Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Iraqi poll results regarding Saddam Hussein's capture

These polls conducted by the Iraqi Center for Research and Strategic Studies (ICRSS) were published in Azzaman daily Baghdad edition two days ago. I searched the web to see if they had a website but unfortunately they don't seem to have one yet so I took the liberty to translate and publish the results here.

Dr. Sa'dun Al-Dulaymi head of the ICRSS stated that the surveys were carried out in eight major Iraqi cities and that a thousand Iraqis participated. Here are the complete results.

Distribution percentage of participants:
Baghdad 32%
Arbil 15%
Diyala 7%
Basrah 15%
Karbala 10%
Mosul 11%
Ramadi 6%
Faluja 4%

Gender of participants:
Male 81%
Female 19%

Education:
Illiterate 9%
Primary 20%
Intermediate 18%
Secondary 19%
Bachelor degree 15%
Associate degree 18%
Professional degree 1%

1)What was your reaction to Saddam Hussein's capture?

Overwhelming joy 59%
Shock and confusion 20%
Sadness 16%
None of my concern 5%

2)Are you personally convinced that it was really Saddam who was captured?

Yes 86.9%
No 13.1%

3)Do you think that Saddam deserves a fair trial?

Yes 84%
No 16%

4)Do you prefer that Saddam be tried by:

An Iraqi court? 60%
An Iraqi court with International advisors? 15%
An International court of justice? 25%

5)What is the fair judgement you believe Saddam deserves?

Execution 56%
Imprisonment 25%
Clemency 19%

6)What do you think a speedy trial of Saddam would achieve?

It would prevent an internal schism or conflict 45%
It would ensure security and stability 30%
It would increase chaos 14%
It would help end the occupation 10%
Others 1%

7)How do you think Saddam's capture would affect the resistance?

Decrease resistance activities 53%
Increase resistance activities 27%
Cessation of resistance 20%

8)How do you see Saddam's capture?

He surrendered without resistance 52.4%
He was drugged or anaesthetized 31.5%
He was taken by surprise 12.6%
Others 3.4%

9)Which is more important to you?

Providing security 54.9%
Providing fuel 35.8%
Saddam's capture 34.4%
Providing electricity 28.8%
Improving the economic situation 5.3%

10)Do you agree that those who suffered from the regime should be compensated?

Yes 12%
No 88%

11)How do you consider Saddam's policies and actions on the following issues:

A)The Iraq-Iran war:

Crime 77%
Justified action 23%

B)Invading Kuwait:

Crime 79%
Justified action 21%

C)Attacking Israel in 1991:

Crime 18%
Justified action 82%

D)Mass graves:

Crime 81%
Justified action 19%

E)Gasing the Kurds:

Crime 87%
Justified action 13%

F)Forced deportation:

Crime 82%
Justified action 18%

G)Killing religious and national figures:

Crime 83%
Justified action 17%


For more information about ICRSS and the survey you can email icrss@hotmail.com

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Back to normal

It's good to be back to normal again. By normal I mean total chaos, endless lines for gasoline, long electricity outages, and sounds of unknown explosions and gunfire. Yes you guessed it right, I'm back in Baghdad again. Though to be fair things have relatively improved since the last time. Electricity has been better since Christmas (only 12 hours of outage!) and queue lines at petrol stations are a mile or two shorter. And no I'm not being sarcastic at all. Thats the way it is.

I got back yesterday evening. My parents were really happy and I was surprised to hear that our neighbourhood was surrounded and raided by about a thousand American troops just two days ago. Thank Goodness our house wasn't raided.

I asked some pals in our street about it and they said that the Americans were polite and didn't really make a mess. While searching a house just three or four blocks far from ours, they inquired why the women were all dressed in black (they were mourning their son who was recently killed by a gang), and seemed to be surprised to know about the fact that Iraqi women dress in black when in mourning, and they asked the family "Aren't you supposed to dress in white or something?". I have to say I'm surprised too that they don't know anything about such a common Iraqi tradition till now.

A large number of weapons were confiscated and several suspects arrested. Attacks against Americans are frequent in or close to our area, and many people including myself have encountered Fedayeen on our streets. I just hope some of them were arrested. They're a huge source of trouble to us. And Iraqis from other areas have started to accuse us of being loyal to Saddam which is embarrassing, for example when I tell someone where I live he says something like "Oh I see, you're one of those sectarian Sunnis, so how is Saddam today?". And I don't feel very comfortable being talked to that way. But things are getting more quiet since Saddam was incarcerated.

I watched some bad news on Al-Jazeera just as I was settling down from the trip. First the deadly attacks in Karbala and then the devastating earthquake in Iran. When I was in Basrah I didn't follow any news because I thought it would be best to get away from it all for a change but it keeps stalking you wherever you go nudging you obstinately in the back crying for your attention.

Anyway, I got assigned to a village (I keep forgetting it's name) which is very close to Basrah city (about 10 minutes) and has a wonderful view of Shatt Al-Arab. The bureaucrats at the Basrah Health Directorate didn't make it easy for us to end up in one dental centre or at least different ones that are close together. Omar and AYS had better luck as they were assigned to the same clinic which is about a 100 miles north of mine but they have a problem with their salaries for December. So I'll be back to Basrah next Friday to check out the place. I'm keeping my expectations very low so I won't be shocked.

I posted some recent pictures of Basrah here. You can also check them out on the sidebar links under Photoblogs.


