Thursday, June 09, 2005
IRAQ's Diaries -- May 2005
At the end of the diaries, there is a list of three incidents describing the American involvement in car explosions and in the killing of Iraqis, yet Washington’s politicians and the media portray most of the car bombs as events by Iraqi or (foreign) Moslem terrorists. Please forward the list below to as many national and international media outlets.
"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you,
After I soapen* (apply soap on) my face and as I was pouring water on my head and face, it hit me that I am actually in Baghdad. I smiled at the realization and felt good. This was in the morning of Sunday, May 1st. Taking a shower after two days of no sleep and breathing thick dust while in Aleppo, Mosul, Baghdad and the highways in between, was a tremendous feeling.
It is very difficult to plan ahead in a place under war. My plans were to stay for four days in Mosul before leaving to Baghdad, but I was shocked to learn that women alone are not allowed in hotels, a month-old regulation. Women have to accompany a male guardian! As a result I had to take another cab to continue my (becoming very long) journey to Baghdad. I arrived in Baghdad at 6:30 PM instead of 4:30/5 pm (on Saturday, April 30th) because their majesty the American military drivers closed the highway four times and cars had to be diverted away from its path into snake-like, not-paved narrow roads. Whenever Iraqi drivers see American tanks, they push on the breaks and begin driving with a speed of 20-to-30 Km per hour and make sure they are so far away.
I was so proud of Iraqi drivers who didn't wait for the American nonsense and instead always had some back routes to continue driving and get back to the same highway at a later location to avoid the Americans' guns (known to Iraqis as GC) or be affected by their unwanted presence! In other words, they return to the same highway, but far ahead of the American tanks to continue driving to their destination. At these scenes, the following expressions passed by my mind about the American might, the English phrase “eat your heart out” and the Egyptian term “Tozz”
On the way from Mosul to Baghdad, we passed by Beiji and Tikrit. I have never been to Beiji or Tikrit before. Some of Tikrit’s landscaping and buildings as well as Beiji’s rest area and restaurant impressed me.
* There is no such word in the English dictionary. I used the term in the same way it has been used in the Arabic (Iraqi dialect); ‘Soubin’, meaning to ‘apply soap’.
It is now 3:35 PM on Sunday, May 1st. Since 8:30 AM, the American helicopters flew over the houses in our area more than eight times. They fly so daringly low, no wonder they provoke retaliation! I don't know who advises them to do so!
May 1st was a holiday commemorating Labor Day. Today's lunch was okra stew with rice, grilled Sboor (one type of Iraqi fish) and salad.
Around 9:30 PM, we watched a report on Ash-Sharqiyya TV Satellite about the burning of Ashorja Market. This is an important site in Baghdad. It has been two weeks since the market was burned, yet the Iraqi government failed to do any repair or give financial aid to the rebuilding of the market, something the previous Iraqi governments (since the 1950s) are known to do. The report was excellent. It aired the grievances of several shop owners and employees. It was indeed disappointing to learn that the government has done nothing since this market was burned, not even to pass by and offer condolences or ask if they need help with anything.
10:30 PM - After dinner, I boiled a mixture of anis, ginger, cloves and cardamom for the family to taste. They had a tough time drinking it because of the hot ginger taste. Ginger is uncommon in modern Iraqi food despite that it was part of the Arabic cooking in IRAQ all through the beginning of the 20th century! I, on the other hand, use it in salty and sweet recipes with fish, vegetables and fruits, I drink its mixture with boiling water (and other spices) and I even make concentrated mouth wash from it as an alternative to commercial mouth wash.
