Saturday, June 28, 2003

will be gone to Basra for a couple of days, no blogging no emailing.
in the mean time go take a look at G.'s photolog.

Friday, June 27, 2003

ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Iraqi WOMAN blogger Zainab.
Zainab has posted her first entry on [], she is not one of my friends and I have only met her two weeks ago, she found the idea of writing online interesting. I am eager to know what she will write as everyone else. go read her now.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

The most insane city, I just can’t imagine a city where so much explosive metal is lying around. The latest in the line of stories which at the moment could only happen in Baghdad is an explosion the Karadah street, just off the main road. A photographer walks down that road and sees someone lying on the street with loads of blood around him and missing one leg. No one wants to get near him. The guy had a hand grenade in his pocket, the idiot. And somehow the detonator goes off, boom, bye-bye leg. The funny thing was that there were some people around the guy who looked around very nervously. No one would tell you what was going on. Until you meet the friendly small shop owner who knows everybody. He says the actual explosion happened in a tea-shop down the road where lots of no-good types meet. And the guy’s hand grenade blew up in that tea-shop but his “friends” were so anxious that no one comes in that tea-shop, snoops around and finds god knows what, they clean the place up real fast, drag him to the other end of the street and leave him there.
Why would he have a hand grenade in his pocket? Well, many reasons. I don’t think he is the fedayeen type, like that taxi driver I met a couple of days ago. It just happens to be the weapon of choice for house robberies, you can’t say no to a man with a hand grenade, can you?
I have started a photolog, I lost my camera after i took the pictures which are on it now. so i will post some of G's pictures until i buy another point and shoot digital thingy
Actually we have been having pretty bad days. If you would have talked to me a week ago and I would have told you that I am very optimistic; maybe not optimistic but at least had hope. Now I can only think of two things. One of them was something my mother said while watching the news. She was watching something about the latest attacks on the “coalition forces” and their retaliation. She said that she has always wondered how people in Beirut and Jerusalem could have led any sort of lives, when their cities were practically military zones, she said she now knows how it feels to live in a city were the sight of a tank and military checkpoints asking you to get out your car and look thru your bag becomes “normal”. When you turn on the TV and just hope that you don’t see more pictures of people shooting at each other.
The other thing was something a foreign acquaintance has said after spending some time in the city on a really hot day. He went in threw his hat on the floor and said loudly: “I want to inform my Iraqi friends that their country is doomed”. I have no idea what that was about but the sentence just stuck to my mind.
The last couple of days have been so eventful and I wish I have posted things daily because now I don’t know where to start. Lets go a couple of days back. Just before the Bremer administration decided that it could not delay the issue of the laid off military one more day.
The protest in front of CPA:
U.S. Troops Kill 2 Iraqis During Protest
It was a bad day to start with and things have gotten out of hand very fast. At around 9 the crowd outside the Saddam’s ooops Bremer’s Palace (isn’t it funny how power drifts to the same places), if you would have driven towards the palace entrance that morning in a car that looked like could be media people in it you would have people mobbing your car and hitting your windshields with shoes. The reaction that day towards media that day was generally very bad.
AP photographer Victor Caivano said the demonstrators threw stones at the soldiers and at reporters, who were forced to retreat.
an Iraqi camera man working for Reuter’s if I am not mistaken, was hit badly on the head and had to rescued by the American soldiers. And it kept getting more and more heated wheni got there the bullets were already shot and the blood was on a couple of demonstrators shirts, the big mass had broken up. Most of them left after a couple warning shots were fired in the air as a small convoy was approaching, and here is where it all went wrong. Stones were being thrown at the journalists and US army and someone in that convoy made the decision to point the gun towards the crowd not above it. Four shots were fired. Two of them wounding two Iraqis fatally (they were taken in by the American Army at the gate and both of them died inside) and two more were injured, one Iraqi was arrested.
I really do believe that the decision to shoot was wrong. They have fired warning shots so why the decision to shoot and kill? They had a very angry crowd which became even angrier after the shooting. Doesn’t say much about the ability to deal and control crowds. Bremer, having realized that the situation of the jobless military people is getting to a critical point. You don’t want military trained people deciding that you are the enemy. The decision came to start paying them salaries and to start a small military, something like 40k soldiers. which is fine with me, who wants military. Let’s just have a couple of them in cute uniforms parading on Liberation Day.

