Saturday, October 28, 2006

More 'Coup' Rumours in Baghdad

Baghdad is rife with the strangest rumours again chiefly as a result of the latest deployment of American troops around major Shi’ite districts in Baghdad, signaling a movement against Shi’ite militias. The rumours also seem to have penetrated the concrete barriers of the Green Zone where anxious Iraqi governmental officials are whispering about an impending American “coup,” and according to some well-connected Iraqis inside the Green Zone, several officials have made travel arrangements. This followed tensions over the last week between the U.S. and a defiant PM Maliki that were supposedly resolved yesterday with the joint Iraqi-American statement reaffirming U.S. support for the Iraqi government and the commitment of the Iraqi government to a timetable for disbanding militias. The heavy deployment of American troops along with elite Iraqi security forces that are not part of the Interior or the Defense ministries aggravated these fears.

Situation in Baghdad, October 28
Mahdi Army groups in Sadr City are accusing SCIRI of setting up the American military operation against them. This could spell further trouble in Shi’ite cities in the south and another confrontation between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi security forces (dominated by SCIRI and Badr).

Sources in Sadr City reported that a son of Abu Dera’ and an aide were killed in the first American raid against the Chuwadir area of Sadr City Wednesday. Abu Dera’ is a feared name in Sadr City and Sunnis accuse him of atrocities against their community in several districts surrounding Sadr City. It’s hard to get facts about him since he has become a sort of a legend in that area of Baghdad, but people now claim that Sadr personally appointed him the responsibility of cleaning up the ranks of the Mahdi Army in Sadr City and that he has started cracking down on rival gangs and splinter Mahdi Army groups in the area. Following the American raid, he is reported to have fled behind the Sadda and is now in the Al-Amin district, just southeast of Sadr City. Clashes are still reported from Sadr City and American troops have blocked all main streets leading into the huge slum.

Tensions are still high in Amara, Diwaniya and Samawa. There was a failed assassination attempt against the military intelligence commander (a SCIRI member) in Samawa, and there were clashes between militias and the Iraqi police in Suwayra southeast of Baghdad. All are signs of the increasing distrust between the Sadrist movement and SCIRI, which form the largest blocs inside the UIA.

There was a brief scare at Najaf Thursday when local authorities closed down the shrine for an hour, citing a security threat. The shrine has been opened since but there are speculations on several Iraqi message boards that an incident at the shrine may be created in order to relieve the current tensions between the U.S. and the Shia and in order to speed up the formation of the Shi’ite federal region in the south.

In a related development, Muqtada Al-Sadr issued instructions to his followers yesterday to avoid an open confrontation with American troops and what he described as “their Nawasib followers.” Nawasib in Shia literature roughly translates to ‘those who have set themselves against the prophet’s household.’ It’s a historical reference to Muslim caliphs and armies who have persecuted the prophet’s grandsons and their followers (the Shia). The term is used today in Iraq among Shi’ite circles as a veiled code for Sunnis, although they deny that and say they only mean terrorists who target the Shia. But many Sunni victims were taunted as Nasibis before their torture or execution by Shi’ite militias. Another significant point in the communiqué is a sense that the media is unfairly aligned against the Shia, a point which I’ll return to later. But here is the text of the statement (my translation):

1- I strongly reject, or I should say it is forbidden, to participate in any Shia-Shia, Sunni-Shia, or Iraqi strife, for whatever excuse. Preserving our beloved Iraq and driving out the ghost of occupation is our goal. Know that this infighting benefits the menacing trinity in general, and the occupier in particular. Therefore, do not be assisting them.

2- The murder, martyrdom or detention of any one of the believers by the occupation [forces] or any other security force is a glory and an honour for me and all the believers on earth, as long as we are right. That does not mean armed deployment and irresponsible reactions. Consult with your Hawza in everything. If it says go back, then go back. Just as you obeyed [your Hawza] in your jihad, obey it in your peace. And as my father (hallowed be his secret) said: “As I have told you one day, you should obey the orders of your clerics. Do not move and do not say a thing before your religious leadership says something. It is unacceptable, my dear. Because then you will only harm yourselves, your religion, your life and your afterlife.”

