods littered with checkpoints. Inside our house we have water tanks on the flat roof of the house, which is where we thought we, women, could hide to protect ourselves from the rumours that were going on of specifically kidnapping women and girls. The day I finished my last exam, I travelled to Syria where my father came from Amman to pick me up to join the family in Jordan. Before I fled to Syria, I went back once to the house in Dora to pick up a few things, I found it looted, some rugs and clothes were missing and I found a message left for us written in Arabic saying: ‘Sorry we had to take stuff from your house, we will bring them back’. But that was the last time I set foot in that house.