Monday, June 19, 2006

In Iraq, a Father's Duties Weigh Heavily

"If there is any danger, I am the first to stand in the face of that danger and keep him home with me," he said. "You cannot hope for the police because sometimes they are the ones committing crimes."

His son Omar, 26, has not left the house in months, since word began to circulate that Shiite Muslim militia members, some believed to be police officers, were targeting men with his name, a common one for Sunnis. His daughter moved to Amman, Jordan, after her brother-in-law was kidnapped and the family had to pay a $30,000 ransom.

As bombings became more prevalent in his neighborhood in recent months, Abu Omar convened 10 fathers and formed a mutual-protection pact. If anyone's home was attacked, they agreed, all would come to its defense. He has since started keeping an AK-47 assault rifle by his bed while he sleeps.

"The system works. A couple of weeks ago, someone knocked on my door after midnight. I shouted, 'Who's there?' I heard a woman's voice shout back, but I was sure it was not a woman," he said. Abu Omar called a neighbor for help. The neighbor climbed on his roof for a better view and saw a bearded man dressed in a traditional woman's robe and head scarf, while another man waited in a nearby car. After a few warning shots, the men fled.

The Iraqi version of a Neighborhood watch. It is the only thing that will help them if they can come together to form a "nation watch".

In Iraq, a Father's Duties Weigh Heavily

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