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[casi] News, 17-24/9/03 (3)

News, 17-24/9/03 (3)


*  The homecoming
*  The Return of an Expatriate
*  Iraqi Turkoman Front elects new leader
*  Iraq: will the Mandeans survive post-war Iraq?
*  70th Assyrian Convention Addresses the Iraqi-Assyrian Question


*  Juan Cole ‹ Informed Comment


*  Baghdad Burning


The Independent, 18th September


The IPO was set up to convince the world that the Iraqi people wanted and
needed Saddam's regime to be overthrown, even if that meant an invasion, and
for democracy to be established. They wanted to persuade people that the
anti-war movement did not speak for the Iraqis or Kurdish people. After all,
their Iraqi relatives were praying for the invasion to happen.

Opinion polls conducted in Iraq since the war - by reputable polling
agencies that have predicted election results across the world - have
vindicated this view, showing that a large majority of Iraqis wanted the
invasion. And there was therefore reason to hope that this visit to Iraq
would be a happy one. None the less, I have spent the summer fearing for
Sama, Yasser and Abtehale. Partly I was anxious for their physical safety:
they were very close to the UN headquarters on the day the building was
blown up, for example. But mostly I worried about their emotional health.
All three had spent their lives pining for home. What if home disappointed
them? What if the Iraqi people saw them as strangers? What if Iraqis did not
want to hear them evangelise for democracy?


The most biting disappointment facing the IPO members, however, has been the
fact that when Saddam's vast prisons were opened, none of the hundreds of
thousands of missing people emerged alive. Abtehale's grandmother suffered a
second stroke when it became obvious to her a week after the liberation that
her missing son, husband and nephew were not going to appear, traumatised
but alive. Yasser's mother still refers to her missing brother and sister as
"imprisoned". He says: "I try to tell her that there are no more prisons to
be opened up, that they're gone and she has to grieve. But she can't bear to
hear it."

Tens of thousands of Iraqis are making a weekly pilgrimage to Kadhimiya,
where a human rights centre has been set up to log on computer the names of
all the hundreds of thousands of people executed by the regime. They have
six million files to work through, seized when the regime fell. They have
processed two hundred thousand so far. Abtehale went there searching for her
grandfather and uncle. So far, they seem to have vanished without record
into Saddam's vast torture machine.

Despite his vigorous support for the war, Yasser has no doubt that the
occupying coalition made one massive error when they took charge. "They
didn't round up all the former members of Saddam's security services, and
we're paying the price now," he explains. "My aunt lives in a slum in
north-west Baghdad, and on 9 April [the day Saddam's statue was toppled]
everyone in the security services disappeared. They all ran away because
they knew they would be killed by Iraqis or captured by the Americans. But
after two months, they began to trickle back. The man who lives opposite my
aunt was part of Saddam's secret police, and he's reappeared and he's just
carrying on as if nothing happened. He terrifies everyone just by walking up
the street.

"You have to understand, people were conditioned to be fearful all the time.
So even now it takes a huge amount of courage to report that there's a
former member of the Mukhabarat [Saddam's secret police] living on your
street, but even if you do report it, he just gets questioned and then the
Americans let him go. So people ask, 'Why should I put my life at risk of a
revenge attack to report somebody if then nothing will happen?' But it's
these Saddam loyalists, I'm certain, who are leading the attacks [against
coalition forces and Iraq's civilian infrastructure]. If they had rounded
them up at the start, things would not be so bad now. The only people who
can recognise these Bakti and hunt them down now are the Iraqi people

They even fear that Baathists are again voicing their allegiances publicly.
"When we first arrived," Sama says, "nobody would admit to being part of
Saddam's machine. But by the time we left, we had people admitting blatantly
that they had been with Saddam, even people saying they had been in his
elite forces." They met some students who were the children of thugs who had
been high up in Saddam's regime, and "they were going around one of the
Baghdad universities writing things on the walls, like 'Long live Saddam
Hussein, may he return'. Now, only a tiny number support this kind of thing
[less than 5 per cent of Iraqis, according to all available opinion polls],
but it is absolutely terrifying everyone."

There have been moments of great joy this summer, too. "When it was
confirmed that Saddam's sons were dead, Baghdad was like a big party," Sama
says. "So many people were firing into the sky [a traditional Arab form of
celebration] that it looked like a firework display." Yasser adds: "My
aunt's husband was killed by Saddam. That morning, she was sitting on her
own, very quietly, and she just said to me, 'Now that bastard knows how we
felt,' and she cried."

One day was almost as great: 17 July, the anniversary of the founding of the
Baath Party. "A rumour went all over that Saddam had been caught," Abtehale
says. "It was incredible: Baghdad came to standstill. There were parties,
celebrations everywhere. It was funny, really: a rumour would start that he
had been captured in one area, so everyone jumped into their cars and drove
there. That's what we did. But when we got there, they said, no, it's the
next area along, so we drove there. And they said, no, it's in east Baghdad
- so we all drove there. And so it went on. But when we found out that it
wasn't true, it was terrible."

There has been a boom industry in Iraq of videos showing real footage of
Saddam's crimes. They include horrifying scenes of his acts of torture.
"People watch it compulsively because they feel they need to know what
happened," Sama told me. "Here in Britain, people know more about what
happened during the Saddam years than Iraqis do, because they had no way of
finding out the truth."

