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Author: Manal M. Omar
Giving both an insider’s and an outsider’s view of the unfolding drama of Iraq, the memoir should prove worthwhile reading for anyone who has a keen interest in developments in the Middle East
Author: Manal M. Omar
Despite her family’s opposition to Omar’s assuming the position of country director in Iraq with Women for Women International, a group that helped female survivors of war to rebuild their lives, she quickly took up the reins of such a position, proving her worth in her many encounters with those women whom she helped free from a life of degradation and fear. The dichotomy of her status, as both Arab and American, born in Saudi Arabia to Palestinian parents and raised in the American South, as a Muslim and a woman, she was in an ideal position to negotiate the hazardous and diverse microcosm of Iraq, still trying to recover from the ravages of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime. In this moving memoir, she describes how she was among the first international aid workers to arrive in Baghdad in 2003. Barefoot in Baghdad tells of the two years that she spent working with Iraqi women as they struggled to create a new nation and a new identity for themselves.
Omar describes her daily battle to overcome prejudices in the society, which were present in many forms. She not only had to suppress her own misgivings about having to work sometimes in close conjunction with the US-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority, but also to persuade her Iraqi colleagues of the integrity of her intent. She asks a telling question at the outset of the memoir: “Who was better equipped to adapt within a country experiencing a period of tumultuous change than someone who had been raised with an ever-shifting identity?”
The redemptive nature of this tale, both on a personal and broader societal front, conveys a central message of hope overcoming what might so easily have been a position of despair. The uplifting and youthful approach which Omar takes to her subject matter is as captivating in the fluency and ease of her writing as it is in the way in which she is able to navigate her position among the many diverse segments of Iraqi society. No matter whether you view the US occupation of Iraq as unwarranted or as totally justifiable in terms of their acting as a liberation force, Barefoot in Baghdad should be of interest to you. Giving both an insider’s and an outsider’s view of the unfolding drama of Iraq, the memoir should prove worthwhile reading for anyone who has a keen interest in developments in the Middle East.
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