ISIS recruiter quickly ended our conversation when I asked to meet face-to-face. This was something I appreciated. I would rather have my rejection than the option of being graciously invited for my own beheading celebration.
You get funny looks from people at home when you tell them you’re going to Iraq. They would be open to hearing anything you wanted and they would likely give you some understanding. But tell them you’re going on an adventure in a shithole country (a technical term as you’ll soon discover when squatting for relief) and most people look at you concerned, bewildered, even angry – like you should be stopped. Even a friend from Afghanistan condemned me for my mentality.
“What we would say about you, in our language, is that ‘You have an itchy asshole.’”
“Because ‘You’re looking to get f—ed.’”
This friend is not completely wrong. I certainly have an itch, although I’m not too sure it’s specifically anatomical. It’s something else “inside” that needs scratching.
I met Ali inside his antique store near Al-Shorja in Baghdad, the city’s oldest market and one of the many I visited, while searching for a wristwatch featuring the face of Saddam…