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Dear colleagues, This story sounds interesting. As you are already in free Iraq, familiar with the country and not very far from the scene, would you be kind enough to incorporate it in your itenerary and verify the story, or otherwise. Good luck. Muhamad http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fnews%2F2003%2F05%2F21%2Fwirq121.xml >>> Jo Baker <email@example.com> 05/21 2:38 pm >>> [ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] > > Travels around Free Iraq > > Before April 9 2003 there was little chance I would > see cities like Nassiriyya, Diwanniyya or Samawa. > So > I had little hesitation accepting an immediate > invitation to head south with Raed, who with a lot > of > ingenuity and a little funding from has started the > process of documenting the real civilian casualty > figures. . > > Raed*s political understanding of Iraq is a > phenomenon. The website *Where is Raed?* set up by > his friend Salaam Pax, while the government was > still > monitoring every word people in Iraq wrote or > thought. > *Salam had got fed up with me not replying to > emails > so he set up a web site which we both started > writing > material on. It was only supposed to be for us. > After a while we noticed people had been looking at > it > as an example of ordinary Iraqi lives, it was very > embarrassing. People were reading about my problems > with my fiancÚ.* During the war *Where is Raed* > started getting a huge audience. *We really panicked > when the BBC quoted us and we suddenly had tens of > thousands of hits. We decided to change the URL to > Dear Raed and just prayed the authorities would not > find us.* > > So having been back in Baghdad for less than 12 > hours > I found myself in car heading towards Kerbala. The > volunteers working now collecting the casualty > information took us on a brief tour of a bombed > area. > Here we found a woman who had been sitting in > central > room in her house while the missiles were landing > around her. One missile came through the roof of > her > kitchen; through the top wall of the room she was > sitting, out the other side, through a second room > and > out other side of the house. It had failed to > explode. Her memory of the shock showed in the > tears > she couldn*t hold back. *These are the real stories > of the war,* said Raed, *People who have survived, > and > are now struggling to live in damaged houses.* > > Another house where the missile had come through the > building, a woman explained, *It destroyed the > house, > the fridge, my son was killed* At this Raed became > exasperated, *people don*t value life here, they > list > the loss of their son in the same sentence as their > fridges, dammit* > > In Nassiriyya heavy fighting caused thousands of > deaths. As the hospital director explained *most > people could not reach the hospital with their dead > during the fighting, so they buried them at home* > Now > the grim toll in Nasiriyya alone and so far is 1,100 > dead, 3,700 injured and those are the hospital > figures. > > Here we found young children playing in a burnt out > armoured personnel carriers *They were empty* > explained the children *But we saw the helicopter > that > came and bombed them* Now the tell tale sign of the > black DU Oxide on the ground and the intense fire > that > had gutted the machines make the vehicles dangerous > playgrounds. *Do you know about Depleted Uranium?* > asked Raed. *Yes we know about it* they replied, > but > it hasn*t stopped them playing. One entrepreneur > was > busy hack sawing a radiator out of the vehicle. > Further along the road we found the US army > surrounded > by razor with a queue of Iraqi*s being handed their > wages. I stayed in the car filming this and was > soon > approached by a GI *There*s no filming here, we have > machine guns in place* I was puzzled and pushed him > for a better explanation, *I could take that off > you* > he said, leaning into the lens. I had forgotten to > turn it off. *OK I*m not filming* I lied. > After hours and days on the road from Baghdad to > Basra, we stopped at cities I had never heard of, > Samawa, Diwanniyya and villages that are not even on > the map. At one place we decided to stretch our > legs > and walked into a place built with mud blocks. *I > am > not sure they will not start shooting at us,* > admitted > Raed. Yet as everywhere people were glad of > visitors. > *This place is incredible,* said Raed. *It*s > called > Aruba, here they have a water filtration system, > electricity, even television.* But the electricity > has been off for weeks, they are carrying filthy > water > from the river and cannot filter it. It*s making > them > sick *For now they have their food rations, but it > will run out. People will hear that Baghdad and > Basra > are restored, but will they care about villages not > the maps, or will people here start dying and nobody > will know.* Observed Raed. I couldn*t answer. I > met the World Food Programme information officer in > the hotel in Basra. *Just let me know if there is > any > information you need,* he said. He was not on my > list > of priorities, *Well we start distributing food in > two > weeks* he said unprompted. So Maybe Basra will get > their rations in two weeks, but what about this > village of Aruba. > > Thousands of US trucks and machinery are moving in > the > desert, *they are building a new base, Camp Ali* > said > Raed. They could be importing a new city from the > activity. > > Back in Baghdad I am only starting to comprehend > life > with the US military. Tanks thunder past the hotel > every few hours. This morning I saw two of them > climb > the pavement, and nearly destroy a carefully > nurtured > tree in their impatience to get past a garbage > truck. > It*s hard to describe seeing tanks being driven > around > streets as if the were jeeps, not slowing or > indicating for corners. It*s only a matter of time > before a person, child or even a car does not get > out > the way in time. As Jamil the man who makes us all > *special* coffee said, *It*s not good*. > > > > > > > __________________________________________________ > It's Samaritans' Week. Help Samaritans help others. > Call 08709 000032 to give or donate online now at http://www.samaritans.org/support/donations.shtm __________________________________________________ It's Samaritans' Week. Help Samaritans help others. 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