3- The media and military campaign waged by the forces of darkness, represented by the occupiers and the Nawasib, against the followers of the two Sadrs has become clear. On one hand, they raid the offices of the Martyr (hallowed be his secret) and cultural centres, and on the other they detain and assassinate the personalities of this honourable movement, in addition to the media war by paid channels. After their proclaimed war on terror in Iraq, represented by the Nawasib, they have replaced this with a war against the [Shia] sect, and the sons of the two Sadrs in particular. Developments in Baghdad and its surroundings have only proved the cooperation of the Nawasib with the occupier, and the cooperation of the media with both. They do not display their explosives and suicide vests, but instead they present it as self-defense against an attack. Shame on them and on their actions.

With great regret, this is all evident to leaders and politicians, but none have whispered a word [against it]. In general, be alert my dear brothers in this army and do not allow them to drag you to what they want. Instead we want you to preserve yourselves so that the powers and armies of darkness are not allowed to dominate our beloved Iraq. Let everyone know that my sole enemy is the occupier and his Nawasib followers. I will not accept any other party, be it Sunni or Shia, to be my enemy. They are your brothers in life and the afterlife, and an attack on any Iraqi is an attack against you and me. So fear Allah and be mindful. If I am killed or detained or forced to be away from you, commit to your religion and your sect and preserve your Iraq and your unity and your brotherhood, and do not be scattered, for the blood of our martyrs, the two Sadrs, are a torch that will light your way until Judgement Day. Their movement is never-ending and is here to stay.


Muqtada Al-Sadr

Sheikh Jabir Al-Khafai, an aide to Sadr, reiterated these instructions during his Friday sermon at the Kufa mosque, demanding that all followers of the Sadrist movement observe them and obey Sadr. He warned that some elements were attempting to “climb on the shoulders of the honourable movement” for their own personal interests.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Baghdad: A Doctor's Story

This video filmed by an Iraqi doctor is a must see. I am amazed that someone could actually film the terrible conditions inside one of Iraq's most dangerous hospitals, Al-Yarmouk Hospital in western Baghdad, in these troubled days.

I was struggling to keep my tears from flowing because I was watching it with an American friend 2 days ago. But at one point, when an injured Shi'ite woman lying in an ambulance started screaming at the camera, "Bring Saddam back! It wasn't like this under his rule!" I lost control.

This should be on every American tv channel. Go see it.

When you're finished, go watch this moving tribute put by Iraqi Konfused Kid for his 4 friends who were killed in a roadside bomb explosion at Karrada one week before their graduation from college. It puts a face to the victims of this war. Those are our friends, brothers, neighbours and relatives. They were real people leading real lives. They are not statistics.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My brother, Nabil, witnesses another terrible murder, this time of a hairdresser. She was dragged out of her taxi by 4 gunmen, a sack was put on her head and then they opened fire. Her corpse was left on the street for over 3 hours because no one dared to go near it. The worst was when Iraqi troops arrived at night to pick up the corpse. They had to shoot it several times to ensure it wasn't booby-trapped with explosives, something that is becoming more and more common in our area of Baghdad.


In other news, if you feel sick of reading my entries on this blog, you can finally listen to me here on this NPR On the Media segment on Iraqi journalists. (Scroll down to Iraq's New Journalism and click listen now.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Iraqi blog burst

A storm has been brewing in the Iraqi blogosphere for a while. Most of it was offline in email discussions and many ugly remarks and angry accusations were made. Iraqi Konfused Kollege Kid has posted a roundup. To sum it up, 27 Iraqi bloggers reacted to Iraq the Model's reaction to the John Hopkins study published in the Lancet.

Baghdad Treasure
also interviews several Iraqi bloggers and asks them whether they think this war was worth the price.

Salam Adil has another roundup of recent Iraqi blog posts, for Global Voices Online.

I should add that the above posts are unprecedented events on many levels in the fragile Iraqi blogosphere.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Another close friend of mine has been killed in Baghdad. We had lunch together in Baghdad just days before I left.

I can't concentrate on anything any more. I should not be here in New York running around a stupid neighbourhood, asking people about their 'issues'.

