Saturday, January 31, 2004

Slate story on Zaydun

Thanks to everyone who pointed out this story to me. Wendell Steavenson, a former reporter for Time magazine, has been in Samarra interviewing Zaydun's family, his cousin Marwan, an Iraqi ICDC lieutenant, as well as the American Colonel in command of the US force in Samarra. Here is the story.

UPDATE: I can't stress how disgusted and dissapointed I am with the people who are still in denial:
"Oh no our soldiers are good and educated, they would never do that!"
"Our soldiers would have no motive to lie".
"I would never trust a former Republican guard officer".
"I can't give judgement until the investigation is over".

Well people, picture this. Suppose I had published a similar account of Iraqi Fedayeen pushing two American soldiers in a river, drowning one of them in the process. Would you have reacted in the same manner? Would all you armchair analysts say "Oh no, lets not rush to conclusions. We should wait for the investigation results"? Would you all suddenly be so 'open minded'?

No, you would be jumping all over it crying and condemning the 'murderous' Fedayeen.

You have no idea how insulting this all is to me. And I'm getting more convinced day by day that some of you are not any different from the 'leftists' you are all so happy to bash, and that you are not really interested in hearing the TRUTH, you're only interested in hearing what you NEED to hear. Truly disgusting and pathetic.


I guess most of you are still missing my point. Read the last paragraph above carefully and stop screaming. Meanwhile I leave you with this quote:

"Have we not already seen enough of the fallacy and extravagance of those ideal theories which have amused us with promises of an exemption from the imperfections, weaknesses and evils incident to society in every shape? Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden age, and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our political conduct that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virtue?"

Alexander Hamilton, 1789

Friday, January 30, 2004

New Iraqi blogs

Iraqi Spirit is the latest kid in town. He's a 30 year old Iraqi expat living in the UK and describes himself as only 'Iraqi'. Pay my friend a visit and check out his views on relolution 137.

Also added Khalid's blog Tell me a secret (check out his latest post about Iraqi food!). He used to post at A family in Baghdad. So now I am glad to announce that the Iraqi blogosphere has peaked at twenty weblogs. We should give 'Iraqi' a prize for being number 20. And on behalf of the other Iraqi bloggers I say: Welcome friends.

Oh.. and did I tell you I have a new blogdaughter? Her name is Julie, and she is American. Go read her post about Iraqi reparations and debts.

No Oil for blood

I guess that is the correct way this slogan should be used now. I made some corrections on the list, highlighted a few interesting names and companies, and added a little info on the ones I could find.

And to all you infidel naysayers: "May Allah damn your moustaches". This IS an authentic official list. My uncle who has been working at the State Oil Marketing company for over 20 years told me that yesterday, and also that these 'deals' weren't all under the Oil for Food program but also by illicit oil smuggling through Turkey, Jordan, and Syria. The deputy Minister of Oil has already issued a statement about it adding that there are many more documents proving these links that have not been released to public yet.

We used to hear a lot of rumours about such clandestine transactions. Whenever a reknown international figure payed a visit to Iraq, Iraqis would ask "How many oil barrels did this one get?". So we weren't really surprised by the list, but the enormity of it makes quite a shocking effect.

Just to let you know this one is just a tiny little teaser for all our global friends. Prepare to be very embarrassed friends. For this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

The mother of all scandals

Tim Blair brought this to my attention yesterday and I dug up the list of companies, politicians, and organizations from 51 countries that had received bribes in oil from the former regime in return for their 'services' in defending the regime and opposing the US campaign against him.

These shady deals were all done under the auspices of the UN and the Oil for Food program. The bribes add up to a total of 3.3 billion barrels of Iraqi crude oil (worth over 70 billion dollars). Here is the translated list. And here the original in Arabic.

Now you know why Iraqis suffered from the UN sanctions. Now you know why hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children had to die during the last ten years. Now you know why those people were vehemently anti-war.

The list was published in Al-Mada, an independent Iraqi newspaper, it was leaked from the Ministry of Oil archives. There may be a few errors in my translation, so if you can find any of these please point them out to me so I can make the proper corrections.

Here are some links on the story. From Reuters, commercial appeal, New York post, and the Seattle Post. Sam also posted about it here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Healing Iraq

I chose this title for the weblog three months back because I had realized that Iraq and Iraqis needed to heal more than anything else. I was naive and conceited enough to believe that posting entries into this page would actually achieve something. When I started I had huge determination to correct all the misconceptions, sterotypes, and preconceived notions the world held of us as a people. I wanted to bring out the good news from a torn and beaten country that the rest of the world had unanimously regarded as a source of only trouble and bad news. I wanted to convey the daily life, dreams, fears, hopes, and aspirations of Iraqis. I wanted the rest of the world to see us as more than mere news items. I wanted to put a face to my country, a country that millions of people couldn't point out on a world map. I had great hopes that someone high up in the CPA hierarchy would listen and take notes. I had hopes that coalition soldiers patrolling our streets would read and realize that there was no need to be scared of us. I had hopes that other Iraqis (both inside and outside) would look and take heart in my words. I had hopes that I would encourage other Iraqis to write and share whatever they had to share. I had hopes that the whole world would stop crying over spilt milk and move on. I had hopes that we would just all understand and accept each other and stop pointing fingers. Maybe I was too optimistic or maybe I was just trying to justify my own views of the situation.

"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into". So true, yet it also cuts both ways. I put that quote up there beneath the title because I knew the blog would always be plagued by people whose sole purpose in life is to disagree with anything that doesn't fit with their world view. Many people tend to visualize this world in terms of Good vs Evil, Us vs Them, Good guys vs Bad guys, Protagonist vs Antagonist. Sadly the reality of the situation isn't so two-dimensional. I've had more than my share of such people. Sometimes I just chuckle at them, sometimes I give them a deaf ear, and other times I just blindly lash out at everyone so please forgive me for that.

Ali Al-Wardi, an Iraqi scholar, once wrote "The truth never comes in one package. Truth is like a pyramid. Different people look at different sides of it and each one thinks his side is the ONLY truth and that the rest are wrong. They should look at the pyramid from above to see all sides and get the collective truth". The same applies to Iraqi blogs. Each offers 'his' own perspective. No blogger speaks for all Iraqis, and I have been trying to say this for months now. In fact nobody can even pretend to speak on behalf of Iraqis. Iraqis are the most diverse people in opinions that has ever graced this planet.

So how am I supposed to explain Iraqis to other people, when I sometimes, even as an Iraqi, don't claim to quite understand them myself. I wasn't raised as an Iraqi, actually until the age of 8 I was a typical British child. My parents (and I hold that against them) never taught me a word of Arabic or anything about my country or religion when we were living in the UK. I used to listen to them converse in this weird language and shake my head. However I remember having an overwhelming nostalgic desire to go to this strange place called Iraq which was supposed to be my homeland. When we returned I experienced symptoms of shock. Everything was so different. I was made fun of at school and by relatives my age because of my broken Arabic. But I never complained, I wanted to blend in and make myself belong to this society. So I adapted slowly until I became what I am now; A full-fledged Iraqi, but still not quite a regular Iraqi. Regular Iraqis suffered daily for decades. I never really suffered. So it's maybe not my place to talk for Iraqis.

Iraq has gone through much. None of you can even start to grasp the essence of what Iraq has been into. Not just from Saddam, or his predecessors, but from long centuries and millennia of abuse. The last five centuries of Ottoman rule left Iraq a divided country in ruins, the British came and tried to stick together the bits and pieces. Since then Iraq has always been in danger from neighbouring countries always willing to play on sectarian and ethnic chords in an attempt to carve out a piece of it's land, in danger from Pan-Arabism and Arab nationalists attempting to wipe away what was left of Iraq's identity, in danger from political Islam and Islamic revolution trying to throw us back into the dark ages, in danger from it's own cultural and ethnic diversity. And it's sad to see that nothing has really changed today.

