Thura’s Diary: My Life in Wartime Iraq, by Thura
al-Windawi; Viking Children’s Books: New York,
“In the middle of the night we were thrown out of our beds by some massive explosions,” described Thura in her diary. Thura al-Windawi was nineteen years old when the war in Iraq began. That was also the time when she started a diary, which was later published into a book. In the process it was translated into English by Robin Bray.
As I read her diary, I was surprised by how similar Thura’s life in Iraq is to my life in America. We both watch television and use the computer, we both are in school, and we both have a passion for writing. At nineteen, Thura is the eldest of three girls. Although I only have one sibling, at thirteen I’m also the oldest child in my family. Our parents are similar in many ways too. Like my parents, Thura’s mother and father are well educated and value education for their children.
Although we have commonalities, we have differences, too. When Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, Thura didn’t have access to a large range of media, while I have an abundance to choose from: television, the Internet, books, magazines, and newspapers. As an American, I am allowed more freedom than Thura was allowed in Iraq. Thura states in her diary that “men are in charge of everything,” whereas in the United States women have much more freedom of choice and movement. A personal difference between Thura and me is that she has experienced war, even though she is not a soldier, whereas I have never stepped on a battlefield, not even as a spectator.
Since the start of the war with Iraq, my life has changed in some ways. My parents’ obsession with following wartime events drove, and still drives, me crazy. I could never get away from it, not even during a meal, but since the war, Thura’s life has changed so much more drastically that my disruptions pale in comparison. After the war began, she wasn’t able to go to college. Her father couldn’t work anymore. It was difficult to get food for her and her family and insulin for her diabetic sister, Aula. It even became hard to breathe due to oil fires and smog. The chaos of the war also allowed religious men to force their beliefs on the women of Baghdad, requiring them to wear the headscarf or fear being kidnapped. Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, women could choose to wear a headscarf or not. It was unbelievably tough to live in the wartime conditions.
As I read, I wondered how Thura, as an Iraqi teenager, felt about the American invasion. Thura doesn’t care for either side of the war. Like me, she dislikes the fact that the Americans and the Iraqis won’t talk about their problems peacefully. She hates it that men have to go to war and leave their wives and children. She also expresses her distress about men dying in the war and her concern that the women left behind won’t know how to take care of themselves. She does not call Baghdad “liberated,” as President Bush has said time after time. Rather, she calls Baghdad an “American colony.” What I believed to be ironic is that Thura described the Iraqi people’s vision of Saddam as a lion, but in my view Thura has the courage and the heart of a lion for being strong for her family and not hating all Americans for what has happened to her country.