“The circumstances in our country are very difficult; this difficulty comes from the Americans invading my country because everything was destroyed after the invasion. Contrary to what America said (that they came to give peace and freedom a better chance and to improve living conditions), the militia increased in our country. One of the militia is called Al-Qaeda. In agreement with men from the old government, the Ba’athist party, al-Qaeda threatened my father to kill him, after killing his friend Muayad Sami,” translates Iba.
“When did America invade Iraq?” I ask.
“America invaded Iraq in 2003,” answers Iba.
“Who was Muayad?” I ask.
“Muayad was the head of a newspaper called Parliament and my father was the second in the newspaper,” explains Iba.
I ask for the date of Muayad’s death. Iba and his parents find it hard to give me an exact date, but tell me that it was in 2005.
Lamia continues in Arabic where Sabah had left off.
“My mum says, my younger sister, Ranin, was threatened not to go to the chess club anymore and as my father said, my family in general was under threat of being killed,” said Iba.
The interview settles into a rhythm, with Iba translating for his father, Sabah, the playwright, and his mother, Lamia, the actress. Sabah describes the family’s journey from Iraq to Australia using world events as reference points, while Lamia puts me right in the scene, sometimes with a single word. When she recalls the terrible house in Jordan where they lived for a year, she raises her hands in despair, scrunches up her face in disgust, and laments in English: “Rats!” And I can almost see the rats scurrying by their feet.
When I leave 90 minutes later, I know that there is much more to discover, and make a date and time to return.