If you were here now you would almost feel Iraq bleeding from its wounds. You would almost see the palm trees weeping and shedding tears. You would almost hear the two rivers murmuring and moaning in pain. You would almost hear Baghdad wailing and crying for help. You would smell the tension in the air which even rain is unable to wash away. You would sense the years of deprivation and negligence in its soil. Who is trying to steal the smile from its weary face? Who is going to heal Iraq? Who is going to help it stand on its feet? And is this going to be the end to all its sorrows or is there more?

Despite all of the above I am proud to belong to this ancient land. A few days ago I noticed somewhere on the walls of Baghdad a slogan that said 'Raise your head high, you are Iraqi', so I did. Whatever people may think of me or my nation I will sneer at them and say 'I am Iraqi'. However there were times when I hated Iraq with all my heart. There were times when I was ashamed to be associated with it or its people. There were times when I just wanted to pack and leave. There were times when I just didn't care about whatever happened to Iraq. And there were other times when I wept with my face in my hands and begged Iraq to forgive me for my weakness and selfishness.

I still go through such moments and I impatiently await that day when Iraq will embrace us all and forgive us for our foolishness, and we will promise our dear Iraq that everything will be fine now, that we will work hard to bring an end to its misery, that we will heal its wounds, and that we will try to give back a small fraction of what it has given us. Will we ever live to witness that day?

Monday, January 26, 2004

Iraqi women call the GC to repeal resolution 137

Dr. Raja Al-Khuza'i, GC member, stated her opinion on resolution 137 and the position of women in post Saddam Iraq:

"I stand with Iraqi women. I suffered with them and I know very well the difficulties they faced over the last 3 decades. I will support them until they achieve the position they truly deserve.
At the moment I'm working on supporting young widows in the south of Iraq by collecting donations. I found out that there is a high percentage of young widows over there, in just one area in Diwania, we found 1500 young widowed women.
And regarding the resolution 137, I was shocked when I heard about it later as I was in Washington when the resolution was passed. I objected to it because it's unfair to Iraqi women. And if implemented it would definitely put women into an unfavourable position since the resolution would annul many laws that women worked hard to put into effect over the last decades. They have to understand that not all laws issued under the former regime were ungood. But inshallah we'll work on it, there is always time for retraction or compromise".

And judge Zakiya Ishmael gives her view on the situation:

"We strived for years to defend the Iraqi family institution. I've been struggling for women rights since the fifties. Women alone cannot progress without assistance from men, 'and how can a bird fly without both wings?' as our poet Al-Rasafi once said".
On resolution 137, she says:
"It's very regretful that the GC would issue such an unexpectable decision, that is totally unacceptable, moreover there is a lot of vagueness and weakness in the form and wording of the resolution. In my opinion the decision was taken hurriedly in the same way the former Revolutionary Council Command used to. The GC members should be aware of their huge responsibility and we will call them to account for any law that would harm Iraqi women or men, or that would tear apart Iraqi families".

Zakiya Khalifa, chairwoman of the Iraqi Woman Revival organization stated that the GC should have instead offered further accomplishments for Iraqi women that would fit with their role in rebuilding the new Iraqi society, and that would compensate for all the suffering and pain she went into through the many years of wars and sanctions:
"We were surprised with resolution 137, an innapropriate decision that should have never be made by a council that supposedly believes in progress and liberalism. Such a decision will never serve women or the role of Iraq in the modern world".

Hana Edward, secretary of the Iraqi Hope (Amal) Association says:
"We've been working since the fall of the dictatorship to emphasize the role of Iraqi women in the new Iraq. We made several programs in order for Iraqi women to actively participate in establishing democracy, justice, and equality in the community".

Bushra Yousif, a columnist in Azzaman daily Baghdad edition, writes:
"Finally, the Iraqi woman broke her silence... Rushing forward in crowds, crying on the top of her voice to be heard... After it was choked for long years... It wasn't just resolution 137 that provoked this volcano of rage to erupt... It was long endless years of repression and deprivation... Endless years in which women were imprisoned behind bars... Years of suffering which went by without a word of complaint".


On the other hand there were women demonstrations yesterday at Fardus square in support for GC resolution 137. Tens of veiled women carried banners that condemned the objections raised by other women who were described as 'apostates from Islam representing only themselves'. The demonstrators shouted slogans such as "Yes to divine law and No to man's written law", and "We are Iraqi women.. Our grandmothers said No.. And we say NO TO SECULARISM".

A statement was distributed after the demonstration which regarded the objections against the resolution as 'an expression of buried grudge and hate against Islam'. The statement concluded that 'Resolution 137 affirms basic freedoms in the new Iraq and allows each citizen to express his personal faith and hereby decide for himself the matters of his personal circumstances whereas the former civil code supressed these freedoms and required all to comply with a specific law'.

Um Kawthar, a demonstrator, said: "We will enforce this law in every way possible. Islam is the only right law that preserves women rights, all the previous laws were oppressive and unfair to women".

Sheikh Adnan Al-Tamimi, who attended the demonstrations said that "All divine laws ensure the protection of women rights more than any civil law could. The objections against this resolution betray an ignorance of Islam and its true message".

(Translated from Azzaman Baghdad edition).

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Questions about identity

Salam has posted a long yet illuminating rant in which he addresses several issues about the identity of Iraqi bloggers. I totally agree with him but the post left me very depressed for some reason. I have to wither away now and think about it. Why did you have to bring this up Salam?

I still believe we need more Iraqi bloggers. I feel exhausted and wasted.

Iraqi Kurdish blog

Not sure if I should say "Iraqi" Kurdish blog, since Kurdo, the author, condemns the 'Iraqicization of Kurdistan' and refers to it as another genocide against Kurds. However there is an interesting debate in the comments section of the last three posts between 'Iraqi' and the author. I agree with some of Kurdo's points but I'm not sure I completely agree with his solutions. Check it out.

Update on Zaydun

I just got word from my uncle, who was in Samarra lately, that Zaydun's body was found in the river last week. The family was preoccupied with the burial and mourning ceremonies for most of the week. And the investigation isn't over yet, I have no idea why it's taking so long. According to my uncle, the patrol was identified and the unit soldiers admitted that they had indeed apprehended the two men near Samarra, they denied the rest of the cousin's account though. This is all I know for the moment and I'll post more info when I get it.

Survey results in Arbil (2nd part)

10)Preferences for the present stage:

-Creating job opportunities 98.03%
-Reconstruction 94.11%
-Enforcing the law 90.19%
-Removing negativities of the past 90.19%
-Ending the occupation 86.27%

11)Opinion on coalition presence in Iraq:

-Necessary 74.50%
-Temporarily acceptable 64.70%
-Unacceptable 31.37%

12)Attitude of coalition forces towards Iraqis:

-Cordial 60.78%
-Indifferent 39.21%
-Ruthless 45.09%

13)What does freedom mean to you:

-To practice whatever you like or believe in 62.74%
-To practice whatever you like as long as it doesn't infringe on others 80.39%

14)How do you see equality between men and women:

-Each should practice his/her role as defined by the community 80.93%
-Each should practice his/her role as defined by religion 88.23%
-Each should practice his/her role as defined by religion and the community 82.35%
-A woman should practice her role in the same way as women in the West do 41.17%

15)Should women participate in building society or should her role be restricted:

-Should participate in building society 68.62%
-Her role should be restricted 31.25%

16)Should women be granted a greater role in society by the new Iraqi constitution:

-Yes 78.43%
-No 21.56%

17)Should women be allowed to run for presidency in the new Iraq:

-Yes 33.33%
-No 66.66%

18)Should there be a greater participation of women in parliamentary institutions:

-Yes 84.31%
-No 15.68%

19)Should women have the right to decide about issues of her education, marriage, and work:

-Yes 94.11%
-No 5.88%

(Via Azzaman).

Saturday, January 24, 2004

The GC's view of women in Iraq

An article by Raqiya Al-Qaisi, an Iraqi scholar based in London. (Translated from Azzaman).

The issue of family affairs is one of the most important issues that reflect progress or retardation of society, especially in the case of the relationship between men and women and personal circumstances (alahwal alshakhsiya). The Iraqi personal circumstances law which has been in effect for over 40 years represents an advanced one in its advocation of woman rights. We hoped for more reforms on the existing judiciary code in order for women to obtain additional rights which would conform with the prerequisites of the new Iraq, we did not expect to go steps backward as is the case today in Iraq?