Friday, December 26, 2003

Nothing in particular

I took some pictures of Shatt Al-Arab and the Basrah port today, however I couldn't upload them from here so they'll have to wait till I get back to Baghdad hopefully tomorrow or the day after. Phone lines with Baghdad are out for some reason, and I was supposed to talk with my family today (they're awfully worried). And I'm getting a bit worried myself since I've been hearing of bombings and ongoing military operations in Baghdad overe the last two days. It seems like both sides are getting pretty desperate. Anyway I have to run for now. Theyre showing 'Stir of echoes' with Kevin Bacon today on Channel 2 which is a favorite of mine. It would be nice if we could get a couple of beers with it but I guess you just can't have it all.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

This and that

I'm still in Basrah and waiting for the results of my application. We're trying to push things to end up in the same dental centre, and it seems our wasta didn't have much luck in getting us a place in Basrah city itself. Anyway we'll get the final word on Saturday. In the meanwhile we're touring the city. Today we went to the kornish of Shatt Al-Arab and checked out Basrah port. It looked pretty deserted and the ships looked like they were left from the days of Sindbad. I'll get some pics tomorrow if I can upload them. It's stupid but Internet connections here are annoyingly very slow.

We also tried fishing around for some booze but we couldn't find any (Fayrouz, can you help us out over here?). It's also a bit scary to ask around since we heard news of fatwas and attacks against liquor stores by fanatic Shi'ites. Very depressing, I guess we'll just have to do our shopping from Baghdad next time.

Electricity outages have reached Basrah, it goes out for 12 hours a day (alternating by 3 hours). Petrol station lines are still much better than Baghdad. It takes about an hour to wait in the queue and fill up your tank according to one taxi driver who was complaining.

By the way, this time we took the bus on the Baghdad-Kut-Nassiriya-Basrah route which took longer (about 10 hours) and there was this Kurdish guy sitting behind me who kept coughing and sneezing in my ear and after we stopped for lunch at Al-Hay his breath started to smell of onions. It was a very enjoyable trip I can tell you. We also passed through the Rumayla oil fileds when it got dark and they looked like candle lights far away in the desert.

Well thats about it for now. In the meantime wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.



Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Iraqi blog no. 14!

Sarmad Faraj is the latest Iraqi blogger in town. He is an artichect and also teaches engineering in Baghdad. A welcome addition to the Iraqi blogosphere. There are already too many dentists and doctors blogging here! Go check out Road of a nation.

UPDATE: Oops. I should have said blog no. 15. There is also this new Iraqi "family blog" by Raed (Salam's buddy), his brothers Khalid, Majid, and their mom Fayza. Its bilingual (yay!) and really wonderful. This is just getting better every day. Now we should all really work hard on getting another Iraqi woman blogger.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Off to Basrah again

We'll be leaving again for Basrah hopefully tomorrow. This may sound crazy but I'm actually looking forward to it. In the meanwhile wish you all a happy holidays season. I wish we had some snow here at this time of the year.

Ghaydaa and the NY Times

Some of you might recall Ghaydaa's email to the NY Times a few weeks back regarding her brother Ali's trouble in accessing his stores due to the blocks placed by NY Times security guards. I just found this on Chief Wiggle's blog:

Some of you might recall a letter that was sent to the New York Times regarding an individual who was having a difficult time accessing his property. I have met with the individual several times to discuss this matter and I did give him a letter which required them to allow him to have access to his property. As far as I know he has not had any further trouble but he still has a few issues. I am still trying to meet with him to discuss his problems. I will keep you posted.


Ghaydaa, if you are reading this let us know what happened. Okay?

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Newest Iraqi blogger

Another Iraqi expat has joined the Iraqi blogosphere. Firas doesn't blog often, but he is a welcome addition to our ranks. Drop by and post him an encouraging word.

Back from Basrah

Got back the day before yesterday. We spent two days there and we should be back next monday. Basrah is truly wonderful and unlike anything I expected. The weather is warm, electric power is available 24/7, mobile phones have already flourished, clean streets, IP everywhere, very little traffic jams, no endless queues at petrol stations, and most importantly the security situation is much stable. I didn't hear a single gunshot during my two days stay, whereas in Baghdad gunfire and sudden explosions have become the background of everyday activity. It was almost as if we had left Iraq and visited another country.

We started the journey from Al-Nahdha garage in central Baghdad. We chose to rent a '91 Caprice (nicknamed dolphin by Iraqis) and took the Baghdad-Kut-Ammarah-Basrah road. the whole trip took 7 hours counting several stops en route for lunch and refueling.

In itself the road the was really interesting albeit exhaustive. For me it was the first time to visit the south, I've been to Karbala and Hilla and have also visited most of northern Iraq. So the prospect was a bit exciting as we were going to see new places.

First thing we witnessed was the extent of damage the power grid has sustained. We drived by hundreds and hundreds of fallen towers or poles carrying high tension cables between Baghdad and Basrah. Miles over miles of discontinuation in power lines. I took several pictures of these. As you can see there are small tents beneath undamaged towers, these are for guards recruited by the ministry of electricity to protect the power lines from saboteurs and looters. It was an ugly sight and I got depressed pondering the amount of time and money to fix all this mess.

Another thing which caught my attention was the sheer poverty many people along the road were living in, particularly in both the Wasit (Kut) and the Maysan (Ammarah) governorates. Villages were composed of scattered mud huts surrounded by vast wastelands. Even their schools were built of mud. Interesting though that you would find some of these with satellite dishes on their roofs. I'm thinking of moving into one of these mud huts myself just for the luxury of continous electricity and the peace and quiet.

We also passed through about 20 IP checkpoints between Baghdad and Basrah (good), but very few coalition soldiers were to be seen. I saw what looked like Polish or Ukrainian soldiers near Kut and a few convoys of Brits in both the Maysan and Basrah governorates.

It was a bit depressing to realize that all the postwar problems and much of the violence were concentrated in the capital. The farther we went from Baghdad, the more we felt secure and safer. Life in Basrah looked pretty normal. British soldiers wandered freely around town with very little protection. The Brits use Land Rovers for patrolling and soldiers don't wear bullet-proof vests. It was obvious that they were facing less troubles there than American troops in the northern and central Iraq.

The taxi driver who took us to the hotel looked bewildered when we were telling him about the situation in Baghdad. He was whining about the electricity situation and said that during some days they would experience 2 or 3 hours of outages due to maintenance. When we enlightened him that we were suffering from 16 hours of outage a day in Baghdad he almost cried out of pity for us.