From that incident and until today things have been moving in a downward spiral. The “coalition forces” don’t feel safe and we don’t feel safe either. You can see the distrust in their eyes and the way they hold these big guns towards you when you move close to a check point. And if you ever drive beside a convoy don’t look out your window they would be having their guns pointed at you, aimed right between your eyes.
Some areas are better than others, you still see soldiers in certain districts very relaxed walking around and talking to people. Kids on their tanks or buying roasted chicken from a restaurant. They are on their edgier side when moving or on checkpoints. I don’t blame them; I hate to be in the situation they are in. I was hoping that the day when they would be moving in Baghdad in civilian clothes and browsing thru our markets, mixing with people was closer than it looks now.

I had the chance to go to a couple of bases and talk to people there. The most fun I had was at one in the south of Baghdad where to my surprise I guy came towards with a coke in his hand and said “shlonak?” [how are you? In Iraqi dialect]. It turns out he was born in Iraq and left to the US around 85. This is his first time in Baghdad since then. It was great talking to him. He came with the army as a translator. Told me about the really bad days in Samawah, and how he isn’t really sure he is glad he came back. he didn’t exactly have a very warm welcome, specially the last couple of weeks during the weapons searches. Do you remember the guy G. was telling you about, the translator? It was the same guy I didn’t know that until I told G. where I met him. He’s really a great guy, so talkative and fun. It is a shame that some Iraqis made him feel unwelcome because he was helping the “infidel invader”.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Scary war story #2
(#1 being the night when our neighborhood was attacked with 20 shells from a tank on the Ameriya main road)

I was trying to get a taxi at 10:30pm last night (which is a stupid and dumb thing to do in the first place – curfew is still at 11:00pm) so this car stops and we agree on a 2000 dinar fare. The moment I sit in the car he starts cursing and swearing at “them”. Suddenly he stops in mid sentence turns to me and asks angrily
- are you a muslim?
*he has a muslim looking beard, is angry and I defiantly don’t want to start a theological discussion with him*
- yes, alhamdulillah I am a muslim.
- are you working with “them”?
*oh dear this is not going anywhere good*
- No! of course not. Why should I?
- so do you think if I hide a hand grenade under the dash board they would be able to find it?
- listen I really think you should be careful they have equipment which is able to detect these things, you really shouldn’t carry a hand grnade around.
- aha! So you know what equipment they use
- no,no, I said they might have this sort of equipment.

just then we pass a US patrol; one humvee and a couple of soldiers on foot. He slows down and looks intensely at them. They are on my side and he leans on me to look out of the window. This is the point when I start wondering whether I will die from the explosion after the this crazyfuck throws the grenade or from the retaliation fire.
He decides to shout stuff and whizzes off.

I think I was in a car with a loony-suicide-fucker last night. I wanted to ask why he wanted to hide a hand grenade in his car but I was really really scared. He just might decide to stick the hand grenade down my throat, because it is Halal to kill those who are agents of the infidel occupier.
What do you do when you are in a car with someone who asks you about the best place to hide a hand grenade?

Now you might say that he is part of that movement which calls itself al-Auda [the return] and is planning attacks here and there (I wish people would stop calling them sporadic but I will get to that in a moment). What makes this guy even more dangerous is that he is not part of the Ba’athi underground plot to re-emerge. He is one of the loonies who have taken the call to Jihad issued by the Imam of the abu-Hanifa mosque seriously. And these people just play so easily into the hands of the Auda. Anyway this auda rumor needs some serious confirmation because I havn’t seen anything, banner or graffiti, that actually names them.