The transitional GC recently passed a decision to abolish the personal circumstances law, and according to this decision which reflects the 'desire of Islamic parties' the GC agreed that Islamic Sharia (Allah's law) would rule in cases of personal circumstances of man instead of the existing civil code. And that spiritual Islamic ethics would be included in the future government they intend to form in Iraq.

The GC gave the role of legal courts, according to this law, to clerics and tribal leaders. Which means that the destiny of women in Iraq will be subject to fatwas and personal interpretations of Islamic Sharia texts by Mullahs and tribal sheikhs, when it should be according to a fixed personal circumstances code. This project evoked storming rage and condemnation from Iraqi women because of the stark differences between the two. In the case of the personal circumstances law, legal courts rule depending on evidence and proof, because law is science, and science depends on certain knowledge. Whereas in the second case rulings are made from beliefs based on personal interpretation and misconstruction of Islamic law.

And according to the law of belief and faith, traditions (from which many primitive practices and concepts evolve) play a huge part in defining the position of women. The eastern man for example believes that by confining women to home, preventing her from mixing with men, and wearing hijab are all marks of her virtue and honour. He regards women (and their families) who do not observe these traditions as dishonourable. He associates virtue with wearing hijab because he measures things according to traditions and values he learned from his peers and immediate surrounding. Thus, issues that are connected with values -with what is good and evil, what is virtue and vice- are also entirely connected with human desires. Which if were all the same there wouldn't have been a problem, but human desires are always contradictory.

Therefore, decisions made from human desires in the area of personal circumstances or politics can have serious consequences!..Because it can decide the destiny of people which should be made without distinction in order to achieve justice for all parties involved. The generalization of the desire of Islamic parties, imposing it on all Iraqis, regarding it as a higher interest, and that it represents the desire of the majority is very undemocratic as it only truly represents the interest of Islamic parties in the GC! And this step is an impertinent intrusion in peoples' personal lives.

This all shows that democratic values and respect of human rights (the liberal program) are all propaganda and publicity pretences, and that it is difficult to practically apply them in Iraq due to the following fact: The Arabic and Islamic political mind and the setup of Arabic and Islamic societies conflict with this program. These societies are traditionally based on consensus, prohibition of criticism and open discussions, and eliminating the opponent and regarding him as 'enemy'. The reason is that the rule in these societies is that of Allah... And Allah has a representative on earth which is the man in power. This tradition has not evolved (except in rare circumstances) and may need a divine miracle as Ibn Khaldun says. It has also been in effect for centuries throughout ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary history. The majority of the political governing regimes in the Islamic world, whether these were theocratic or secular, republican or monarchical, conservative or liberal, are tainted with religious features.

There are other obstacles, besides the aforementioned, facing the democratic liberal program: The advocates of this program (the USA and Britain) are both traditional enemies.
First from religious ideology as they are Crusades in the collective imagination of people in the region. Second from political ideology as they are capitalist imperialist powers that have occupied the region and plundered its wealth.

Which means there is a strong connection between ethical values on which the people in the region rely on and refuse to go beyond and modernization values. For example the problem of illiteracy and retardation and the necessity of modernizing Arabic societies is presented with the problem of Arab and Muslim relations with the west. And with this relation the issue of modernization comes into dialectical contradiction with the heritage, traditions and civilization of Arabs and Islam. Which puts the people -particularly in the Arab world- in a defensive position against any modernization effort, because they believe modernity somehow means abandoning traditional values and holy Islamic teachings. This argument is common among Islamic conservatives and has been engrained in the subconscious of people for centuries which has made modernization synonymous with immorality.

This feeling naturally makes the individual in a traditional society prefer to submit to his inherited habits and religious heritage and not to the modernization program imposed upon him from outside (by Americans). And the resultant is that traditional society laws are contradictory with human rights (and women rights) because 'individual freedom' is an unacceptable right in such societies.

This phenomenon prompted the majority of western occidentalists and scholars to note that the absence of individual freedom practices in the east is due to the individual's feeling that freedom is unnecessary... And they concluded that people in the region were born to be slaves under their regimes!

The Americans have not yet understood the Iraqi concept of freedom which differs from that of the liberal west. Before the decision to remove the regime it should have been necessary to comprehend the relationship between the individual, the community, and the state in Iraq. This can only be achieved through opinion surveys from within the Iraqi society.

Heritage which provides the government and the state with higher values is always welcomed by the ruling elite. On this basis the Islamic parties project was agreed on by the majority of GC members despite the fact that it contradicts with the following:
The GC was formed by coalition authorites as a temporary advisory body, it does not have the authority to change laws, only the civil coalition command has that authority. And according to Security Council resolutions 1438 and 1511 the coalition forces were recognized as the only legitimate authority holding legislative, judiciary, and executive branches until authority was transferred to a new government that represents all Iraqis of all backgrounds.

Democratic values involve making peace with opponents not removing them. The opponent should be appeased and convinced not eliminated. The GC does not know or most likely ignores this. The way the GC is presently operating, abolishing and issuing laws contradicts democratic values. Depending on the opinion of Islamic parties inside the council and regarding it as the opinion of the majority inside and outside the council (all Iraqis).

This democracy is similar to the one party democracy or (central democracy) which has proved its failure because it means the democracy of the minority. This is not so different from the Iranian style democracy.

Islamic parties think this law is derived from Islam especially in issues of women rights and family affairs when in reality its very far. Islam originally came to free women from the Arab jahiliya traditions. Arabs used to scorn women and regard them as material belongings and they used to inherit their dead relatives wife as they inherit his other posessions. Islam originally dignified women and gave her the same rights as man. It regarded men and women as equals in self, mind, and emotion because they are both human and it's not fair for any of them to control the other or enslave him.

On the other hand, the culture and the practice of Muslims is against these principles because clerics cite verses that can be interpreted as being deprecatory to women and according to these verses women are lower than men. And of course women cannot object to Allah's will.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Iraqi survey results in northern Iraq (1st part)

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research recently conducted a survey in the city of Arbil (Kurdish autonomous area) which involved issues such as: the form of future government in Iraq, the GC, political parties, coalition presence, democracy and freedom, women, resistance, looting and crime, and the reconstruction.

A random sample of 51 citizens (ages 18-55 years) was surveyed. Gender partcipation was 21 females, and 30 males. Education of participants: 10 with higher degrees, 32 with Bachelor degrees, 8 secondary school degrees, and one primary school degree.

1)The form of the future Iraqi government:

-Islamic monarchy 45.09%
-Constitutional monarchy 15.68%
-Republic 60.78%
-Islamic republic 17.41%

2)Ethnic and religious based federalism:

-Yes 47.05%
-No 52.94%

3)Participation in the future government:

-According to efficiency and citizenship 84.31%
-According to ethnic and religious percentages 15.69%

4)Opinion on existing political parties in Iraq today:

-Democratic and honest 37.25%
-Impotent and unconvincing 41.17%
-Represent the majority of Iraqis 39.21%
-Necessity of agreement among parties 78.43%
-Have clear plans for the future 37.25%

5)Opinion on the GC:

-Important first step to build the new Iraq 74.05%
-Important first step for stability 70.58%
-Additional step to consecrate the occupation 35.29%

6)Priorities of the GC:

-Preparing the constitution 98.03%
-Preparing elections 88.23%
-Providing security and stability 80.39%
-Building state institutions 80.39%
-Treating the economic situation and unemployment 80.39%
-Providing basic services 80.39%
-Building the army 62.74%

7)Desirable character of the future elected president of Iraq:

-Just and righteous 100%
-Complies with the law and constitution 100%
-Carries out demands and aspirations of the Iraqi people 98.03%
-Learns from previous mistakes 98.03%
-Capable of establishing democracy 94.11%
-Capable of creating a unified Iraq 92.15%
-Complies with human rights 88.23%
-Carries out Islamic Sharia law 64.7%

8)Opinion on the lootings wich followed April 9:

-Ignorance and retardation 86.27%
-Deterioration of economic situation 82.35%
-Release of convicted prisoners prior to war 70.58%
-Repression and frustration 68.62%
-Deliberate sabotage 58.82%
-Foreign motivation 49.01%

9)Opinion on insurgent activity against the coalition:

-Remnants of the former regime 84.31%
-Spontaneous reactions 78.34%
-Sabotage and destruction 72.54%
-Resistance against occupation 43.13%

(Via Azzaman Baghdad edition)

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Women rights and food

Fayrouz blogs about the controversial GC Shari'a law and also posts some telling stories about women rights in the Middle East. Riverbend has also followed on the subject and with some links from Sistani's website, (I wonder if he has a blog?).

