After communism and capitalism, there is asterism.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Iraq: F*** you Washington Post says Raed Jarrar. Today's post features voices from the edge. Sunshine is waiting for the war on her doorstep to end and writes of her hopes and aspirations; Last of Iraqis is turned back at the Jordanian border and writes of hopes lost; Layla waits in the immigration queue; Baghdad Dentist writes of a relaxed Baghdad and the blogger formerly know as Konfused Kid writes of a world that has changed.

(Cross Posted to Global Voices Online)

But first...

The Washington Post publishes a story about a dog that was rescued from the 'Baghdad slums' and Raed is incensed. He writes:
one million Iraqis killed in the last 5 years, and you celebrate rescuing an iraqi dog. what a bunch of racist a**holes.

f*** you Karin Brulliard, and f*** the washington post.
and he invites concerned people to send similar comments to that journalist.

On the edge in Mosul

The city of Mosul is virtual war zone at the moment. With the Iraqi government threatening a final battle to retake the city, there is a nervous tension that verges on the unbearable. Sunshine describes the feelings of waiting for the war to end and her hopes for a better future. In a post that must be read in full she writes:
I still have hope, I don’t know why.. All the ex-operations failed, but there is a voice inside my heart telling me to be optimistic...

I open the curtain above my bed, look at the sky, and think.. If the troops will defeat the terrorists and we’ll have security, my relatives who live abroad will come to Iraq, and I’ll be able to see my aunt again, we’ll do whatever we want and wear what we like, without being afraid from terrorists .. I’ll feel more free to write about what I feel.... we’ve been living in a war zone for four long years, full of sadness & fear ... I can’t end the war, but we say “if you have lemon, make lemonade” there’s no bright side in the war, but in this four years I became stronger, and independent person, I believe in myself and I know nothing can stop me from moving forward, not even the war, nor terrorists when I have determination and faith ..

I realized how much I love Iraq, I didn’t know how much Iraq means to me, until I saw It destroyed.

.. but I have to prepare myself for the worse, so that I don’t get depressed if things didn’t work well, I don’t want to feel what I felt in the beginning of the war, I thought we’ll have the life we were told to have, a bright future, and live happily ever after, I didn’t know there’ll be fights and battles in front of my house.. I didn’t know I’ll see dead people in the streets nor hear all of the horrified stories that I hear each day, I didn’t know I’ll have to hide under the stairs for 10 hours continuously!

and Najma's family is preparing for the army house raids that will inevitably come:
Mom has been trying to get us ready, "they might come from the roof, so don't be scared if you see them at your room in the middle of the night", I start whining and tell her to stop but she keeps reminding me that it can happen and I have to be ready. ... Now if my sister decides to have a baby in the middle of the night, what shall we do?

Conversations like this went on and on between my mother and my aunt as I and my cousins sat trying to imagine a better future!

God shows me his love in so many ways.. And I trust that there will be a way out one day, one very happy day... I just can't see it yet!

Meanwhile in Baghdad

Iraqi Dentist is enjoying the new peace that the capital is experiencing. He writes:
as for baghdad, it's great. now it's on the way to heal and stepping forward in the road of revolution and good future. except for some what i call "defects" here and there, one may say that the city has settled down. the people now feel safe and can go out for shopping, visiting friends and relatives without fear. i feet that the normal life is getting back again. while in febuary last year (like the current days), i just wanted to get out of baghdad because at that time i couldn't get oiut of the outdoor. eveeryday we heard someone or two were murdered in our destrict. no one day passed without a funeral...

we still have some problems concerning electricity ( well they are big problems). the electricity in Baghdad just say "hi" for few minutes twice daily. The goverment ... spent millions of dollars just to provide every family with 10amps ... 10 amperes for every family?!!!?? that means no A/C at all, can't iron with refrigerators turned on, can't use ovens or microwaves and and .... moreover till now we are not supplied with that 10 amps. where all that money has gone?

Marshmallow26 is suffering from a bout of insomnia and with army raids in her neighbourhood and barking dogs she has a hard time catching up with her beauty sleep ("oh no I see those black circles surrounding my red bleared eyes…wish there were no mirrors at all"). Marshy concludes that it is the suffering of others that has caused this:
so many killed people and couple of deadly explosions took place yesterday and the day before... I guess that is why I am suffering at night, there are many people need prayers, sleeping on the streets, no shelters, many kids don't know whether their parents will stay for another extra hours with them in this world or the rope of death will wrap them in a spit of a heart beat!!

