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An interesting article. August 31, 2003 Baghdad, Iraq 1. Move around without fear. This is one of the biggest concerns. I talked to someone yesterday who said that he and his family have given up on expecting anything from Bush except security. If the US could only provide security then that would be a start. Women are especially at risk of rape and murder, and often donít go out at night even in large groups. Many say that if the country were truly safe then Iraqis wouldnít need any help to begin to establish their own systems of governance; they could do this on their own. The US has shown itself to not able to provide security, though, and the 11 pm curfew means that people really canít travel freely in the evenings or go to visit a familyís home unless they decide to stay there for the evening. Iraqis canít get passports yet, and even if they get permission to leave the country they are often afraid that if they do so they will not be allowed back into Iraq. 2. Work for a living. While Iraqis are continually accused by US troops of being thieves or ďAli Babas,Ē the US soldiersí new word for thief, the unemployment rate has skyrocketed in Iraq, reaching 60% by many estimates. Many people blame the incidence of thievery on the criminals that Saddam Hussein released from prison just months before the war, while others blame the obvious lack of employment. In truth, however, it seems that most people are taking their situation of unemployment with great dignity. As aid agencies such as Oxfam continue to pull out of Iraq, along with UN officials, the situation will likely get worse as it gets more difficult to get food rations. It is hard to get an exact unemployment figure, though, because there are really few organizations working in Iraq that are able to do the sort of broad-range studies necessary to determine this. Most NGOís in Iraq are so scared for their lives that they are unwilling to go door to door or to have any interaction with Iraqi people. Even Iraqis are afraid to go out. 3. Get a dayís respite from killing. There are deaths everyday from so many causes, and itís impossible to overestimate the stress that is associated with this. Iraqis are constantly looking over their shoulders. Hatham, a young man who works on the newspaper here and is now also volunteering with Voices, just lost his cousin to murder because some of his cousinís friends wanted to steal his car. Everyone seems to have a story of a recent death or near brush with death. 4. Get admission of liability or monetary compensation from the US for unlawful deaths. There is a foreign occupying force in Iraq, mostly made of jittery US soldiers. They shoot a lot of people, many more people than you can ever estimate because, as General Sanchez said in a recent press conference here, there is no estimate of civilian deaths by occupation forces. There is not a tally of civilian deaths. Why is this? Well, General Sanchez was characteristically vague, but it seems to have something to do with the quick way that bodies are taken from the streets after a firefight. Also, Bremer has stated that there will be no compensation given for civilians killed at checkpoints because, as he states, the soldiers so scared that they are running around with their fingers on the triggers. 5. Get sufficient food or proper medications. This is, of course, directly related to the unemployment and lack of security. The ration system and the hospitals are still badly in need of supplies and repairs. Most of the protein supplements for the food rations have run out, since more and more people are in need of them. Many families are only receiving rice, flour and cooking oil now. Iraq Country, one of the new English language newspapers here in Baghdad, reported on September 1 that there is expected to be a huge shortage of medicines soon as the UN proceeds to pull out 90% of its staff due to security concerns. The Baghdad Bulletin reports that the UN remains at level four security, which is the second highest of five levels. At level five they would pull out their entire staff from the country. 6. Visit a friend or family member in jail or get information about prisoners. There are thousands of Iraqis being held in detention right now, many of them in the most feared Saddam Hussein prison of all, the underground airport prison. Dr. Saíad, a friend of Voices and currently a journalist, describes this prison as a secret so terrible that even Saddam Hussein chose to hide its existence from his own people. This prison was not even discovered until after the invasion. Now the United States is using it themselves and not allowing any visitors at all, except for an occasional Red Crescent or Red Cross worker. Christian Peacemaking Teams is trying to do the good work of advocating for families of detainees, at least to let the families know where their relatives might be, but the lists provided by the CPA are so bungled and inaccurate that there is really no way of knowing for sure where someone is, especially since visits to most prisons are not allowed at all. Also, the lists are written in English. 7. Get an ambulance, a police officer, or an audience with a government official. Unless you have connections, you can forget about this one. These social services are extremely scarce here. If you are an Iraqi and you want to go to the Coalition Provisional Authority for something, make sure you bring someone along who is from the US or another foreign country, or you probably wonít be able to get in to talk to anyone. Iraqis do not have access to their own government. Itís nearly impossible for Iraqis to get answers for anything! 