And our dear Ihath thinks we're obsessed with food: "So here is some Iraqi logic for you, bombs every where, long lineups at the gas station, no electricity, we hate Saddam ..................... lets eat!". And.......... she's right! We make such a fuss over food. I was even toying with the idea of posting recipes myself, especially since some of our women bloggers haven't been doing such a great job of it and are more concerned about their rights. Well let's switch roles. I'm going to talk about my kitchen skills.

At the moment we're having a cooking contest at the doctor's residence. Our cook (who is a hilarious little chap) thinks he's even greater than chef Ramzi. I used to think so, but since he prepared us a lunch of rice and margat shijar (marga is tomato sauce with meat and some vegetable which can be beans, eggplants, potatoes, spinach, or celery, it's the most popular meal in Iraq for lunch and is served with boiled rice) which was made of pumpkin the other day I changed my mind. It looked like bloody vomit. I usually cook them dinner, as the rest of the doctors don't even know how to boil an egg. They think I'm sent to them from heaven. I offered to cook them Italian food for a change and they're so excited about it. The cook thinks I wouldn't stand a chance against him but we'll see.

Monday, January 19, 2004

No way!

I just checked out these pictures of Saddam on the day of his capture from Winds Of Change. Incredible! If you haven't seen them before you should definitely take a look.

Also check out these lyrics by a crazy dentist. Muhahaha.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

On this and that

Second day at work. It doesn't look so bad after all. People here are very kind, polite, and they respect medical personnel highly. My dental facilities at the clinic are adequate enough, everything looks clean and shiny as the whole centre was lately refurbished and supplied with equipment by the ministry of health in coordination with the Save the Children organization. However amalgam fillings are all expired, so I'm sticking to scaling and pulling teeth (something which I'm very good at by the way, heh) while referring the other cases to Basrah. I'll let you in on a little secret while we're at it. This may seem weird coming from a dentist but I'm actualy horrified about visiting the dentist myself. I had a couple of traumatic experiences as a child and I only visit dentists now when it's really urgent.

Anyway it seems I'm the only male medical staff over here along with the pharmacist and the nurse. My boss and the rest of the doctors are women which reminds me of the expression 'slipping in oestrogen' which one of our senior dentists back in Baghdad used a lot about such occasions. He was a really funny guy. 'To be or not to be. That's surgery for you' , and 'Never depend on the patient for taking history' were also common expressions he showered us with daily. He used to shock us before the war by criticizing the regime and the situation, something which none of us ever dared to do.

I got about 25 pregnant patients today, some of them very young, as part of periodical examination procedures which also involve a bit of boring paperwork. I also got to sit down with the lovely doctor for a chat. She was happy with her work but concerned about the future. She wears a hijab but the rest of her clothing was classy. We talked about the issue of women being intimidated at college and at work to wear hijab and to dress prudishly. She admitted that some of that was indeed common around Basrah but that she personally wears it by her own will. She also said that her sister didn't. However she told me that she had a car which she can't drive anymore because her parents wouldn't allow it due to postwar circumstances. Overall it was a nice conversation and a relief from the somewhat hard work.

The doctor that was threatened two days ago by the Al-Sadr office turned out to be Sunni. The problem however was resolved completely yesterday and the sheikh apologized for his behaviour. How did this happen? One of the late night doctors drove to the Sadr office in an ambulance and bravely confronted the sheikh and demanded an explanation from him about the subpoena. He warned the sheikh that the rest of the doctors would stand with their colleague, close the hospital, and abandon the village after placing a large sign on the door that the office of Al-Sadr was responsible. The sheikh immediately reverted and apologized. He also offered two of his men to guard the hospital from now on but the doctor coldly said it was unneccessary. I still can't believe the courage of that doctor, it also returned some hope that people weren't easily fooled by religious figures in these areas and that they can actually make a difference.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Random thoughts

Well I'm back in Basrah. And after spending the night at the boring village I thought I might as well run away back to civilization. So I'm at an Internet cafe in the city center. It's a fresh breath of air especially with my being surrounded with cute female college students and exchanging sly furtive glances with them.

Today my boss at work was telling me the story of the murdered dentist. She tried to make it seem as if it was his own fault and that otherwise things were just going fine here. He was driving back to the doctors residence late at night with a friend who was involved in construction contracts with the British. They were both found on the road to Faw shot in the head. The car and their personal belongings were looted. The dentists parents were sent for from Baghdad to take their son's corpse.

It seems that no investigation of any kind in the circumstances of his murder is being carried out. The Basrah IP just shrugged off the whole incident as an act of 'revenge against collaborators'. Great, a young man with his whole life ahead of him decides to stay and help people in this isolated area instead of returning home and this is what he gets.
The villagers are bitter about the whole thing, but they keep murmering idiotic fatalist remarks such as "It was Allah's will", "It was his fate", and "Sad but what can we do about it?".

Another troubling incident happened last night. While we had just finished dinner at the doctors residence and were getting ready for tea, two armed murderous looking guys entered the residence without any notice and handed one of the doctors an envelope. They were from maktab al-sayed al-shahid (Muqtada Al-Sadr followers). It turned out that the doctor had ignored a lightly injured sheikh at the hospital earlier that day while treating another emergency case of a car accident. The sheikh left the emergency hall seething and shouting that the doctor would pay for this 'disrespect'. The letter inside the envelope was signed by the office of Al-Sadr and it was some sort of a subpoena for the doctor to come immediately to the office to explain his behaviour or otherwise 'face grave consequences'.

Needless to say, we were freaked out by this whole exchange, and the doctor looked like he was hit on the head with something. Every now and then there was a knock on the door on which we would jump up to attention and stare at each other. The doctor locked the residence and started to phone his relatives and tribe elders while the rest of the doctors tried to reassure as that this was nothing to worry about. This was on our first night at the village. One of the doctors told us that they were trying to get the hospital manager to appoint armed guards for the residence but with no luck. He tried to convince the rest of the doctors to threaten the hospital with a strike if their demands were not looked into but they were afraid to do so.

However the relatively good part is that many people from the village were outraged at this thuggish behaviour from the Hawza. I heard things like "They want to turn Iraq into another Iran", "Aren't they doing the same as the Ba'athists did?", and "I would rather have Sharon rule us than any of those tyrants". "Why don't you inform the British?". I struggled with myself to remain silent about the whole thing without expressing any views.

My fellow dentist woke me up at night and asked me if we should just abandon the whole internship and get back to Baghdad. "Ha! An atheist Sunni and a Christian. What do you think they'll do if they find out?". We discussed the thing for about two hours and in the end decided to stay and take as much care as possible not to offend the locals, to stick together, and to keep a low profile in the area. I'm already lying to everyone about my Sunni background, and my neighbourhood in Baghdad. I'm even contemplating faking prayers and acting even more pious than the rest of them. heh. Let's just see how this turns out.

By the way Zaydun's investigation is still ongoing at Tikrit, and like I promised before I'll publish anything I get about it. I have been out of touch with the family for a few days. I have to get going to the village now before it gets dark and I'll end up stuck at Basrah.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Sharia to replace civil marriage and inheritance laws

I'm so happy about this, now I can marry and divorce in any way I like. Yay! I'm at the moment gathering family members to go to the local cleric so I can divorce my fourth wife which I don't really like anymore, and get myself an 11 year-old virgin. All the other small details will be settled within the family and with the blessings of the Sayid.

Now seriously, this GC decision has created a firestorm and is the most talked about news in Baghdad. There were Iraqi women groups demonstrations lead by Nisrin Barawari, the minister of public works, on Tuesday at Fardus square protesting against this discriminating decision.

