Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Sheikh Yassin and other stuff

We woke up early in the morning yesterday to the shocking news of the assasination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. One of the doctors at the residence was in hysterics about it and the noise woke me up. The first thought that came to my mind was good riddance, but then the gravity of the whole thing slowly creeped upon me. While I was distastefully brushing my teeth, I heard the doctor roaring into the bedroom ernestly trying to wake up my colleague, the Christian dentist, "WAAAAAKE UUUUUUPPP! They killed the Pope!!". My friend sprang out from
bed and rushed over to the tv, after which I heard him swearing at the doctor who was rolling with laughter at the situation.

Our cook had the most interesting reaction. "How many young men did this @#%$ send to death by brainwashing and fooling them into carrying out suicide attacks? How many innocent people had he killed?" he shouted to the doctor, "And how many thousands of dollars did he get in his Swiss bank accounts by pimping on the Palestinian cause?". "If he was truly such a hero and a believer in Jihad how come he didn't rig his wheelchair with explosives and blow himself up at some Israeli
checkpoint? I say f* him". We advised the cook to stay out of politics, at least for the moment, and stick to his task of scrambling eggs for us.

Later that day the doctors were solemnly discussing the issue over lunch. We were watching Al-Jazeera and as is expected on such occasions they were screaming as usual. My friend and I munched on our chicken and baked beans in silence while the doctors were swapping all the popular conspiracy theories with each other. "Just wait for Hassan Nasrallah (Hizbollah leader), I'm sure he'll have some things to say
about this" remarked the hospital opthalmologist, the older of the bunch. "Yeah? And what's that going to change anyway?" my friend offered. The sheikh of Al-Azhar, Al-Imam Al-Akbar Sayyid Tantawi, was talking to Al-Jazeera condemning the assasination. "What kind of title is that? Al-Imam Al-Akbar (the greatest Imam)?" the opthalmologist asked, "Only Allah is Akbar...". "Wait wait", my friend interrupted
him. "I'm really dissapointed with you guys, nothing ever seems to satisfy you. What is wrong with the Imams title?". "What does it have to do with you? You're a Christian" replied the doctor. "Hey" I called, "What about Ayatollah aluzma (Grand Ayatollah)? Why is that supposed to be ok, and Imam Al-Akbar not?". The doctor seemed shocked with this question and just looked sternly at me. There was an uncomfortable silence in the room, so we all turned back to our dishes.


An explanation on the previous entry; the mob was shouting 'Hussein', referring to Imam Hussein bin Ali, not to Saddam Hussein. Also, I met a guy at the internet cafe who works with the Basrah CPA and he mentioned that he had pictures of the crowd stabbing the Wahhabi suspect but he gave them to Reuters.

Incidentally, I also talked to a few Wahhabis at the village where I'm posted and they were very uncomfortable with their surroundings and the treatment they get from fanatics and Shi'ite Islamic parties. "We try hard to mind our own business and go on with our lives but people here hate us, and we're always looked upon with suspicion" one of them confided to me. There was an attack against a market store owned by one of them and all his goods were destroyed just a day after the Basrah hotel attack.

Security measures have increased around Basrah city. Basrah IP are roaming busy streets and locations downtown inspecting suspiciously parked cars and setting checkpoints all around. We got 6 FPS guards for the hospital which kind of worried us.

I'm also experiencing some horrible nightmares, which started two days after the bombings. I really shouldn't have been there.