Local novelist says Iraq war hardened sectarian rifts in Chicago

An interview with Mahmoud Saeed

March 19, 2013

(WBEZ/Odette Yousef)
Novelist Mahmoud Saeed says the decade-long war has only hardened sectarian rifts in Chicago's Iraqi community.

Tuesday brings yet another milestone since the U.S. invaded Iraq on the pretext of ridding the country of weapons of mass destruction: 10 years of war. Iraqis in Chicago have watched from afar as other markers have passed: the fall of Saddam Hussein, more than 100,000 civilian casualties, the creation of a new constitution, and the displacement of four million Iraqis.

Iraqi novelist Mahmoud Saeed is among those observing from Chicago. Since arriving in the city in 1999, he published a trilogy about the city’s Iraqis. He says "Trilogy of Chicago" is based on two years he spent at a North Side restaurant, observing Iraqis who came in to eat and converse.

In this interview, Saeed tells North Side Bureau reporter Odette Yousef that he discovered deep rifts between Iraqis in Chicago — much deeper, he says, than those that he had left in Iraq.

“In my view, the people who come from Iraq, they think sect (is) more important than nationality,” Saeed said. “In Iraq, especially before 2003, even if you are from another sect you can make relations, you can make a friendship. The Shia people married the Sunni sect. The Sunni married Shia. Even there is some marriages between Christians and Muslims. But this, here, you cannot find it."

Follow Odette Yousef on Twitter @oyousef

Categories