Filmmaker Tania Rahkmanova writes on location in Syria during the filming of Iraqi Exodus.
June 12, 2008: Yesterday I met an Iraqi journalist named Fadhle. He is currently a refugee living in France but was visiting Syria. Fadhle was a very famous journalist in one of the main Iraqi newspapers. I won’t be using him for Iraqi Exodus, but I’d like to share his story here.
He was threatened by Mehdi army and several members of his family were killed. While he received political asylum in France, his family did not. The family has not seen each other in three years.
Fadhle’s wife and son remained in Baghdad because they couldn’t afford to leave — even to go to Syria. Fadhle had just enough money to fly to Damascus and bring his family from Baghdad. Here, they have enough money to live together for a month.
At the end of June, he will return to France and his family will go back to Baghdad, where they live in one of the most dangerous parts of the city. We met in one of Damascus’ new chic cafes. He came with his son.
“Sorry, to bring my boy,” Fadhle said. “When I told him on the phone that we’ll meet in Syria, he didn’t believe me. He though we would never see each other again. And now he all he want is to be with me, all the time.”
“No problem,” I said and smiled at the boy.
“Do you have brothers and sisters?” I asked.
The boy looked at me and there was something so sad in his big green eyes.
“Well, yes, I had another son and a daughter,” the father said as he took the son’s hand. “They were killed by militia at our home in front of my wife and my son.”
God, I tried to change the subject and told the boy that I also lived in France and he looked at me straight in the eyes.
“Will we go to France with papa?”
What could I say?
“Yes, you will go to France, I hope you will, but not now, maybe in three months, maybe in six or in a year.”
…But not this time, this time you have to go back to Iraq.
Tania Rahkmanova has made dozens of documentary films on historical and political themes. Iraqi Exodus is her second WIDE ANGLE film — the first was the award-winning Greetings from Grozny. She holds a Ph.D. in applied statistics and has worked as a print and documentary journalist.