A Mesopotamian Robin Hood

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
He was a talisman; he was Abbass the Lion heart

Submitted: August 25, 2019

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Submitted: August 25, 2019

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The man said," They made my life unbearable."

Who?

"The Gang"

"What gang?"

"The three chaps in our neighborhood."

"What did they do?"

"They are intimidating me and my son all the time."

"Did you go to the gendarmerie (Police) station?"

"I did, but they didn’t take my complaints seriously. I don't know where to turn".

His friend said," I can see that these bad persons succeeded in squeezing your emotion and pride! Let me take you to Abbass Al-Saba'a (the Lionheart) 

"Who is he?"

"You will see."

When they met Abbass, he listened as a wise gentleman with vision then he said: "the gang bullies you maybe because they are jealous of your richness or anything you own.  Do you have something they want?"

"No, I am a humbled public employee."

"Are they doing this with others?

"Yes, as far as I know."

"The only explanation, in this case, is that they may have family issues at home. They may be insecure, so they make others upset to make them feel better about themselves. Do you think them targeting you more?" Abbass asked the man.

"I've been putting up with their everyday verbal abuse," the man replied.

"Let us go and see them," Abbass said.

When they went back to their suburb, Abbass had a hard time restraining the gang's behavior. They tried physical bullying against both of them. That left no other option for him but to use his bravery to take them down in a battle that lasted only two minutes. As their victim was watching their degradation, they never stressed him again.

*****

There were other incidents when people came to Abbass and his friend and follower Khamas Ibn Shala complaining from bullying by bad-mannered youth as well as offhand negative remarks, call names or offensive jokes by recluse adults. He particularly hated those who harassed senile men. Most of these cases were ended by humiliating the offenders by Abbass and Khamas using mighty courage.

Abbass was always responding to the request for help by vulnerable people in his neighborhood until that day when he had turned into the Arabian version of Robin Hood, the legendary heroic outlaw from the mid-centuries who used to steal from the rich and give to the poor. However, Abbass didn’t have Merry Men; the group of outlaws who followed Robin Hood in the English literature. He had only Khamas Ibn Shala. Amusingly, an Arabian Muslim named Azeem was among Robin Hood' men according to the British folklore.

Anyway, whereas Robin Hood was skillful in archery and swordplay, Abbass used whatever available of weapons to defend or raid for a good cause. People hailed him for robbing from the rich to give the poor. He couldn’t stand seeing a hungry child or a homeless widow. His partisanship with the common people was undoubtful.

Earlier, Abbass walked the line and began to support the poor with what he secretly collected from the rich. He was always ready to saddle up and ride, hunting opportunities to hand them over to the needy ones. Amazingly, he justified going along this path in hope for a well-ordered society. He forced his legs and arms to descend to the front and hind doors of the rich, and when he crossed them, he usually keeps very little for him and his friend Khamas Ibn Shala.

No one questioned his demands or objected them. The rich in his neighborhood considered him as their protector, and that was fair game and fine arrangement between the two. They didn’t care to know that the "ransom" they paying him went to the poor.

*****

One day, a man with hardship asked for his help. He told Abbass that he is unable to pay the rent, and the landlord is going to throw his family out of the property. Abbass went to the landlord and tried to convince him to give the poor man a chance. He told the owner that his wealth should be coupled with mercy. That persuasion failed; the rich man bullied and threatened both of them. He expressed aggressive behavior that scared the poor man and made Abbass uncomfortable.

Abbass found the landlord' stare lifeless but sensed a power behind him, so he tried to kill his arrogance with kindness, but that didn’t work. Abbass cut ties and formulated a plan. He didn’t use his might this time. He was angry because of the landlord ruthless and decided to make him insecure despite whatever power behind him.

Abbass viewed that particular situation as victimization exceeded the bullying cases that he dealt with before. Bad treatment directed towards someone by bullying, physical or verbal abuse, harassment behavior that persists over time and assaults were all victimization to him.

By the way, harassment is similar to bullying because a person is hurt through cruel behaviors such as slurs or jokes related to disability or other factors. However, sever harassment is a form of discrimination.

*****

Abbas's plan was simple. He asked the poor tenant how much the required rent was. He then raided, with his friend Khamas, the bazaar of the merciless landlord at night. He robbed only twice the rent's amount from the safe box of the wealthy owner and fled the place without being noticed. He put the money under the front door of the tenant with a note that read: "Pay half this money for your debt to the landlord and keep the rest for you to live. I am the healer of your setback."

