Al Zahraa's last Watch
A story about two forgotten Iraqi Sailors on board a Ghost Ship in Germany.
This is a story about a ship that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It had been used to transport tanks in the Iran-Iraq war. In 1990, the Al Zahraa stops at a Bremerhaven shipyard because the engines need some repairing. They had just been taken out and put in the shipyard’s workshop when the UN declared an embargo on Iraq following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Ever since, the vessel has been remaining in a quiet corner of Bremerhaven’s harbor.
The original crew was soon sent back to Iraq, and instead the Iraqi ship owner began sending watch teams to Bremerhaven who would stay on board to look after the ship. These watches would be exchanged roughly every six months. As the first teams found they could make their stay in Bremerhaven far more convenient by selling everything from on board the ship that could possibly be sold, there soon was not that much to look after really. The ship is rusting away, its decay is visible to any passer-by. Still, the watches would go on.
The last watch has been sent in August 2002. While they enjoyed the first few months of their stay, another war in their country started, and there was no contact to their families any more. All that was left to do for Adel and Abdullah was to find out on Television whether their hometowns might appear in the news after having been bombed. Eventually, after months of fear and uncertainty, they found out their families were all right. Adel and Abdullah remained in Bremerhaven though, for there was no one who could order them to leave the ship. They were forgotten.
Adel and Abdullah eventually managed to get back to Iraq in May 2004, after almost two years on board the Al Zahraa. The ship remained in Bremerhaven until July 2011 when it was eventually towed to Lithuania where it was taken apart.