Thursday, February 27, 2003

has anyone seen my comments anywhere? sheeesh! after all this time together i get dumped justlikethat.
ze comments vork again.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

you know what my favourite part in the last two resolution on Iraq is?
the part where it says "DECIDES to remain seized of the matter." oooh, can't wait for the next episode of (UN drama) the best show this side of the milky way.
you would have thought that an almost-war-declaration would have more dramatic wording than:
ACTING under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,
DECIDES that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded it in Resolution 1441 (2002)
they definitely need a better script writer for that show, but I guess that is what CNN and the rest are for.
the wise oracle of gotham predicts that youknowwho will be history by the 18th of march, but she won't say how she got that date, c'mon, spill it, whatwhywhere?. and she also invited me to tea at the Palm Court if I ever came to NYC. Alrighty, who said you can't get a classy date thru the internet?

Monday, February 24, 2003

More Photos.
Not a very bright side of Baghdad, these are a bit like inner city slum. They are not the slummiest slums. These places have character; the photos taken are from the Kadhmia district which is one of the oldest in Baghdad. There is a shrine of Imam Al-Kadhim, who is an important religious figure for Shias. It is a beautiful shrine, if I were ever asked to name 5 most interesting public spaces in the world I'm putting the inner courtyard of the Khadim shrine in that list. You don't have to be in there to pray or anything, there are huge niches within the wall and you can sit there for hours Raed, I and G. (who is a Christian) go there very often and when we have nothing to talk about we go into the main shrine building, take our shoes off and sit by the wall watching people pray, read the Koran and sometimes when someone has had a happy occasion he would go around the shrine heaping sweets in our laps or we have to duck because a woman has decided to shower the place with hard candy. Around the shrine is one of Baghdad's main centers for goldsmiths. But just behind those shops are streets which have houses from 1920's and still have people living in them. This was one of the old rich Baghdad districts, before the colonial times. Many Baghdadi families can trace their roots to this area.
It is not allowed to take photographs in the streets just like that; we were working on a site in the area and were given a permit to photograph the site. Lucky for us the paper did not specify the exact location where we are allowed to photograph G. never overlooks an opportunity like that, these are some of the photographs he has on small to see big

The shrine has four golden minarets, they are visible from everywhere in the area. Baghdad is flat city these minarets become great orientation guides, you always know which direction will get you to the main street. The women are wearing traditional Iraqi dress, the black Abaya and Shelah which covers their head. Faces are not covered.

Here you can see the Kadhim minaret very clearly. Do you see those wooden boards sticking out of the wall? This tells you that this was built between 1920 and 30, after that the use of steel I-beams became popular; it was brought into the country by the British. Either the producing company or the importer were called Shellman or something close to that because to this day they are not called I-beams but shellmans (being Iraqis we like our vowels long so it is more like sheeeeelmaaaaan)

These windows that jut out of the walls have a name, they are called Shanasheel. Al-Sayab one of my favorite Iraqi poets has a poem called “Shanasheel of al-Chalabi’s daughter” written in London one year before he died of tuberculoses. It is a very sad poem. He is the king of pain, really. You can read two translated poems here, I did not find a translation of the Shanasheel poem online. And yes this is the same Chalabi, there is only one Chalabi family in Iraq, it is a very well known Shia family. Ahmad Chalabi’s scandals don’t go unnoticed here. jaa He is a disgrace to a very respected family.
More pictures of Shanasheel in Kadhmia


I mentioned above that Kadhmia is one of the main markets for goldsmiths, but it also is one of the big markets for everything, I guess people in the west would call them Bazaar. These “souk”s really comply with every unwritten rule about these Bazaars. Very crowded, narrow, winding pathways we call Darabeen. Very loud and everybody is trying to make you buy something. You get the best deals for textiles there but you get lost very easily. I have no idea how my mother and aunts know where everything is; I end up where they sell plastics every time I go there to buy material for pants and shirts. And you would think that in such a place they would be a bit more prudent about selling lingerie with all the women in hijab, you are wrong. Street peddlers stick all sorts of stuff in your face just to get your attention. Anyway, one of the oldest parts of this market is “souk al Isterbadi” and if you keep going along the souk you will reach the part where they sell second-hand clothes.