Yasser says quietly: "The day after the liberation, my aunt put out a black
banner [an Arab mourning ritual] with the names of all her relatives who had
been murdered by the regime on it. And she looked down her street, and there
were black banners on almost every house. On some houses it looks like a
long shopping list. She said to her neighbour, 'You too?' Under Saddam it
was a crime to mourn people killed by the regime - it made you seem
suspicious too. Everyone was suffering terribly, but they were suffering
alone. They just didn't know that everyone else was hating it too." Even
now, people are only just coming to terms with the massive crimes thathave
been committed against them. Sama talked to a group at a university about
her family's experiences. Afterwards, a girl approached her and whispered:
"You were deported? I have never told anyone this before, but my uncle was
deported too." Sama explained that more than two million people had been
deported by the Baathists, and there was no shame in it. The girl had had no



by Ammar Alshahbander in Baghdad
Iraqnet, 19th September

After a near lifetime of anticipation, I found myself last winter driving
into the Iraqi heartland to fulfil a long-coveted dream: a return to my
birthplace, Baghdad.

The journey felt like sleepwalking. Images swirled through my head with the
speed of light: dark images of torture, fear, war, and devastation
intermingled with hopeful images of newly-liberated and celebrating Iraqi
men and women.

I drove into a surreal Baghdad in the first chaotic days of liberation.

The streets vibrated with spontaneous demonstrations. People chanted "Death
to Saddam" as crowds hailed coalition troops as heroes. Widows and orphans,
who were barred from publicly mourning during Saddam's regime, were in the
streets wailing for loved ones killed as long as 20 years ago. In a
misplaced sense of freedom, people drove like mad men, breaking every
traffic law, and hundreds of people gleefully looted.

On the surface, it was as I had imagined. But over the several months I
spent in Baghdad, I slowly came to realise that at a deeper level, it was an
Iraq I never knew and could not have imagined.

After many years of campaigning for the cause of Iraqi freedom, I thought I
knew Iraqi society, as did many of my compatriots in exile. We had
constructed a picture of a society simply divided into two generations. We
envisioned an older, reactionary generation, fully indoctrinated in the
ideology of the Ba'ath and pathologically antidemocratic. They would resist
the values of liberty and equality. We also thought there would be a smart,
energetic younger generation, full of visions of a better, more productive

The reality was far more complex and will be far more difficult to

Few of us in the diaspora realised a deep, slow moving process had altered
Iraq to its core. We had not seen that the Ba'ath regime had worked for more
than three decades to destroy the traditional structures, values and customs
of Iraqi society. We found in summer 2003 that all the crucial elements of
Iraqi society had been organised to service and maintain the position of
those in power.

The fall of the regime did little to extricate them from their privileged

The Ba'ath party used a four-prong approach to alter the institutions of the
country to serve their needs.

They first created a pool of loyal human resources. This was accomplished
via an artificial urbanisation process in which young, poor and uneducated
young men, mainly from the villages of western Iraq, were recruited to work
in key governmental sectors, especially in the army and security apparatus.
This process concentrated state power in the hands of a malleable minority
grateful for its new status and eager to maintain its privileges at any

Secondly, the Iraqi economy was brought under regime control through the
systemic destruction of the traditional business community. Large successful
businesses were nationalised. After this was accomplished, mid-level
businessmen were often falsely accused of crimes and their businesses then
confiscated. All these now state- owned assets were then privatised and sold
at knockdown prices to Saddam Hussein's family members and staunch
loyalists. The end result was a monopolised, state-protected economy
entirely controlled by supporters of the regime.

The third prong sought to control access to education via a series of
procedures. First, high school students whose parents were considered
"friends of the leader", "heroes of the Mother of all Battles" or members of
privileged military branches, such as the Special Republican Guards, were
allowed up to 20 per cent extra marks on their exams.  The admittance level
of prestigious colleges, such as medical schools, were then set above 100
per cent, limiting enrolment to regime supporters.

In addition, admittance to certain colleges, such as the College of
Political Sciences or Teacher Education, was limited to full members of the
Ba'ath party. Finally, elite educational institutions, such as Saddam
University, were open only for the members of the regime and their families.

The forth and the last prong was the brutal persecution and collective
punishment of all possible opponents. Members of "suspect" groups, such as
the Kurds or Shia, were systematically and forcibly removed from government
jobs and replaced with party loyalists, usually Sunni Arabs. In addition,
many rights and privileges such as pension payments, ration cards and even
the right to own property, were suspended for organisations under suspicion.

The result, after 30 years, is a class-based society deeply fragmented along
regional, ethnic and sectarian lines. The privileged few are well educated,
have substantial financial assets and well-paid public and private jobs. The
deprived and long-persecuted majority is poorly education with little more
than the will to survive.

Many of my fellow exiles and I returned hoping to help build a new Iraq. But
we realise today that we are up against an entrenched elite largely
untouched by the war. Saddam's regime may be gone along with the most brutal
enforces for his rule - the military and security services - but his
loyalists largely remain in the most powerful and privileged positions in

Now, as I leave Iraq to return home to London, images of destruction and
injustice jam my mind once again.

And I wonder, when  - and how - Iraq will be liberated.

A London-based sociologist, Ammar Alshahbander, was born in Iraq and lived
in exile for nearly thirty years. He has been working in Baghdad with the
Iraq Foundation since the end of the war, and is due to return to London in

RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 39, 21 September 2003

The Iraqi Turkoman Front has reportedly elected a new leader following a
three-day convention in the northern Iraqi town of Kirkuk, reported on 17 September. Faruk Abdullah Abd al-Rahman
will now lead the group. He told the online news organization that his
group, which serves as an umbrella organization for Turkoman groups in Iraq,
would set its policies independent of Ankara's interventions. He added that
the Turkoman groups are now in the process of unification, but did not

Abd al-Rahman called on Turkey to send troops to Iraq under a UN mandate,
saying, "Turkey should not be seen here as cooperating with the occupying
force...Iraqi people need help and Turkey, a Muslim country with cultural
ties to Iraq, should help them. In addition, a Turkish deployment, even in
Sunni Arab regions, might be useful to [better defend] Turkomans' rights."
(Kathleen Ridolfo)

by Elizabeth Kendal, 24th July

Mandaeans are a small pre-Christian sect that honours John the Baptist. They
are believed to have originated in Jordan, but persecution in the first
century forced them to emigrate east. There are an estimated 100,000
Mandaeans worldwide, mainly in Iraq and Iran.