Monday, May 2nd -- I went with my young cousin to the Internet café. We arrived at about 10 AM. I couldn't use the Internet because of a Satellite problem. We waited until it was 11:10 AM and decided to come on the next day. The Internet Satellite problem was due to interference by the Americans. We don't even need to go to an Internet cafe had the phone lines been functioning because we (like many Iraqis) have computers at home. Why leave the convenience of home and risk being in the unsafe streets of Baghdad? Inconvenience is a funny word to use over here because it is taken for granted. Complaining about it is even funnier. Complain to whom? Knowing there is a list of problems daily, one has to prioritize the matters which necessitate complaint and/or immediate action. Nobody seems to have a say in Iraq, but there majesty, the Americans, not even the foolish puppets that they've installed before and after the fabricated elections.
Later that evening, my uncle's wife expressed her surprise at the fact that her blood pressure was lower than usual. She concluded that it had to do with the kind of food and drink mix I prepared the day before! I continued to prepare no-salt and hot-spicy recipes until I left Baghdad. In general, Iraqis have the tendency to eat the wrong things at the wrong time, and don’t follow health instructions well. Then they complain, ‘my head,’ ‘I have acidity’, ‘my stomach’ and so on and so forth.
On Tuesday, May 3rd, we went to the Ma'moun market to shop for food and cotton-made clothes. We needed a mobile calling card. I was very surprised to learn that the per-minute rates were compatible with those in the USA and Europe. In fact, in some cases, they were even more expensive. The card costs 12 cents per minute for domestic calls. Phone cards are sold in $10, $15, $20 and $30. As of the end of April, one dollar equals 1470 dinars. Knowing people's very low salaries, I don't understand how can people afford to buy them! This is happening in a country where more than 70% are unemployed!
Later in the evening, we watched a special on Ash-Sharqiyya TV Satellite about the suffering of people in the city of Ana. I chocked as I was watching people's commentary and complaints about not having medicine, specialists and even ambulances. They pleaded to have one ambulance! How can an entire city have one ambulance? Yet such a plea was made by a couple of people out of desparation! Also an elderly man complained about the fact that in all Iraqi cities people received their retirement except in the city of Ana.
On Wednesday, May 4, I accompanied my cousin to an Internet Café in Mansour area and did some food shopping. Nothing significant happened.
On Thursday, May 5, I left with my cousin again to buy a mobile tel. number. It costs $35. After reading the email at the same Internet café I was at yesterday, rain began to fall. We headed to Ma'moun area near Sayyid Al-Haleeb Market to buy fish. This is my favorite food. We found fresh Bonni (Iraqi river fish) and Carb.
Today, we watched one of the Lebanese TV Satellites featuring a special coverage of a huge demonstration in Awkar, Lebanon in front of the American embassy! Among the speakers was one highly impressive man. I wished to know his name or his position. Unfortunately, we tuned in to the protest coverage when his speech had already begun.
For dinner, we had grilled Carb and salad. It was so delicious. I prepared it with fresh ginger, orange skin, spices and fresh lemon with olive oil. Dried, not fresh, ginger is available in Iraq, so I took some fresh ginger with me.
Since my arrival on Saturday, April 30th, Baghdad had three dusty and two rainy days! Twice after dusty days, rain fell to wash away the dust and create a wonderful aroma.
Friday, May 6 – We drove to Falasteen St. to my uncle's house. Instead of taking the usual route, we had to drive through Annahdha area because the Americans (as always) close whatever roads they want without notice. We arrived at 11:30 AM instead of 10:30 AM. There were all my cousins, but not my uncle. This is the first time I go to his house without him there. As the Iraqi saying goes "his place was empty". He died on September 8, 2004 when his two brothers and I were not in Iraq. I was deeply saddened to learn that few hours before his death, he was calling the names of his two brothers (who lived outside of IRAQ) repeatedly. His eldest daughter relayed this matter to me! When we left, we took my young cousin with us home for a change of environment and to help him study for his final exams.
Sunday, May 8 – I took a comfortable taxi with my young cousin to Falasteen St. I dropped him home and took his eldest sister with me also for a change of environment and to update each other. I needed to take care of a variety of errands with her. She is the only one among her siblings who does not go to school. This week coincides with exam preparation week. Final exams for all school levels will be thereafter.