I now officially regret supporting this war back in 2003. The guilt is too much for me to handle.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

IDPs on the rise in Iraq (Updated)

The Iraqi Ministry of Immigration recently released figures on the number of internally displaced families in the country. 51,037 families have registered as refugees with the ministry. The breakup of families according to governorates is as follows:

Internally displace families in Iraq, October 2006.
Baghdad: 6,600
Muthanna: 1,677
Wassit: 4,983
Maysan: 3,955
Dhi Qar: 3,100
Basrah: 2,010
Karbala: 6,700
Babel: 3,365
Qadissiya: 1,200
Najaf: 4,000
Anbar: 2,561
Diyala: 4,797
Salah Al-Din: 2,925
Kirkuk: 415
Ninewa: 4,074
Erbil: 7,498

No figures were reported for the Dohuk and Suleimaniya governorates. There are an additional 330 Palestinian refugees stuck at a camp in Tanaf on the Iraqi-Syrian border, 150 others on the Iraqi-Jordanian border, and an undocumented number of Sudanese families.

More here.

There are no known numbers for Christian families that have fled from Basrah and Nasiriya in the south, and from Baghdad to Christian majority areas east of Mosul in northern Iraq, but 35,000 Christians have entered Syria from Iraq this year, compared to 20,000 in 2004. There are sizeable Iraqi Christian communities in both Jordan and Lebanon.


The Iraqi News Agency reported that Muqtada Al-Sadr recently confided to an Iraqi Intelligence officer that a large number of Shi’ite death squads have been operating under the banner of the Mahdi Army, but that they are really Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers and Hezbollah fighters conducting operations without his knowledge, and that he has no control over them.

Those Mahdi Army militiamen manning a checkpoint at Shu’la, in western Baghdad, don’t look like Iranians to me.

Mahdi Army militiamen at a checkpoint in Shu'la, Baghdad.
Trust is gone in Iraq, and normal people are just trying to protect their neighbourhoods from ‘outsiders’ and ‘strangers.’ Check the video on the Alive in Baghdad website of a watch team patrol in the Sunni district of Adhamiya.

Sadr had publicly threatened Friday in a statement reported by AFP to reveal the names of his supporters who were “killing the Iraqi people unjustifiably” and to disown them before God. A source close to Sadr mentioned on an Iraqi message board that, before making that statement, Sadr was listening to reports from some followers in Sadr City on the criminal activities of the Mahdi Army, and that he said, “This means that if I go there [to Sadr City], there is a 100% chance that they would kill me and put me in a car trunk!”

Sadr has made several attempts over the last few weeks to distance himself from the murderous actions of his private army, which only helps to prove that he has lost all control over it.

Meanwhile, Mahdi Army members went on a rampage in the town of Balad, a Shi’ite enclave in the Sunni heartland north of Baghdad, following the discovery of 14 corpses of 17 kidnapped Shi’ite labourers from Balad at a farm in the outskirts of the nearby Sunni town of Dhilu’iya. Eyewitnesses from the area reported that Sunni residences in Balad were attacked at Iftar time Friday and that about 30 people were killed in the attack, while 20 residences, and several vehicles and stores belonging to Sunnis were burned by the raiding militiamen. They added that Iraqi and American troops stationed nearby did not intervene to prevent the attack that went on for over an hour. More here from Reuters and AP.

UPDATE ON BALAD: The Shi'ite town of Balad and the Sunni town of Dhilu'iya are in war with each other. And guess who Interior Ministry Commandoes in Balad are siding with? Mahdi militiamen and weapons in pickups have poured into Balad from Kadhimiya, Baghdad. How they were able to cross the road between Baghdad and Balad, which is controlled by US and Iraqi army forces, is a mystery. Take a look at the map. (The green dots are American army bases and the white line is the highway that Mahdi militias used to get to Balad from Baghdad.)

Balad map
You can guess what whould happen if Sunni insurgents from surrounding areas of Balad decide to wage war against Shi'ite residents there and drive them out of the Salah Al-Din governorate.

The suburb of Sabi’ Al-Bor, north of Baghdad and west to Taji, also witnessed intense clashes between Sunni and Shi’ite gunmen. The area of Sabi’ Al-Bawr, which houses Shi’ite families, has been under continuous bombardment with mortar fire from the nearby Sunni rural areas of Taji and Mashahda for the last few weeks, and a large number of families have been forced to leave to refugee camps at Shu’la and Kadhmiya in Baghdad, which are already choking with thousands of Shia families displaced from Abu Ghraib during the violence that followed the shrine bombing in Samarra last February.