The Mandaeans have survived 1400 years of Islamic persecution, which
includes many massacres of Mandaeans throughout the centuries. In 1870 an
entire Mandaean community was massacred at Shushtar, north of Ahwaz in
southwestern Iran, close to the southern Iraqi border.

Other forms of persecution include harassment and abuse, often accompanied
with violence, in the streets and at the daily public Mandaean baptisms.
Mandaean couples are often forced to divorce so that Muslim marriages can be
imposed upon them, thus ensuring the Mandaeans lose their Mandaean identity.

In Islamic communities, Mandaeans are regarded as infidels (kaffir) and
unclean (najes), hence they can have great difficulty obtaining employment
and education. Islamic persecution has led many Mandaeans to emigrate.
Others flee as asylum seekers, many of whom struggle against misinformation
and propaganda for the right to be granted refugee status.

As Islamic fervor has risen, persecution has increased. A report by the
Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA) notes, "While the secular
regime of Saddam Hussein had, to some extent, kept Islamic extremism in
check, in the period leading up to the outbreak of war the Iraqi regime had
sought to appeal to Muslim feeling against the 'infidels' (kaffir).
Accordingly, television received in Ahwaz, Iran (both Iraqi and Iranian TV),
had been constantly pouring out venomous hatred of the 'infidels', and
Muslim feeling has become inflamed."

The Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA), based in Sydney (home
to some 2,000 Mandaeans) reports that more than 80 Mandaeans have been
murdered in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad. In the days immediately
following the fall of Baghdad, Islamists murdered some 30 Mandaeans in
Baghdad alone. In the days after the fall of Baghdad, one Mandaean was
attacked in his home and seriously wounded. A Mandaean doctor operated on
him, without anaesthetic. The doctor was killed the next day.

Muslims have also raped at least 20 Mandaean women and young girls since the
"end of the war", although this figure is likely to be much, much higher as
most rape cases go unreported due to fear, shame and humiliation. As
committed pacifists, the Mandaeans are extremely vulnerable as they are not
only despised, but they are unarmed and defenceless.

The threat of sexual assault is particularly serious, as Islamic judges in
Iran have set the precedent that the rape of a Mandaean woman can be
regarded as an act of "purification", and as such, violators receive
impunity. In Iran this defence has been used to acquit men of rapes on
Mandaean girls as young as 8 years old.

Some 30 Mandaeans have been murdered in Basra in recent months. The
remaining Mandaeans are fleeing and the SMAA has lost all contact with them.
Allegedly, coalition forces are advising the Mandaeans to flee, as they
cannot offer them protection. There is concern that Mandaeans may also have
been murdered in the north, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Dr. Edward Crangle is the Post-Graduate Research Co-coordinator in the
Department of Studies in Religion with the University of Sydney. In a letter
dated 21 April 2003, he wrote, "Since the demise of the recent Iraqi regime,
many Sabian Mandaeans have been murdered by various extremist Muslim groups
and tribes, including the extremely fundamentalist religious Sunni and
Sheaat groups and parties such as Al-Wahabin, Al-Daawa Al-Islamiah and
Ikhwan Al-Moslemin."


Above and beyond the human rights violations and threat to life, the
Mandaean community actually fears that some Iraqi Islamists have genocidal
intentions and would be willing to effect a 'Final Solution'.

According to mail received by SMAA from Iraq, amongst the abuse being meted
out to Mandaeans are phrases such as, "You are kaffirs (infidels)! We will
treat you like the Jews! Get out of Iraq! This is an Islamic country! This
is a clean country!"

Very recently, the President of the SMAA was able to speak by phone to a
Mandaean clergyman in Baghdad who said that Mandaeans are living in a state
of terror. He said they fear that one night the Muslims will just kill all
of them. He also said that many Iraqis who formerly supported the Hussein
regime are now supporting the Islamists in their campaign against invaders
and infidels.

Mandaeans in Ahwaz (in Iran) have reported to the SMAA that they also are
receiving news of murders of Mandaeans in Iraq. The Mandaean Archbishop in
Australia visited Iran from 5 March to 10 May. He testifies that the
situation for Mandaeans in Iran has also deteriorated considerably since the
fall of Baghdad, and there is much fear. (In Iran, Mandaeans are an illegal
sect without religious or legal recognition.)

One Mandaean in Ahwaz reports that he was traveling in a taxi with Muslims
who were unaware that he was Mandaean. One of the Muslim men remarked that
he was hopeful the time would soon come when the Muslims would be given
permission to attack the areas where the infidels live.


There are reports that many Mandaeans are sharing accommodation and living
together out of fear for their lives. However, as soon as their homes are
unoccupied, Muslims acquire them. One Mandaean woman lost her home to a
Shi'a cleric this way. One family was forced out of their home by Islamists
who then immediately fixed green flags to the roof and converted the home
into a headquarters for their movement.

One Mandaean who corresponds with the SMAA through a brother in Australia
reports that Muslims are threatening to take over the Mandaean's mandi
(church) and convert it into a mosque. This builds on another precedent
established in Iran where, in 1989, the Mandaean mandi in Awhaz was
confiscated and converted into headquarters for the Islamic Religious


The Mandaeans, like the Christians, are also living in fear of an Islamic
state under Sharia law. The new 25-member Iraqi Governing Council is made up
of thirteen Shi'a Arabs, five Sunni Arabs, five Sunni Kurds, one Assyrian
Christian Arab and one Turkman.