To get back to the “sporadic attacks”.
Take the events in Mushaheda village: Nine U.S. Soldiers Are Wounded Battling Pockets of Iraqi
[NY Times, requires registration]
A convoy goes thru the village and gets attacked, RPGs or Kalashnikovs are fired. It is night and the visibility is pretty low, as a retaliation and self-defence you have the convoy shooting left and right down the road for the next couple of kilometers (that if if they didn’t decide to stop and go into attack-mode - see what happened in Hir).
Now when you go ask the people in the village, district or neighborhood about the attacks they tell you the attackers were strangers, not from the area.
Think of it for a moment. If I wanted to instigate anti-american sentiments in a neighborhood which was until now indifferent towards the Americans what would be the best thing to do?
I would find a way to get the Americans to do bad things in that neighborhood, for example shoot indiscriminately at houses and shops
Sabaa Khalifa Makhmoud, 26, had finished cleaning his blue and white bus on the opposite side of the road from the American convoy and had just stepped out of the vehicle when the soldiers began shooting in response to the attack. One of his daughters, a toddler, was outside with him, and he scooped her up and ran inside their house. The shooting blasted out two windows in his bus and left a ragged hole in one of the bus curtains.
make them go on house to house searches, tie up the men and put sacks on their heads and scare all the children.
this would tilt your American-o-meter from the “I-don’t-really-care” position to the “what-the-fuck-do-they-think-they-are-doing?” position.
take a look at the attacks the last week and their aftermath. This sort of thing repeats itself and kind of snowballs from grumbles to calls for Jihad, just like what happened in the Adhamiya district near the abu-Hanifa mosque after the confrontation between Iraqis and American soldiers ended with two dead Iraqis.

what else?
There are rumors that a couple of high-tension electricity towers in the north have been sabotaged. Electricity has gotten worse, we get 5 hours of electricity a day in my neighborhood; it was so much better one week ago. People start grumbling again about the promises the Americans made and have not fulfilled.


Two tank mines exploded on the streets of Baghdad, this is the third one. They are putting them in black garbage bags, the first exploded under a truck which was part of an Army convoy. One soldier got hurt.
The other two both exploded yesterday. The first in an underpass right in the middle of baghdad’s Tahrir square. It exploded under a taxi, no one was killed but two people got injured. The second exploded in Ghazalia district killing a girl and injuring her mother. Now this second mine was laid on the street after the American check point left that same street and the people there are saying that the mine was left by the Americans, which is complete bullshit.

(Sorry, I am all over the place and I was never too good in formulating an argument, but I hope I am making some sense there)
What I want to say is that these attacks might be sporadic and unorganized; but they do what the Ba’athists want to do, creating a very tough situation for the American administration to do anything good or to keep their promises, changing people's sentiments. adding more heat to a summer which is too hot already.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

You walk leisurely by the river on abu-Nawas Street, enjoying the view, you stop when you get to the part where the palaces are and take a look (before you would just rush by that part). On the other side of the road you have all these nice houses, old, colonial style. Exposed brick. Very unobtrusive, everything here has the color of sand. Then suddenly everything jars

The New York Times house in Baghdad. take a look.
Wasn’t there a show called “real Life” on MTV, the one with 5 total strangers living together. They had the most awkwardly colored houses, now we have one in Baghdad. Is anyone interested in doing a “real life” episode about the NY Times house here? You have the cooky looking house and the strangers all you need is a camera