Basrawis are a very simple and friendly people. They bore the brunt of all of the wars Iraq had gone through over the last two decades. And it isn't hard to understand why they fervently hate Saddam and the Ba'ath. It was very evident from the slogans and graffiti all over town. Basrah residents are mostly Shi'a, but there are Sunni families and a sizeable Christian community as well.

Another thing we noticed was the absence of road blocks and concrete barriers which have infested Baghdad. IP stations were unprotected, and you would find only barbed wire surounding British military camps.

Of course we didn't have much free time to tour the whole city, but I guess we will after having settled down in our next visit. There is much to see. We encountered some problems at the Basrah Health Directorate. The person who was supposed to assign us to a dental center turned out to be a grumpy rude man. He said that they didn't need any additional dentists in Basrah and that they had enough already. When we handed him the ministerial order he almost told us to shove it up our *. He reverted after a while and took it telling us to return on tuesday. Luckily we found an influential acquaintance in Basrah who promised that he would look into the matter and get us a good dental center there.

You can check out some pictures of Basrah and from the road in the Basrah album on the sidebar under Photo blogs. I also arranged the albums of last weeks demonstrations since many newcomers are having a hard time finding them.

Bio

I added the bio page again to the sidebar after some modification. There is a deluge of new visitors to the blog after it was featured in the NY Post, Seattle Times, the Weekly Standard, Il Foglio, Knoxville News, the American Spectator, radio stations in Chicago and Seattle, and was mentioned briefly on CNN over the last week. And since I'm getting a lot of questions by email I hope this helps.

Also forgive me for not responding to all of your emails, I am getting dozens daily and its getting a bit time consuming, and as one wonderful reader correctly put it: "I don't know how many emails you get, but I see how many comments you get, and if you read them all, plus the other bloggers, plus writing, plus playing with your new camera, plus your dentistry, plus hanging out with your buddies, plus playing video games with Nabil, plus helping your parents around the house....you must have a lot of energy!", plus electricity outages and limited online time I should also add :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

More Saddam humour

For your viewing pleasure

Confusion

I still haven't been able to get rid of this deep sadness that has overcome me the last two days. People have been emailing asking me to explain. I wish I could, but I simply can't.

After going through the comments today I had some more thoughts. If you had lived all your life ruled by a tough dictator elevated to the level of a god and then suddenly without warning watched that dictator displayed to the public on tv as a 'man', you probably would have related with my position.

The images were shocking. I couldn't make myself believe this was the same Saddam that slaughtered hundreds of thousands and plundered my country's wealth for decades. The humiliation I experienced was not out of nationalistic pride or Islamic notions of superiority or anything like that as some readers suggested. It was out of a feeling of impotence and helplessness. This was just one old disturbed man yet the whole country couldn't dispose of him. We needed a superpower from the other side of the ocean to come here and 'get him' for us. I was really confused that day I went out and almost got myself killed by those Fedayeen and angry teenagers in the Adhamiya district.

Rachel and Ali explained the Stockholm Syndrome in the comments section. I haven't heard about it before, but it did help me understand my contradicting feelings. I didn't want to see him humiliated as much as I loathed him. And that is why I was dissapointed with myself. I want to see him sit in an Iraqi court and explain himself to Iraqis. I want to hear him apologize to Iraqis. It won't help the dead, but I want to hear it anyway. He must be handed over to Iraqis. I don't care about legitimacy. He must be tried publicly in an Iraqi civil court by Iraqi judges. The rest of the Arab dictators should see it and learn from it.

And I'm still wondering why? Why did he have to put himself into this? Why did he have to destroy Iraq? What did he gain from all of this?

Monday, December 15, 2003

Hehe. Just got this from a reader.


The Beast in chains

Just as we expected, he was dragged out of a narrow cellar close to a small mudhut near his former stronghold in Tikirit. The timing was a surprise to Iraqis. I was beginning to doubt that he would be captured at all.

Yesterday afternoon I was still asleep when I sensed a commotion in the house, there was gunfire outside. I was a bit reluctant to get up and check since there was no power. Nabil stormed into my room shouting hysterically "They caught Saddam! They caught Saddam!". "Yeah Sure" I responded and covered my head with the blanket. I slept for another hour but the increasing gunfire and excited voices made it difficult. I got up and went out in the street, everything looked normal. I stumbled to my grandmother's house where everyone was huddled in front of the tv watching Al-Jazeera. The news were still uncomfirmed, so we waited impatiently for Bremer's press conference. When he announced "We got him" everyone in the room cheered out loud. The following video of Saddam in his long hair and beard was a shock to us all. My grandmother burst in tears.

Al-Jazeera repeated that video a hundred times in that hour. I don't know what got into me but I really felt sorry for the man. For the first time in years he looked so human. He was just a typical helpless 66-year-old Iraqi at that moment. I stared hardly at his eyes and tried to convince myself that this was the same man who destroyed Iraq and sent millions to their deaths. I found myself talking to the screen "Why did you have to do this to yourself?", "Why did you have to put us into all of this?", "Why didn't you fight back or at least kill yourself to spare us these images?".

I had no reason to, but I felt humiliated. I sank into an overwhelming depression and sadness, and I had a desperate need to get terribly drunk. I should have felt joy but I didn't. And I'm still dissapointed with myself.

I went out again, the streets were empty now, everyone was at home watching the news. Celebratory gunfire continued for hours. In the evening, I went out to fond armed teenagers filling our street carrying Saddam's pictures. They were shouting the vilest things about Sistani, Hakim, and even Ali Bin Abi Talib. Some of the mob were dressed in Fedayeen clothes with grenades and explosives in their hands. I got foolish and tried to take photographs. They dragged me in their midst and I thought this was it. Some accused me of being a spy, and others shouted "Kill the bastard". My parents and some neighbours were all over me and convinced the kids to leave me alone. After that they blocked the street and started to threaten passing cars, all the while shooting in the air. 4 or 5 IP cars showed up and the crowd dissipated. Shops closed and the streets were empty again.

