Paul Batou demands Audience and Respect for Iraq

full.jpgPaul Batou demands Audience and Respect for Iraq
“My Last Thoughts about Iraq”
By Helen Talia, Chicago
A colorful book about Iraq‘s history and legends, people and traditions, religions and famous sites, war and disaster.

While a pharmacy student at the University of Baghdad, Paul Batou and his buddies did not know that war awaited them at the turn of the corner, bringing uncertainties to their lives and thwarting their dreams. Suddenly, instead of attending lectures, they quickly learned how to sleep on an empty stomach, survive sanctions, and dodge bullets.

Paul gives an Olympian performance in this artistic reference manual addressing Iraq in three fundamental sections: the history and loss of an ancient civilization ~ Mesopotamia, the betrayal of Iraq’s indigenous people ~ the Assyrians, and the tragedies of war. The book is masterfully woven to take the reader on a journey into Iraq’s history, through the Gates of Ishtar, and the unprecedented aftermath of not one, two, or even three wars that have gripped Iraq into the 21st century and left its people defenseless and globally scattered.full2.jpg

In “My Last Thoughts about Iraq,” Paul Batou, now a native of California, constructs a poetic timeline of Iraq with himself in the middle of its early Paleolithic period, ancient civilizations ~ Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, and Assyria, the Greek, Persian, and Mongol invasions, the Arab conquests, the Ottoman period, World War I and the British mandate, World War II and the monarchy, the new republic, President Saddam Hussein, the Iraq-Iran war, the first Gulf war and weapons inspections, coalition troops, and even the Iraqi death.

A Village Called Tin
“Did you know,
The People in my village do not know how to write their names…
They are farmers,
In a tiny village called Tin,
Embraced by the valley called Supna…”

Like a fetus that is being nurtured in her mother’s womb for nine months, Paul often speaks about the smallness and uniqueness of his tiny village that beams with pride in Northwest Iraq, until finally at her birth he reveals her name “Tin” to his audience. But his beautiful virgin would not go untouched as the survival of the fittest and the downsizing of Assyrian villages at the hands of Kurds took their toll in Iraq in the 1960’s.

Likewise, from the very beginning, you can tell that Paul is a guy who’s fallen head over heels in love with Ishtar who accompanies him throughout the book, including the cover page. She alone understands the history of Iraq and the secrets to love.

Prelude to Baghdad
In a collection of poems inspired by his art, Paul takes a flashlight and digs in the smallest and darkest places tucked in Iraqis’ spirit. From the curse of Babylon to a hungry child in the streets of Baghdad, he dares to go places that otherwise would best remain untouched.

In Iraq, school bells have been replaced with the sounds of sirens, mosque recitals and church hymns. Music has been fine-tuned to accompany mothers wailing at the site of their defenseless soldiers’ caskets being carried to their doorsteps, killed in wars that gave birth to martyrdom. And to the wake of bombs in the morning, children will live in fear and learn to hate.

Yes, in Iraq there seems to be a dark past that lingers in its people. In Iraq there are prostitutes and hunger. In Iraq girls have been raped, and suicide has become an alternative to communication. But in Iraq there is “A Memory of Time and Place*” in Al Tahreer Plaza, Abu Nuwas, Saddon Street, Tel Mohammad, Baghdad Jadida, Ghadeer, Bataween, Karada, Zaiyouna, Shanashil, the sounds of Youssif Omar, the treasures of Badr, the birthplace of Jawaheree, and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Who can forget the mid-day naps during Baghdad’s sizzling summers, and the afternoon tea time that brought neighborhoods together. In and of itself it is an art being an Iraqi, knowing that the Tigris River divides Baghdad into two regions Karkh and Al Rasafah, and conjuring in pride that Nineveh is still the capital of Mosul.

The Author on Iraqis
“My goal has always been to change others by using figures of connectivity. Despite the Iraqis having different religious beliefs, like the great Iraqi poet Badr who wrote about Jesus Christ many times and loved to be a Christian, Jawad Saleem the painter and sculptor who dreamed about absolute freedom, and Ali who lost his arms and legs in the war, I always want the Iraqis to see the beauty within and use it to love each other. So when it comes to humanity, I speak for all, but the center of my pain is I lost Mesopotamia and I want her back. I want to build a powerful human, and then that powerful human will build a free Iraq.”

“My Last Thoughts about Iraq” is a personal invitation by the author into the Iraqiness of Iraq. Paul Batou is superb in recognizing Iraq during its hype, while keeping integrity intact throughout this tiny 76-page book, filled with memoirs of Iraq. A unique literature with attention to the smallest of details, Paul delivers a striking message that speaks on behalf of every Iraqi child whose dreams have been sanctioned. He demands audience and respect for Iraq and offers solution to build awareness through education.

Final Thoughts
Today, the country whose hands have cradled civilizations, and whose Hammurabi laws have been indoctrinated into modern judicial systems struggles to find its own peace. Even in Jawad Saleem’s “Nesbit al Hurreya” (Freedom, Arabic) relief, the Iraqis did not find freedom. * Finally, if Iraq could speak, it would say: “I just want to be left alone.”

Title: “My Last Thoughts about Iraq”
Author: Paul Batou
Publisher: Xlibris Corporation
Year: 2007