So much for secularism. I guess my fears are now warranted especially with thousands of Shi'ites marching yesterday in Basrah shouting "Yes to Sistani" and "Death to America". Who is going to protect and enforce womens rights now? I'm pretty sure our good ole Godfather Sistani is now clapping his hands in glee. There is no way he wasn't involved in this decision.

Riverbend has a much more outraged post on this serious development.

More bad news. A fellow dentist who will be working with me in Basrah dropped by today and informed me that another dentist who used to work at the same clinic we were assigned to was murdered this week in Basrah. He was a Christian. My friend who will be assigned with me is also Christian.

My parents are going crazy, they want me to give up the residency and stay in Baghdad. Unfortunately it isn't that easy. If I were to leave that assignment I would be fired and I would not be allowed ever to work as a licensed dentist in Iraq. I'm really confused. what to do? What to do?

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The (Sunnis=Saddam loyalists=terrorists) equation

Some of the remarks and emails from many misinformed readers on the Samarrai family's misfortune prompted me to write this. I'm not really surprised since many similar comments have been made over here by IRAQIS. Also some of you may recall my 'rant' a couple of months back about blowing up the Sunni triangle and bombing Tikrit and Al-Awjah which just goes to show that I was not immune myself from generalizations and misconceptions.

There were comments like "I'm sure Zaydun was running weapons to Al-Qaeda", "Samarra is a hotbed of insurgency so these two guys were most definitely Saddam loyalists", "Isn't Samarra a Sunni city??", "Oh, they're from the triangle". "They were most likely terrorists". It was obvious that a large proportion of my American readership believes that people from that area are largely Saddam loyalists or inherently evil. Such simplisicm has very dangerous consequences. The situation in the Sunni areas north and west of Baghdad is very complex and I have only now started to grasp some of it especially since Saddam's capture.

Some Iraqis and specifically GC members, ministers, and characters that have gained some authority and influence in post-Saddam Iraq allude, on many occasions, to the fact that Iraq was exclusively ruled by Sunnis during the last 80 years. They explain that the British occupation adminstration early in the last century punished the Shi'ite majority because of their leading role in the bloody 1920 revolt (thawrat al'ishrin) against the British presence in Iraq following WWI which was sparked by fatwas from the Shi'ite marji'iya and Hawza clerics (specifically by the Ayatollah Al-Shirazi who was the Sistani of that period). They supposedly punished the Shia back then by installing a Sunni government and a Sunni monarch (Faisal the Hashemite) instead of the Shi'ite candidate (Prince Khaz'al of Al-Muhammarah).

This explanation of history is inaccurate, as the Shi'ite majority had no leaders at that period other than their Hawza and religious leaders, most of whom were of Iranian origins (The same situation ironically applies to Shia today), while on the other hand Sunni Iraqis were better educated and privileged under the Sunni Ottoman empire. So the British adminstration had no other choice.

It is true though that Saddam Hussein favoured Sunni Iraqis over the Shi'ite and Kurdish populations when it came to government positions. That does not however neccessarily imply that Sunnis were immune of his tyranny, or that all Sunnis were better off under Saddam, or that they supported or still support Saddam and the Ba'ath.

Mohammed at Iraq the model describes at great length with both eye witnesses and documents how the small Sunni town of Al-Dijayl (50 km north of Baghdad) was literally wiped out during the early eighties when Saddam's convoy was attacked in that area. In 1992 about a 100 Sunni merchants were executed publicly in the Sunni Adhamiya neighbourhood of Baghdad (which is labelled today as an area loyal to Saddam). Several tribal sheikhs and military officers from Ramadi and Fallujah were executed in the late nineties after a failed assasination attempt against Saddam. High ranking officers in the army and Republican Guard, all of whom were Sunnis, were executed periodically during the last two decades when their loyalty to the regime was in doubt. Not to mention that during operation Iraqi Freedom the fiercest resistance against the invasion came from the south, while Sunni areas were handed over by their tribal leaders in peaceful agreements with coalition officers. Also you should know that if Republican Guard officers decided to defend Baghdad against the advancing American forces it wouldn't have fallen so easily on April 9.

Today Sunni Iraqis feel left out of the picture. Sunni tribal leaders say they are 'marginalized' in the new Iraq. By the way, this term 'marginalization' (tahmish in Arabic) has become a very common one in our political vocabulary lately, everyone says they are being marginalized, Sunnis are being marginalized, Christians are being marginalized, Turkomen are being marginalized, Yazidis are being marginalized, Mandeans are being marginalized, the Hawza is marginalized... And so it goes. Anyway, Sunni tribal leaders from the Anbar, Salah Al-Din, Diyalah, and Ninewah governorates argue that they have no representation in any governmental office. None in the GC, none in the GC appointed cabinet. One of these leaders said "Iraq is practically run today by Shi'ites and Kurds".
And when I come to think of it, that statement is partially true.

The CPA realizes this, and that explains their repeated meetings with influential tribal leaders in the Sunni triangle. If the CPA wins the loyalty and trust of those tribal leaders the insurgency would diminish and the reconstruction process would move huge steps forward since they would point out any insurgents, foreign terrorists, and regime officials that are hiding in their midst clinging to tribal customs of blood ties and protection. Some of that is already taking place. An Iraqi newspaper even purported some time ago that Sunni leaders made a subtle deal with the Americans to hand over Saddam in return for a greater role in the new Iraq and as a gesture of good will.

The current policy of 'divide and conquer' will never work in Iraq, and further alienation and isolation of Sunnis will backfire against the American presence and would eventually lead to civil war between Iraqis. A prominent blogger emailed me recently and said that the American adminstration intends to leave Iraq in the capable hands of the Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani. 'Intends' is not the right word, I would say that in the absence of a strong Sunni alliance or leadership as a balance, the Americans would be coerced to do so. I'm confident that the US would not allow Iraq to turn into an Iranian-style theocracy. Sistani is doing his best to embarrass the CPA and place obstacles in its way. He insists that the constitution should be written by a committee directly elected by Iraqis. That man is a genius (he looks like a wizard anyway), he knows that elections at this time would be in his best interests. Mullahs would be elected to municipal and governorate councils and the coming interim government, and the trick would be done. 'After all that is democracy, isn't it?' I can almost hear him saying.

I'm not happy with the way Sistani is acting as Godfather to the Iraqi people. And from my visits to the south I'm pretty confident that if he issued a fatwa for Shi'ites to go drop themselves in the river, they would all line up to do so. The power he holds over them concerns me. They should understand that he isn't holy to 40% of Iraqis, and that they can't impose their marji'iya or beliefs on the rest of us. Sunni clerics have already formed their Hai'at Al-Ulemma in an attempt to balance against the influence of the Shi'ite Hawza and the marji'iya.

The SCIRI erected a large monument of the late Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir Al-Hakim in our neighbourhood (which is largely Sunni), it was burnt the next day by enraged teenagers. The SCIRI repsonded by putting another one and assigning two militia men to guard it. The enraged teenagers reacted the following day by blowing it up from a distance with an RPG. Many people from my neighbourhood condoned the action, and said that the SCIRI was trying to provoke Sunnis.

When there were demonstrations in Adhamiyah by teenagers carrying Saddam's posters shouting "F*ck Sistani", and "Death to Al-Hakim and Al-Sadr", a group of armed Al-Sadr supporters tried to reach the area where the demos were held but were prevented by IP and Americans. The next day according to Adamiyah residents there were undercover SCIRI agents roaming the neighbourhood trying to identify the demonstrators. And of course the response was RPG attacks against SCIRI headquarters in Baghdad which are notably increasing, and Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim himself escaped several assasination attempts.

The Kurds are no exception, by demanding that Kirkuk, Mosul, and parts of Diyala to be added to the autonomous Kurdistan region. Peshmerga militia harassing Arabs and Turkomen in these areas, and calling for their forced deportation. The Sunnis fears are justified, especially with the issue of federalism that has been raised by some GC members.