The Shia group includes the secretary-general of the Iraqi Muslim
Brotherhood, a Shi'a cleric named Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, who is the brother of
the leader of Iranian-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in
Iraq (SCIRI), Ayatollah Mohammad Baqr al-Hakim. (The Ayatollah returned from
exile in Iran in May and set up the SCIRI headquarters in Al Najaf.) Also in
the Shi'a group are two representatives from the Iraqi Hezbollah and two
from the Islamist al-Da'awa Party. Stratfor Intelligence
( confirms that in all, seven members are staunch

U.S. President G.W. Bush said on 24 April, that he was determined to see an
"Islamic democracy" built in Iraq. However, as Stratfor Intelligence notes,
"The problem is that neither the United States nor the Iraqi people have a
model of Islamic democracy to emulate." Also: "The Iraqi Governing Council
is bound to face a crisis of legitimacy, since it is a U.S. appointed, not
elected, body." (Stratfor, Global Intelligence Report, 16 July 2003).

SCIRI, the best organised Shi'a political party in Iraq, initially rejected
the Iraqi Governing Council because it is U.S.-appointed, not elected.
However, the U.S. desire to have SCIRI represented on the council gave SCIRI
leverage such that it was able to effect changes to the Iraq Governing
Council membership in the last moments before it was unveiled, in exchange
for SCIRI participation.

For further information on this issue see: "Iraq's New Governing Council: A
Profile" (the first half of this article is an analysis, the second half is
a profile of each member)

Mandaeans, along with other religious minorities in Iraq are at great risk
at this time of instability and lawlessness, and the future is not looking
much brighter.

Posted, 18th September

The seventieth annual convention of the Assyrian American National
Federation (AANF) was held in Chicago from August 28-September 1.  In
addition to the extensive cultural, arts, and social events, the AANF again
hosted several political and historical panel discussions of interest to
Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) attending the convention
from North America, Canada, Europe, Australia and the Middle East.

The panel discussion entitled Focus on Iraq on August 30 featured an
impressive array of speakers including Mr. Firas Jatou of the Assyrian
International News Agency (AINA), Dr. Ronald Michael of the Assyrian
American League (AAL), Fr. Ken Joseph an Assyrian activist now based in
Iraq, Mr. Willy Fautre from Human Rights Without Frontiers, and Professor
Walid Phares of Florida Atlantic University.  The panel was moderated by
chicago-based attorney Genevieve Daniels of the Assyrian Academic Society.

The panel discussion centered on the future political aims of Assyrians in
Iraq.  Mr. Firas Jatou of AINA presented
an historical analysis of the demographic concentrations of Assyrians in the
northern Iraqi provinces.  Drawing on maps of Assyrian villages and
historical sites from the 1960's, Mr. Jatou demonstrated that the greatest
concentration of Assyrian villages remained relatively intact around the
province of Mosul (ancient Nineveh) and Dohuk (Noohadra) despite centuries
of persecution and upheaval.  Mr. Jatou also showed that, despite the
destruction of nearly 200 villages by the Iraqi government and Kurds from
the 1960's till today, Assyrian villages remain prominent in Nineveh and

Dr. Ronald Michael of the AAL outlined the past year's lobbying efforts in
Washington and plotted a course for future activities.  Rev. Ken Joseph,
having just flown in from Baghdad to participate in the panel discussion,
described the difficulties in the daily life of Assyrians  as well as the
political challenges in Iraq.  Rev. Joseph implored Assyrians in the
Diaspora to remain committed to the Assyrians of Iraq by visiting and
assisting.  Rev. Joseph predicted that without an Assyrian autonomous area,
the threat of Islamic pressures would drive Assyrians out of Iraq.

Mr. Willy Fautre presented the most detailed proposal for autonomous regions
within an integrated Iraq based in part on a Belgian model that respected
ethnic and linguistic minorities' rights.  In Mr. Fautre's model, two
overlapping forms of federalism are envisioned.  First, the nation would
have separate administrative "regions" each with its own parliament -- a
form of territorial federalism.  Each community e.g. Assyrians, Turkman,
Arabs, and Kurds would also have their own parliament representing their
communities throughout the country -- a form of community federalism.  The
community parliament would have full autonomy in schools, culture,
agriculture, energy, religion, protection of monuments etc.  The unity of
the federal government would be guaranteed by a bicameral system with a
House of Representatives elected directly by the people and a Senate
appointed by the various communities.  For legislation affecting linguistic,
cultural, or religious rights, both houses of parliament would have to pass
the bill.  In addition, though, in the community-based Senate, a
super-majority (e.g. 2/3) vote would be needed in addition to a simple
majority of every represented community.  In such a way, each community
would enjoy virtual veto power in matters of language, culture, and

Prof. Walid Phares of the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU), began his
presentation by asking why he as a Lebanese Maronite ought to be speaking on
the political future of Assyrians in Iraq.  "Simply," he answered, "because
we are one people.  We believe we are the Western Assyrians and you are the
Eastern Assyrians."  Mr. Phares added his historical perspective on
federalism noting that during the Lebanese conflict the Syriac Maronites
proposed a similar federalism as a solution to the Lebanese conflict, but
the proposal was rejected and never implemented. Mr. Phares noted that after
September 11 and the subsequent War on Terror, world opinion had shifted and
that now was the time to press for federalism entailing an Assyrian province
in Iraq.  Mr. Phares added that Assyrian rights were in essence the test
case for ethnic minority rights for all religious and ethnic minorities
throughout the region including the Assyrian communities in Syria, Lebanon,
Turkey, and Iran as well as other religio-ethnic Christian communities in
Egypt and Sudan.  Mr. Phares advocated developing a regional strategy to
"connect the dots" of the various till now disparate efforts especially
between the Syriac Maronites and Assyrians.