I went to Omar's and told him we'd better postpone our trip to Basrah because the situation didn't look very good. I didn't go out today. It was totally different in the rest of Iraq, people were happy and danced in the streets the whole day. There is a glimmer of hope for Iraqis that Saddam's ghost won't be stalking them anymore. Some people described yesterday as the best day since April 9.

Sorry, I have to go now to prepare for my trip. I'll write more another time.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Moving to Basrah

Ok. I might be moving to the Basrah governorate in a couple of days. I have to finish a 9 months postgraduate training period in order to get my dental practice license. If things go as planned I'll start working there next week. So its bye bye Baghdad for me.

I'm not really sure how it works over there, but I might be able to return to Baghdad once or twice a month. Blogging won't be much of a problem if I can find Internet cafes over there. I'll be giving you more details later.

After all it might be good to blog from Basrah for a change. I hear the reconstruction has progressed much over there, and at least electricity is stable.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Isn't this so true or what?

More about the rallies

When we were marching on Dec 10 I told Omar that maybe we didn't need to cover the protests after all since it looked like reporters from all the major media agencies were doing so. As you can see in my pictures there were scores of reporters and cameras all over the place. And since the rallies ended in front of the Palestine hotel we thought that it would be impossible for the media to ignore this event. I felt a bit awkward walking along reporters carrying just a little digital camera while they had all the equipment.

The last thing we expected was to be the first to publish anything about the protests. It felt both good and awful at the same time. Good for scooping Reuters, AFP, AP, and other wire services and media stations. And awful for the people that depended on these services for their news. I'm telling you there were reporters from every station in the world at the demos that day and yet only a few mentioned them at all.

Al-Jazeera described the demonstrations as protests against "what is called terrorism" and estimated the number of protestors as 10,000. AFP estimated the number as 200 at first (which made us furious) then later they gave the count as 4,000. While it was very obvious that the protestors were much more than 10,000. The Anti-terrorism Popular Committee stated that there were more than 20,000 demonstrators marching. You can get an idea by this Reuters streaming clip

Imagine if half or even a quarter of that number were demonstrating against the war or against the occupation. What do you think would have happened? Would the media ignore it?
The voice of that old Iraqi Communist shouting to the Arab reporter "For once speak the truth" keeps resounding in my head.

What the media also didn't mention was that there were other similar protests all over Iraq in Najaf, Karbala, Nassiriya, Irbil, Suleimaniya, and even in Sunni cities such as Ramadi, Ba'quba, and Balad on the same day. And these won't be the last. There are many more larger protests planned for the near future.

If the exact date and location of the protests were not so shrouded in secrecy I believe they would have been even larger. But look at it this way, the first demonstration on Nov 28 was attended by several hundred people, on Dec 5 more than a thousand, this time they were between 10,000 to 20,000. Iraqis are getting bolder. And despite the risk of being targetted we felt more safe than ever marching with the others. The IP did a great job of providing protection, and the Americans had two helicopters circling the area.

It was wonderful watching Iraqis from different backgrounds, ethnicities, age groups, and political beliefs all marching for the same cause. Seeing Muslim clerics walking along Communists shouting "No to terrorism, Yes to peace and democracy" was priceless. And no one expected that political parties from the opposition would show up as well.

I'm glad that everyone liked the pictures I took. If my memory card was larger I could have taken many more. I tried hard to get an overhead view of the protestors but the IP didn't allow reporters to take photos from buildings for security considerations. Omar and I contemplated climbing a tree then we decided against it because we would look foolish like shuwadi (monkeys). A truck driver noticed our predicament and offered for us to climb over his truck where Omar took these pictures.

As a result of the exclusive coverage of the demonstrations I have been inundated with emails again, so please understand if I can't reply to all. I also got emails from people who were surprised that Baghdad looked so very much like Los Angeles or Miami. I tell them that you haven't seen anything yet, there are neighbourhoods in Baghdad that look even better than Beverly Hills. I will be publishing more pictures soon. And the reason the pics were so large was because I didn't have any time to compress them since power was out most of that day, so I had to upload them directly from the camera.

I also got a terrible flu and I can't write more now though I have a lot to write about.

One more thing, feel free to distribute, share, and print these pictures as long as you credit me and give a link back to the blog. There is no copyright.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

A great day for Iraq

The rallies today proved to be a major success. I didn't expect anything even close to this. It was probably the largest demonstration in Baghdad for months. It wasn't just against terrorism. It was against Arab media, against the interference of neighbouring countries, against dictatorships, against Wahhabism, against oppression, and of course against the Ba'ath and Saddam.

We started at Al-Fatih square in front of the Iraqi national theatre at 10 am. IP were all over the place. At 12 pm people started marching towards Fardus square through Karradah. All political parties represented in the GC participated. But the other parties, organizations, unions, tribal leaders, clerics, school children, college students, and typical everyday Iraqis made up most of the crowd. Al-Jazeera estimated the size of the crowd as over ten thousand people.

You can find a list of some of the parties that we noticed there at Omar's blog. At one point it struck me that our many differences as an Iraqi people meant nothing. Here we were all together shouting in different languages the same slogans "NO NO to terrorism, YES YES for peace".

I spent most of the time taking pictures. heh, I really enjoyed playing the role of a journalist. Everyone was tugging at my sleeves asking me to take their photos mistaking me for a foreign reporter. Some people recognized a reporter from Al-Arabiyah station and they started taunting him. One old man shouted to him "For once, speak the truth".

What was interesting, a group of Al-Sadr supporters showed up and started
shouting "NO NO to occupiers" obviously in an attempt to hijack the demonstration. They drowned in the rest of the crowd.

Tawfiq Al-Yassiri of the Anti-terrorism Popular Committee (which organized the demos) lead the crowd. GC member Samir Al-Sumaydai and deputy minister of interior Ahmad Kathim Ibrahim also attended along with several ministers.