I decided every time I wake up at night, I must say a prayer, I should ask for peace, peace and peace in the land which the "peacetime" term turned into a forgettable expression.

And over at Alive In Baghdad, a video about the youth football team in the Sadr City district of Baghdad.

Waiting in Exile

Last of Iraqis tries to enter Jordan to leave Iraq for good but gets turned back at the airport. In a repeat of the treatment he received last time at Jordan's Queen Alia Airport he witnessed the wholly degrading experience given to Iraqis turned back at the border. In an essay with photographs and detailed description gives stories of treatment of Iraqis in the "airport jail". He concludes:
I feel the disappointment every minute, a stupid low life intelligence officer destroyed my future and killed my dreams, a legal dream of having a secure safe future, a dream of becoming a dentist in a place that appreciate science and doctors, not trying to kill each one of them… a stupid officer made me sleep on the floor and starve me!! A stupid officer prevented us from seeing our families whom we miss so much…a stupid officer destroyed our dreams….this is what happened in one day…this is a story for one person….just imagine every day how many stories like this happens…every day…can you imagine? This is a serious issue….I don't know what the Iraqis are made of to stand these crisis? What happens every day in that cursed airport is something so important, where is the media from all of this? It really requires the media attention, the light must be spotted on this issue and I'm ready to help as much as I can to expose the truth.

Once in exile in countries like Jordan and Syria, Iraqis do not fair much better. Layla Anwar joins the queue at the immigration counter along with many other Iraqis who apply to extend their residence. She gives a beautiful (and horrifying) description of the nervousness and fears of people waiting for a single official who, at will, decides who will stay and who must leave. She writes:
We were lined up like a herd of sheep, patiently waiting for the "official's" stamp. That much needed stamp which will prove that we are still accepted here...

Or that stamp that will allow us a few more months of breathing space...

Or that stamp that will give us an illusory freedom in some temporary legality...

Or that stamp that will confer upon us a seeming sense of belonging...Another illusion of a "home", however fleeting and ephemeral, that illusion may be...

I stood there like everyone else, waiting for my turn, overwhelmed by a strange feeling that I am about to take part in a game of Russian Roulette...

What if he refuses to stamp, what if he finds an excuse not to stamp, what if he delays the stamp, what if he requests more papers to stamp, what if...what will happen then?

I am almost certain that I was not the only one entertaining these deadly thought. And yes they are deadly if you happen to be an Iraqi hanging on by a string...

So much power in the hands of some official, who sometimes holds your documents upside down...Some much authority in the hands of this, almost always, mustached man who has the final say on your life or death...

And finally...

The blogger formerly known as Konfused Kid now goes by the catchy handle of Abbas Hawazin and renamed his blog to "Catharsis" in English and "Shaqshaqa" in Arabic. Has he grown up? has he reached an epiphany? Abbas tries to explain:
things might change on the inside quite a long time before they do so visibly. The changes that I implemented to this blog and the desire to do so have been long thought of, I just didn't know how I would finally impart with the name I've been using for quite a long time now, after all, "Konfused Kollege Kid" was a gimmicky name for a gimmicky blog...

As for the name, the Arabic signifies that Arabic language is going to play a more prominent role here, I can't decide whether I will dedicate another blog for it or just throw the whole thing here.

Shaqshaqa is taken from a famous Shiite sermon in which the usually reserved Ali throws a fit and rants about his lost caliphate title in a very angry, but articulate manner, after he is interrupted one of his companions ask him to continue but Ali replies to him dramatically: "O' Ibn `Abbas it was like the foam of a Camel (Shaqshaqa) which gushed out but subsided." Meaning he has calmed down now. I've always loved the word 'Catharsis', which basically means a similar, but less Camel-inclined, thing in English.
So people, don't worry, I'm really feeling quite okay.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

So says HNK. The world media seems to treat the Northern Iraqi city, Mosul, as more of a footnote their in the stream of news. Giving no more than a passing comments that the Iraqi prime minister declared a "decisive battle" to win back the city. When I read such headlines I know the human consequences will turn out to be horrific. So, today I dedicate my post to the extraordinary bloggers of Mosul who are living on the front line of a war zone. Also, one blogger writes on the condtions for women in Iraq and if you read to the end, you will find the mother of all biker's.

MSPaint Heart by Nadia N
"mspaint love" by nadia n

But First...