The proposal for an Assyrian self administered zone established in the
environs of Mosul, extending to Dohuk in the north and Fesh Khabur to the
northwest has gained increasing appeal among Assyrian activists,
intellectuals, and political leaders. The current political challenges
facing Assyrians in the newly developing Iraq include rising Islamic
pressure, gross under representation of Assyrians, and a sometimes callous
misrepresentation of Assyrians simply as a Christian minority without
reference to the Assyrian political, cultural, and nationalist platform.  As
Mr. Jatou reflected, the increasing Islamic fervor as well as other
challenges in Iraq necessitate the establishment of an administrative area
for Assyrians and Yezidis, who are, along with the Mandeans of southern
Iraq, the indigenous non Muslims of Iraq.  Such an area would serve as a
sanctuary to preserve and protect Assyrian language, culture, religion, and
geography-- in short, ensure Assyrian survival.

Reflecting on the tone and direction of the AANF convention panel
discussions, one observer approvingly noted a heavy emphasis on the current
challenges of Assyrians in Iraq and the Middle East.  "Seventy years ago,"
he stated "the AANF was founded by Assyrian Americans specifically in
response to the massacre of Assyrians in Simele, northern Iraq by the newly
formed Iraqi Army. The massacre of thousands of Assyrian women, children,
and elderly was the first military campaign of the newly formed Iraqi State.
Seventy years later our people are once again at the threshold of a newly
emerging Iraqi nation. We need to make sure we Assyrians in the Diaspora
along with all of our organizations remain focused and once again continue
the commitment and guardianship over our people in Iraq."



Wednesday, September 24, 2003


‹ INC Moves to Take over Iraqi Finances, Economic Policy

More on the ambitious "shock treatment" of the Iraqi economy announced
Monday. Apparently Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress pushed for the
plan on the Iraq side, even as proponents of the Washington Consensus did so
on the American. The INC managed to get Kamil Mubdir al-Kaylani appointed a
Minister of Finance and Banking. A Sunni Arab born in Baghdad in 1959, he
headed a contracting firm in the capital and holds a degree in economics.
An informed reader wrote me that she was told that "Kaylani was brought in
as minister specifically with the plan to announce this [economic
liberalization plan]. He was the Iraqi National Congress's nominee as
minister." The sentiment among some high Coalition officials is that the
plan is "ridiculous" insofar as it lacks any restrictions on the export of
profits abroad. Kaylani is also said to have fired several very able persons
in the Finance Department.

Ominously, INC chairman and temporary president of the Interim Governing
Council, Ahmad Chalabi, gave an interview Tuesday with Agence France Presse
in which he said that the United States civil administration of Iraq must
share more power with the IGC, especially "the ministry of finance" and the
area of security. (Chalabi is wanted in Jordan for embezzling millions from
a bank, and was also dropped by the CIA and the State Department for not
being able to account for half of the millions they gave him to oppose
Saddam. What Iraq really needs is to have Chalabi in control of the
country's finances!)
posted by Juan Cole at 8:20 AM


‹ 6,000 US Troops have come home Sick or Wounded

Although the number of troops wounded in action in Iraq is still a little
less than 1200, several thousand more have fallen physically or mentally ill
in Iraq and the military has been forced to bring them home. The total may
run to 6,000.

‹ Ambassador Wilson interview by Josh Marshall, part 2

Talkingpointsmemo has posted the second part of a long interview with Joe
Wilson, the last US ambassador to Iraq, who investigated and disproved the
fraudulent claims that Iraq had tried to purchase Niger uranium, but who was
ignored by the Bush administration. He also goes into the allegation made by
the Bush white house that his wife works for the CIA, as leaked to
journalist Robert Novak. As he points out, if the allegation were true, this
leak would constitute a serious breach of national security and would merit
condign punishment under a 1982 law. Someone high in the Bush administration
was attempting to punish Wilson for speaking out on Iraq, and was willing to
stoop so low as to put Wilson's wife in danger. (One side effect of this
kind of tactic may well be to damage our nation's security, since anyone who
thought he or she might end up speaking out politically might avoid giving
valuable information to the CIA or other national security agencies for fear
of being 'outed' later on). The interview is a must-read.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


‹ Israeli Investment in Iraq Prohibited

Planning Minister Mahdi al-Hafez told journalists at the annual IMF/World
Bank meetings in Dubai that Israel would not be allowed to take advantage of
the "liberalization" of the Iraqi economy, since Iraq had not recognized it
and had no plans to. (-AFP)
posted by Juan Cole at 8:05 AM


Monday, September 22, 2003


‹ Rebuilding In Iraqi South Impeded by Lack of Cooperation

A US military spokesman complained that rebuilding in the Shiite South of
Iraq was hampered by a lack of cooperation from the local populace,
according to al-Sharq al Awasat. The US also complained about attacks on
Coalition troops in the South, though few of these have caused deaths or
injuries in that area of the country. The main complaint was that the US
army engineers could hardly get the country back on its feet in the face of
very extensive car-jackings, killing, looting, and stripping of wires to
resell for their mineral value. There is also very substantial smuggling of
petroleum products out of the country. The spokesman seemed to say that part
of the problem was the inability of the US to seal the Iraqi borders. Since
we are often told that things are "quiet" in the South, this briefing is a
good reality check. If quiet means few successful attacks on US troops, then
fine. But this description of the situation makes it sound like the Wild
West out there in the Iraqi south.


