by Layla Anwar
"It took 3 days for the image of little St Rita to fade in my mind. Little St Rita, deformed and blind, lost in a hospital-toilet, bumping into broken chairs and beds without sheets, with her name around her neck like a dog collar... Three days, and I'm wondering just how long the following image will take.
"Yet I know the little saints will never leave my mind, will forever remain a torch of truth, burning bright with the flames of Truth...
"Some brave American boys - killers, rapists, and torturers, stinking of greed and hatred - crossed the oceans and bombed a lone mudbrick house standing in a field on the outskirts of Baquba. Sunni insurgents, they said.
"Then they encircled it, taking away a mother and father, never to be seen again.
"The house collapsed, all except one room. After a while, when things had calmed down, a distant neighbour passed by the field and entered the house. He didn't know why. He just assumed everyone was already dead.
"He still recounts with tears what he saw. In that one, small room, he saw four children, abandoned, emaciated. Three boys and a girl. The eldest boy was 11, the second 7, the third, a 4-year old girl, and the fourth, an infant boy in a crib.
"No neighbour could take all the chidren in. Diyala province had witnessed many massacres and refugees, and the poverty there is staggering. The neighbours decided to repair the one remaining room, collectively provide food and water, and take turns guarding the children until a 'solution' could be found.
"Some time passed and an elderly man arrived, claiming to be a distant relative of the family. No one could ascertain the truth of the claim since the children themselves did not know the man. But he looked to be of 'good faith' so the people gave him the benefit of the doubt.
"More time passed, and one day the neighbour who had found the children decided to pay a visit. The children and the elderly man had disappeared. No one knew where.
"More time elapsed, and the neighbour spotted the elderly man and the 3 boys. He asked what had happened to the 4-year old girl. I'll call her X, little St X.
"The oldest boy, the 11-year old, smiling happily, said, Uncle married her off, not knowing what this meant.
"It turned out that this 'uncle', the so-called distant relative, sold little St X to a matron who runs an overseas brothel. She buys little Iraqi saints and, after a period of 'training', sells them as sex slaves to the highest overseas bidder.
"I don't want to know what the 'training' of a 4-year old saint consists of - I don't even want to imagine it.
"But at night, as I lay down, it creeps into my mind, in between my futile attempts at feigning sleep, through the cracks of a bedroom immersed in darkness. I fight it off by imagining myself singing sweet lullabies to a sleeping girl, or reading her a bedtime story about a beautiful princess safely tucked in bed in shiny, marble castle. But it stays, persists, a torch burning with your Truth...
"NB: A reminder: official Iraqi government figures confirm the number of little orphaned saints at 5 million since 2003, and the number of little street saints in Baghdad alone at 500,000. The little saints of the 'new' Iraq." (arabwomanblues.blogspot.com, 30/5/11)