I'm digressing. What I'm trying to say is that day by day, I'm realizing more and more that the insurgence in the Sunni triangle is an act of defiance against this new reality in Iraq and is only partly directed against the Americans. Saddam's capture shocked many Sunni Iraqis because some of them identified with him as being the only antidote against this rise of Shi'ite and Kurdish domination. And it's evident from the decrease in attacks against Americans and the increase in attacks against other Iraqis, that the insurgents are getting desperate. The key to avoid civil war in Iraq is to ensure that no sect, group, political party, or ethnicity is granted power over others.

I guess this entry turned out to be longer than I planned but the topic should still be discussed further, so I'll try to write another blog about it later.

The next best thing

Guess who is our next leader after Saddam.

And more foolishness. Here is the new Iraqi Dinar, and this is how American forces found Saddam Hussein.

New pictures from Basrah

Here are some photos from the village I'll be working at for the next nine months. I took these while driving through the area for the first time. It's very pretty as you can see. Lots of palm orchards, some of which are over a 100 years old. I'll post some more of it when I get settled there for good next week.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Interview with Zaydun's family

This is a picture of the cargo truck the two men were travelling in.

An investigation is already being carried out at Tikrit. I was promised a copy of the results from the family when it's over and I'll publish them as soon as I have them. In the meanwhile an Iraqi freelance journalist was in Samarra, and upon hearing about the incident from his hotel keeper he visited Zaydun's family for an interview. Here is the story:

The streets of Samarra were almost empty. After a 15 minutes walk we reached a house at which several cars were parked close by. Many people were entering the house, others were just leaving. Mohammed told me that this was the family's residence.
We went inside and greeted everyone. Mr. Ma'mun Fadhil Hassun Al-Samarrai was accepting words of consolation and comfort from his visitors with such a sad and distressed look on his face. I heartily shaked his hand and sat beside him. I asked him what had happened. Someone said "Why don't you speak to the mother?". The father didn't seem to welcome this suggestion, but after a while and with the help of some of the relatives and visitors he reluctantly agreed.

She was dressed up all in black. Sounds of sobbing and weeping filled the room which was crowded with mourning women. The father introduced me to her and asked everyone else to leave. I sat down with both the mother and the father. "Salaam aleikum Um Zaydun" I greeted her. Her words came rattling out of her throat. She wasn't speaking, it was almost like moaning. I asked her if she could tell me the whole story.

"Zaydun was my oldest boy" she said. "He was a student in the sixth grade adabi, and even though he was still a student, he insisted on depending on himself. He was a straight and friendly young man, loved and admired by everyone for his politeness and his kind heart. After school he usually works with his cousin in a small KIA truck. On Saturday 3/1/2003 they had agreed to deliver cargo which consisted of toilet parts from Baghdad to Samarra, and indeed they were on their way to Samarra when their truck broke down near Balad, and by the time they had it fixed and resumed their journey to Samarra, the curfew was about to start in the city..". I couldn't help it, so I interrupted her here: "Excuse me ma'am, but where did you get all this information?".
"My son was martyred and his cousin survived to tell us the story." she boldly replied.
"Why do you say he was martyred?" I asked again.
"When a Muslim is killed on the hands of a non-Muslim he is a martyr. That is what we were taught since we were young".
I apologized for the interruption and continued to listen.

She added that on their reaching Samarra, an American patrol stopped them near the Samarra Pharmaceuticals Factory (ma'mal adwiyat samarra) at 10:45 pm. The curfew starts at 11 pm. After closely inspecting the truck and its cargo and searching the two boys they motioned them to go on. When they had just moved, one of the American armoured vehicles followed them and ordered them to stop again. They told them to dismount and then tied them up and ordered them into the American vehicle. After a small ride the vehicle stopped and they took them out and untied them near the hydroelectric station. There was a checkpoint of the Samarra defense force nearby, and they noticed the American patrol and pointed their lights at them. Here the soldiers seemed to change plans and ordered the two boys into the vehicle again and moved on...
Wailing came from one of the rooms in the house and Um Zaydun paused for a few seconds and she looked like she was struggling to continue.
"They took them to the first gate of bawabat nadhum al-tharthar and 5 soldiers ordered them to jump down below...". She burst into tears at this point, and I was feeling rather embarrassed. I apologized again for my intrusion at this difficult time reminding her of the terrible details of her son's death.
"They pushed my boy first" she continued, "And then his cousin who got caught in a tree branch which saved his life... the soldiers were joking and laughing...".
"I'm sorry ma'am, but what is the name of the surviving cousin? Can I speak to him?" I asked.
"His name is Marwan Abdul-Hakim Fadhil Hassun, and yes you can speak to him" she said with tears rolling down her cheeks.
"What about your son?" I asked her.
"We haven't found him yet. They tell me they have found his jacket. I wanted to have it, but they kept it away from me. I only want to hold it and press it to my heart because it was the last thing he was wearing in his final moments... Do you know how painful this is?... Can you imagine what it must feel for me?.. I'm calling for all mothers to join my voice in my demand for an investigation into this crime which I have never heard or read anything like... By God I ask you, have you?".
I searched my mind in silence for a moment and with nothing to offer I said "God give you faith and patience to deal with all this. But one last question, Um Zaydun, what did you do?".
"I wrote to a letter to president Bush and other world leaders and humanitarian organizations asking for them to look into this, and I hope it reaches them... I know they can't bring my boy back to me.. But it will be an echoing scream of a wronged mother seeking her rights in this oppressed world... What happened to my son is an example that everything they promised from democracy and human rights was fake..".
"I'm sorry ma'am, but I forgot to ask you about the car, where is it?".
"I don't know anything about that. All I know is that it belonged to a third person, and the cargo was for a fourth person" she answered me.
I got up. "Thank you ma'am and please accept my sincere condolences and may God grant you patience and consolation for your grief".

I left the room with the father and asked him to help me meet his nephew Marwan. He called one of the relatives and told him to get Marwan. After some waiting a distraught chubby young man entered the room. He greeted me when the others informed him of my mission. I asked him if we could talk privately, but Mr. Ma'mun said it would be better for the rest of them to hear the story again. "Ok" I said "Where do we start?".

"I'm a student in my first year at the Teachers Institute computer department. I have evening classes which allowed me to use the free time in working and helping out my family with the extra money I earned. I work in a small cargo truck as a driver, and my cousin Zaydun works with me as an assistant. On Friday 2/1/2004, a store owner in Samarra employed us to pick up a cargo of toilet parts from Baghdad. We left early on Saturday morning and after we finished buying and loading the cargo and were on our way back to Samarra, there was a sudden failure in the truck which forced us to stay in Balad for a few hours. After we got it fixed we reached Samarra at 10:45 pm. An American patrol halted us near the Samarra Pharmaceuticals factory, and after a scrupulous inspection of the car and both me and my cousin, they permitted us to go on. When we had just moved about 20 metres, they followed us and stopped us again. They ordered us out, locked the car and handed us the keys, and then they tied us up and took us into their vehicle...".
"Why did they stop you again after they had allowed you to pass?" I asked.
"I have absolutely no idea why".
"Could it be that you were suspected or wanted individuals? Excuse me for asking such a question".
"If we were wanted, do you think we would have been able to go back and forth from Samarra every day with all the checkpoints and patrols on the roads?".
"Ok. Please continue".
"They were driving to an unknown destination by us, and after a few minutes they stopped and we got out, they untied and lead us to the first gate of the dam on the Tigris river from the Samarra end of it. The gate is one of three that are part of the hydroelectric station. Someone from the Samarra defence force pointed a light in our direction from a distance to identify us, so the soldiers motioned us into the vehicle again and they drove in the direction of the Al-Hawish area.
"Why did they do that? Where they afraid of the Samarra defense force?".
"No, they don't, but maybe they didn't want anyone to witness what they were preparing to do. We stopped again, this time at the first gate of bawabat nadhum al-tharthar which regulates water to the Tharthar reservoir and to the Al-Katm irrigation canal. We dismounted and they ordered us to jump down into the strong current. When we refused they cocked their weapons. I mumbled the Shahada because I was certain that we were dead. They pushed Zaydun first and I followed. The water was freezing. I stuck to a tree branch, my cousin was struggling and trying desperately to get his head out of the water to catch a breath. I tried reaching out for him but he was drifting far with the streaming current. The soldiers sttod for a while with their weapons pointed at us and they were laughing wildly. I saw my cousin disappearing gradually into the water".
"Ok Marwan, but how did you survive then?".
"Well, after what seemed like hours of struggling with the flowing water, and after seeing death between the reeds and the dam walls, my legs were freezed and my whole budy numb. The soldiers left in their vehicles and I got out of the reeds and started to climb the stone walls of the sadda alturabiya and I was up on the road near the Samarra defense force checkpoint. I was wet and shivering, they took me in, helped me undress, and supplied me with clothes and and blankets. They told me to stay till the morning, I was still scared stiff of what might be still planned for me but I drifted away into sleep".
"What about the car and the cargo?".
"The next day when I returned home, I found out that American tanks crushed the car with its cargo, something very common in our parts".
"What do you feel now after your survival?".
"I feel guilty about my cousin's death, and I can't stop thinking that if we had died together it would have been better, but I guess that was the will of God".
"Can you give people a description of this story?".
"I can only explain the story and its details and I leave the judgement to you and the people who will be reading it".