‹ US Opens Iraq's Economy, but to What?

The US occupying forces blatantly contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention
on Monday, announcing that they were opening the Iraqi economy to foreign
investment and setting low trade tariffs. The economy has been plagued by
massive unemployment (estimated by many observers at 60%) since the fall of
the Baath regime, which had channeled oil money to employees through state
industries and patronage. US civil administrator Paul Bremer, a fanatical
devotee of the "Washington Consensus" on the absolute benefits of "free
trade," has managed to get the Interim Governing Council to sign off on a
wideranging set of new economic regulations.
The new rules allow foreign corporations potentially to dominate important
sectors of the economy. Especially worrisome is foreign ownership of banks
and deregulation of currency transfers, since it was the proliferation of
such approaches in the 1990s that led to the 1997 meltdown in East and
Southeast Asia. (Malaysia spared itself by clamping on currency controls, in
defiance of the Washington Consensus, and it was spared the worst of the
burst bubble that plagued Thailand and South Korea).

The new law allows foreign corporations to buy 100% of Iraqi firms, which is
highly unusual in that part of the world. There is no provision for the
state to license this activity or to screen the investors, according to the
NYT. Worse, any profits can be immediately repatriated abroad, in full. So
Iraq becomes an ideal place to launder money; this is the way to fight a war
on terror? Don't these people remember the Savings and Loan Scandal of the
Reagan Administration, which cost us all billions? Wait, maybe the same
people designed these regulations.

Note that the level of import tariffs, 5%, is exactly the level imposed by
Great Britain on the Ottoman Empire in the Treaty of 1838 and on a defeated
Egypt at the Treaty of London in 1840.
On the other hand, attempts at privatization in Egypt and Turkey have often
been plagued by difficulties and the process has gone very slowly. This is
because bloated state industries are not very attractive investments for the
private sector. In Iraq, there is the added problem that you can't drive
your car in much of Baghdad and Basra without risking it being stolen from
you at gunpoint. Not a lot of investors will rush to put money into a
country with that profile. So far the US has virtually ignored the crime
wave afflicting the ordinary Iraqis, apart from trying to train and stand up
some Iraqi police, who from all accounts aren't getting the job done. It
will have to actually bring security to the country if it wants foreign
firms to invest there.

I received the following note from an informed reader, concerning these

'I met with a high ranking military lawyer who had reviewed drafts of new
proposed laws concerning economic issues in Iraq, such as foreign

He stated that the laws had been drafted in Washington, DC, and that the
attitude in DC and in the Republican Palace is that the IGC's opinion on
their content would not be decisive .

It is also worth remembering that in July the US Government awarded a
contract to Bearing Point (KPMG consultants) to redesign the framework for
Iraqi economic regulation, including the drafting of tax laws. Hardly a
democratic and inclusive approach.

The legal power of the Occupying Power to introduce such changes in economic
arrangements is doubtful. The IGC has no formal legal power at all, as it is
officially a creation of the Occupying Powers and can do no more than
"recommend" arrangements to be ratified by Bremer. Hence, the IGC does not
have the legal authority to introduce widespread changes in economic
arrangements in Iraq.'

Sunday, September 21, 2003


‹ Three Way Summit in Berlin Ends "in disaster"

France's Jacques Chirac refused to compromise on two key issues at the
Berlin summit between Britain, Germany and France. The meeting was a "public
relations disaster," according to Wolfgang Proissl, the foreign editor of
the Financial Times Deutschland, reported the BBC.

French President Jacques Chirac said, "There's no point me saying our
differences are slight. France believes there should be a change in
direction. The United Nations must play a much more significant role." He
was also quoted by the BBC as saying, "France is of the view that there must
now be a change of course, with a transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi
authorities ... as soon as possible, that is to say, in a matter of months.
On the basic issues I don't think our views differ, but on the modalites and
the timetable we're not yet in full agreement..."

So the sticking points are more United Nations input into Iraq
reconstruction, and more Iraqi sovereignty sooner rather than later.

The US resolution will now have to be debated at the Security Council
without the advantage of having essentially been approved by the 3 Western
European powers beforehand.

I think the French are right in their two main stances. The US lacks
legitimacy in Iraq, and order will only be restored when legitimacy is
established. The UN can help mightily with that. Likewise, early elections
can be and should be held.

It is easy. You just slightly amend the 1925 Constitution. See

Take out any authoritarian language about monarchy, replace remaining
references to the king with "Prime Minister" or "Parliament" and make a few
other minor adjustments, require that all further changes need a 2/3s
majority of both houses of parliament, and have the Interim Governing
Council approve the changes. Announce that the first parliamentary elections
will be held under this constitution, but a new one will be drafted after an
elected government is in place. Use the electoral rules of the last
elections in the 1950s if they are broad enough. Do a quick ad hoc voter
registration in local neighborhoods using drivers licenses and identity
cards. Use the 1997 census results to establish proportional representation
for the various provinces. And, voila--we could have elections before the
end of the year fairly easily.

In the 1925 Constitution the Upper House of Parliament is appointed by the
king and has 20 members. Instead, it should be elected and have 19 members,
one from each province. The Kurds and Sunni Arabs will be slightly
over-represented this way.

