21 January 2006

Goodbye Blue Sky

While all hope and pray for the fate of Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter abducted in Iraq, here is a profile of her Iraqi interpreter who was killed.
Everyone knew him as simply 'Alan', or "Elin" as it is pronounced in Iraqi Arabic. Prior to the war, he owned a music shop in the best area in Baghdad, A'arasat. He sold some Arabic music and instrumental music, but he had his regular customers - those westernized Iraqis who craved foreign music. For those of us who listened to rock, adult alternative, jazz, etc. he had very few rivals.

We went to Alan not just to buy music. It always turned into a social visit. He'd make you sit down, listen to his latest favorite CD and drink something. Then he'd tell you the latest gossip- he knew it all. He knew where all the parties were, who the best DJs were and who was getting married or divorced. He knew the local gossip and the international gossip, but it was never malicious with Alan. It was always the funny sort.

The most important thing about Alan was that he never let you down. Never. Whatever it was that you wanted, he'd try his hardest to get it. If you became his friend, that didn't just include music- he was ready to lend a helping hand to those in need, whether it was just to give advice, or listen after a complicated, difficult week.

After the war, the area he had his shop in deteriorated. There were car bombs and shootings and the Badir people took over some of the houses there. People went to A'arasat less and less because it was too dangerous. His shop was closed up more than it was open. He shut it up permanently after getting death threats and a hand grenade through his shop window. His car was carjacked at some point and he was shot at so he started driving around in his fathers beaten-up old Toyota Cressida with a picture of Sistani on his back window, "To ward off the fanatics..." He winked and grinned.


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