I thanked Marwan and I thanked Mr. Ma'mun again while they were demanding from me to tell the story and the truth as it happened. I left them with a sense of a huge responsibility burdening my back which was greater than anything in my power that I could do about it.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

An Iraqi family's tragedy

In the name of God, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful.

Mr. George Bush president of the United States of America,
Mr. Tony Blair prime minister of the United Kingdom,
Mr. Jacques Chirac president of the republic of France,
Dr. Adnan Pachachi president of the Interim Governing Council,
Mr. Paul Bremer American civil adminstrator of Iraq,
Mr. Kofi Anan general secretary of the United Nations,
The Director of the Red Cross Organaziation,
The Director of the Human Rights Organization,

Dear Sirs,

I write to you in a very distressed state of mind and that may burst my emotions and passions because of the weighty calamity that struck me and my husband after losing our oldest son who was at the tender age of nineteen years. He was looking forward with eyes full of hope and optimism to a bright and eventful future, especially after being engaged to marry a relative of his very recently. He moved forward with all his energy to build their future life with firm and confident steps. But Fate stood in his way and seized him unexpectedly leaving a bleeding wound in the hearts of his parents, his fiance, and his friends and family. Please allow me to tell you my story...

On Saturday the 3rd of January 2004, my son and his cousin were travelling back to our residence in Samarra, they were driving a small cargo truck belonging to a third party from which they earn their livelihood in a country torn by wars and sanctions. Yes, they were back from Baghdad yet misfortune followed them from the beginning, their car broke down on the road which caused a delay in their arrival to Samarra when the curfew hour was just about to start in the city...And this is where the first chapter of the tragedy takes place. An American army patrol stood in their way, and after they went through the whole procedure of searching my son and his cousin, and inspecting the cargo load, they tied them up both and led them to an area about three kilometres from the scene front of one of the gates of the Tharthar dam where water flows at its strongest rate and to my son and his cousin's horror, they ordered them to jump into the water, it was midnight and the cold was unbearable, when they hesitated, they were pushed by the soldiers. Unfortunately my boy cannot swim, even though swimming at this time of the year wouldn't have helped. Yet my sons cousin survived miraculously after he got stuck in a tree branch to give us his account of this tragic event which could have went untold. He tried saving my son, but the water current was stronger than him...After days of search we found my sons jacket floating with the stream, it shall remain with me as a memory and a symbol of the injustice brought against him by soldiers of the United States of America's army, who came to our country under the banners of human rights and democracy only to send my son to his demise on his wedding days...

To document the incident, my son's name is Zaydun Ma'mun Fadhil Hassun Al-Samarrai, born in the 1st of June 1984...Yes, they killed him and they broke my heart, try to imagine that dear sirs and ask your wives how hard it is for a mother to see her fruit ripen only to be thrown by sinful hands and to be swept away without any mercy or humanity. Those soldiers have turned everything America has ever stood for into one big lie. I was a victim, and there are and will be many more.

And that is why I turn to you all and to your respected ladies. And especially to Mr. President George Bush to look into my case and order an investigation of the event. I know that anything you may do will not bring me back my boy, but I wish that the procedures may put an end to the suffering of Iraqi mothers, we are reaping misery every day from actions of American soldiers with no regard to our human life, our dignity, and our culture and values. Maybe the procedures will help me trust (again) the validity of those banners and mottos that fly high in American skies, those which we do not perceive in our country, but instead find their opposites. Maybe such an investigation will support the power of law and justice so that day may not come when the conscience of one of the murderers awakens and confesses to its deeds, which will make it then a responsibility on your great nation.

I am assured that you know terrorism and what is regarded as a terrorist act. Pray tell me have you ever seen or heard about a terrorist act that is considered any uglier than this crime, which was followed by crushing the car and levelling it to the ground by American military vehicles?

This is a question I put to you all and to the international community, and I await a peremptory answer.

Yours sincerely,

In grievance for her son,

The mother of Zaydun Ma'mun Fadhil Hassun Al-Samarrai.

Samarra, Iraq.

Take a moment to read this letter twice and think about it if you are as concerned as I am. This was done in the name of your country by soldiers of your national army. This was not an accident or a mistake, this was deliberate action. I do not know the exact details of the event or what Zaydun and his cousin were accused of, that is all irrelevant because even a criminal would not deserve such treatment. This is not just about Zaydun, this is about Iraq, the same could happen to anyone, even to me. But I will keep my opinion out of it for the moment as no words can describe my frustration.

Zaydun's cousin said that the soldiers were drunk and looked tired, and that during their ride they even chatted and joked with one of the soldiers who spoke a little Arabic. After he managed to get out of the water he remained hidden because he could see that the unit was searching for them using flashlights and he was scared to death.

The family met an American official to ask him for an investigation, he yelled at them and started to lecture them about the discipline of American GI's, in the end he promised them nothing. Zaydun's body is yet to be found and the family is broken. Zaydun is a relative of mine so I volunteered to translate the letter and expose this thuggish behaviour to an audience as wide as possible, it shouldn't go unreported. The letter has already been sent to various Iraqi papers and to offices of Arab media in Baghdad. I will stay on top of this in the next few days so I would like to ask my readers to help me and write to their Senators, to the western media, and to anyone that can do something about it. I also need people to translate it to other languages. That is of course if you care about Iraq and Iraqis.

You can contact the family directly at

This is Zaydun below, and here are copies of the letter in Arabic, one and two.

UPDATE: It seems the American official is now willing to investigate into the matter after he heard about this letter being sent to GWB and the western and arabic media. That is all the family is asking for, just an investigation. They will meet the family Saturday. I also contacted Chief Wiggles and asked him to look into the matter.

And yes the letters description of the incident is a bit obscure. But I couldn't alter the text, I was just asked to translate. Remember that this is the writing of Zaydun's mother and she is at the moment emotional and confused so you can't expect all the facts, however the family and the cousin can be reached at the email I provided for the full story.

Regarding the crushed truck, its still available for evidence. And as to the handcuffs, according to the cousin the soldiers untied them before asking them to jump in the water. Also the reference to the wedding day, that was an error of translation on my part, the text in Arabic says ayam 'irsuhu which is a bit difficult to translate to English in a meaningful way. I guess I should have seeked the help of a proffessional translator in this.

I was also a bit skeptical to the details but when I heard that the official refused to investigate, I decided to publish the letter as is. Also the cousin can identify the American GI's, it was not a checkpoint unit, it was a patrolling unit. They were not fedayeen disguised in American GI uniforms, thats ridiculous. If it sounds like propaganda to you thats all the more reason to carry out a meticulous investigation, as you know stories like this can inflame peoples reaction and a lot of Zaydun's relatives may want to take revenge by themselves. And would you blame them for that if the Americans in charge dismissed the matter without an investigation?

A creepy coincidence is that just this afternoon I heard that a friend of mine was badly injured by another American unit in Baghdad last night during a wedding when people started to celebrate iraqi style by shooting in the air. It was a mistake yes but the doctors say my friend may not be able to walk again. I am at the moment too overwhelmed with bad news so I may sound incoherent to you.