A car bomb explosion at the Hurriya district of Baghdad broke the wary calm that prevailed over the last week. Armed clashes between Sunni and Shi’ite gunmen erupted immediately after the bombing at Hurriya and in the nearby Dola’i. Sunni families are still leaving Hurriya for other areas of Baghdad after receiving threats.

More threat letters, similar to the ones I posted earlier, surfacing in Ghazaliya.

More fliers in Ghazaliya, Baghdad.
An Islamist website was able to post photos from the Baghdad Medico-legal Institute. 49 tortured corpses were received at the morgue today. Several corpses had genitals and appendages cut off, while others had faces smashed in with sledgehammers and signs of chemical burns.

Iraqis have sure learned some creative lessons from Saddam's regime.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Human Cost of the War in Iraq

I urge you to carefully read the study first. Very few people seem to have actually done so.

In comparison, the much-criticised Iraq Body Count relies only on media reports (mostly Western and often by conflating 2 different sources) for their maximum body count of 48,639 civilians. I have said and will say again that the media reports only a tiny fraction of deaths in the country, usually the victims of car bombings or other significant violent events.

The collaborative study by the John Hopkins University, The School of Medicine at the Mustansiriya University, and the MIT Center for International Studies, pubished in The Lancet, is not the same. It is not an actual body count. This is an estimate of the total number of excess deaths over the last 3 years.

It uses cluster samples (uniform groups of samples in a specific geographical areas) as opposed to simple random samples. This is usually much more cost-effective and easier and in this case it’s, unfortunately, the only available method to get an estimate.

Simply put, the methods used by the study are valid, but in Iraq’s case, where the level of violence is not consistent throughout the country, I feel that the study should have been done differently. 654,965 excess civilian deaths is an absurd number. My personal guesstimate would be half that number, but the total count is not the point now.

Take a look at the incidence of reported deaths from violence across the country over the last 3 years. (My map, with data compiled from news stories.)

Death incidents in Iraq as reported by the media
And compare it to population density across the country. (CIA map.)

Population density in Iraq
The survey used 48 cluster samples from 16 governorates (a total of 1,849 households) and extrapolated the findings across the whole country based on the total population. I may be wrong, but I think this is problematic and can be misleading since the level of violence in, say, the Muthanna or the Erbil governorates is hardly even close to that of Baghdad, Diyala or Anbar. The results would have probably been much more accurate if the samples were selected solely from the areas I’ve depicted above in the map, and then to project the findings to the actual population of these areas. This makes more sense to me, but then I have a limited grasp on statistics and I stress that I may be wrong.

Now lets move on to reactions to the study.

One problem is that the people dismissing – or in some cases, rabidly attacking – the results of this study, including governmental officials who, arguably, have an interest in doing so, have offered no other alternative or not even a counter estimate. This is called denial. When you have no hard facts to discredit a scientific study, or worse, if you are forced to resort to absurd arguments, such as “the Iraqis are lying,” or “they interviewed insurgents,” or “the timing to publish this study was to affect American elections,” or "I don't like the results and they don't fit into my world view, therefore they have to be false," it is better for you to just shut up. From the short time I have been here, I am realising that some Americans have a hard time accepting facts that fly against their political persuasions.

Now I am aware that the study is being used here by both sides of the argument in the context of domestic American politics, and that pains me. As if it is different for Iraqis whether 50,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the war or 600,000. The bottom line is that there is a steady increase in civilian deaths, that the health system is rapidly deteriorating, and that things are clearly not going in the right direction. The people who conducted the survey should be commended for attempting to find out, with the limited methods they had available. On the other hand, the people who are attacking them come across as indifferent to the suffering of Iraqis, especially when they have made no obvious effort to provide a more accurate body count. In fact, it looks like they are reluctant to do this.

By the way, these same statistical methods were used to count civilians deaths in Darfur, but then I didn’t see anyone objecting to that.

