Baghdad Central-Elliot Colla

Baghdad Central
Elliot Colla
Bitter Lemon Press, Feb 18 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781908524256

In November 2003, the Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority shut down the army, the police and the Ba’athists. Former Inspector Muhsin Khadr al-Khafaji deserted his post before the disbanding of the cops by the occupying forces. His concerned brother-in-law asks unemployed Muhsin to search for his missing adult daughter Sawsan who did not come home from work.

However, Muhsin’s inquiry abruptly ends almost before it began when the Americans incarcerate him as a high ranking Hussein official in Abu Ghraib. Realizing they made an identification error but not before they torture him, they free Muhsin and assign him to train a new police force and investigate the numerous missing Army translators. In return they give his daughter Mrouj quality medical treatment for her kidney ailment, which the sanctions previously prevented.

Baghdad Central is a strong Iraqi police procedural that captures the essence of surviving as a secularist in a Muslim nation ran by a vicious dictator while already under sanctions from the West made worse by the occupation. Poetry and family keeps the protagonist going as Elliot Colla condemns the superegos of the CPA and their impact on people after the harsh effect in Iraqi citizenry by the sanctions. The insightful look at a subculture ignored by the American media obsessive focus on blood and gore supersedes the investigations in this profound look at Iraqi life during the occupation.

Harriet Klausner

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