Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Do you have any idea what it feels like when GOD says he's a fan.
dear sir: I think I can recite the [sprawl trilogy] by heart, I am a believer.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Here is something interesting for you to read:
I feared my role with the reconstruction council was sliding from what I had originally envisioned - working with allies in a democratic fashion - to collaborating with occupying forces.

I was in Tikrit two days ago and might go back there tomorrow. weird place. We might get lucky and catch Saddam.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

It is so unbelievable how they have wasted a chance to show Iraqis they really are doing something. It was the most useless of press conferences, first off this Sanchez speaks only in Militar-ese, meaningless words come out of his mouth while we are all hanging on the edge of our seats waiting for one single picture, definitive proof. It is so easy, all it takes is to show us the friggin’ corpses. They do have them. Someone did see them and when asked why it wasn’t sown to the public they came up with the moral issues stuff. Habibi it didn’t bother you that all those Iraqis, Americans and British are being killed for dubious reasons, so why suddenly become so squeamish? Give the Images to Jazeera, moral issues have never stopped them from showing gruesome images, let them do your dirty work. All I care about is knowing, seeing, being 100% doubt free and that press conference proved nothing. An Iraqi journalist stopped me at the door of that hall and asked me whether I am American media (this happens from hanging around NY Times people too much), I told him I wasn’t but I could put him in touch, he said he was a journalist with IMN (Iraqi Media Network, the coalition sponsored media tool) he said that he wanted to make sure that the American journalists understand that Iraqis have huge doubts and if we would go out on the street we would be told that the whole thing in Mosul was a farce. Actually I was on the street and did ask that question. And people do need proof. The Americans just fucked up. Just like they waited too long after the fall of Baghdad to show the Iraqis they have things under control they have fucked up again by first making the decision to kill the idiots and then not give us clear proof of their death.
At that press conference there was a gentleman who asked an extremely important question which was answered by Sanchez with “that is speculation. Next question.” I later found out that the man in front of me was Fisk and the question he asked which we all want to be answered was: why was the decision made to attack with a force that would have been capable of annihilating a city block? Why did they opt for killing them when they knew their importance as sources of information on all sorts of things and the wish all Iraqis have that they be put thru trial?
Fisk started the ball rolling, sanchez was asked the same question at least 5 times in different ways and with it the question of how to prove this to the Iraqi people. And what do we get? Meaningless militareses. Beyond disappointing.
What sort of wake up call do they need? You get people saying the Americans are slow, the Americans are not fulfilling their promises. Don’t fucking lose it, you are really stretching your luck, act act act. You came and gave people big hopes and you let them fall flat on their faces. I can’t believe that there has not been a single big celebration, I went to the office this morning and one of the photographers was asking “so where do you think they will be dancing in the streets?”. It doesn’t feel like there is a reason to celebrate. People are still being killed left and right.
The only people who are having parties are journos and NGO’s, oh and I hear OCPA has a disco night at the Rasheed Hotel once a week.
After the war with Iran was over people were in the streets for a whole night, dancing and singing.
I am just pissed off, this thing today has redefined anticlimactic for me. I still have hopes for the day they catch Saddam. Maybe we will have our street party then.

And I would like to add that Jazeera is the worst ever. They should be banned under Mullah Bremer’s Fatwa banning all pro-saddam/pro-ba’ath propaganda. That political analyst they have, something al-ani, is a fucking saddamite.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

just to tell you that i would be really dissapointed if Uday and Qusay were really killed in Mosul. this is just the easy way out for them. they should have been humiliated in public, images of them handcuffed and being pushed around.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Today in the morning every Thuraya sat phone in baghdad got a sms saying: "MTC Vodafone wihes you a pleasant stay in Kwuait" [!!!!!]

Update: a couple of hours later I got "welcome in he Kingdom of Bahrain", BHR Mobile Plus is also in the air. The Battle for the Iraqi frequencies has started
i am just so ahead of the NY Times:
U.S. Said to Seek Help of Ex-Iraqi Spies on Iran
American officials, he said, are fully informed about what the party is doing. Iraqi intelligence officers who have been asked to rejoin the branch contend that the United States is orchestrating the effort.