I will post more updates as soon as I get them.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A full investigation will commence tomorrow which will involve the family and the surviving cousin. Chief Wiggles is also looking into the matter from his end at Baghdad. So at this point let's all avoid any further speculations on the incident and try to keep an open mind until all details are clear. I'm in Basrah right now (and having trouble again) so please be patient if it takes some time for me to get back to you.

As to the letter I admitted that I was hesitant to publish it the way it was since it was so obviously incoherent as to the details which were provided by the cousin who is until now the sole witness. The reason I published it later was that the American officials at Samarra refused to carry out an investigation. I wanted to gather enough attention from the blogosphere to try to push an investigation because the charges are serious and shouldn't be dismissed or shrugged off as that could lead to even more trouble in an already inflammable area. And it was a successful attempt to some degree.

And I would like to address some of the seeming inconsistencies in the letter, first the Tharthar dam is actually bawabat nadhum al-tharthar which is on the Tigris and regulates water from the river to the Tharthar lake via a canal not very far from the Samarra road and people in that area usually refer to it as the Tharthar dam. Second, according to the cousin's account, the soldiers removed the handcuffs before telling them to jump in the water. Zaydun did not survive because he couldn't swim, his mother said that since his uncle died drowning, Zaydun's father wouldn't allow Zaydun near the water, and hence he couldn't swim. His cousin however was lucky. As to the flashlights (or torches), please don't be too quick to affirm that American GI's in that area never use them. I've seen them myself during night patrols in my neighbourhood use them (especially during power outages). And I am aware that the letter itself may look like one of those Nigerian scam emails everyone gets in their inbox, but that is the way people in the ME write. They can't help but write like that. And I also admitted that the translation on my part wasn't perfect. You can find the letters in Arabic above the picture.

One thing is certain. Zaydun is dead. How or who or where or why are yet to be confirmed. So don't jump to any conclusions. I never asked anyone to blindly believe the story, I just asked that you do something to help it get investigated.

I never implied that I was 100% convinced about the details. They were really really troubled when I talked to them and they just handed me the letter and the picture and asked me to do whatever I can do about it. There are other relatives of the family that are involved in this and I'm not coordinating things with them.

However as I promised I will stay tuned with the family and keep you all updated on how the investigation proceeds. I am aware of the huge responsibility I have to my readers, and even if some parts of the story or all of it turn out to be fabricated by the cousin, You can be sure that I will report it.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

New Iraqi bloggers

I'm adding links to two new Iraqi bloggers who have recently joined the blogosphere making us a total of 16 Iraqi blogs.

Ihath is an Iraqi woman living in Canada. she describes herself as an Iraqi giggler laughing at the lunacy of the world. A very interesting read.

Also Sun of Iraq is a new blog by an Iraqi named Alaa. Read his posts about life before and after April 9. He hasn't posted his email address so I couldn't find out more about him.

Also check out Iraq blog count by Emigre for some interesting Iraqi links not just boring blogs.

Iraqi sites guide (9 Neesan) is a good start to find Iraqi websites. Its in Arabic but you can browse around without trouble. Lots of movies, glalleries, and articles.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Lan cafes

Here are some pics I took over the last few weeks from various LAN cafes and Pool bars in Baghdad. Hope you like. By the way most of the gamers are playing MOH and CS.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Power grid repairs

The Baghdad East-Kirkuk 400-kV line, which went out of service on December 23 due to sabotage, was brought back online December 27. One tower had been sabotaged and at least one conductor cut 25 kilometers south of Tuz. Excessive rain made access to the area difficult, and repairs could not begin until an explosive ordnance disposal team cleared the site. Baghdad East-Kirkuk, a redundant line that transfers power from northern to central Iraq, also failed in mid-November due to high winds, causing a blackout across central and southern Iraq. Loss of the power line severely limits the network’s ability to transfer power since other north-south conduits--such as the 400-kV Baghdad West-Bayji line and the 132-kV Taji-Bayji line--need to be run on a relatively low load to ensure system stability.

The Musalla-Rumaila 132-kV line has been repaired and was re-energized on December 26. Seven towers on the line had been sabotaged since mid-December. The line transfers power from Al Basrah to An Nasiriyah and ties southern Iraq to the rest of the network.

Power production varied over the weekend, reaching a strong peak generation on December 25 and producing a consistently high number of megawatt hours.

December 23: 2,978 MW 66,890 MW hours
December 25: 3,757 MW 75,403 MW hours
December 26: 3,307 MW 75,943 MW hours
December 27: 3,535 MW 75,419 MW hours

As of December 27, 44 units with the capacity to produce 1,954 MW of power were offline for service. Twenty units with the capacity to produce 637 MW were out for unscheduled service and three thermal and seven gas turbine units with the capacity to produce 414 MW of power were out for scheduled rehabilitation. Nine thermal units and five gas turbine units with the capacity to produce 903 MW of power are out of service for scheduled maintenance.

Under a contract signed last week, General Electric will rehabilitate five generators at the Mosul East plant. Work is scheduled to begin today and last 35 days. The restored units will add 62 MW of capacity to the north.

The New Year, Iraqi Christians, Alcohol, and other things

(This was supposed to be posted yesterday but I didn't have enough time to visit an Internet cafe).

First I wish everyone all the best for 2004.

The eve of the New Year for me has always been the gloomiest and most depressing time of the year. While the rest of the world celebrates till the early morning I would be sitting over drinks with friends while wearily staring at each other, cursing our lost youth, and wondering what the future will bring us. At some of these occasions we don't even notice the clock striking twelve, sometimes we just blurt out a half-hearted hurray, greet each other and sit back drinking ourselves to oblivion.

This year doesn't look any different, we already did our shopping and are getting ready for a long night of discussing boring topics such as philosophy, politics, and our faceless future.

I read today in the papers an account of the murder of Bashir Thomas Elias, an Iraqi Christian who ran a liquor store in Basrah. It was Christmas Eve and he was heading back home from the market to celebrate with his family when someone shot him in the head and walked away amid onlooking Basrawis.

There were about 200 licensed alcohol dealers in Basrah before the war, today there is none, and we were there to see for ourselves. Most of these stores were looted and burnt during the last few months and the rest were forced to close under murder threats from hardliners and Shi'ite extremist groups such as Hizb Allah (The party of Allah), Intiqam Allah (The revenge of Allah), and Munadhamat Qawa'id Al-Islam. These groups are powerful and influential in Basrah and already have many of their members in local municipal councils. Faysal Abdallah a leader of one of these groups stated that Allah will reward the virtuous who seek Shahada fighting vice in his name but he described these summary executions of Iraqi Christians as 'unacceptable behaviour'.

Basrah is populated by 100,000 Christians. About 2000 of them have already left their hometown and migrated to other cities such as Baghdad and Mosul, the rest are living in fear for their lives. Some of them are wondering if they were not better off with Saddam and the secular Ba'ath in power.

"Our daughters are persecuted in college" said Wisam Abdalahad a store owner in Basrah. "They are being intimidated by their teachers and professors and told to wear Hijab".

Of course Islam apologists respond by "No, Islam is the religion of peace and tolerance" and they cite the Quranic verse 'There is no compulsion in religion'. They always seem to forget this other verse (29) from Surat Al-Tawba: "Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the judgement day, those who do not prohibit what Allah and his messenger have prohibited, and those who do not profess the true faith from Ahl AlKitab* till they pay the Jizyah with the hand of humility".
*Christians, Jews, and Mandeans are referred to as Ahl AlKitab or Dhimmis in the Quran.

So Muslim clerics worldwide should gather and either renounce these inciting verses or issue fatwas that they are inapplicable in todays world. One cannot say that he truly believes in the holy message of peace and tolerance in the Quran and yet at the same time ignore these violent and scary verses. It would result in double talk and inconsistency in thought and behaviour which in extreme cases lead to terrorism. It has to be one way or the other. Muslim leaders should make a choice to put an end to all the bloodshed in the name of the divine Allah and his messenger.

UPDATE:This mess was what ensued of our late night drinking party.