Iraq: "They Had Your Choice!"

by Beth Pyles

Standing in a room in the Textile Museum filled with the tapestries of woven woolen blankets, my Kurdish friend walks to a corner facing away from us.  Her shoulders shake with quiet sobs.  I hesitate for a moment and then go to her, and we embrace.  "Your grandmother?" I ask.  She nods. 

My friend's grandmother was imprisoned by Saddam and died in prison.  The family had to flee for their lives into Iran after the men ran to the mountains. 

There, in the museum, my friend saw for the first time in years the beauty and peaceful life of her grandparents, an existence shattered by the vagaries of so much violence. 

She can't weave much herself; there is no one to teach her the old ways.  But the memories live on.  We drive home and she challenges me: "What choice did they have?"

My friend, who has been on the receiving end of so much violence, who has lived a childhood full of loss - the loss of a baby doll abandoned when they had to flee; the loss of her beloved grandmother; the loss of her father into the mountains; the loss of a home; the loss of her mother's beautiful clothes - everything we saw in the museum reminded her of something she lost. 

But she, this beautiful friend, chooses not to kill or to hate, not to seek revenge, but to forgive.  When she asks me, "What choice did they have?" I think but do not say aloud, "They had your choice."