I told you about it almost two months ago, they just don't listen [it is at the end of that post].

Monday, July 21, 2003

U.S. Soldier, Iraqi Interpreter Killed

This is the fifth interpreter I hear about. Just like the policemen who were attacked almost two weeks ago, the interpreters are seen as ligitimate targets by Islamists and Ba'athists. A taxi driver was telling me the other day that those Iraqis who collaborate with the Americans are even worse than the americans "they are the devil hidden in saint's clothes".
The first interpreters I heard about were killed execution style, blind folded and had a sign saying "this is what happens to collaborators". There was something written about this in the NY Times [Iraqis Keep Working for Allies, But Danger Makes Them Fearful - you need to pay to read that, I haven't read it I only knew that someone has written about the subject].
The Iraqi interpreters in many cases end up as spokesmen for the American Forces, having to justify whatever mess they have created somewhere and why this or that person was arrested. Most people will not see them as just interpreters but they will start acussing them, it doesn't help to say that they only work for them. If Iraqi interpreters are afraid to work for the US/UK army they will operate in total darkness. and it is not only interpreters it is anyone who works with them on any sort of reconstruction effort.
Go check out the pictures I took of the Mandean new year celebration in Baghdad.
want some background on the Mandeans? check out this and this.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

I first read about it in the Muajaha , they had it on their front page. (RAPE! New violence in new Iraq). They don’t have that issue online and they are just very young Iraqis who are trying to get a newspaper running while they get their exams done. The article was written with the help of all the staff members in al-Muajaha , but the person who got most involved was Hamsa . A very brave young girl who was at the morgue one day when she heard about the nine year old Sanarya, if you are wondering why the morgue it is because the morgue is the only place where they have a forensic medicine department.
Quite independently Neela Banerji meets an American pediatrician who tells her about a nine year old girl who was raped and brought to her by Hamsa.
Neela has written about it:

Rape (and Silence About It) Haunts Baghdad Read it here or here.

When Hamsa went to find Sanarya’s house she had with her a British filmmaker, Julia has the only footage of the only time Sanarya was asked about the rape. Neela and I went to see the footage, it kills you.
Hamsa was great during the first couple of weeks, she protected Sanarya from her brother, tried to get her a place to live with her sister away from the family. She and the American pediatrician did as much as they could but the pediatrician was transferred and Hamsa has exams, no one has visited Sanarya for a while until Neela, Zainab and Linsey went there. She was back at her parents place and they are beating her. Today I have been with Neela to unicef to talk to people responsible for the child protection program, we are trying to figure out what to do and how to help the kid. I will go tomorrow with Zainab and Neela to Sanayra’s on an outing, just to get her out of that house, for lunch or an ice-cream and so that I can talk to her sister Fatin and see what could be done to help.
People I am open for suggestions. I am totally in un-chartered territory for me. Other than Unicef who should we be contacting? I have heard about SOS Save the Children but they are not in Baghdad and I wonder whether an orphanage is really a good idea concerning Sanarya’s case.

Neela suggest reading The Human Rights Watch report on the issue:

climate of fear: Sexual Violence and abduction of Women and girls in Baghdad

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Fairuz has a song called “indi sika feek” which means I have faith in you / I trust you. It should be our national anthem. It says:

I have faith in you
I have hope in you and what more do you want.
There is nothing more I can give
All my sentences end with you.
I have faith in you and this should be enough.
I know we will be able to pull ourselves together it just takes time. If you stop thinking this way you’ll fall apart. Some people have sent emails saying that I am not as “witty and fresh” as I used to be. I am sorry it is really hard to keep your wits these days let alone be witty. I was reading some of the stuff I wrote last October, I wish I had the rage I had in me then. Now I just feel disappointed, my city is becoming fuck-up-central. It is frustrating, how long do you think the coalition forces can keep their cool in the face of the constant attacks? How are they going to deal with the constant sabotage of infrastructure? We have no country or government anymore; they used to talk about “nation building” we ended up with nothing.
An Iraqi reader who lives abroad sent me an email which he got from Iraq on the 7th of July. We’ll assign him the spokesperson duties today.

