Writing In Public celebrates the art and intelligence of essays, online and in print.

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I can’t go back to school after what happened to me

I can’t go back to school after what happened to me

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Rhiannon Adam @ Deep Sleep

Nir Rosen on Iraq's lost generation @ Boston Review.
I met eighteen-year-old Mu’min in the Baja Café, my evening hangout in Baghdad’s Mansur district this past summer. It was an inconspicuous place to arrange interviews, send emails, and drink melon smoothies. Men played billiards, dominoes, and backgammon, and downed fruit juices and ice cream. Mu’min was there almost every night, a thin, handsome kid, street-smart and hardened, but still open to talking with me. I had spent time in his neighborhood while reporting on the war for the past seven years, and we chatted about dead militia leaders and American soldiers we both knew.

When the Americans invaded in 2003, Mu’min was eleven years old, living in West Baghdad’s majority-Sunni neighborhood of Amriya. His father was a retired police officer. Their life before the war had been good, he recalled.

On one of those early days of the war, Mu’min and his father drove to the airport to take food to his uncle, a soldier in the Republican Guard. They found him shot to death. It was the first time Mu’min ever saw a dead body. Later that year Mu’min’s father was out driving, moonlighting as a taxi driver. A bomb targeting Americans exploded, and American soldiers arrested all the men in the area. Mu’min’s family could not find his father. They held a funeral for him one year later. On the third and last day of the fatiha, as the funeral was called, a man who had seen Mu’min’s father in prison told the family that he was alive.
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