by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in Baghdad
Friday March 21 2008
Rabi’a is one of two million Iraqis who have ended up in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon in the hope of making a better life
Rabi’a, an Iraqi refugee, is cooking in the narrow, filthy corridor that doubles as a makeshift kitchen in his tiny apartment in eastern Beirut. There is a gas burner, a sink, a cupboard and a small plastic bucket overflowing with garbage and potato peelings. At one end of the room a door leads to a reeking toilet. The heavy smell of urine mixes with that of the months-old oil he is pushing round the frying pan.
“I fry the best tomatoes in the world, the most delicious dish,” he tells me. “You must have some with us.”
In Iraq they used to call this dish the “dinner of the sanctions”, after the decade-long economic blockade imposed on the country in the 1990s.
The threats soon turned into violence. Rabi’a’s uncle was as a policeman, which made him a double target. He was beheaded, and a note was pinned to his chest claiming responsibility by al-Qaida in Iraq. He and his uncle had been like friends, he said. When he had joined the police he had just been happy to get a job and salary.
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