Since April 30, my arrival date in Baghdad, we had five brief electricity outages. The longest was on Sunday, May 8th, for two hours, which occurred in the middle of our dinner. Imagine as you lift your spoon full of food from the dish, the electricity shuts down. Placing it in your mouth is, of course, a matter of instinct! It took us five (seemed very long) minutes to find a match to light a candle. We ended up lighting three candles, shifting our mood from disappointment to romantic and calm atmosphere. After we finished dinner, we (three younger cousins and I) went out in the yard to play basketball. By the time we each had ten or more mosquito bites, we surrendered to the TV room. Luckily few minutes later, the electricity came back.
In Baghdad, many areas get limited electricity (up to three or four hours only per day).
Nothing significant happened on Monday, May 9th, but thoughts of me wasting time and not effectively helping people in need have passed by my mind numerous times today. It bothered me a great deal, but did not make me feel guilty knowing I plan to go again. I considered this visit a learning experience about the chaotic Iraqi system under war including matters such as the streets, safest routes to use, best times to do work, when and with whom to negotiate, best places to shop from and so on.
Tuesday, May 10th – I woke up from a strange dream. One of the people I had dreamt of was a Lebanese friend I knew in 1981 (through 1985). Despite that the dream was not scary or annoying, I woke up with some of the unpleasant memories of that old era while in the USA. So I decided to do extensive work with my cousin in the hope to rid myself from those memories and more importantly to accomplish one of the items of my long list of things to do while in IRAQ.
Wednesday and Thursday, May 11 & 12 were spent in house work, phone calls, email correspondence at the Internet Café and help teach my cousins for the year-end exams. They were interesting and relaxing days.
Friday, May 13th – Today was a masgoof day. I took video footage of an interesting take-out place for masgoof (fish cooked facing fire). Tens of some of the best Iraqi fish were being grilled simultaneously. People choose their fish (some alive), weigh it and then pay after it is grilled and ready to go. It is very expensive for the majority of Iraqis. One large Shabbout (Iraqi river fish) and one small Carb cost 40,000 dinars, about $27.
The days from Saturday, May 12th through May 17th were all spent in taking care of personal and family errands. During these days, I was driven either by family friends, my cousin or by taxi drivers. I hate to be driven. In the streets of many rule-lacking drivers, being driven caused me tremendous agony.
On May 16th, the Iraqi resistance attacked the Ar-Rabi’a town (sometimes transliterated as Ar-Rabiyah) on the Iraqi-Syrian borders, which resulted in five deaths and 30 wounded. I didn’t know about this incident until May 18th while in Mosul on my way to Syria.
On the last day (before my departure), May 17th, I drove briefly alone in the nearby streets and later two other times accompanying my female cousins to buy my favorite milk and (very) thick cream (qaymar). It is heavenly to eat qaymar with Dibis (date syrup), Iraqi bread and tea. Because it is fattening, I had a little of it three times in 18 days. I always boil qaymar before eating it, and I do the same thing with milk (even in the USA).
Today, my cousin reported to me that an American airplane flew over her school, Al-Qadisiyya Middle School for girls, on Al-Ameerat Street in Mansour area, and sparked illumination flare, which scared the students and caused them to run in all directions screaming! This is one of the episodes of control, shock and awe, the American military establishment has been committing to the Iraqi youth, never mind the killing of children, women and the elderly!
Wednesday, May 18 was my departure date from Baghdad. I left for Mosul (North of Iraq) at 6:30 am. The cab company from which I hired a driver did me a terrible job. Because I told the manager that I should reconsider my departure to Mosul due to the hotel problem I faced on the way to Iraq, he promised me that the company’s office in Mosul would help me find a hotel. Upon arrival, the manager of the Mosul office was not informed of my trip and need for hotel. But he was nice enough to accompany me with the driver in search of a hotel. Not one hotel allowed me to stay simply because I was a woman alone. I cursed this city and whoever came up with this senseless rule! As I talked about the option of leaving Mosul to Aleppo (in Syria), I was informed that the Iraqi-Syrian borders at Ar-Rabi’a was closed for the first time and that two of this company’s drivers were stuck at the borders. They were closed due to the car explosion of May 16th. So I had no choice, but to return to Baghdad. It was a very tiring trip.