The demonstrators gathered in Fardus square where party representatives gave speeches. We left at 3 pm, had a Kabab lunch at a nearby restaurant and went home. We're at the Internet cafe right now and I've been sitting for 3 hours trying to upload the pictures. I didn't imagine it would be such a time consuming thing job. AARGGHH. If it takes too long I'll try to upload half of them today and I'll leave the rest for tomorrow. But they're really good and I'm determined to put them all. I think I would make a great photographer, don't you think? Say yes.

Here is the first group of photos, I took these before people started marching, so it looks like a small crowd. I'm still working on the rest:

First Album

UPDATE: Here is the Second Album

MORE: Here is the Third Album. And I'm done for tonight. Will post the rest tomorrow. pheew, that was some work, I'm exhausted.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Neo-Ba'athists

Well well. It was bound to happen but I didn't expect it to be this soon. Some former Ba'athists have expressed their intentions to start a new political party in Iraq. Great, just we needed. In an attempt to alleviate Iraqis reservations they announced that this new party will be comprised of liberal, nationalist, and islamist characters in addition to the former Ba'ath members.

Some Iraqis described this maneuvre as lame. Others are surprisingly nonchalant about it. Personally I have nothing against the basic idea as long as they denounce the Aflaqian chauvinist ideologies they used to embrace, but what bothers me is that some of them petulantly claim that the original Ba'ath wasn't so bad and that Saddam Hussein was the one who gave it a bad name. Salah Omar Al-Ali (former RCC member and Iraq ambassador to the UN) holds this viewpoint and he has been all over Al-Jazeera and Abu-Dhabi stations defending Ba'athism and trying to shift the blame on Saddam.

We'll see what turns out of this in the near future.

Outages

Electricity has been terrible the last few days. Less than 8 hours of power a day. We've been hearing from people in the ministry of electricity that the capital is suffering the most from outages. Whereas people in the south of Iraq are enjoying 24 hours of continous power on the expense of Baghdad. Which should have the priority?

Power stations in the south in the Nassiriyah governorate have a significant surplus of electric power which could be transferred to Baghdad, but local officials refused to follow out the ministry's instructions explaining that they only follow orders from the elected governor not from the GC assigned minister. The minister was furious but helpless. And of course the GC hasn't been doing anything about it. Damn. Who is going to lead the country out of all this mess??

We're also hearing stories of bribes given to engineers at electricity distribution stations from some neighbourhoods to get continous power, and of course to compensate for the additional power loss the engineers cut power from other neighbourhoods (who don't pay). This is the story of my life at the moment.

Iraqi humour

This is a funny Iraqi spoof of the popular Ketchup song. It's in Arabic. The guy complains about the time he went to Bab Al-Sharji when his wallet was stolen by pickpockets. He curses his bad luck and says that he should have went to Al-Karrada or the Al-Mansour district instead. I'm sure Iraqi readers will enjoy it.

Monday, December 08, 2003

December 10 demonstrations update

I just got word today that the anti-terror rallies are confirmed on Dec 10th. The Anti-terror Popular Committee is organizing them together with the ministry of interior and political parties from the GC. They are to be held all over Iraq. Good thing they let us know beforehand this time. We'll all be there and I'll be taking pictures. Time for some action now. Let's bombard the 'media' with emails and letters pressuring them to give the demos some real 'coverage' this time. Show your support to the Iraqi people anyway you can. Go here and get yourself a banner for your blog or website.

Camera

I got the digital camera, and I'm taking photo requests now :)
I'll try to capture everyday life images, the good and the bad. Of course I'll upload the images to the blog, but I'll try to organize them in galleries and put links to them on my sidebar. Still working on the best way to put up a gallery on the blog.
::Robert has being going around Iraqi blogs trolling and alleging that I have banned him from posting on my comments section, I told him that I haven't actually banned anyone yet. Nevertheless he pictured me in my blog as being so scared from what he might post in my comments that I preemptively banned him before he did.

Although I have never posted any comments to Zeyad's blog (Zeyad, according to the bobbleheads is the one who got Alaa started on his blog), it would seem he's already made a pre-emptive move to have me banned from ever doing so.


Robert you said it yourself, how the hell would I know your IP address if you haven't posted on my blog yet?? Take a look around man and try to learn a couple of things about blogs and don't go spreading lies without PROOF. It only affects your credibility in the end. Sheesh.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Latest demonstrations in Baghdad

Several hundred Iraqis protested for peace and against terror yesterday at Fardus square in front of the Palestine and Sheraton hotels. The rally was organized by the Iraqi Democratic Trend, prominent tribal leaders, and clerics from southern Iraq. The demos which were led by children carrying flowers called for immediate steps to be taken by the CPA and GC to put a stop to all violence against Iraqi citizens and coalition forces, and to resinstate the Iraqi army after screening out Ba'athist elements.

Aziz Al-Yassiri secretary of the Iraqi Democratic Trend described the daily attacks in Iraq as acts of terrorism and that any attempt to legitimize or justify these acts as 'resistance' are ridiculous.

Safaa Al-Ajili of the Iraqi Nationalists Movement demanded the closing of borders with neighbouring countries to prevent the infiltration of saboteurs, criminals, and terrorists seeking to destabilize the country and undermine reconstruction efforts.

Protestors carried signs and banners that said 'No to terrorism', 'Yes for peace', 'Iraqis stand united against terror and violence', 'Thanks to CPA soldiers', 'We thank the coalition for our FREEDOM'. (Via Azzaman Baghdad edition)

Here is a photo of the demonstrations scanned from Azzaman paper (poor quality).

Preparations for larger rallies and a national day against terror are still under way and are planned for mid December.

By the way, what the hell are news organizations trying to prove by putting terrorism between idiotic quotation marks like this? I've decided to put quotation marks myself on the following terms: 'news organizations', 'media', 'press', 'coverage, 'reporter', and 'journalist'. F*ing morons.

In the meanwhile please visit this site and get a banner for your website or blog like the one on my sidebar to show your support for the Iraqi demonstrations and peace in Iraq. Encourage as many people as you can to do the same. Many thanks to ManInTheShadows, Ruleta, Bianca, and everyone else for their great efforts.

