Friday, 28 October 2011
Imagine not being allowed to attend school with the other children in your neighborhood because of what your ID card says. Imagine being told that your rent is going to go up simply because of who you are. Imagine losing your job when your employer finds out that you're one of "those people."
As explained in an earlier post, I've appropriated the word "nigger"--no longer allowed to be used by outsiders to describe those of a particular race--for a new use, one for which no suitable word previously existed (one of the many ways languages evolve). A "nigger" is anyone who is discriminated against because he belongs to a suppressed class. Crucial to this discrimination is being able to identify "niggers." In Iraq, it's a matter of which word one has on his ID card under the heading "Religion."
Iraqi society is strictly segregated by race and religion. Until recently, the two were one and the same. Assyrians were Orthodox; Chaldeans were Catholic; Armenians were Apostolic; and other than a smattering of Zoroastrians and Yezidis, everyone else was Muslim. Much as the two groups were at each other's throats, no distinction was made between Shia and Sunni; both classes enjoyed, at least in name, the full benefits of citizenship. For the others, a certain level of second-class citizenship was readily available, and as long as one did not aspire to anything higher than two stars in the military or a cabinet level position in the government, he was free to advance as long as he kept to his proper place.
But, ah. The 'uppity' Muslim who tries to become a Christian! Instant niggerhood.