Upon my arrival at home, I immediately called a different company and hired another driver to take me to Syria through al-Waleed borders into Damascus. In the evening of May 18th, I heard that the director of al-Karamah Hospital (in Baghdad) has been killed earlier in the morning. Tens of Iraqis are being killed everyday thanks to the Americans, British, Iranians and Israelis (the latter’s presence is unannounced, but working secretively) while thousands face ruthless treatment and torture in prisons.
Thursday, May 19th – I left Baghdad at 7 AM arriving in Damascus about 5:30 PM.
It was a long trip. Passing by the Iraqi-Syrian borders was hellish. [More details in a report entitled, “Passing By Syria”]
I became certain that the Americans have been behind many (if not majority) of the car bombs (including many of the so-called suicide bombs). This is done either directly or indirectly through the Shiite Badr guerilla (including the killing of people praying in mosques.) Of course the Iranians and Israelis have their big share in the killing of Iraqis whether by bombs or by assassinations. As for the involvement of the Americans in the car-explosion events, which has killed hundreds of civilians, I have three incidents to report:
1. In one of Baghdad’s mosques, a strange man was seen entering and sitting amongst worshipers. Surrounding him, there were several suspicious individuals who began to talk with him. When they noticed his mental condition and the strange way he talked, they began to ask him more questions and quarrel with him. He spoke very slowly and seemed sick. Then few individuals immediately pulled him out of the mosque and inspected his clothes to find out that he was wearing explosives. They removed the explosive belt from his body and began to slap him to wake him up. He was unable to comprehend his surrounding until early morning of the next day. When asked why he was carrying explosives inside the mosque, he was confused and didn’t know why he was in the mosque the day before. He was very surprised to know that he was inside a mosque with explosives around his body. He also indicated that he had been interrogated by the Americans and couldn’t remember what happened afterwards. Clearly he was drugged and was then given some orders! Why? It was obvious, but how? It was unclear. One of the men who was at the mosque told me this story, but didn’t know what they did to the strange man!
2. A friend of a college professor told me that this professor was driving one day and the Americans stopped him to check his car and interrogate him. They pulled him inside the office and took his car registration papers and license. About an hour later, they let him go without giving him the car papers. When he inquired about them, they told him that they sent his papers to another police station and informed him of which one. After driving his car for a short distance making sure the Americans won’t see him, he left the car off the street and took a taxi to the police station mentioned by the Americans. He did so because he was suspicious of the Americans. When he inquired about his car papers at the other police station, they informed him that they never received them. Then he asked a police officer to accompany him to his car. When they drove back to it, they found it had exploded. Most probably, the Americans were targeting the police station they had sent him to it. Not everybody like this professor comes out alive to tell his story. When they are blown up inside their car without the registration and license, the Americans report it as an act of suicide bomber, by simply an unknown person! This incident is not to be confused with the story of another man in which the Americans asked him to report to an American military camp near Baghdad airport; this incident can be accessed at http://abutamam.blogspot.com/2005/05/combat-terrorism-by-causing-it.html
3. This is a recent story after my departure from IRAQ. (In both Arabic and English)
Why has the worldwide media been silent to the American savagery? Why are people watching with such numbness? The deception and aggression of what the USA/UK/Iran/Israel collaborative has been committing in IRAQ is beyond alarming and deserves IMMEDIATE ATTENTION.
* A link detailing a variety of information on IRAQ including a list of newspapers and TV channels; http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/iraq/2005/05/imm-050517-unami.htm
* Details on the Iraqi Resistance can be accessed at http://grassrootsmiami.com/?q=aggregator/sources/8&from=40