BAGHDAD -- Esad Ismael broke the most important promise he ever made.
As his father lay on his deathbed two years ago, Ismael, 43, vowed never to sell his family's home. His father and grandfather had spent all their savings to build the sprawling two-story house in Baghdad's wealthy Mansour district 70 years ago. Family memories were tucked between every tile on the floor.
But Ismael, a Sunni clothing merchant, was living in an area that was falling under the control of the Mahdi Army, Iraq's largest Shiite militia. Mindful of his promise to his dying father, he refused to move even after he began finding death threats pasted to his front door. After his brother was murdered, he gave up.
"It's bad that I sold our home, but what is worse is that I sold it for only 145 million dinars," Ismael said, naming a price equivalent to about $118,000 -- less than half the house's appraised value in late 2003. "It's an insult to my father to sell it so low. But what choice did I have? They would have killed us."
I guess this is that "soft partition" I keep hearing about in action.