Here at Global Voices authors have a tradition of emailing birthday wishes to each other. In the same spirit I wish to send belated birthday greetings to Sunshine. She got the wish that every Iraqi in her stuation hopes for. Sunshine writes:
On my birthday, I came home, had lunch, and decided to take a nap, because I couldn’t sleep well at night ... as soon as I laid on my bed a [gun] fight started behind the house, (about 30 meters away), of course my wish in my birthday was to stay alive.

I thought “to run, or to stay???!” then I remembered the saying “what hits me wasn’t suppose to miss me, and what miss me wasn’t suppose to hit me”, so I put the pillow on my head and a blanket, and fall asleep!!!! I was so tired.

At 4 pm I heard singing “ HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU” , I opened my eyes and saw my family members around the bed singing, it was really funny and special I blew my candles while I was still in bed ..

End life, killed laughter

Breathless, hopeless, and fatigue

That's what I am now..

I am between the devil and the deep blew see

and between them

I am wishing I am never be...

poem by HNK on her life now in Mosul
Mosul on the edge

Aunt Najma explains the situation in Mosul like no one else can:
In short very little is going right, and the situation in Mosul is going from really bad to much worse.

During the exams period, and in the course of one week, two professors in the university were killed in their way back from their colleges. One was killed in front of his children as they were with him in the car, and the other in front of his son who also got a bullet from the attack but survived it. ...

It is a bad dream, but that's it, it doesn't end. You just have to live through it and put all your feelings in some jar because they won't do you any good.

ِDuring the exams a car bomb exploded in our street and broke some of the windows.. And during the exams, and in the midst of the mess, they decided to change the flag. And they did. And we the people didn't have a say in this.. They're just way too wise to be true.

Now it's the break.. and I hate breaks.. I'm sitting here at home waiting for the decisive battle on Mosul.. I'm waiting for them to come search the house.. and I do not feel like writing, so excuse me.

Sunshine reports that the past three weeks have been "very very very hard":
I felt afraid from staying alone at night because the shelling didn’t stop and we didn’t have electricity, it is hard to admit that 16 years old Sunshine was afraid to stay alone at night! The new operation against Al-qaida will begin soon.

She gives her account of the huge explosion which I reported before but she adds the stories which made her "feel how great people the Iraqis are":
I heard [on] the radio, when A man said “ I was in the hospital in the day of explosion, and I saw the ambulances bringing people injured very badly, I wanted to help but didn’t know what to do, so I took my car, went to a neighborhood and started to shout, “an explosion happened in a neighborhood, many people were injured, is there any one willing to donate with blood?” and I came to the hospital with about 25 guys”

Many people called and adopted the orphans, many people donated with money, clothes, & medicines, my mom and her friend called every dentist they knew collected money to the wounded people.
A man called the radio and his words touched my heart he said “I don’t have money to give, but I’ll work for free and re-build the destroyed houses and shops“ and he gave the reporter his number, the world needs more people like him.

Meanwhile in Basra...

Hussain went to visit his relatives. For readers not faimiliar with the city, here is Hussain's description:
I love Basra city, which lies in the far south of Iraq and in the north of the Arab gulf. So it has the sea and harbors which we don't have in all over the country in addition to its people who are well known for their generosity and hospitality. ... More than 75 % of the budget comes from Basra.

The strange thing is that all Iraqi ports lie in Basra which means that all imported stuff from Asia and some European countries and exported oil to them should be through the Arab gulf and Basra! If Basra depends only on taxes which come from harbors, it should have skyscrapers everywhere.

But he was shocked to find the city neglected by the government in every way and rife with corruption:
the road from the main Harbor ... to Basra city is unsafe for driving as the pavement is not good and bumpy due to the careless it has. This is a simple thing, while hospitals, factories and infrastructures are neglected or broken in this city. ...

I went to Umm Filous harbor (about 30 km south of Basra), which is used to be a commercial one, but it becomes the harbor of oil smugglers.. When I asked my companion about the matter, who is from Basra city, he said" We have smugglers from Iran, Thailand, Malaysia, UAE , India and everywhere who deal with counterparts in Iraq with million dollars per day! I asked "Do the government know of this matter? The answer shocked me. "Most of the Iraqi smugglers are related to main parties in the government sharing the profits with them "he said.

Hussain concludes:
My question is now for the government, if the government can't control a small piece in the far south of Basra, how it can rule the whole country?