Now let me tell you something about this. You know the boxes you have everywhere asking you to donate clothes for third world countries? That is a swindle, well, not all the way. The first part is probably all very much in the spirit of kindness and things are really donated to some organization in the “third world”. There things get a bit dirtier, there is a huge international market dealing with these “donations”. Things are sorted out and sold from when country to the next, Iraq gets most of the stuff from Turkey and Syria. It is such a problem here in Iraq the government had to make rules what sort of second-hand clothes you are allowed to import. Underwear is a no-go. I am not saying that it is no use donating these clothes to third-world-aid organization, actually these clothes are the only affordable clothes many people can buy and this has created a sort of income to people who would have ended up with no income at all. Besides, it always makes me smile when I see someone wearing a Cliff Richards concert T-shirt, at least this kind of makes up for the atrocities against taste he has committed.

The next couple of pictures are from Basra in the south.

Bob Marley gets the second-hand t-shirt treatment there.

So you are asking why don’t these houses have porches, gardens or something? That is because they all are like giving their backs to the street; the fun is on the inside. These are all Atrium-type houses the courtyard in the middle is open to the sky and usually has a garden and a fountain. Since there is very little rain no one worries too much about covering the courtyard.

Friday, February 21, 2003

These are the days of crazy weather, very colorful. We had rainy-clouds-grey two days ago, sunny-bright-yellow the day after and desert-sand-red the day after that. But it is warmer generally and the nights are beautiful with a bright moon when you can see it thru the clouds or sand. The moon started waning now and getting closer to that scary “dark of the moon” phase. Most people think if anything is going to happen this month it will start during the darkest nights. We’ll see.
In Baghdad and other cities in Iraq people are busy welcoming the Hajis back from their trip. Cars with green and white flags drive the new Hajis around the city and their houses have the same flags on them. The people who went to Mecca in coaches take quite some time to get back to Baghdad. The funny thing is that even the people who traveled in airplanes are only arriving now. Some of them slept for three nights in airports until they got their chartered flights, and the Saudi government rather has the Iraqis in the airports than roaming. Now we have to go thru the “haj mabrur – blessed haj” games, everybody visiting everybody else, and they give you these little thimbles of water from Zamzam, which is supposed to have some sort of healing and purifying effects on the soul or whatever. People, I want to be the person who does the documentary showing that the Saudi government has been extending the life of that well by adding _tap water_ to it. Some hajis who see me smile when they are giving these little bottles of blessed water as presents decide that a praying rug would be better, they will have to start me on the road to redemption in the first place and the flying carpet from Mecca will be my fast track to Jennah (heaven). My blasphemous ranting aside, becoming a Haj is a big deal. It is an exhausting couple of weeks and anybody who commits him/herself to such an ordeal has at least earned the right to get a special name, and Haji has a nice ring to it. I, personally, have decided to go to Mecca as late in my life as possible, you see if the “Tabula rasa” part of the Haj is right and there is a “god” it makes sense to live life like a pig then go purify your soul in Mecca and live your last days like a saint. I have it all worked out, that is my contingency plan for the remote possibility of the existence of a deity.

A reader sent me an angry email a couple of days ago (not the reader who writes in the comments, someone else) asking me why I dislike the “human shields” so much, he/she actually asked “why do you spit on them?”. Ewww. Now I was never that unfriendly. I have not met any of them in person, which just might happen in the next couple of days, what I dislike is the idea. But since dissing them gets people so exited, here we go and do what [destiny’s child] don’t, “cause their mamma taught them better than that”, we be dissing the shields again on the internet.
One of the latest group to arrive in Baghdad, mostly Europeans, were welcomed to the Rasheed hotel , which is like the Waldorf Astoria of Baghdad, no other hotel is more expensive and exclusive. All of them were wearing T-shirts with what was supposed to be "Human Shields" in Arabic, but they had it all wrong it said "Adra'a Basharia" instead of "Duru'u Basharia" which got them a few giggles and a new name; they are now the "Adra'a" just to show how clueless they are. A lot of funny Arabic these days with all these HS's running around, a van with a foreign number plate standing near the ministry of information has "No War" written all over it in many languages the biggest in Arabic. All over the front of it is says "La Harba" which is wrong and sounds like a night club, my cousin thought that was cute. Anyway, what really got my goat this time was finding out that they get food coupons worth 15,000 dinars per meal, 3 for every day.fifteen thousan.
Do you know how much the monthly food ration for a 4 person family is worth, for a whole month not per meal (real cost, not subsidized) ? 30,000 dinars, if you get someone to buy the bad rice they give you for a decent price. 15,000. What are they eating? A whole lamb every meal? Let's put this within context. Today in the morning Raed, our friend G. and I went for a late big breakfast we had 2 tishreeb bagilas (can't explain that, you have to be an Iraqi to get it otherwise it sounds inedible) and a makhlama (which is an omelet with minced meat), tea, fizzy drinks and argila afterwards (the water-pipe-thingy) all for 4,750 dinars, and we were not going super cheap. A lunch in any above-average restaurant will not be more than 8,000 dinars and that includes everything. 15,000 thousand is a meal in a super expensive restaurant in Arasat Street, in one of those places that really almost have an "only foreigners allowed, no Iraqis welcome unless you are UN staff" sign on it. I will stop calling them tourist when they stop taking all this pampering from the Iraqi government. Did I tell you about the tours? Today was Babylon day. You are really missing it, the cheapest way to do the Iraq trip you have wanted to do but were too scared.
And I have a tip for all freelance journalists who are not getting their Visas. Join your colleagues. It's the best way to get past the visa thing, every third one of these "shields" will be writing an article somewhere. Hurry contact your local "war tourism" travel agent.
Sorry, I just don't get it. What are they doing here?
So, that should get me enough hate mail for the next couple of days.

Enough of that. TV time. the biggest TV event last week was the first [waznak thahab - your weight in gold] show with Noor al-Sharif (no relation to Omar) as show host. Noor is a very serious Egyptian actor, I linked to one of his shows in a post I wrote last Ramadan, this is his first as show host and he totally blew it, he looked scared and nervous. The contestants were calmer and cooler than him, we used to have Aiman Zedan, who is a Syrian actor, do the show and he was a killer. The show is actually on Abu Dhabi TV but our Youth TV just steals it off the air and shows it the next day, state sanctioned piracy, what else can you wish for?

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

[Back to Iraq 2.0]
I just can’t remember how I stumbled into this weblog, but today reading it was like having my ears tickled from the inside (you know, like that guy on the MTV station break) listen:
By not supporting a democratic Iraq, by appointing con-man and a flim-flam artist Ahmed Chalabi as provisional leader, by inviting Turks to occupy Iraqi Kurdistan and promoting some gauzy ill-thought-out vision of a democratic Middle East imposed by force of arms, the Big Idea idealism, which never rested comfortably on the shoulders of a president who detests complexity, comes off as callow, cynical and ... what are the words? Oh, yes: "Absolute bullshit." The ideas and principles upon which the United States was founded -- "liberty," "freedom," "justice for all" -- and for which we allegedly fought and won two world wars and the Cold War, have become mere words, talking points and awkwardly mouthed slogans used to make a case for a war that no one except for a small junta in Washington wants.
is he good or what? Check out the link, do you see that photograph on the top of that article? This shop [Mazi] is like a legend here in the central governorates, "it’s, like, this huge supermarket where you can buy everything". Baghdad doesn’t have super markets only corner store kind of shops. Every Iraqi who gets to Duhok (they are not many since it is like going into another country) has to keep telling you about it for hours, it’s a super market for allah’s sake and a pretty expensive one at that. Keep your cool. But I don’t mind the presents they get me from there.
I have a bit of a problem with his right side panel, but i guess it's my browser, i have to copypaste the text somewhere else to read it.
I am getting a real kick out of posting this:
THE GUARDIAN IS WRONG, check your sources baby. in the article titled "Iraqi defence minister under house arrest" it says:
He [Lieutenant-General Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Jabburi Tai, minister of defence] is not only a member of President Saddam's inner circle, but also a close relative by marriage. His daughter is married to Qusay Hussein, the dictator's 36-year-old younger son - considered by many as his heir apparent.
Wrong, Falsch, Khata'a. Qusay's wife is the daughter of Maher abdul-Rasheed who is a very important military man. he led the armies which "liberated" the Fao area in the south of Iraq in April 1988. he was put under house arrest a year after that for some reason or other and is now living in the iraqi westren desert raising camels and staying out of politics. Qusay does not have a second wife only saddam has. so their is no use saying that those loony muslims have more than one wife, maybe she is the second missus Q.Hussein.
Last night one independent source in Baghdad contacted by the Guardian confirmed that Gen Sultan was in custody. "He continues to attend cabinet meetings and appear on Iraqi TV, so that everything seems normal," said the source, a high-ranking official with connections to Iraq's ruling Ba'ath party. "But in reality his house and family are surrounded by Saddam's personal guards. They are there so he can't flee."
I, not a "high ranking official", can tell you that his family is not under house arrest, his son is still driving that fancy car around Arasat Street intimidating everybody like all good sons of ministers do.
I first heard this on BBC worldservice this morning and then my father told me he read it on the guardian's online page. I thought I should share that. now excuse me, I have to get back to practicing my funky-chicken moves.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

A first on this blog, here comes a quote from the Quran:

"qulna ya nar kuni bardan wa salamen ala ibrahim"
We said, "O Fire! be thou cool, and (a means of) safety for Abraham!"
Surah 21. The Prophets
Plot background: Abraham and the Heretics are having their equivalent of a WWF Smackdown (smashing of idols, miracle face-off, the works) finally the Heretics decide to throw Abraham into the fire and tell him: "let your god help you out of this". Thus the (nar) fire is turned into (bardan wa salamen) coolness and safety and Ibrahim walks out safe and unscathed.
I think I heard that 'bardan wa salamen" quote a thousand times during the last four days. People want to believe that what happened in the Security Council will actually shoo away the ghost of war, I don't think it will. The Blix and Baradei reports are as wishy-washy as the first reports, we can quote the parts that say we're cooperating and the "others" can quote phrases that say the exact opposite. Besides at this moment I think it is not only about the issue of Iraq and WMDs, it's beginning to look like a showdown between the USofA and the rest of the world, we get to be the example.
Anyway to watch the Security Council this time you didn't need to sneak up the dish, just find one of the 4000 Iraqis who have subscribed to the 14 state approved sat channels; the Syrian Sat Channel was transmitting the session live, with translation. Most people listened to it on Radio Monte Carlo, if at all.
Actually most of the people in Baghdad were stuck in the streets waiting for any kind of public transport. This is the first sign of a big organized demonstration. All buses, state and privately run lines, are grouped in various spots in the city to transport the "demonstrators" from their work places to where the show is supposed to take place.
Drop them at point "A" and pick them up at point "B", school kids would just disappear between these two points. There are a couple of excellent ice-cream places in al-manusr where one of the "demonstrations" took place.
This is what it looks like when you are in one of these affairs: you get out of the bus, wait for a mind-numbing couple of hours until they tell to march, you start walking until you see the guy in the front of your group (usually an eager party member) start jumping and try to pump some life into the bored group of people behind him, you shout the obligatory things, pass the stand where the officials and press are waiting then you get back to whatever you were discussing with the person next to you.
The worst experience with "demonstrations" people ever had was sometime during the eighties. I can't remember when exactly but the Grand Festival Square [sahat al ihtifalat] the one with the two intersecting swords has just been opened a short time before and this was the first BIG demonstration there. It was mainly high-school and university students. Instead of the drop here, pick up there strategy they decided that everyone should just wait within the boundaries of the square, guards were all over the perimeter, no one could leave. Then they decided to wait. This was during the summer by noon kids started dropping and fainting. No water and no food and not even a place to sit in the shade. When they realized it was getting serious they brought in trucks with bread and water tanks, you can imagine what it would look like with thousands of hungry and thirsty kids. Total chaos. No one died but many were seriously injured and they never did that again. Demonstrations? No thanks, I have mastered the art of sneaking past the green-clad guards.
Instead of getting trapped in one of the streets they have closed for the demos I stayed home and helped my mother pack things. We have not decided to leave Baghdad if "it" happens but just in case we absolutely have to. We are very efficient packers, me and my mom. The worst packers are the emotional ones. The (oh-let's-remember-when-I-bought-this-thing) packers, we just do it in cold blood, we have done this quite often, we are serial packers. Grrrrrrrr.

It's not only us who are packing. G. (he who reads novels in atmospherically correct conditions) is helping most of his foreign friends to pack as well, we have said our goodbyes to most of them. The French Cultural Center stopped all language courses being taught by French staff and they have said their goodbyes and good wishes to their students. The Russians are locating all 2000 citizens and telling them to leave. (what are 2000 Russians doing in Iraq anyway?), the Chinese embassy which is as big as a small village is empty. If you have read that UN report about humanitarian scenarios you might have come across something the report calls (phase V), from what I understand (phase V) is something like "extreme crisis, get the heck out of there" sort of thing. At the moment UN staff who would not evacuate until phase IV are being told to take long vacations starting with Eid. Notice "vacation" and not "this is officially a phase IV situation, grab your bags and run".

Now, the thing Wired wrote about. Not the emails but the site blocking and 8e6 Technologies, I know I should not bite the bait but I can't help it. My guess is 8e6 Technologies didn't know that it was selling the software to an Iraqi entity, it was most probably done by the French who did the internet setup in the first place. Because I was getting a bit worried about who is reading what, I also did a bit of prodding to find out how they decide what to block and what not and it turns out it is the mess I always knew it is.
Q: Google gets blocked for days at a time, why?
A: The reason is that the Mukhabarat minder at the ISP decides that he does not want to bother with doing his daily random checks and just registers the Google URL as blocked. it takes a couple of days and some paper shuffling until someone explains to him that it is not google that is the baddy and that things can be looked for in other places.
The firewall blocks URLs and terms within a URL or search request, but that only works with the popular search engines. The rest is done with random checks of URL requests going thru the servers.
Q: blocked Arabic sites are more than obviously "hostile" English language sites?
A: there are no special requirements concerning languages for the minder to work there.
Q: they do know their porn sites well.
A: well it is more interesting to check on them than the politics stuff, who wants to read when you can look.
Q: is there a proxy that is not firewalled?
A: of course, Uday's (i.e. the ministry of youth / Olympic committee) .
Q: can I get a username/password?
A: go fuck a cow…..
(well it didn't hurt to ask).

did you know david bowie says "god is an american" near the end of "I'm afraid of americans"?
i mean if bowie says it he must know something, he has connections, i have been told.

Friday, February 14, 2003

I wasn't going to blog until after Eid, but there is this whole "authenticity" thing going on concerning this blog.
the people who have been reading this blog for a while know that we have been there and done that. [the link is old, Al of the Culpepper Log and I are super cool now, he smacks my butt whenever i do something stupid] and I don't really want to go into it again.
To the people coming from WIRED, please always rememebr that I am no authority on anything, quoting me like the journlist did there makes me a bit nervous, salam says this salam says that. big media scares me, trouble is never far away. i hope the article is not part of the print edition that would scare me.
and i am just super grumpy and will regret this post later.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Very bad internet connection the last 2 days, the local servers ping but no pages load, then suddenly for 10 minutes all is super fine but I can barely check my emails let alone read any news before it goes again. Writing this just because it became a bit of a habit, we’ll see if I post it.

Remember the time just before the Gulf War when everybody was rushing around and people were doing their perfunctory “well, we tried but…….blah blah blah” speeches. This is what it looks like now. This is “the re-run of a bad movie” bush was talking about in one of his speeches; believe me I don’t want to sit thru it either, watching the world get in line after yet another bush and his magical flute.

[unrelated funfact: you know the band BUSH ? DJs on the English language radio station in Baghdad (voice of youth) are not allowed to say the name of the band, they have to spell it. “Bee yu ess etch have yet another single out”. I bet all the DJs there thank god there isn’t a band called schwartzkopf, imagine having to spell that everytime you play a song.]
[another unrelated funfact: do you remember this childish joke, in case you don’t know what this is: this is a mosaic of Bush senior on the entrance to al-rasheed hotel, all visitors have to step on it if they want to get in, al-rasheed is where all international state visitors are accommodated, I have seen funny ministry-of-silly-walks like attempts to not step on it, its silly really. Well you can’t see it anymore. They have put a huge rug on it.]

The Adha eid is tomorrow, Haj is over and time will be ticking out. The streets are full of people buying Eid treats for kids and preparing for the Eid feast. My parents, because they are from two different environments, have separate traditions for eid I get to choose where to go for the big lunch, which should be after the Eid prayer in the mosque but since I don’t do that I get a couple of extra hours of sleep.
I will most probably spend the first day with my mother’s family. Tastier food, our favorite caterer Abu-Karam is making the stuffed lamb and he will, as always, drop by to see how well his lamb has been received and have a drink with my uncles, besides, around 30 people and 4 generations make a good party. Big family gathering food fest. Yay.
The war will just have to wait.

Thanks for all the advice on how to get my well-water treated, now I don’t need to worry about that anymore. What still worries me is the air-tight room business, as much I try not to think about it Alan (who started the issue in the comments link) is right. So I guess I have to thank you for offering all the information. It’s just not that easy getting the family to listen, it took me a week to convince them that we need a well. There is one place where I got even more information from, Imshin has posted something a while ago about that issue so I went back to check only to find an even more informative post with a very useful link. (OK, so I am not sure how the proprietors of that site will react if they know an Iraqi is finding their information very useful).
Imshin I hope you and your family will be safe. These days I keep thinking of the lines anya has sent me earlier:

We are playthings in the hands of time
Dancing to music that is not our own.
I have so little control over my life these days let alone understanding where the world is heading to. I hope we all be spared any unnecessary grief.

Saddam has a new photo taken with his sons on the 4th of this month. notice the friendly looking pistol in Uday's belt. a perfect family photo.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

CASI [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq] press release dated 7th January 2003:
A "strictly confidential" UN document, written to assist with UN contingency planning in the event of war with Iraq, predicts high civilian injuries, an extension of the existing nutritional crisis, and "the outbreak of diseases in epidemic if not pandemic proportions."
the document is titled [LIKELY HUMANITARIAN SCENARIOS] and was apparently mentioned for the first time in this Times article (23rd of December 2002):
THE United Nations is making secret contingency plans for a war that would halt all Iraqi oil production, “seriously degrade” the country’s electricity system, provoke civil unrest and create 900,000 refugees, The Times has learnt.
CASI says that it has obtained a draft of this document through a UN source who has authorized the publication of parts of the document. With all the talk about human shields and anti-war protests none of the "human shields" is thinking of a "B" plan. And from what little I have heard most international agencies including UNHCR are saying they are not really prepared or don't have enough funds in case of a "humanitarian emergency" in Iraq, and even if the funds were available, getting the goods to where they are needed is also a problem. It makes pretty grim reading.
There is one term which I have not seen before. [IDPs] Internally Displaced Persons. The report estimates the number of IDPs at 2million. Refugees to bordering countries at around 900,000 to Iran and 50,000 to Saudi Arabia, they would be " from Baghdad and the Centre Governorates" (paragraph 17). I guess the western desert makes Jordan and Syria a bit too difficult to reach but Turkey would probably also see a lot of refugees (well, they have prepared their tents within the Iraqi border there anyway). A more recent article on the UNHCR site says that the expected number of refugees is around 600,000 :
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, said Tuesday between 500,000 and 600,000 Iraqis are likely to become refugees in a U.S.-led military action in Iraq.
Lubbers told a news conference in Geneva that half of the Iraqi refugees are expected to flee to Iran while the other half are likely to head to Turkey in the north.
makes more sense than going to Saudi Arabia. But there is one little fact that the UN document mentioned above does not state, this is from the UNHCR:
Lubbers said a military conflict in Iraq will also produce a large number of internally displaced people in Iraq fleeing the war but, as in the case of the war in Afghanistan, these people would not be covered by UNCHR since they are not classified as refugees under international law.
so what happens to the 2 million IDPs ?
The report summarizes the scenarios by splitting them into two stages Emergency and Protracted Humanitarian Requirements. Here is the list for emergency requirements:
- Bridging, material handling and transport. - Food and necessities for some 5.4 million people.
- Health supplies to treat injuries for approximately 100,000.
- Health supplies to treat the highly vulnerable for up to 1.23 million.
- Health supplies to cater for the ongoing needs of 5.4 million.
- Nutrition supplies for 0.54 million.
- Water treatment equipment for 5.4 million.
- Chemicals and consumables for 5.4 million.
- Sanitation materials and chemicals.
- Total range of services for 2 million IDPs, some of whom may well become refugees. The number that may eventually be in this category cannot be assessed with any confidence.
- Emergency shelter for 1.4 million.
- Family reunion facilities for unaccompanied minors.
- Facilities for 100,000 Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries.
- Mine Action activities, (demining, UXO clearance, mine awareness).
you notice it doesn't make any mention of possible doomsday scenario if one of the sides uses "unconventional" weapons. I guess if that happens it would be out of everybody's control, rather not think about it.
Here are all the links, take a look at it:
Lisha has magnetic poetry just for me.
you know I love this, you should check all her magnetic poems.
boy did I miss you, and your site was going crazy the last couple of weeks. hope everything got sorted out, sorry to hear you have lost your novel notes.
Found some old pictures.
mini picture tour time (click on small pix to see larger):

[click me to see photo]
this building was hit by a number of "precision bombs" during the Gulf War. This is now our main link to the internet world. The picture is face on if you could see the side you would notice that a couple of the floors are built with slightly different color of brick, these are the floors that were hit. The Sinek building was built in the late sixties, designed by Rifa'at al-Chaderji, he lives in the States now.

[click me to see photo]
Another building by al-chadirji, this is one of my favorites. It houses the Union of Industries. this is the entrance to one of Baghdad's main commercial streets. Along this street you can still see the closed offices of all major airlines. Now only one is open (not in this street) the Gulf Falcon is the only airline flying from Baghdad to Damascus and Beirut two times a week.

[click me to see photo]
View of al-Sinek bridge, this was also hit during GW I. Getting across the river was a major problem during the first year after the war. An old Baghdadi tradition was resurrected. The floating bridge. There is a children's song about a bridge that would run away with every flood and kids running after it asking it to come back, this was during the 20's before the British built the first bridge (maud bridge after general maud who led the British invasion of Iraq, now it is called the bridge of martyrs. maybe tommy franks will get his bridge as well, who knows.). The photo is taken from a balcony in the old Melia hotel (now al-mansur), actually all of them are.

[click me to see photo]
everybody should recognize this mosque, it is the background to all broadcasts from Iraq. This is the mosque facing the Ministry of Information, all stations have their tents facing this mosque, you see it from another angle of course. the big silhouette that looks like a ziggurat in the background used to be the ministry of foreign affairs, now it is part of the palace complex, a beautiful building, at sunset with the right light it looks like something fit for [Blade Runner]. Luckily it was not hit during GW I, hopefully it gets thru this time as well. If you look close to the right of it (in the red box) is saddam special tower, it was built with amazing speed. Also part of the palace complex.

[click me to see photo]
this is the approach to the Sinek bridge, on the left is the Ministry of Planning, Architect: Gio Ponti. This was a time when a very sharp city council was commissioning major international architects to do all sorts of projects in Baghdad. We have one of Cobusier's last built projects, the [Saddam indoor sports hall] was finished after the death of Le Corbusier. Walter Gropius designed the University of Baghdad and Mies van der Rohe its mosque. And there is an unbuilt project by Frank Lloyd Wright for an Opera House in Baghdad (it's a tiny picture, couldn't find a bigger one of that sketch). pre-tty cool,eh? now we can't even get world class IRAQI architects to work here.

8th February 1963
president Abdul-Kareem Qasim is ousted in acoup led by the Arab Socialist Resurrection Party (the first Ba'athist "revolution", later to be called the "fair maiden" of all revolutions), Abdul-Salam Arif becomes president and kicks out the Ba'athists 10 months after they have put him in the president's seat. Saddam is among the group who attacked adul-karim's car in al-rasheed street.
17th July 1968
the second Ba'athist led coup, Arif is ousted, General Ahmad Hassan Al-bakir becomes president, Saddam Hussein is vice president. 16th July 1979
Al-Bakir "resigns", Saddam Hussein becomes president of the Republic of Iraq.

We get a public holiday to contemplate how could there have ever been people who were fooled by Ba'athist ideology.
One Arab nation with an eternal message.
Unity (wahda)
Freedom (huria)
Socialism (ishtirakia)
Sometimes when talking to someone who was there during all this, the generation which had a chance to go out in the streets and affect change, it just slips out:
- Salam Pax: "you were tricked and used, you realize this."
- Parental-Unit: "yes, now what? do you want an official apology?"
- Salam Pax: "no just wanted to make sure you acknowledge it"
only my commie uncle starts shouting abuse at me :-)

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Powell speech is around 6pm in Baghdad, the whole family is getting together for tea and dates-pastry to watch the (Powell Rocks the UN) show. Not on Iraqi TV of course, we have decided to put up the satellite dish to watch it, yes we will put it away afterwards until the next event. I don’t exactly like the thought of two months in prison just to have 24 hour BBC (no free CNN on ArabSat which is the only sat we get with our tiny dish).

A quick run thru what is going on in Baghdad before uncles and aunts flood the house. The juiciest bit of news actually happened about a week ago but I was told about it today. A couple of days ago it was rumored that all top officials had their phone numbers changed, well who cares it’s not like I call Saddam every night to chat, but today a friend explained why. Around six days ago the phone lines of the Iraqi air defense units were “attacked”. When you picked up the phone in some of the command units you didn’t get a dial tone but a male voice speaking in broken Arabic. What it said is close to what the infamous email said, don’t use chemical or biological weapons, don’t offer resistance, and don’t obey commands to attack civilian areas and so on. This went on for a couple of hours. Now everyone has new numbers. I have no idea how that is at all possible. I do know that for some rural areas we use microwave signals for phone connections but they can’t be so stupid as to use it for military purposes.
Way to go uncle Sam. This is going to make one hell of a James Bond movie.

The trenches and sandbag mountains I wrote about last week are now all over Baghdad. They are not being put there by the army; they are part of the Party’s preparations for an insurgence. Each day a different area of Baghdad goes thru the motions. Party members spread in the streets of that area, build the trenches, sit in them polishing their Kalashnikovs and drink tea. The annoyance-factor of these training days depend on the zeal of the party members in that area. Until now the worst was the [14th of Ramadan] street, they stopped cars searched them and asked for ID and military cards, good thing I wasn’t going thru that street, I still have not stamped my military papers to show that I have done my reserves training.

Saddam is still meeting officers daily, and we have the pleasure of watching these meetings three times every day. Each batch he meets leaves the place with a 1.5million Iraqi Dinars check and a brand new car. The latest cars to be put in the warehouses I pass by are Toyota Corollas, all white. The warehouse has around 150 of them (we counted the trucks standing outside). It is said that there are a couple of thousand more new cars waiting just outside Baghdad, parked so close to each other when one of them caught fire they couldn’t get to it fast enough, 38 cars burned.

Don’t you just love gossip?

A work related trip to Arbil in the north of Iraq had to be canceled when I found out that if I am going to sit in the same car as a WHO staff member I have to get travel permit from the ministry of foreign affairs, even if it was “local staff” i.e. Iraqi citizen. The permit takes around three days to issue which would have made the whole trip pointless. I really wanted to go. There is no border as such but you go thru an “Iraqi” check point and a “Kurdish” one, and the best way to get thru them without hassle is to travel in an international agency car, but that requires permit from the Iraqis. Bummer.

Door bells are ringing have to go now.

"Players and spectators in the arena
Baffled by our moves and by the world's
We are playthings in the hands of time
Dancing to music that is not our own."
Khalilullah Khalili, afghan poet.

Reader "anya o" sent me those lines.
There are not enough words to express my thanks for all of you. For your kind words, your concern and the help offered.

Diane, having used the words [blogson] and [Salam] in the same sentence, gets to suffer thru all the embarrassing things "blogsons" do: me going on and on about pointless things and frightening her with the thought of me singing "thank you for the music" wearing my best ABBA costume. Thank you.

Jim Henley, man you are fast. And he knows I just have to tell Diane so he sends the email to her as well. Thank you, saying that I have been flattered by your offer is an understatement. Thanks for thinking of me.

Kathy thanks for all the tips and for offering me a blog home. And thank “MommaBear” for me as well.

Al, being the first to throw the (he’s a CIA ploy) thing at me will always give you a special place in my heart. This time he wrote me a poem.
Take it away Al:

Splendor in the Grass

Our ol' buddy Salam, he's a dirty lil' perv
Hussein just can't stop him
Bushy's chances are slim
When he's on a love mission, you know he won't swerve

So our bombs start to droppin' on his city so dear
And the Casbah starts rockin'
While the town folk be gawkin'
In shock as the smoke starts to clear

As the neighbors start looking for their goats most preferred
Past Saddam's charcoaled ass
Follow the bleats in the grass
And find Salam out humpin' the herd
You owe me a new keyboard; my brother spilled his sugary tea on it after he read this now it’s all sticky. Thanks Al

The lady who calls herself “a reader”: thank you, I hope you keep coming and keeping an eye on me.

Emily (I think thanks for offering to host my blog.

And finally Jason [] from Pyra Labs. I was setting up a blog somewhere else when I got his email. I guess this means I will have to tattoo [blogger 4 ever] on my arm now, maybe right under my [I heart Omar el Sharif] tattoo.

I didn’t post the last couple of days because I wanted to see if they were going to block [] as well. If they did that they would have figured out what this is, but since they didn’t it means they are giving blog*spot the geocities treatment. Since the first day internet was offered to the public anything on Geocities has been blocked, later msn communities, yahoo groups, anything on tripod and aol were blocked. The latest additions are livejournal and blogspot. But what happens is that sometimes when you are hopping from link to link a geocities site opens press refresh it disappears, go back and get to the site from the link that let you see the site and it loads again. I have no idea why this is like that but blogspot is the same now. Not that I care. Having had a thousand suggestions from you emailed to me and a techy brother I am now set up with two nifty programs which let me go anywhere I want. This isn’t a state secret, everybody here who wants to use yahoo or msn messengers has looked for things which let you circumvent the proxy, but it’s a cat and mouse game. They know which sites you’re using they block it and you look for another.

Thank you for making the last couple of months just great. for taking the time to read this weblog, to link, write an email or comment. most of you know more about what I feel and think than my family does. for starters none of them know I blog, you do. and Diane just knows way too much for my own good :)
thank you