In regard to Iraqi governmental officials, it was their responsibility to provide reliable numbers, but when the Ministry of Health and the Baghdad Medico-legal Institute (Baghdad’s main mortuary) is under the control of Sadrists, who have prohibited access to medical records and morgue counts by the press, and who have an interest in manipulating numbers for their own political agendas, I would absolutely question their criticism of this study. And by the way, most cemeteries in Iraq would not accept a body without a death certificate, unless the bodies are buried in mass graves or backyards without reporting them to health authorities (look at this to understand why), which in this case the government would regard them as ‘missing.’ While working in hospitals and health centres in Iraq, it was sometimes my responsibility (when the late-night doctor was unavailable or, in some cases, sleeping) to oversee the checking in of corpses at the hospital and to issue a death certificate indicating the cause of the death. No certificate is issued without a body, and it is required that several copies are kept. IDs of dead people are shredded at the spot and their names are removed from their family’s food ration cards. The Ministry of Health should have access to certificates issued throughout the country over the last 3 years. And both the Defense and Interior ministries have their own counts. Now why isn’t any independent body looking into that information?

The conservative count of 100 civilian deaths per day in the Baghdad area is a standard number these days.

When I spoke at the ONA conference in Washington last Saturday, I was asked whether the Western media was neglecting the good news from Iraq. I answered that it used to be that way in the early days following the war, but that now they are failing to capture how bad it really is. Western reporters are holed up in their offices in Baghdad. Even their Iraqi stringers who do most of the actual reporting are now finding it increasingly difficult to venture into certain neighbourhoods of Baghdad. What about the rest of the country? How many reporters, Western or Iraqi, are there in the Anbar governorate? Ninewa? Diyala? Salah Al-Din? Babel? Maysan?

There also seems to be a common misconception here that large parts of the country are stable. In fact, not a day goes by without political and sectarian assassinations all over the south of Iraq, particularly in Basrah and Amara, but they always go unnoticed, except in some local media outlets. The ongoing conflict between political parties and militias to control resources in holy cities and in the oil-rich region of Basrah rarely gets a nod from the media every now and then, simply because there are very few coalition casualties over there. The same with Mosul and Kirkuk, both highly volatile areas. I am yet to see some good coverage on the deadly sectarian warfare in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, which has the highest rate of unknown corpses dumped on the streets after the capital, and which was about to be announced an Islamic Emirate by the end of Ramadan. There are absolutley no numbers of civilian casualties from Anbar. There is no one to report them and the Iraqi government controls no territory there, while American troops are confined to their bases. And much, much less data from other governorates which give the impression of being 'stable.'

I have personally witnessed dozens of people killed in my neighbourhood over the last few months (15 people in the nearby vicinity of our house alone, over 4 months), and virtually none of them were mentioned in any media report while I was there. And that was in Baghdad where there is the highest density of journalists and media agencies. Don’t you think this is a common situation all over the country?

Family back in Baghdad

I am seriously concerned about the situation in my neighbourhood. It has been less than a week since my family returned, and now my brother, Nabil, reports this horrifiying incident.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I have an upcoming assignment for school on political issues (related to the Nov. elections) in the Cobble Hill/Caroll Gardens area of Brooklyn. If anyone reading this is from that area and is interested in helping me understand the issues, please contact me as soon as possible.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sample threat letters from Iraq

Threat letters and fliers are a common everyday experience in Iraq these days. Below are several samples from different areas of the country, including one that was posted on the door of the health centre I used to work at. Some of them contain shameless spelling and grammatical mistakes, and a few were even pointed out as obvious fakes. I cannot absolutely prove that these are authentic, but they were distributed in areas in which the threatening parties had no qualms about carrying out their threats. The sample letters were collected from various Iraqi message boards. An interesting feature is the common language used in the fliers and the strong religious tone, even though they were issued by different groups, both Sunni and Shi'ite.

This one was distributed at Abu Al-Khasib, a largely Sunni town southeast of Basrah with a sizeable Salafi community, most of which have roots in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Many Sunnis were forced to leave the area, especially following the Samarra shrine bombing last February. The threat was issued by a group that calls itself the Revenge Squads.

Abu Al-Khasib flier

Warning. Warning. Warning.

All members of the Sunni community, Wahhabis and Takfiris, are required to leave the Abu Al-Khasib province immediately as a result of the killings and deportation suffered by the [Shia] followers of the Prophet’s household. We do not exclude anyone. You have destroyed holy sites and you have slaughtered the Shia based on their identity. We were patient but not any more. We will not be silent from now on. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and the first transgressor is more unjust. We will take revenge for the Shia and the followers of the Prophet’s household. We will not stay silent in the face of injustice. Never. We will not tolerate humiliation. You do not have much time to leave. He who has warned is henceforth excused.

