Just came back from an after work drinks with some colleagues. During the night, I somehow got stucked into talking with Zorav, our newly arrived research fellow from Kurdistan, the autonomous region in northern Iraq.
Zorav is a medical doctor sent to our lab by the Kurdish autonomous government to specialize in our research field. He told me he was born on the exact date the Iraqi army invaded Iran in 1980. And so his grandmother would jestingly tell him that since he was born, Iraq had been waging numerous wars. Indeed, he could count in one hand the number of years his country was in a state of peace.
The Iran-Iraq war lasted until 1988 and he remembered very well as a young boy being directed to run down the bunkers at the first sound of the air raid sirens. I asked him quite stupidly if he remembered being scared. Surprisingly he told me that all the kids his age somehow got used to all the bombings and that everything sort of became routine for them. He said the bombs would come and the planes would go and if one felt that the blast was just nearby then it would be safe to get out of the bunker. According to him, bombs are like lightning. They just never (or at least statistically improbable to) fall on the same place.
The allied invasion happened towards the end of his medical studies. Not yet a full-pledged medical doctor, he had to act like one in many emergency rooms anyway. Dealing with children in pain was the worst part of the job, he said. And it is not the physical pain but more of the emotional distress one sees in toddlers who had lost their loved ones. Zorav asked me, “How would you console a three year old boy grieving over the dead bodies of both his parents?”
Throughout the night, I was having a hard time making eye contact with Zorav. I was afraid I won’t stand the pain and suffering he had seen first hand. Or maybe I was simply afraid I won’t stand the welling up of guilt of having taken things for granted as I grew up in relative peace and comfort.