>Subject: A letter from Baghdad
>Sent: Monday, July 07, 2003 10:06 AM
>Dear friends,
>If you wonder why I haven't sent you anything lately;
>well, I started writing a long letter a week ago but
>while describing the extremely bad situation we were
>in last week (All Baghdad stayed without electricity
>for more than 3 days with very weak water or none in
>some places, plus a big fuel shortage for generators
>and cars), I was listening to the coalition
>broadcasting for the Iraqi people. They ware talking
>about all low priority stuff like printing "New
>passports" for Iraqis, Mr. Bremer attending a Symphony
>for the Iraqi Symphony group, and such stuff, without
>any mentioning of the fact that about 5 million people
>were living under a temperature of 47 degrees and
>without electricity and water for three days :-/
>You know, I reviewed my "dream list" back then; there
>was no "New passports" in it. It just contained three
>simple wishes: Electricity, Water, and Security.
>(This will make a nice motto instead of the old famous
>"Unity, Freedom, and Socialism", I might as well start
>a party of my own with this motto. It will sure make
>me very popular).
>Are such wishes to much to ask in the new millennium,
>and when you are under the occupation of the greatest
>power in the world?
>If you say be patient. Well, apart from the last 23
>years, remember the ex-regime has fallen for about
>three months now.
>Back to the letter I intended to write. So while
>listening to these great news, I felt so desperate and
>frustrated (Not from the Americans actually, but from
>the situation we are in), that I simply tore the
>The situation here is getting more complicated. You
>are hearing about the killing of the US soldiers every
>day. Neither me, nor anyone I know agrees to this.
>This should not be the way to solve thing. It is only
>making things worse. US soldiers are getting so tense
>in dealing with people. If such acts are not stopped,
>we will never have peace.
>There are also the destructive acts being done by
>unknown groups. They are destroying vital resources
>like electricity, water, and oil pipes.
>Some say they are people loyal to the ex-regime,
>trying to make things so bad to make people hope for
>its return.
>Others, say they are from Iran, just damaging the
>Some even say that they are done by the Americans to
>keep people busy with such stuff (A policy that the
>ex-regime used to follow).
>I, personally, am getting more convinced by the first
>What depresses people here is that there seems to be
>no short-term solution to all this. Electricity,
>water, and oil pipes are an easy target and hence we
>will always feel threatened, specially when we think
>of July and August ahead. "The true heat is yet to
>Nevertheless, we have no choice but to wait and see if
>the promises being given to us will be fulfilled, and
>lets only hope for the best.
> >As for other aspects of our life here:
> >- Do you know that the number of newspapers reached 73
>and the count is increasing. The same for Parties. We
>have two persons claiming the throne (if there will
>ever be one). People here have no respect for almost
>all of these parties. Most of them just took the
>buildings they like illegally and make them their
>centers. Imagine a party steals a building when it
>starts and expects to be respected.
>- The best job for anyone now is selling cold Pepsi on
>the road. The customers are often US soldiers trying
>to survive the heat. The amount of Pepsi trucks you
>see being unloaded everyday is incredible.
>- Finally, the mobile network, which is being
>installed by MCI, has started working. It is still
>limited now but it is supposed to extend to public use
>mid-July. Thy funny thing is that our code is the same
>as New York. So we are considered as if we are in New
>I will try to get a mobile soon. Then you can call me
>with very cheap prices because international calls to
>the US is always the cheapest and as you know - We are
>in NY :-)
>Some body living in Baghdad

Thursday, July 10, 2003

have been in baghdad for two days now but didn't get a chance to put online what i wrote there. you can read the guardian column i wrote when i was there.
more importantly go read [Ishtar Talking] she writes from basra in arabic and i translate. does anyone know of another arabic blog or is Ishtar's the first? in case you are wondering, find out about Ishtar here and here

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Basra has an internet place. only one. the other is the UN House but you have to have a press pass or be an NGO to get in, i have neither. i have "recruited" an iraqi woman from basra to start blogging in arabic.
The basra update will be written in baghdad. part of it will be on the Guardian tomorrow i think and the rest, which did not make it in the guardian will be posted here.