January 25 marks 12 years since I left my beloved country, Iraq. The day I left I didn't know that over a decade later I would still be abroad, forever a foreigner.
I had a dream that things would get better, that I could go back and live there. That I could walk around freely in a stable country. None of us foresaw the horrors that awaited all, especially the ones who stayed.
When we left we had learned hours before that my uncle's best friend, Nader (which translates as unique) had been shot. Later we found out that the murderer didn't spare one of his children, a young daughter, her life.
He was one of the nicest people you could ever meet. He worked for a government that the Baathists didn't approve of.
Rapidly we started to hear more and more people were dying, their bodies so many that they filled the streets, so many that they started using cranes to move them. Life slipped away from those who watched and us, the ones who "ran" away, hid our faces in shame and shock. We were the ones that were to be forever cursed with survivors' guilt.
One year after we left, the death toll rose to about 60 deaths a day. We reached cynicism, we stopped counting and gave up hope.
Twelve years later and the UN reports show not much has changed, that 7000 had their lives taken away from them last year.
Years and years of death and war meant that the most popular game Iraqi children play is one where they carry one of their friends, who pretends to be dead, while the others pray for them and take them to burial.
The war also meant that the streets were covered with black signs indicating that someone has died.
There was a woman I heard of who was popular for reading dead people's bones, her job was that she recognised and matched the bones to the dead person who lost their life in a bomb. This is what Western democracy does. This is what chronic invasions of Iraq for the past 100 years have led to.