Muqty is pissed again

Muqtada Al-Sadr threatened calling for a general strike if the coalition refused to release his detained followers. This was during the Friday prayers khutba in Kufa.

This juvenile wannabe never ceases to amuse me. What kind of strike? Who the hell is going to listen to your ramblings? I'm afraid you're just going to make an ass of yourself once again.

While we're taling about Muqty, I heard from someone who witnessed the Karbala incident about two months ago that the bloody dispute between Al-Sadr's Al-Mahdi militia and Sistani followers was not about control of the holy shrines. It was specifically about cars that belonged to the governorate. Each party wanted the cars for its own use and they decided to settle the dispute with AK-47's. Good. That only reinforces my impression that Muqty is actually a gangster abusing the legacy of his father Mohammed Sadiq Al-Sadr.

Iraqi blogosphere map

The Commissar has kindly set up another map, this time of the Iraqi blogosphere. Many thanks Comrade!

Iraqi 'resistance' websites

A friend pointed out several of these to my attention, so I decided to take a look. Here and here. They are all in Arabic, but you can find many pictures (most of them from the war), video clips of insurgent attacks, and audio clips of Saddam's latest messages. They refer to him as the 'Mujahid Leader'. But what interested me the most was the fact that they highly admire Muqtada Al-Sadr and regard him as one of theirs.


::I found this quote somewhere on an Iraqi forum, and it has been lingering in the back of my mind for so long that I might as well put it on the blog:

Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.

Hope other Iraqis can learn from it.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Update on the Anti-terror demonstrations

We spent some time investigating whether the rallies were still schedulled for December 10th. Yes, it was like doing some kind of detective work. It's strange that nobody seems to know any details about the event. We went to different local newspaper offices which had published articles about it. All we got is that the demonstrations are still being organized but no exact date has been given out due to security considerations. hmmm. How are people supposed to demonstrate when everything is being so secretive? This isn't good at all.

Anyway, Dr. Ali, Omar's brother, contacted someone from the Communist party, and they informed him that the demos would be on 10 December if everything went right, otherwise they would be on the 15th. We tried to get to the Al-Iraqiyah channel which announced the preparations for the march two weeks ago, but we found out that it was inaccessible to us. grrr. And of course the GC doesn't have a website or even a f*ing email address, so one can be sure. But wait, I could try emailing their members political parties websites. Help me out with this. Go to Future of Iraq Portal and find their contact info under Iraqi parties. I don't really have the time or energy to do it all.

To wrap it all up, the rallies are still on, but the exact date will be announced one or two days before. Sorry guys, this was the best we could do. I will be sure to post any other updates as soon as I get them. And of course I'll be there and hopefully taking pictures if I get my camera.

Azzaman paper had an interview with Ibrahim Al-Abudi a member of the new Anti-Terrorism Popular Committee which is organizing the rallies together with the GC and the ministry of interior. He didn't give any location or date for the rallies. He accused Arab Sattelite channels of inciting violence in terrorism within the Iraqi society. This could mean that the demonstrations will also be against those channels. Al-Jazeera anyone?

A chuckle

I told you Saddam is everywhere! He even met Bush during his short visit (From an Iraqi newspaper).

IP launch first preemptive strike against insurgents

Lt. General Ibrahim deputy minister of interior ordered the first of the IP strikes against militants' hideouts in Baghdad three days ago. The Special IP Force made a surprise assault on a location at Hay Ur in Baghdad used by militants as a weapons storage. The IP engaged in a firefight with the militants who left the location in a hurry after some were injured.
No elements from the Special IP Force were injured and they uncovered a huge stockpile of RPG's, mortars, TNT, ammunitions, and explosives at the location.

Saddam is everywhere

It is accepted as common wisdom today in Iraq that Saddam Hussein has been always on the run since April 9 and that he rarely sleeps twice in the same location. There is evidence that he regularly changes his trusted bodyguards and even executes some of them if he feels they are less 'loyal' to him than they used to be. All other evidence points out to the fact that he had properly planned for this probably for some months before the war, and had prepared secret hideouts that are unkown by anyone but himself with an appropriate amount of cash. Saddam had lived most of his life in hiding, he is now doing what he knows best.

Many people from various locations all over Iraq have alleged meeting Saddam all of a sudden. One of the latest of these 'sightings' occured in Northern Iraq during a funeral of an Iraqi general that was big in the Iraq-Iran war. According to the generals' family a taxi stopped at the funeral from which two people approached the family in the dark, when they were closer everyone realized that one of them was Saddam Hussein. He offered his consolations to the family and shaked hands with the rest, before leaving he offered them an envelope and dissappeared in the dark, the envelope contained 10,000 dollars.

Another recent story was that Saddam knocked the door of a respected tribal leader's house in Al-Anbar governorate one night. He was accompanied by three people, they all sat in the sheikh's Madhif, had some Arabian coffee and left after a while. The people that were there claim that he was wearing traditional Arab clothes with a kuffiya wrapped around his head, he had grown a long white beard but otherwise looked cheerful and healthy.

In Mosul, Saddam visited an injured militant in a hospital and exchanged greetings with the staff and left promptly.

In Baghdad, a woman sweared that she rented a taxi and after getting inside, the driver turned to her and exchanged small talk with her. Of course that driver was Saddam.

In the Al-Harthiyah district, there was something suspicious going on in an empty house. The neighbours called the police, after a few minutes Saddam came out with two aides and left in a truck loaded with furniture.

A tribal sheikh near Tikrit was kidnapped in the middle of the night, was blindfolded and driven on a bumpy road for a long time, when they unfolded his eyes Saddam was sitting in front of him smoking a Cuban cigar, and he asked him why wasn't he helping the boys in the 'resistance', and warned him of a grave destiny if he 'collaborated' with the occupiers.

In Ba'qubah, at a mosque one of the locals had just finished praying when the man on his left turned his face to him and said "I will be your guest at your house this night". That man was Saddam.