The lower house of parliament will look like this: 15% of the seats will go
to Kurds, fairly evenly split between Talabani and Barzani's parties. They
are already on the IGC, so this is not a change. Another 15% or so of seats
will go to Sunni Arabs. A lot of these may be angry nationalists and Baath
sympathizers and Islamists. But they are only 15%, so they cannot obstruct
anything by themselves in a parliamentary situation. 60% of seats will go to
the Shiites. 75% of Basra delegates will be secularists. Most delegates from
al-Hilla and Amara will be tribal. Sistani and al-Hakim's people will win
Najaf. East Baghdad will return radical Muqtada al-Sadr supporters, and they
will have about 10% of the seats. Again, they can't do much if this is the
case. Even if they allied with the Sunnis, they could not obstruct a 2/3s

The US is being far too cautious about holding elections, because of the bad
experience in Bosnia. Iraq is not Bosnia. Here, the problem is the
illegitimacy of what is seen as a neo colonial government. US fears that
radicals could come to power are overblown given Iraq's ethnic diversity.
The only reason not to forge ahead is that US companies may not get as many
contracts this way. Who cares?




Wednesday, September 24, 2003

‹ For Sale: Iraq

For Sale: A fertile, wealthy country with a population of around 25 millionŠ
plus around 150,000 foreign troops, and a handful of puppets. Conditions of
sale: should be either an American or British corporation (forget it if
you're French)Š preferably affiliated with Halliburton. Please contact one
of the members of the Governing Council in Baghdad, Iraq for more

To hear of the first of the economic reforms announced by Kamil Al-Gaylani,
the new Iraqi Finance Minister, you'd think Iraq was a Utopia and the
economy was perfect only lacking inŠ foreign investment. As the BBC so
wonderfully summarized it: the sale of all state industries except for oil
and other natural resources. Basically, that means the privatization of
water, electricity, communications, transportation, healthŠ The BBC calls it
a 'surprise'Š why were we not surprised?

After all, the Puppets have been bought- why not buy the stage too? Iraq is
being sold- piece by piece. People are outraged. The companies are going to
start buying chunks of Iraq. Or, rather, they're going to start buying the
chunks the Governing Council and CPA don't reward to the 'Supporters of

The irony of the situation is that the oil industry, the one industry that
is NOT going to be sold out, is actually being run by foreigners anyway.

The whole neighborhood knows about S. who lives exactly two streets away.
He's what is called a 'merchant' or 'tajir'. He likes to call himself a
'businessman'. For the last six years, S. has worked with the Ministry of
Oil, importing spare parts for oil tankers under the surveillance and
guidelines of the "Food for Oil Program". In early March, all contracts were
put 'on hold' in expectation of the war. Thousands of contracts with
international companies were either cancelled or postponed.

S. was in a frenzy: he had a shipment of engines coming in from a certain
country and they were 'waiting on the border'. Everywhere he went, he
chain-smoked one cigarette after another and talked of 'letters of credit',
'comm. numbers', and nasty truck drivers who were getting impatient.

After the war, the CPA decided that certain contracts would be approved. The
contracts that had priority over the rest were the contracts that were going
to get the oil pumping again. S. was lucky- his engines were going to find
their way throughŠ hopefully.

Unfortunately, every time he tried to get the go-ahead to bring in the
engines, he was sent from person to person until he found himself, and his
engines, tangled up in a bureaucratic mess in-between the CPA, the Ministry
of Oil and the UNOPS. By the time things were somewhat sorted out, and he
was communicating directly with the Ministry of Oil, he was given a 'tip'.
He was told that he shouldn't bother doing anything if he wasn't known to
KBR. If KBR didn't approve of him, or recommend him, he needn't bother with

For a week, the whole neighborhood was discussing the KBR. Who were they?
What did they do? We all had our own speculationsŠ E. said it was probably
some sort of committee like the CPA, but in charge of the contracts or
reconstruction of the oil infrastructure. I expected it was probably another
company- but where was it from? Was it Russian? Was it French? It didn't
matter so long as it wasn't Halliburton or Bechtel. It was a fresh new name
or, at least, a fresh new set of initials. Well, it was 'fresh' for a whole
half-hour until curiosity got the better of me and I looked it up on the

KBR stands for Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary ofŠ guess who?!...
Halliburton. They handle 'construction and engineering services for the
energy community', amongst other things. Apparently, KBR is famous for more
than just its reconstruction efforts. In 1997, KBR was sued $6 million
dollars for overcharging the American army on sheets of plywood! You can
read something about the whole sordid affair here.

They are currently located in the 'Conference Palace'. The Conference Palace
is a series of large conference rooms, located in front of the Rashid Hotel
and was reserved in the past for major international conferences. It is now
the headquarters of KBR, or so they say. So foreign companies can't
completely own the oil industry, but they can run itŠ just like they'll
never own Iraq, but they can run the Governing Council.

Someone sent me an email a couple of weeks back praising Halliburton and
Bechtel to the skies. The argument was that we should consider ourselves
'lucky' to have such prestigious corporations running the oil industry and
heading the reconstruction efforts because a. they are efficient, and b.
they employ the 'locals'.

Ok. Fine. I'll pretend I never read that article that said it would take at
least two years to get the electricity back to pre-war levels. I'll pretend
that it hasn't been 5 months since the 'end of the war' and the very
efficient companies are terrified of beginning work because the security
situation is so messed up.

As for employing the localsŠ things are becoming a little bit clearer. Major
reconstruction contracts are being given to the huge companies, like Bechtel
and Halliburton, for millions of dollars. These companies, in turn, employ
the Iraqis in the following way: they first ask for bids on specific
projects. The Iraqi company with the lowest bid is selected to do the work.
The Iraqi company gets EXACTLY what it bid from the huge conglomerate, which
is usually only a fraction of the original contract price. Hence, projects
that should cost $1,000,000 end up costing $50,000,000.