Saraya Al-Tha’r

The next was posted on a light pole near a Sunni mosque at Um Al-Ma'alif, a mixed district south of Baghdad, between Amiriya, Jihad and Saidiya. The area has recently witnessed fierce clashes between residents and raiding militias from the largely Shi'ite districts of Bayya', Shurta and Abu Dshir. It has also come under attack several times during the last few days from the nearby rural Girtan area, inhabited by Sunni tribes. The flier is appropriately signed by the Death Squads. The anti-occupation tone of the flier suggests that it was put up by followers of Sadr.

Um Al-Ma'alif flier

Warning.. Warning.. Warning

To the worshippers of the Sajjad mosque: Beware of coming near this mosque, or your fate will be death. Woe to the unjust. Death to transgressors. Damn you, lackeys of the occupiers.

Saraya Al-Mawt

This one was sent to members of the Palestinian community in Baghdad. The majority of Palestinians in Baghdad have lived there since 1948. They are just as Iraqi as everyone else in the country. The largest group of Palestinians live in eastern Baghdad, just southeast of Sadr City, and have continously suffered from attacks and arrests over the last two years. Some have attempted to seek refuge in Jordan but they claimed they were denied entry. There is a camp for them at the Iraqi-Jordanian border.

Threat letter to Palestinians in Baghdad

In the name of Allah, the most merciful

Warning. Warning. Warning.

To the Palestinian traitors who allied themselves with Wahhabis, Takfiris, Nawasib and Ba’athist Saddamists, especially those who inhabit the Dar Al-Shu’oun area: We warn you that we will eliminate you all if you do not leave this area entirely within 10 days.

He who has warned is henceforth excused.

Saraya Yawm Al-Hisab

This was sent to a Shi'ite family in Ghazaliya, a district which is all-but-officially under the control of Sunni extremists. Most Shi'ite families in the district have left but a few still remain because they have lived there for decades. Sources close to Al-Qaeda claimed on a message board that the letter was not authentic because of its wording and the lack of a seal. If true, this curiously suggests that some local militant groups are posing as members of Al-Qaeda, for some unknown purpose.

Flier from Al-Qaeda at Ghazaliya

In the name of Allah, the most merciful

Subject: Deportation

As a result of the criminal and sectarian behaviour of what is called (the disgraceful) Jaish Al-Mahdi and (the treacherous) Badr forces by killing, kidnapping and deporting the Sunni community (at Mahmoudiya, Rashidiya, Sha’ab, Shu’la and Hurriya), as well as violating the honour of Sunnis and plundering their possessions, the organisation has decided, Inshallah, to return the strike twofold and treat them the same (an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth). It has been decided to deport you from Sunni areas, including Ghazaliya, within 24 hours, or otherwise your heads will be cut off, the same as your militias act with members of the Sunni community. He who has warned is henceforth excused.

The Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers Organisation
The Mujahideen Shura Council

The ominous letter below was posted on the door of the Adil District Internet Centre, a main hub for the State Company for Internet Services, the sole dial-up internet provider in Iraq and part of the Iraqi Ministry of Telecommunications. The centre closed immediately after they received the threat.

To: Director and employees of the Adil District [Internet] centre
Subject: Warning

We write down this warning for the employees of the Adil District centre (particularly the rejectionists among them), and ask them: what is the purpose of this centre? And what kind of department is it, where work is for 24 hours, uninterrupted not even by electricity outages? And what kind of department lacks a sign or notice that explains its purpose and under the authority of which ministry? Why do its employees sneak in and out through the back door, while the front entrance on the main street is locked? What is the need for such a large number of engineers and workers, even though the centre is closed, with no contact with the public? And, and, and… many other questions that we have listed.

We clearly state here that we suspect this centre is controlled by a certain party, and that it is being used for special surveillance operations, without mentioning further details.

If this matter is confirmed to us, then we inform you that you have openly renounced your religion and your faith, and that you have declared war against the Mujahideen. We swear by Him, who has lifted the sky without pillars, that you will be legitimate targets for us to sacrifice for Allah, may He be praised. You should learn that killing you is easier to us than a drink of water. The American forces that you serve will not help you, let alone the helpless pagan guards or the forces of insurrection. We will follow you and deal with you at your department, or while you commute, or even at your houses and in your own bedrooms. And we stress ‘if confirmed’, for we will not shed the blood of Muslims with uncertainty; our Lord, religion and morals forbid that.

