Freedom Fighters
Grief in Section 60

The Hanging Gardens are described 
as a lavish home of exotic plants 
and animals, waterfalls, and gardens 
hanging from palace terraces, 
however the structure might never 
have actually existed except in 
the mind of Greek poets and 
historians. The Hanging Gardens 
were located on the east bank of 
the River Euphrates, about 50 km 
south of Baghdad, Iraq. 
Later years´ language lessons by Elisabeth Gyllman

A tale of a car mechanic who became a global traveller
The wild figs on the bank of the blue river

Before Iraqui blood colored the river a dark red, the sun was still 
making the river a yellow gold some time before the war and the killings 
started. You would then see wild figtrees clinging to the soil of the 
river banks, a lovely pale green contrasted by the sharp blueish 
sunkissed waters and the brilliant turquoise sky above, such a pretty 
sight was her country.

Leila set about to collect the wild figs and put them carefully one by 
one in a basket she was carrying like a rucksack. 

The immense Euphrates river just below her made small lakes of brackish 
water in areas of lowland and marshes close to the river in which bass 
lived that the people in the area liked to fish. With all the mortars 
and rockets going off around the clock the fish had vanished, fled to 
calmer abodes on earth like did the refugees, Saddam made them a people 
on the run yet he had said he loved them and in the beginning they had 
loved him. 

It was the last weekend before the end of the world and little had Leila 
known. She had taken the bus down to visit her uncle who worked since 
many years with the university of Baghdad and the excursions of the olden 
times constructions at ancient Sippar, nnear the modern city of Yussufiyeh, 
southwest of Baghdad, a half hour´s bus ride away. He and his family had 
a small house on the countryside and Leila often went there to get the 
ample gifts of nature to bring back home to Baghdad. The times were now 
getting so bad they had to guard the crops for thieves plundering hiding
in the night. They took turns sleeping out on the fields with a rifle 
beside them.

Leila filled the basket with the riping wild fruits and sat down in the 
shadow of the trees by the river thinking of nothing, just taking in the 
beauty and thanking God all was calm, trying to relax a few minutes before 
returning to the uncle´s house, load vegetables onto her big basket that 
she carried on her head and trying not to think of the hell in Baghdad, 
where a bomb seemed to go off every other minute. The children were safe 
at home with her mother and father who lived with them and Mohammad in the 
small rundown townhouse beside his garage. At least nobody had started to 
bomb actual housing areas. Yet. 

The bombs and killing usually went off in market places and at bus stops 
where crowds of people gathered, to make most effect of the expensive 
dynamite and explosives. Leila often thought about the dilemma of Allah, 
to rectify the killings in his name by murdering all the innocent people, 
everyday people going about their business, trying to survive in this 
hellfire of lorries loaded with explosives driving into a crowd of people 
waiting for the 8.10 bus at the Central Station in Baghdad. What evil had 
the civilians caused these so called suicide bombers? What paradise would 
a suicide bomber arrive to in the promised life after this and why didn’t 
the mullas themselves offer their precious lives in such a suicide mission, 
why did they always send young men? The soldier who offered his life in this 
way would be met by virgins and he would be offered wine, the scriptures said. 

The fanatics were usually men in their teens and early twenties who thought 
they did a good thing for the warlord dressed like a false mullah, that sent 
them. They were convinced they did service for the beloved prophet and his 
Missiongiver. Great Allah, Father of Mankind. Certainly someone must be 
reading the intentions wrongly of a loving God like Allah. It didn’t make 
sense and her thoughts drifted back into the waters of the Euphrates river. 
She saw the white windfilled sails of many boats out in the middle of the 
wide streams fishing, tho the fish wasn´t there any more. Her uncle had 
told her that people sometimes ate roasted seagulls not to starve. Empty 
fishnets make a man come up with other solutions for protein, lizards taste 
like chicken when spiced with a little pepper, anything that crawls can 
be used to feed a hungry mouth, seaweed make a perfect spinach tho a 
little bitter to the pallate. Leila swallowed and hoped she wouldn´t be 
forced to eat snakes in wont of better aliments. Leila wept for herself, 
for the impossible grief that seized her of missing all relatives, friends 
and neighbours that were already dead and she wept for fear of her family 
and dear ones. Would they survive and what would they survive to? 
A lost world. Her soul screamed for Allah, the One.

Her prayer was intense and full of love.
- There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet. 
She prayed facing Mecca at dawn, noon, midafternoon, at dusk, and after 
dark. She fasted for the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. 
It´s the holy month of fasting commanded by the Koran for all adult Muslims. 
According to the Koran, the fast was established so that believers could become 
more holy. This month was designated because it was the month in which Muhammad 
received his first revelation from God, like did St John in the Christian belief, 
told in the Bible. The fast for Leila began each day at dawn and ended at sunset. 
During the fast, Muslims do not eat, drink or smoke. Every year, during 
the last month of the Islamic calendar, more than one million Muslims make a 
pilgrimage to Mecca. 

Leila would never reach Mecca. All the family´s savings were long gone to 
provide food for them in Baghdad. A bag of rice cost as much as three day´s salary, 
what would become of the world?

Leila had already planned to leave half of the wild figs she had collected at the 
mosque for the poor people. She dried her tears. She must be getting back to her 
uncle´s house, not far from there departed the bus for Baghdad. She would be home 
before dark with her husband Mohammad and the children.

The prophet says all deeds depend on intention and all men are rewarded thereafter.
What intention had a suicide bomber that Leila failed to understand? 

Leila heard herself wisper, - Oh Allah! Free me from sins like you have departed 
east from west. O Allah! Cleanse me from sins like a newly rinsed white linen. 
O Allah! Bathe me free of my sins in water, ice and snow.
Her body and soul were prostrated in worship. The face of Allah is everywhere 
present for the believer.

Excerpt from the novel Later year´s language lessons by Elisabeth Gyllman