There were other similar Saddam Hussein sightings in Azerbaijan, Russia, Belarus, Iran, Syria, Israel, the Phillipines, Hawaii, and the Carribean Islands.
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At an unidentified location in Iraq, Saddam was seen with a foreign looking guy carrying a guitar, wearing a white suit, Blue Swede shoes, and with a haircut that looked very strange to Iraqis. They reported this to coalition troops after which they learned that the strange looking guy was a famous American rock'n roll star who is also suspected to be behind attacks against coalition forces in the triangle.

At another area, Saddam was seen leaving a weird saucer-like aircraft accompanied by little green men with large wrap-around black eyes. They were speaking in some strange language and people were bewildered.

Somewhere else, Saddam was sighted wearing a black leather outfit that looked like something out of a BDSM porn video. He was carrying a pinkish cylindrical object never seen before by the locals with which he did some very strange stuff, he was also stalking their animals for some unkown reason. People were totally freaked out.


Izzy the lizard

Damn. We were soooo dissapointed when we found out that it wasn't really Izzat Ibahim Al-Dori that was captured in Al-Hawija near Kirkuk last tuesday.

We were hearing news all day about a major operation by US forces in that area against militants. But of course GC member Muwaffaq Al-Rubay'i had to blabber knowingly to the BBC about his 'inside info' that the Izzat was either captured or killed. He was excitedely talking about 'the big fish'. I was almost concluding that they were probably closing on Satan's gay lover himself and my expectations went sky-high, but I was also willing to settle on Izzy just in case.

After a couple hours of pacing nervously in front of the tv it was all bluntly denied by a military spokesman and I went all gloomy. They had succeeded in arresting his private secretary General Saad with a huge stash of US dollars, but it did seem there was enough evidence that Al-Dori had visited the area.

An IP official from Kirkuk said that the raids also resulted in capturing several top figures from the former regime's special security and Mukhabarrat.

Now I was a bit critical of US intelligence reports that Al-Dori is behind financing and coordinating attacks against Americans in the area, and many Iraqis agree with me on this issue. Let's face it, the man's medical condition has deteriorated significantly over the last two years or so. We used to hear that he needed a complete blood transfusion every six months or so to survive (don't know the exact disease), and for anyone with such a debilitating condition it would be too much to be always on the move as he requires continous medical care. However his oldest son Ahmed may have something to do with the attacks as we have been hearing.

Anyway after capturing his own private doctor and private secretary, not to mention his most favoured wife and daughter, I tend to believe that he will surrender sooner or later or that he will be forced to do so to save his life. But it would be ridiculous to assume that if Izzat is detained the 'resistance' will have much to lose. It's the Big Fish who we should be after in the first place.


::Haven't been able to post for the last few days because of electricity problems (Yes it's gone bad again). Getting less than 8 hours of power a day now. And I'm really really pissed.

::By the way, hasn't anyone noticed the change in the blog design? I made a few minor changes just to make it a bit distinct from other Iraqi blogs that share the same template. Hope nobody is having trouble using different browsers, and I think I also got rid of the site scroll problem once and for all.

::Baghdadee has turned his blog into a handsome message board. Check it out.

What really happened in Samarra?

Someone asked me to comment on the Samarra incident a couple of days ago. To tell the truth I can't possibly give an opinion when there are so many different and conflicting accounts of what actually took place there. One thing is certain though, 6 Iraqi civilians, two Iranian tourists were killed and 55-60 others were severely injured.

The American side of the story reports that two convoys delivering money to the Malwiyah bank in Samarra was attacked by insurgents from different locations in the city with machine guns, and the troops returned fire killing in the process 45 militants.

Samarra residents tell a completely different tale. Some say that the attackers dressed as Fedayeen were riding motorcycles and attacked the convoys with RPG's from both ends of the street damaging several American vehicles in the process, others say they popped up from rooftops. Tanks opened fire on the militants causing severe damage in the area and injuring about 60 people, I saw footage and pictures of burnt cars (20 of these) at the location. The Samarra hospital medical staff confirmed the number of civilian casualties and most of them are still being treated there. There are more eye witness accounts that give other versions of the story. One account I heard today from someone was that the Fedayeen had killed 129 (to be exact) US soldiers, and yes there are such stories circulated in Iraq.

So the Americans said 45 attackers were killed, how certain are they that all of those were actually militants? Did they count the 8 civilans killed or not? I have no idea. If they were dressed as Fedayeen, it would be obvious. The fact that Fedayeen would attack in such large numbers is very troubling. Yes, it may be easier for coalition forces to engage the combatants in such situations as that is what they were properly trained to do. But, I doubt the militants would be that foolish, unless of course they were a score of fanatics or foreign Jihadis seeking some easy Shahada.

Either way, it was not a pretty situation from what I have heard, Samarra residents are furious. Their town although very vocal against the American occupation has rarely witnessed any insurgent attacks against troop, the Samarrai tribes are known for their historical animosity with Tikriti ones. The CPA made an agreement with local sheikhs to keep a very low number of troops inside the city. Its regarded as a holy one by Iraqi Shi'ites due to the presence of the shrines of the Imams Hassan Al-Askari and Mohammed Al-Jawad, and several Shia families have settled in the area which is otherwise largely a Sunni one. A large number of Iranian tourists visit the city yearly.

If insurgents are attacking in such large groups, it would mean they are getting bolder. I doubt that they were after the money, its very unlikely that they had any previous knowledge of it, but I could be wrong. So I guess the jury is still out on the real story.


Tuesday, December 02, 2003

::This is really cool, a map of the Commonwealth of Blogosphere states. Its even cooler that I got both an Island and a whole country to myself. hehe.

Largest postwar crackdown operation by the IP

Lt. Ahmed Kathim Ibrahim deputy of the minister of interior announced that the ministry of interior had finished planning on the largest preemptive operation since the war against terrorist cells, armed militants, and remnants of the former regime. This unprecedented operation will be carried out by a joint task of IP and the new Civil Defense corps, it will be the first Iraqi controlled operation of its kind with no coalition support.

