by Stephen Grey
In the thick, sweaty heat of a Baghdad night, a family sit in their garden
under a full moon, and wait for news. They’ve been sitting and talking for
many hours now, smoked too many cigarettes and drunk too many cups of tea.
Now they just sit on plastic white chairs and listen.
Many sounds are familiar and reassuring: the occasional dog’s bark, the buzz
of crickets, the rustling of fronds in the date palm tree, the steady
clack-clack of the electric fan propped up on the lawn. From a distance come
other sounds that would normally have them on edge: the bursts of a
Kalashnikov machine gun and the roar of an American fighter plane. But
tonight, the sounds that fray their already stretched nerves, the sounds
that might mean an end to the waiting, come from the road just beyond the
garden wall: the screech of tyres, the horns, and the slamming of car doors.
Photographer Steve Bent and I are waiting with Harb Nayma and his family for
the return of their 23-year-old daughter, Shayma – kidnapped seven days
previously. This afternoon, 62-year-old Harb went alone to a deserted
backstreet to hand over a ransom. The kidnappers had promised to release
Shayma and send her home within one hour. Five hours later, there is still
no sign of her. (more…)