8. Talk on a cell phone (or a phone at all). There is phone service in Baghdad, but it is limited by neighborhood. [The neighborhood where we live, Karrada Dakhil, doesnít have phone service at all right now, but it perhaps will be coming eventually.] As for cell phones, MCI came in right after the war and set up massive cell towers to prepare to sell cell phones to Iraqis. Cell phones were purchased by the occupation forces for all the NGOís working in Iraq, and if you are a foreigner or have a US passport you can easily go to the CPA offices and pick one up, or two, or three. All the minutes are free courtesy of the US government (this occupation sponsored by MCI). But if you are Iraqi then you are not able to get a cell phone. Of course there is no law against it, itís just that Bremer disallowed MCI from selling all the phones that it was ready to sell on the street because he said that Iraqis might use them to organize opposition to the occupation, which is about the same reason that Saddam Hussein gave for restricting cell technology. As an Iraqi you might be lucky enough to get a phone if you go to the CPA accompanied by a white person or someone with a US passport but otherwise youíre probably out of luck. 9. Demonstrate in the streets without fear of getting killed by US forces. There have been many shootings at demonstrations, and Iraqis are afraid to join them. A sort of work that some people at VitW Baghdad do occasionally is to go to these demonstrations and be eyes and ears looking for possible abuses of power by the military. 10. Get from one place to another easily. Combine an occupational force that closes off major streets of Baghdad with barbed wire and cement blocks for hours, days, weeks or months at a time without informing the general populace at all, with a lack of reliable electricity and a lack of any street lights at all, with a shortage of traffic police in all areas, and you have a recipe for disaster. Traffic is chaos here in Baghdad, and it will often take hours of commuting by taxi to do only a few hours of work. In 130 degree heat, traveling in the tin cans of cars that reign in Baghdad, this becomes even more of a daily headache. 11. Sleep easily at night. Electricity is on again and off again, which means that you must either sleep in rooms where the air conditioning or fans may go off at any time, or you must sleep on the roof, if you are lucky enough like us to have access to a roof. If you sleep on the roof, though, most people are awakened constantly to the sounds of random gunfire, firefights, explosions, helicopters and tanks patrolling the streets. Getting a good nightís sleep in Baghdad is a rarity. 12. Drink clean water whenever you want. Baghdad summers are hot. Unlike anyplace in the United States, even Phoenix. There is no way to describe 130 degree heat, or the 150 degree temperatures in Basra. Water is provided for a few hours a day if youíre lucky. The trick is to pump the water whenever you can (usually in the middle of the night) into your storage tank so that you have enough to use for washing and showering for the day. If you are not lucky enough to collect clean water for the day you may have to drink the water in your storage tank, which may be stagnate. 13. Store food in your home. You canít really be sure that you will have electricity, so you canít really buy milk, cheese or other perishables in large quantities. This leads to frequent shopping trips and frequently buying prepared food out of the house, and for a family who is struggling to get by this would be a more difficult thing than for us foreigners. 14. Enjoy true freedom of the press. There is freedom of the press at least in name in Iraq. There are at least 150 newspapers that have been started since the fall of Saddam. Most people consider this to be a good thing. At the same time, the US forces have shut down at least five newspapers for publishing articles that were extremely critical of the occupation. I spoke with one of the editors of one of the papers that was shut down; he also works as a human rights lawyer. Unless you have a satellite dish and if you are Iraqi you probably donít, you can only get one channel: the CPA channel or Iraq media network. According to most Iraqis this is much like the station that existed in Saddamís years. It is full of propaganda for the CPA and edicts and proclamations issued by Paul Bremer, whom many people have begun to nickname Paul Hussein. Some joke that the only difference between this station and Saddamís station is that the CPA station has more music videos. The one positive thing that people are able to do now is list the abuses of Saddam Hussein, and they do. This could be a healthy thing, but so far they have not been given any forum or positive way to address the pains that they have experienced over the past thirty three years of war, sanctions and dictatorship. As of yet there is no truth commission or public attempt at justice for Baíathist collaborators. Everyone qualifies their anti-Saddam statements now. Certainly no one says that they want him to come back into power in their country, but they are starting to compare this occupation to the previous regime, in that it seems to be using fear and chaos as tools to control the people and it seems to be more inept at how to handle basic social services than Saddam was. This is scary, and it means that the US has to get their act together right away. They are in bad company in the minds of ordinary Iraqis. http://www.vitw.us/archives/000009.html John Farrell Voices in The Wilderness Mark Parkinson Bodmin Cornwall _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk