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Dreaming of Baghdad

Haifa Zangana, Foreword by Hamid Dabashi, Afterword by Ferial J. Ghazoul

Publication Year: 2009

Haifa Zangana was a member of a left-wing group of Iraqis who organized in the 1970s to oppose the Baath Party and its charismatic leader, Saddam Hussein. Zangana was captured, imprisoned, and tortured in Abu Ghraib. In this memoir that describes her arrest, imprisonment and eventual forced exile, she describes life in an Iraq she can never return to, an Iraq that now no longer exists.

Published by: The Feminist Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-1

Haifa Zangana’s Dreaming of Baghdad reads, sounds, and feels like drops of merciful rain. How many more books like this revelatory testimonial will we have, will we need, before the record is set straight—before we know what was...

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pp. 2-6

I wrote this book in tiny installments over eight years, when I had persistent nightmares about my past. I was writing about my life as a radical activist in Iraq in the 1970s. I wrote it at a time when I didn’t want or wasn’t able to deal with...

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pp. 7-16

Dear Haifa,
I arrived in London a month ago. This city is gray, gray. My first observation about the English is that they are trained to look straight ahead; they are so involved in their private lives that they ignore the person next to them. How I wish I could find a haven where I could settle down forever. Sometimes I feel real joy. It is the beginning...

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pp. 17-23

Zino was a long muddy road surrounded by houses built of rock brought from the mountains nearby. In the village there were a number of alleys starting at the muddy road and ending at the foot of the rugged mountains. The main road in the village was narrow, not because of any error in the original plan, but owing to the shopkeepers...

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pp. 24-32

I was twenty years old. I stood in the middle of a room in front of four men. My boxes of books and pamphlets, a huge desk, recording machines, and a sofa were against one of the walls; leftovers of a meal remained on a tray. The man sitting behind the desk did not say much. His name was Nazim Kazar, and he was the head of the Iraqi...

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pp. 33-44

At the airport, I anxiously awaited my father. What a fantastic thing it was to see him after so many years! I imagined him as I had left him in Baghdad: angry, threatening, and promising that everything would change within a few months. After years of waiting, he had come to visit me. But when he approached me, he cried bitterly. He...

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pp. 45-53

His life was short but rich, crammed with events. He was arrested at the age of seventeen, released five years later, and executed when he was twenty-four.
At the foot of the mountains, the bushes burn and the vines trod. Herbs are burning, villages are burning, huts of leaves and branches are burning.
Young men take refuge in caves. After the danger has passed, I hear his laughter. Has he ever stopped laughing?...

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pp. 54-74

You stand here and I’ll guard the other side of the base.”
When she heard his voice, invested with such authority, she almost saluted him, saying, “Yes, sir!”
Do particles of darkness add extra dimension to the human voice?
In the distance she saw faint light emitted by small windows. She saw a ghost move. Who would like to walk alone on a night like this? Although...

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Big Brother

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pp. 75-83

I’ll tell on you if you don’t stop doing that. Stop it! Or I’ll tell mother!”
The more she ignored him, the louder he became. He was screaming now, as if to prove that he was really bigger and stronger.
“I said stay where you are! Stop running! Aren’t you afraid I will tell Mother? Fine, I will tell Father then!” She ran ahead of him, ignoring his shouts...

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Another Shore

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pp. 84-87

Like a child, my mother hated darkness. She would switch on all the lights in the house to make sure everyone was all right.
One day, she told me, “When I die, put lights around my grave.”
That little woman with big black eyes, full lips, and a round face, that woman who hated walking the streets alone, hated shopping alone...

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pp. 88-92

We sat around the sole paraffin heater— circle after circle of women forced to live together. Circle after circle of flaccid bodies and wrinkled skin. Circle after circle of unbearable silence. Our features were empty, our eyes focused on nothing. Sometimes I would see others lying awake at night as if hanging on to the days gone by. Farewell, past life. Farewell, children. Farewell...

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Back to Nawchilican

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pp. 93-94

In a small village, in a small house at the foot of a green mountain, in a hut on the edge of a spring, in a room that functioned as a library, there lived for many years a group of dreaming fighters, traitors, and a few killers. Most of them are now dead. Their names are unforgettable: Abu Samira, Abu Jaffar, his wife and children, Falih...

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Qasr al-Nihaya

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pp. 95-101

They are waiting for you,” Al-Alwaya, the female guard said.
The place was unusually silent. The prisoners did not wave good-bye because they did not guess what was going to happen to me. If the authorities were going to release me, as they said they would, why did they send three armed men to accompany...

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Heart, What Have You Seen?

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pp. 102-125

Abu Ghraib, August 20
Pointing to the last cell at the end of the corridor, the guard said in a loud voice, “There is barely any room left for more prisoners. You must stay with Um Wahid, Um Jassim, and Um Ali.”
Slowly I followed the big woman’s steps. She was in her forties. Her hair was jet black and her body a huge mass of fat that vibrated with every...

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Ordinary Dreams

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pp. 126-138

Each night, after her hot bath, she throws her body on the bed and waits patiently for sleep. Following a long, exhausting day, her body has very simple demands: to be embraced by the coma of warm sleep, to be visited by dreams. Still, her mind is alert. She files the day’s events in the cabinets of her memory. Each cabinet sits on a shelf. The...

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pp. 139-150

It was twenty minutes past eight in the morning. She wore her green coat and scarf. She pulled her collar up and made sure her gloves were in her pocket before locking the door quietly, trying not to disturb her neighbor or her boyfriend, who was in the next room. She walked on tiptoes. Three stairs . . . two . . . then the landing, followed by nine...

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pp. 151-156

During a visit to Tunis in 1999, a friend offered me a set of old issues of Al-Thawra, the Iraqi national newspaper. I eagerly leafed through them, as I had had no access to the newspaper since the UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990. At the bottom of the local news page, within a missing persons ad, I read: “On May 1, 1998, a young...

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pp. 157-168

Haifa Zangana’s exquisite text, Fi Arwiqat Al- Dhakira (In the Halls of Memory), is beautifully translated from Arabic and rendered as Dreaming of Baghdad in this new English-language edition. It is a work about memory and dreaming as much as it is a record of the horrendous experience of incarceration...


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p. 169-169

Publisher Information

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E-ISBN-13: 9781558616516
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558616059

Page Count: 182
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Zangana, Haifa, 1950-.
  • Baghdad (Iraq).
  • Iraq -- History -- 1958-.
  • Women -- Iraq.
  • Torture victims -- Iraq.
  • Women political prisoners -- Iraq.
  • Political activists -- Iraq.
  • Authors, Iraqi -- Biography.
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