The rich man didn’t know that he was robbed. Even when he checked out his monthly expenses, profits, and budget balance, he didn’t link the tenant to the robbery, but it wasn’t hard to speculate who was behind the break-in.

In one of the late 1909 nights, Abbass was chased by three gendarmeries. He escaped and entered into a grove called Al-Mutwalya Orchard. They followed him yelling to surrender: "Stop, or we will shoot"

"Never," he replied

"Aim, fire," the corporal shout

When he heard the bullets, he threw himself in a ditch and fired back at the source of the gunshots then run away through the other end of the Orchard. The next morning, the farmers of the grove found three bodies of gendarmerie.

Such incident and other robberies by the Mesopotamian Robin Hood attracted the attention of the Ottoman authorities as Baghdad was one of the Ottoman Velayets (territories). The gendarmerie raided his resident, but he was too elusive to be caught. He was alarmed by his neighbors.

In another surprise dawn raid led by Gadron Gawesh, the chief of the gendarmerie in Baghdad, Abbass shot and killed the chief in a self-defense act.  That opened the doors of hail on him and his fellow fugitive Khamas Ibn Shala.

The Ottoman Wali (Governor) ordered a wide-scale campaign to capture or kill Abbass and Khamas. The gendarmerie located their hiding place in Bab Al-Talsem (Bab Al-Halaba) or Al-Bab Al-wastani (the middle gate of the city). They attacked the lair, but the two fugitives resisted until they run off ammunition. They jumped into Dijla (Tigris) River and crossed to Al-Rasafa side of the city then went to Bany Saeed suburb and took shelter in Masjed (Mosque) Farajullah near the bank of the river.

The gendarmerie followed them and broke into the Masjed where they shot them dead after they refused to give themselves up. The police dragged their bodies by horses in the roads around the city in spite of the community resent and uprising against the gendarmerie. In any case, the public arranged a solemn funeral after they restored the dead bodies from the Police. Even woman participated in the majestic funeral march towards Sheikh Maaroof cemetery where they buried them.

*****

Abbass Al-Saba'a (the Lionheart) was born in Suk Al-Jedid in the Karch side of Baghdad. Probably he was born in the late nineteenth century as he gained his popularity with the turn of the twentieth century and before WWI.

At that time, there were many (naughty) figures like Taha Ibn Al-Khabaza, Saleh Al-Dahan, Omran Al-Sheblawi, Memody Abo Shukr and other "sons of Bab Al-Talsem" as they called themselves). Similar to them, Abbass spent his time around Bab Al-Talsem which was one of the main gates of Baghdad. It seemed they believed that the gate was a proactive talisman probably because there were two dragons engraved on the top of the entrance.  However, it was blown by the Ottoman Army officer Taha Mohamed Sharef Ali Juhaim to hinder the British from occupying Baghdad on 11 March 1917.

The gaze of the honest thief of Baghdad Abbas Al-Saba'a was full of life even after his death, like some hologram. There was no emptiness when he speaks. He used to reach out and puts his hand on the shoulder of others. He was charismatic, full of golden courage and silver emotions that spill on others.

His life wasn’t a case of blood-letting gone deliberately wrong. When people hail the man who "robbed from the rich and gave to the poor," it is because they need to justify the looting of his victims. The argument here is that stealing is wrong if it only serves someone's greed.

*****

Much earlier to the English Robin Hood' time and certainly to the time of the Mesopotamian Abbas Al-Saba'a, the Arabic culture presented Urwah ibn Al-Ward who was one of the known pre-Islamic poets and su'luks (tramp or vagabond). Much of whose works consisted of attacks on the rigidity of tribal life and praise of solitude. With a punch of followers, he used to steal from the rich, particularly those known to be cheap to feed the poor. He wrote once:

Let me roam in lands towards wealth

Perhaps by leaving, you to be rich

Or to be lucky because of my absence


Check out Ali Al-Zaak's Book


A Mesopotamian Robin Hood

Following the invasion called "Operation Freedom" he was abducted from his molecular world and illegally detained in an occupation military camp until his captors realized their mistake. This book is about two lives, wars, lies and the fantasies of the We

© Copyright 2020 Ali Al-Zaak. All rights reserved.

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