Thursday, June 12, 2003

The king is back; well the “pretender” is here – one of them, I think there are three hopefuls.
"In Baghdad, Having A Good Heir Day"
He is the first of the wannabe-royals to arrive in Baghdad. and boy did he get an interesting reception, It was a mess fit for royalty. You would have already heard that he came in the first civilian chartered airplane, loaded with “humanitarian aid” journalists and his bags. His first stop was the royal cemetery where he was supposed to make a speech and meet “his” people. He got out of the car and immediately he had the traditional lamb-sacrificed-under –your-feet thingy happening to him, after that more sheep got the sacrificial treatment along with a couple of chickens and the meat was being distributed to the “poor”. There was a moment when the crowd gathering to get the meat was bigger than the crowd cheering for him. And there was of course the brave young man who pushed his way thru and snatched a chicken and ran off, everybody was after him “who cares what the king is saying, follow the meat”.
Anyway in he goes and gets instantaneously mobbed by the press, it was a scene to behold. I now have a clear understanding of what a “cluster fuck” looks like. It was hot. The mausoleum is tiny and has no windows and you had those hordes of journalists-gone-mad all wanting to have that special picture. You can see the guy (sorry the Sharrif Ali) muttering: “what the hell am I doing here?” under his breath. Somehow Al-Arabiya got into the burial chamber with him and got a quickie interview right there to the annoyance of the photographers. And then the Arabiya reporter ran out of the room shouting “where is my camera man? Where is my camera man?”. Oooh it was hilarious. Sharrif Ali was supposed to make a speech to the gathered honorables, sheikhs and instant-royalty types who were seated in the garden. The funny thing is that non of them saw him when he came out and stood on the podium. Cameras and reporters had him encircled. I had two people asking me if I could point him out for them.
He was sweating, it was so hot and they had him right there under the scorching sun, he had this smile pasted on his face and a tiny battery operated fan directed at his neck and held by one of his people. Have you ever tried to look dignified while you are wearing a dark suit and under a scorching sun? it doesn’t work, the moment that little bead of sweat start running down the arch of your nose I will start laughing.
After a couple of verses from the Quran and some shouts of welcome, we get to the speech. I was waiting for the moment he opens his mouth and look at people’s faces when they realize that he speaks pretty lousy Arabic. He has this cute accent foreigners have when they speak Arabic. OK not that bad, but he sounds strange, his Arabic sounds forced.
Very uninteresting speech, he even goes so low as to fish for cheers in the most obvious ways: better wages, no gasoline lines bla bla bla. The good thing is that he didn’t get the applause he was hoping for.
Next stop: press conference in a HUGE mansion by the river. More media mobs, more nonsense. There is no flame there to inspire a mouse.

We left the press conference 15 minutes after it started. Right outside the hall where the media was trying to get anything out of the Sharrif ali we saw a huge man shouting at one of his “royal highness’” aides. This is what he was saying:
“look you asked me to drive you people around and I said OK, they promised me lunch so why are they now not letting me in?” he was talking about the banquet that they were preparing. It was a fun day, it really was.
How these guys who were not even capable of organizing a press conference will manage to run a country is anyone’s guess. And I can already see how people will react to the people who will want to be called princes and princesses.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

and I was wondering when will he find out and if he will be angry because I didn't tell him. I think he isn't.

"How do I know Baghdad's famous blogger exists? He worked for me."

He uses words like "chubby" and "cherubic" to describe me. ewww. and what is so wrong about saying "thingy" a lot.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Ya Allah have mercy on our souls. The old state owned Internet center in Adil district has been taken over by anarchists and they are offering internet access for FREE. You just need to dial up a number, no password, no special settings. Whoever heard of anyone doing that?
About week ago a rumor spread that the Adil center has put up a sat dish and will be using the setup the Iraqi government used to have to provide the service. [] is back. The people who used to work there opened the center 4 days ago; you can have an hour of internet for as little as 2000dinars. Take that you greedy sharks. The center is very well equipped, they put together 30 of their best computers and have a very good connection (ok so 30 computers in a city of 5 million is nothing, but it is a start). They even got military protection. The people who work there got a couple of soldiers from the nearest army checkpoint to take a look, the officer asked if it was OK for his men to check on their emails and stuff. The reaction the first couple of guys who came in was a very amazed “Wow!”.
Yesterday they put up a piece of paper that said: “we are happy to announce that you can get free internet access by dialing up this number”. A small little paper on the notice board. The telephone network is not fully operational, certain districts don’t have phones at all, but as I wrote earlier many of the exchanges that have not been destroyed or looted have been linked together. You will need to keep dialing for an hour to get thru but it works, I tried it.
Not a million bad things could have wiped the grin off my face when I read that little note.
Baghdad will also be getting its first GSM network in about two weeks. A couple of thousand lines as a first step, mainly for NGOs and Administration. I think it is going to be MCI who will set this up.
Radio SAWA should be playing the Stereo MC’s “Connected” all the time.