Wednesday, May 05, 2004

This and that

Not much has been going on in Basrah lately. Traffic and movement has returned to 'normal', a few streets where IP stations are located are still blocked. Explosives were found near a primary school which caused some panic among concerned Basrawis, another small bomb was dismantled close to a primary health care clinic which caused me to panic since I work at one. Basrah IP said the bombs were amateurish and wouldn't cause much damage anyway, so I'm a bit relieved!

There are signs, graffiti, and banners all over town against returning former Ba'athists to governmental institutions. Other signs strongly condemned the appointment of General Jassim Mohammed over the Fallujah brigade. One sign reads "Basrah residents demand a trial for Saddam's new cowboy in Fallujah". Another said "The return of Ba'athists is a return of Nazism and mass graves." Shi'ite clerics have also been making a fuss over it. There is a widespread belief that the US is turning toward Sunnis to take over Iraq again. One doctor at the residence said "This is just the first step, wait and see. Gradually, everything will return to what is was like under Saddam." Other Shia are comparing the US moves with the situation in 91, when the US allowed Saddam's regime to suppress the Shi'ite uprising following the Gulf war.

Electricity hasn't been very good this week at Basrah, but it still remains significantly better than Baghdad. The old medical aide was cursing his luck yesterday morning at the clinic. He had purchased a new air conditioner and a refrigerator but still did not have a chance to enjoy them because of the unstable electricity. He turned to me with a wicked toothless grin "Ah Dr., but there is an area just about 100 meters from where I live, and it has an alternate power schedule. I'm going to draw a power line from it." Other employees taunted him. One said "Hah, who would have imagined Jabar talking about air conditioning. Tell us Jabar, how much is your salary now?" But the old man always succeeds in shutting them up. I like the man, he often comes over to my room and chats about politics. What amuses me is his
constant criticism of Iraqis. He says things like "There's no use in anything. Iraqis are all thieves and murderers.", or "Iraqis don't deserve democracy, they only deserve Saddam."

He was ranting like crazy this morning. Recently, there was a MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) immunisation campaign. Primary health care clinic employees are divided into as much as 10 teams, they start making rounds at primary schools and villages, each clinic in it's surrounding area, immunising children under 12 years old. The campaign is funded by Save The Children and other humanitarian organisations. Each team member is paid 10 dollars a day for a two weeks period. It is their duty to ensure that every child in their area is immunised. The campaign ended two months ago and they still haven't been paid, although the funds were paid in advance to the Basrah Health Directorate. Someone told them lately thay they will be only be paid 5 dollars a day, instead of 10. Corruption at the higher levels is still
at large it seems.

We've had 3 sleepless nights lately because of power outages. The bedroom is the only room in the residence with air conditioning. The hospital director has promised us another one for the living room ages ago, but he is a man who is known to 'keep' his promises, just like the promised new computers (that are still stored), and the promised Internet connection (that ended up in his office only). The heat over here is intolerable, this is actually just a sample of what is to come in July and August. There is a hot sharji (Eastern wind) which brings dust, however they call this a 'cold' sharji, and as you may have guessed, I can't wait to experience the 'hot' one.

Bandits and looters continue to bring down pylons carrying high voltage cables out in the desert road. Our cook says the pylons are replaced periodically, but they are brought down by looters periodically as well.