The need for freedom is strong in every man, woman and child. Moreover, it is most strong in people who have none.
Paul Batou, author of My Last Thoughts About Iraq, from Xilbris Corporation (www.paulbatou.com) knows this longing for freedom and has expressed it through his art and poetry. His desire is for the freedom of a gypsy, to express himself fully through the arts, to dance, sing, paint, write and dream.
â€œFreedom became a desire for water and bread to share with the poor and homeless,â€ wrote Batou. â€œFreedom was having a pencil to write, a crayon to color, and a guitar to play.â€
Growing up in a war torn Iraq, Batou longed for the freedom he knew existed. He was witness to the horror and destruction of war, the oppression of his people. He grew up in schools that taught of oppression and war, where fighting was education. The blame, he concluded, was not just with Saddam Hussein; it was with the people for giving him the tools that allowed him to oppress them
â€œFor centuries, we had been trained to follow the orders of so many invaders; we had never been allowed to think for ourselves or to seek an education,â€ wrote Batou. â€œWe were raised to obey the mullah, or for Christians, obey the priest; to love your leader, and respect your superiors. When you believe in sacrifice, you will give anything.â€
Batou dreamed of his native land as a free and beautiful Iraq. His journey brought him to America, where he believed he would finally find the freedom he searched for. What he found, instead, was that his nationality would not allow him to escape. When the statue of Hussein came tumbling down, he thought there would finally be freedom for Iraq, but there was not.
â€œIn reality, thieves landed between two rivers and stole the innocence and dignity of Iraq over and over again,â€ wrote Batou. â€œThey left us with nothing to be proud of and nothing to teach our children.â€
Batou longed for a day when there would be art and music again. After sixteen years in America he is still searching for answers. When will the world see the person and not the nationality?
I am not Assyrian or Chaldean or Akkadian.
I am not a Christian or Muslim or Buddhist.
I am human.
(from the poem â€œIdentityâ€)
The beauty and openness of Batouâ€™s poetry allowed the reader reach into his soul and feel his sorrow. In the poem Minor Dreams, the eloquent simplicity of his statement was heard loud and clear.
I am a kid.
Born in Iraq.
My dreams were minor,
A cup of milk or water to drink,
A crayon to color,
A pencil to write,
A book to read,
A toy to play with,
A friend to talk to,
A pet to love,
A father to listen to,
A mother to hug,
A bed to sleep,
A home to rest,
A light to see with,
A school to study at,
A song to listen to,
A country to grow in.
I am a kid,
Born in Iraq,
My dreams were sanctioned,
Shame on you all.
(from the poem â€œMinor Dreamsâ€)
Batou acknowledged that there is oppression everywhere, not just in Iraq. The solution, he maintained, is education.
â€œIf I were asked what I would tell every parent in the world, I would respond with the urgency of parents to send their children to school and be more involved in their progression,â€ wrote Batou. â€œTeach your children to love music and art, to appreciate great works.â€
About Paul Batou
Paul Batou is a native Iraqi artist. He holds a degree in Pharmacy from the University of Baghdad. During his years in Iraq he was forced to serve in the military as a medic, where he spent time on the front lines of the Iraq-Iran war. In 1989, Batou fled to America with his family. He now resides in Los Angeles and continues to create art and poetry to inspire others.