Lt Ibrahim did not reveal any details concerning the theatre of operations, the areas of Iraq covered, or the exact date.

This decision was after several threat letters by Ba'ath loyalists against the ministry, IP officials, the Police Academy, and top ministry officials specifically against Lt. Ahmed Kathim himself. Kathim added that this this threat was the third one after similar threats from both Al-Qaeda, and Mullah Krikar of Ansar Al-Islam.

This operation if carried out efficiently would prove that Iraqis alone are qualified to handle the security situation. I believe it would be a great opportunity for IP and the young Civil Defense force to accept their huge responsibilities while relying less on the coalition. We wish our brave men all the success in their mission. I for one am convinced they will not let us down anymore.

An Iraqi survey

Survey results by an Iraqi organization called Al-tajammu' Al-thaqafi indicated that a majority of Baghdad residents look forward to a secular democratic Iraqi state and regard the various attacks against coalition troops and Iraqi civilians as acts of terrorism not of resistance.

A sample of 816 Baghdadi's was covered by the survey (637 of them males, and 144 females). 13 of the participants carried PhD degrees, 34 with Masters degrees, 299 Bachelor degrees, 153 diplomas, 158 high school students, 96 secondary schools, and 62 from primary schools.

The survey consisted of 17 questions discussing several issues such as the role of women in postwar Iraq, Federalism, and seperation of state and religion.

Al-tajammu' Al-thaqafi was found last July by a group of Iraqi intellectuals with goals to encourage an Iraqi society that holds principles such as freedom of speech, cultural communication, respect of human rights regardless of religious, sectarian, and ethnic differences, and condemnation of violence, terrorism, extremism, and racism. They are an idependent self-financing organization. (via Azzaman Baghdad edition)

Corrections

Regarding yesterdays post. I said that the attacks on the Spanish intelligence officers were carried out 200 km's south of Baghdad. I learned later that they actually occured near Latifiyah some 35 km's south of Baghdad, and according to local residents the attackers were wearing Iraqi military jackets and had kuffiya's wrapped around their heads. They hanged around the scene for a while after the attack threatening locals and shouting pro-Saddam slogans while shooting in the air.

Monday, December 01, 2003

What it feels like to be Saddam for a few minutes

On a lighter note. Fuad, an Iraqi citizen has been displaying Saddam Hussein's infamous
military suit at Tahrir square in downtown Baghdad. He confessed to Azzaman that he got the suit from one of Saddam's presidential sites in Baghdad after the war. He has been offering it since for rental to interested customers to wear for souvenir pictures. His fees range from 500 Dinars (25 cents) wearing the suit to 1000 Dinars for a walk in it. An American officer offered Fuad 200 Dollars for the suit but he refused stating that he depended on it for his livelihood, he was making 15 thousand Dinars a day from renting the suit to Baghdadis. The funniest thing is that Fuad employed 2 of his relatives as bodyguards for fear on the suit from getting stolen. (From Azzaman)

'Halhoola lil Ba'ath al Samid'

These words were uttered by the Iraqi teenager treading and dancing over the bodies of the Spanish Intelligence officers two days ago. It means 'Cheers for the standing Ba'ath party'. Had this incident occured in Falujah or Mosul I would have dismissed it as being staged by a few Ba'athist and Saddam trianglees, but no this is a different situation. This happened 200 hundreds kilometres south of Baghdad in a Shi'ite locality far from the triangle. I didn't have the stomach to talk about it, but since Omar did and told everyone that we had discussed the issue I might as well do the same.

Before I go into the details, I want to point out two things. First, where did the camera come from? Both Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyah aired this scene, but they did not claim it was exclusive footage. I do not know if any other stations displayed it. You should realize that the nearest Al-Jazeera office is in Najaf which is more than 100 kilometres away from this location. This leads me to my second point, how could the camera crew reach the scene a long time BEFORE the local authorities did? There are IP stations in that area, and from what I was told coalition camps are less than 20 kilometres far. From the footage I noticed that when they were filming the bodies it was before dusk, when they filmed the IP and the Americans at the scene it was very dark, which means the camera crew had at least half an hour to themselves over there.

When they first filmed the bodies there were 3 guys milling around the camera, one of them
wearing green shorts. They were talking to the cameraman while looking back and forth between the bodies and the camera, they were very obviously excited to see a camera at all, since people in these rural areas have probably never seen a camera during their whole lifetimes. After that there was a cut in the film and later they showed the guy inthe green shorts standing on two bodies, leaning on the other guy and trying hard to balance himself while at the same time he was shouting 'halhula lil ba'ath al samid.

Now in these Shi'ite areas of the south, you could get killed for shouting a Ba'ath slogan
out loud, but this teenager was doing it for the camera, he was putting up a show. I don't
even want to imagine what happened to the guy after everyone in his area had watched him on tv, an area very hostile to the Ba'ath. Why do you think the cameraman cut before filming them trampling the dead bodies. I leave the answer to you.


What about the incident of the two Japanese envoysin Tikrit? Why do you think they were
targetted? The militants believe that by doing so they would influence the Japanese to think
twice before sending in their troops. The militants/terrorists have resorted to attacks
against coalition forces other than the US. DO you think it's a coincidence that most of the
latest attacks have been against these forces?

No, these are war tactics and nothing is going to stop the militants, most certainly a 'peace protest' in London isn't. Only FIRM action is. It's time for public trials starting with the captured regime figures. Don't give me that crap of "But there still isn't an elected Iraqi government or a constitution to do it". We have an independent judiciary and legal system that is still adequately functioning in 400 courts over the country on civil laws that have been in effect for more than 60 years. This will be the REAL Iron Hammer. Regime commanders, then captured foreign terrorists, then Ba'ath officials guilty of crimes against against Iraqis (Many of those are still around and haven't been detained). The Iraqi people want this and no one has any authority to deny them this right. Not the Us, CPA, GC, Arab League, UN, France, Russia, nor anyone else. This is OUR issue.