The conditions for women

Neurotic Iraqi Wife has a conversation with a colleague who lives outside the Green Zone where Neurotica works. Her friend explains why she must go to work everyday dressed in black and with her head covered:
"I have no other choice “Neurotica”. Its either I cover up or I get killed

“Oh Neurotica, this is happening everywhere in Iraq, not just in Basrah or here but everywhere. We have become easy targets for those animal extremists”. The sadness in her voice slowly turned into anger. “Yes we suffered under Saddam’s regime, but atleast then, we knew who to blame. Now Neurotica, now, we don’t even know who to point the finger at? The Sadr Militias? The Badr Brigades? The Al Qaeda Wahabi extremists? Who do we blame Neurotica? Even the US forces are guilty.

“I don’t even know if my neighbour will tell on me, or my friend. Or that old man I buy the vegetables from. Or that small boy sitting in the corner begging. I don’t know who will shoot me first. The militia? The police? The Americans? Or maybe a drug addict, or a drunk man? Who is it gonna be? If it wasn’t for my elderly parents I would have left long long time ago.

... "nothing has changed. Nothing at all. In Saddam’s time, we lived in fear, and now, we STILL live in fear. Do you think its possible for things to become normal again? Ever?”
Neurotic Wife concludes:
It angers me to see how these women suffer just because they ARE women.

...In my eyes, those women, those constantly supressed Iraqi women, are my true heroes. All they witnessed is constant sorrow and pain, yet their constant hunger for survival puts everyone to shame. Everyone, including me. I send my love and utmost respect to these women. These tough, resilient Iraqi Women. The women behind the Abbayas and Veils.

And Finally...

Imad Khadduri found on an Iraqi Classified Ad's website a photo of what must be Iraq's oldest Hell's Angel:

The mother of all Harleys

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Iraq: The Idiots have finally made Saddam’s wish come true

(Cross Posted from Global Voices Online)

Or so says Baghdad Connect read on to find out why. But the main story is a double bomb blast shattering the perceived lull in violence in Iraq, bloggers put a human face on the impact of such explosions. And reactions to a report that one million Iraqis have died since 2003.

Masgouf by Marshmallow26
Iraqi Masgouf by Marshmallow26

Here are two pictures of the grilled fish ( simich mazgouf), dad is a professional fisherman, he knows how to grill a fish in a robust way. My aunt and uncle's widow were invited to our house yesterday, so dad bought this delicious fish and cooked it out in our front yard…enjoy watching!!!
If you read no other posts this week read these

While the bomb attacks in Baghdad receive wide publicity, mainly because of their political significance, one must not forget that Iraq's second city, Mosul, is undergoing even worse troubles. Much of which is barely glossed over in the world media. Baghdad Dentist gives a first hand account of the aftermath of one huge explosion that he witnessed first hand. He writes:
it was a DISASTER. even the word disaster doesnt describe the crime happened there. as if a nuclear bomb were thrown there.the trees were 100metre away. the bricks of the buildings were everywhere.the power cables were in pieces allover the place. i couldnt distinguish the houses from each other and from the shops. a cyclon is less less destructive. i stood astonished there. i havent seen like this only when the b52 aircraft bombed one of the buildings during war in baghdad. without any exaggeration 20 houses were severly ruined up and nearly 35 affected. who was that monster who did it? he is the evil himself.

And Baghdad Connect interviews an Iraqi professor who gives an interesting perspective on the design of the new Iraqi flag:
the Idiots (MPs) have finally helped Saddam’s wish come true, when they approved a tentative Iraqi flag with missing three stars that bears solely the wording of ‘God Greatest’!

For nearly a decade Saddam’s intention was to drop the three stars ... and keep ‘God Greatest’ alone. The move was to portray himself as a heaven’s gate protector for the rest of the Arab countries from any foreign aggressors like Iran.

Snow by Marshmallow26Snow in Baghdad by Marshmallow26

It snowed for the second time this season in my city, and this time was better and thicker than the first time on Jan 12th. I was lucky enough to take some pictures with my friends ... while we were taking pictures a US convoy included 4 vehicles were on the road, two of the US soldiers stepped out of the vehicle, one of them carried a disposable camera, he looked at me and asked if its ok to take a picture with him...

Those guys were surprised about the snow we had. Oh well when I see snow it is as if am seeing peace around me.
Bombs in Baghdad

We have all heard of how 100 people died in a double bombing in Baghdad pet markets last week that was attributed to the work of Al-Qaeda. Iraqi bloggers fill in the background about the area and people affected.

Leilaa Fadil, who works for one of the international media offices in Baghdad reported how life went on after the event:
When the bodies were gone people covered the remains of flesh on the road with pieces of cloth. ... Dead birds and animals were gathered up and put into a dumpster. Cleaners swept away the pools of blood, shop owners began to repair their shops once again and life went on.

