Thursday, November 09, 2006

Amman - 9/11

One year on...

It strikes me as strange that there is no reminder on the BBC website or CNN or Al Jazeerah....

However, from the Jordan Times

Family moves on one year after wedding suicide attack

On the first anniversary of the November 2005 attacks, The Jordan Times talks to Ashraf Daas, whose wedding at the Radisson SAS was brutally cut short by a suicide bomber.

By Hugh Naylor

AMMAN — That now ubiquitous photo showing a happy bride and groom, just married, seemingly portends a happy beginning for the couple’s new life.

But moments after the photo opportunity, Ashraf Daas and his new bride, Nadia Alami, would walk into their wedding reception and an unexpected tragedy.

“Everything changed that day. My wife and I can never forget it — it’s deep within us,” Daas said by telephone from Kuwait, where he and Nadia have made their new home. “We haven’t been to any weddings. We’re still in a period of remembering, of mourning over ours.”

A little before 9:00pm on November 9, 2005, as festivities were just about to get under way in the Philadelphia ballroom at the Radisson SAS, Ali Hussein Ali Shamari entered the room with a vest loaded with powerful explosives and piercing ball-bearings. Placing himself at the centre of the joyous families and their invited guests, Shamari detonated his deadly payload.

The blast tore through the ballroom, killing 36. Daas’ father took the full force of the blast and died the same night. His wife, Nadia, lost both her parents and a brother. Entire families perished.

The series of explosions that night, unleashed by three coordinated suicide attacks at the Grand Hyatt, Days Inn, and Radisson SAS hotels, killed a total of 60 people and injured over a hundred more.

Now, a year later, Daas is continually reminded of his tragedy, while a nation still struggles to come to terms with its very own 9/11.

“We decided to move to Kuwait six months ago so I could start my new job and move away from the past, to live in a new place where we can start over,” Daas told The Jordan Times. The 32-year-old now works as medical equipment salesman.

On arriving in Kuwait, he and Nadia moved into his father’s old home. But the residual of his memory was too much to bear, he said. “We changed it all around and brought in new furniture. It’s a new house in the old one — we needed it to feel new.”

He said they continue to receive a tremendous outpouring of emotional support from fellow Jordanians and Kuwaitis. Their faces, pictured on Internet blog sites and pasted on tabloids, have become instantly recognisable throughout the region and the world.

“People always come up to us on the streets or when we’re at the mall. They’re very nice, but now I believe it’s time for all of us to move on, to look to the future.”

Daas said he keeps in regular touch with the rest of his family back in Amman. His younger brother is nearing the completion of a BA in finance administration.

“I’m very proud of him,” he said. “You know, given what we’ve all been through, he keeps us and my mom happy.”

But his brother didn’t emerge from the attack unscathed. He sustained nerve damage to his arm during the incident and still attends regular physiotherapy sessions, Daas noted.

The reverberations of that November evening have also left Jordan a changed country, struggling to emerge from its own wounds. In the days following the attacks, thousands poured onto the country’s streets in a show of public defiance against terrorism, chanting “Burn in hell, Abu Mussab Zarqawi,” whose Iraqi Al Qaeda organisation claimed responsibility for the triple suicide bombings.

Security at the country’s hotels, shopping malls and restaurants has been beefed up by a labyrinth of metal detectors and scanning devices.

In late September, Sajida Rishawi, the wife of the Radisson SAS bomber and the only person to stand trial in relation to the attacks, was sentenced to hang by the State Security Court. Six others, including an Iraqi woman and a Jordanian man, were sentenced to death in absentia.

Rishawi had entered Daas’ wedding along with her husband but her suicide belt failed to detonate. She then fled before being apprehended four days later in the town of Salt, while attempting to seek refuge with the family of her sister’s husband.

“This is her punishment for trying such an act — she has to take the death penalty,” Daas told The Jordan Times in reference to the sentence.

He said he believed her impending execution represents part of the process necessary for the nation to come to terms with the bombings, adding: “We need to send a strong message to those who may harm us: That they can’t hurt us, they can’t destroy our lives and get away with it.”

No date has been set for Rishawi’s hanging.