Since we are still at the stage of investigation and research, and since there has been no evidence against you so far, we have spared your lives. Therefore, we demand the following 3 requirements on your part:

1- Put up a public notice at the entrance of your department, mentioning its name, its specialty, and its jurisdiction (like other governmental departments).

2- Open the main entrance on the street. All employees, workers and vehicles should enter and leave solely through this entrance, and not like ‘thieves’ from the back door.

3- Stick a small note on the main entrance with answers to the following questions: What is the function of this department or centre? Why is work for 24 hours? And why is such a large staff employed there, even though it is not open to the public? Be informed that specialists among the Mujahideen will view your answers, so we advise you to remain truthful.

We will offer you one week – no more – from this date to carry out these demands. If one is not carried out then our suspicions will be confirmed and we will direct our patrols to apply practical steps with you. He who has warned is henceforth excused, and Allah is witness to what we say.

Peace be upon our prophet Mohammed and his companions.

Military Administrator of the Kata’ib

Kata’ib Al-Mujahideen
Saraya Al-Ghadhab

Copy to:
- The media department.
- Commander of Al-Karkh sector.
- Al-Adil District centre.

Another from the Islamic Army in Iraq, one of the most organised insurgent groups in Iraq, issued to Shi'ite residents of the Dora district, south of Baghdad.

Islamic Army in Iraq flier

In the name of Allah, the most merciful

To the vile rejectionists, and the grandsons of Ibn Al-Alqami, and those who have sold their religion and people for earthly gains. It has been clear that you have betrayed the pact of Allah and His prophet, and that you fight the Mujahideen with your beliefs and acts. Therefore, we offer you 24 hours to leave this untainted area or face punishment. He who has warned is henceforth excused.

Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. And praise be to Allah.

The Islamic Army in Iraq

And the last, which contains the worst spelling, was posted on the door of the health centre where I used to work for most of the year 2005, until I quit in February 2006. This was when the Iraqi government decided to mark Saturday as an official holiday. A controversial decision at the time. It was signed by the Mujahideen brigades, a generic name used by many unknown militant groups in Iraq.

Mujahideen flier at health centre

To the honourable residents of the ***** province: The traitorous government, as you know, has passed a law to mark Saturday as an official holiday for all governmental departments. And as we all know, the traitorous government decided not long ago to change the flag to an Israeli flag. Now, they have chosen to mark an Israeli holiday. This is all to achieve their scheme of Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates.

Therefore, we ask all governmental departments in the ***** province to defy this law and to continue to open on Saturday as usual in order to foil these traitorous plans.

To all directors of state departments in the province: You are to inform your employees to attend work on Saturdays, or you and your employees will be held responsible.

Kata’ib Allahu Akbar
Sariyat Al-Mujahidun

ONA Conference, Washington, D.C.

I was invited to speak at the Online News Association’s 2006 conference in Washington Saturday. It was a real eye-opening experience for me. Here were some of the world’s best in online news, all gathered in one place. Not many bloggers though.

For the most part, I described my blogging experience back in Iraq as well as the shortcomings in media coverage of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq. Thankfully, it was a Q&A session, so I did not have to give a tedious speech or anything. Mark Memmott, of the USA Today, moderated the session, and he got to create a useful blog to introduce the audience to Healing Iraq, since my blog is such a pain to navigate.

At one point, I was asked to give a percentage of “how much of the story” Americans were getting, and I said maybe half of it. Later, I was jokingly told that I might have been too generous. Of course, I also got the obligatory “Do you think it’s a civil war?” question, and I said yes.

Jeff Jarvis blogged most of the interesting moments at the conference, and here is a story by the Editor and Publisher about my session.


To be truthful, I spent more time smoking outside with Mahumed, the middle-aged porter from Sierra Leone, near the entrance to the Capitol Hilton. I was amazed by how informed he was about the situation in Iraq, and for the first time since I got here, I felt better about being forced to smoke outside in the rain. Usually, with American anti-smoking laws, I feel that smoking is like having to go to the restroom instead of a mortal pleasure that some of us willfully choose to indulge in.

I didn’t see much of the city, but while I was shopping for cigarettes (they’re unfairly expensive in New York), I glimpsed the Whte House from a distance. I ended up touring the area all the way to Capitol Hill, even though it was raining like crazy.