Neurotic Wife wakes up to the news and is angry. And shouts at the people who spend their time disputing the numbers killed in this war:
we still have worthless people still disputing the Lancet report, asking whether its a true study? No its actually a fake one, done in really weird circumstances, they tell the world. No dont believe this report they argue. This report is all lies!!! If this report is all lies, then all those millions of Iraqis that got martyred and are still getting martyred everyday are but film characters in a sci fi movie, right? ... The majority of today’s victims were kids. Real kids!!!Kids whose parents wanted to take advantage of the weekend to entertain them. Entertain them instead of keeping them locked up between the walls of their cold, dark, lonely homes. But no, entertainment in Iraq is wishful thinking. For even the thought of it is a sin by itself.
She also points to ominous signs of more violence to come:
just as I was chatting with HUBBY, BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM, a large explosion took place very close to him. It was so close that even I heard it over the speakers. I guess its official now that the 6 month standoff of al Mahdi militia is over.

Iraq Pundit uses the bombing as an example to berate American politicians who call for a quick withdrawal from Iraq. He writes:
Guess it's easier for the politicians to apologize later. You know, the way Bill Clinton apologized for sitting back and watching the killings in Rwanda while he was in the White House.

Most of us can understand on some level why terrorists don't have a conscience. They're murderers. Any sense of what's right and wrong would prevent them from doing their jobs. Please don't tell me to vote for the presidential candidates who look the other way in order to do their jobs.

Alaa gives some background to the area and the people there:
This particular place has been attacked several times before and still it happens. It is heartbreaking really. The people who frequent these traditional and very lovable places are usually amongst the poorest and are mostly young animal loving hobbyists.
He reproaches the Arab media for ignoring this atrocity or blaming others and goes as far as criticising America for allowing its allies to finance groups that openly support Al-Qaeda. Alaa writes:
Perhaps it is this weak-kneed American attitude that has contributed to the aggravation of the terrorist phenomenon.

Talking about weak-kneed attitudes, Baghdad Connect picks up on George Bush's recent trip to Saudi Arabia where he was photographed posing with a sword. In a sketch Baghdad Connect alleges Bush is associating with symbols linked to Al-Qaeda and their brand of religion and how it makes such groups look like they have official American support. While the truth of this is disputable, one can only wonder at how little the American president and his advisors understand about the symbolism of such actions.

One million dead and counting?

A recent survey published an estimate that more than one million Iraqis have died following the 2003 war. Raed Jarrar gives a political reaction:
More than one million Iraqis have died ... at the same time, bush is revealing his plans to leave permanent military bases in Iraq...

One million Iraqis have been killed because of the US occupation, but US interventionists from both the "right" and "left" are still giving excuses to stay in Iraq.

Oh lord, protect Iraq from the U.S. "right" imperialists who want to stay in Iraq to kill the bad guys, and protect Iraq from the U.S. "left" imperialists who want to stay in Iraq to save Iraqis from themselves.

And Layla Anwar gives an emotional response:
Add to that the 1.5 million during 13 years of sanctions and add to that an unknown number of missing persons and add to that 4.5 million in exile or displaced and add to that all those who were tortured, raped, maimed, and crippled by your liberation.

Bravo Americans, you won the jackpot. You won over 2.5 million Iraqi corpses. And you may share the 4.5 million in exile or displaced as as bonus. ... You invaded and occupied under the name of Democracy and Freedom, so that makes you nothing but a collective bunch of maniacal psychopaths, a group of revolting sick perverts, a disgusting affront to anything called human, an insult to the world.

And finally:

Marshmallow26 explains the importance of the mobile Internet in her life:
I don't even know who said this adage: the world is a small village, but it is %1000 true, we were shocked when the Internet technology invaded our world, life, work and houses but we never thought that there would be another source; mobiles or cellular phones which I call the teeny-weeny genius invention will give every one of us the feeling of mastering the world by one touch!! What a lovely feeling… I did buy a card and a SIM card and boom I had internet via my phone, well now this type is making me more sluggish than the first, why? You know that the weather is getting really frosty and I can't resist the heat and the softness I have in my bed, I decided to check my emails and my blog besides your blogs while am in my bed and my head is under my pillow!! What a lovely feeling. I wouldn't imagine that I can travel around the world while am in bed, ahh so relaxing…am thinking of taking my cell phone with me to the bathroom next time, ha-ha.