Now, call me naďve, or daft, or whatever you want, but wouldn't it be a.
more economical and b. more profitable to the Iraqis to hand the work over
directly to experienced Iraqi companies? Why not work directly with one of
the 87 companies and factories that once worked under the 'Iraqi Military
Council' and made everything from missiles to electrical components? Why not
work directly with one of the 158 factories and companies under the former
Ministry of Industry and Minerals that produced everything from candy to
steel girders? Why not work with the bridge, housing and building companies
under the Ministry of Housing that have been heading the reconstruction
efforts ever since 1991?

Some of the best engineers, scientists, architects and technicians are
currently out of work because their companies have nothing to do and there
are no funds to keep them functioning. The employees get together a couple
of days a week and spend several hours brooding over 'istikans' of lukewarm
tea and 'finjans' of Turkish coffee. Instead of spending the endless
billions on multinational companies, why not spend only millions on
importing spare parts and renovating factories and plants?

My father has a friend with a wife and 3 children who is currently working
for an Italian internet company. He communicates online with his 'boss' who
sits thousands of kilometers away, in Rome, safe and sure that there are
people who need to feed their families doing the work in Baghdad. This
friend, and a crew of male techies, work 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. They
travel all over Baghdad, setting up networks. They travel in a beat-up SUV
armed with cables, wires, pliers, network cards, installation CDs, and a
Klashnikov forŠ you knowŠ technical emergencies.

Each of the 20 guys who work with this company get $100/month. A hundred
dollars for 260 hours a month comes toŠ $0.38/hour. My 16-year-old
babysitter used to get more. The Italian company, like many other foreign
companies, seems to think that $100 is appropriate for the present
situation. One wonders the price of the original contract the Italian
company gotŠ how many countless millions are being spent so 20 guys can make
$100/month to set up networks?

John Snow, US Treasury Secretary, claimed that the reforms were the
"proposals, ideas, and concepts of the Governing Council" with no pressure
from the American administration. If that's true, then Bush can pull out the
troops any time he wants because he'll be leaving behind a Governing Council
that is obviously more solicitous of Halliburton and Co. than he and Cheney
can ever hope to beŠ

- posted by river @ 3:41 AM

Sunday, September 21, 2003

‹ Akila...

There was an attempt yesterday on Akila Al-Hashimi's life. We heard about
yesterday morning and have been listening for news ever since. She lives in
Jihad Quarter and was leaving for work yesterday when two pick-up trucks
with armed men cut off her car and opened fire on her and her 'bodyguards'-
her brothers. Neighbors heard the commotion, armed themselves and went out
to see what it was. The neighbors and the gang began shooting at eachother.

Akila was taken to Al-Yarmuk hospital where her stomach was operated upon
and then shipped off in an American army ambulance to no one knows where,
but people say it was probably the hospital they have set up in Baghdad
Airport. They say she was wounded in the foot, the shoulder and the stomach-
her condition is critical, but stable.

It's depressing because she was actually one of the decent members on the
council. She was living in Iraq and worked extensively in foreign affairs in
the past. It's also depressing because of what it signifies- that no female
is safe, no matter how high up she is...

Everyone has their own conjectures on who it could have been. Ahmad
Al-Chalabi, of course, right off, before they even started investigations
said, "It was Saddam and his loyalists!"- he's beginning to sound like a
broken record... but no one listens to him anyway. The FBI in Iraq who
examined the site said they had no idea yet who it could be. Why would it be
Ba'athists if Akila herself was once a Ba'athist and handled relations with
international organizations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before the
occupation? Choosing her was one of the smartest thing the CPA did since
they got here. It was through her contacts and extensive knowledge of
current Iraqi foreign affairs that Al-Chalabi and Al-Pachichi were received
at the UN as 'representatives' of the Iraqi people. She was recently chosen
as one of three from the Governing Council, along with Al-Pachichi, to work
as a sort of political buffer between the Governing Council and the new
cabinet of ministers.

But there has been bitterness towards her by some of the more extreme
members of the Governing Council- not only is she female, wears no hijab and
was the first actual 'foreign representative' of the new government, but she
was also a prominent part of the former government. The technique used
sounds like the same used with those school principals who were killed and
the same used with that brilliant female electrician who was assassinated...
I wonder if Akila got a 'warning letter'. She should have had better
protection. If they are not going to protect one of only 3 female members of
the Governing Council, then who are they going to protect? Who is deemed
worthy of protection?

Yeah, Baghdad is real safe when armed men can ride around in SUVs and
pick-ups throwing grenades and opening fire on the Governing Council, of all

I really hope they find whoever did this, and I hope the punishment is

- posted by river @ 2:07 PM

Friday, September 19, 2003

‹ Terrorists...

The weather has 'broken' these last few days. It's still intolerably hot,
but there's a wind. It's a heavy, dusty wind more reminiscent of a gust from
a blow-dryer than an actual breeze. But it is none-the-less a wind, and we
are properly grateful.

The electrical situation is bizarre. For every 6 hours of electricity, three
hours of darkness. I wish they would give us electricity all night and cut
it off during the day. During the day it's hotter, but at least you can keep
busy with something like housework or a book. At night the darkness brings
along all the fears, the doubts andŠ the mosquitoes. All the sounds are
amplified. It's strange how when you can see, you can't hear so many thingsŠ
or maybe you just stop listening.

Everyone is worried about raids lately. We hear about them from friends and
relatives, we watch them on tv, outraged, and try to guess where the next
set of raids are going to occur.

Anything can happen. Some raids are no more than seemingly standard weapons
checks. Three or four troops knock on the door and march in. One of them
keeps an eye of the 'family' while the rest take a look around the house.
They check bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and gardens. They look under beds,
behind curtains, inside closets and cupboards. All you have to do is stifle
your feelings of humiliation, anger and resentment at having foreign troops
from an occupying army search your home.

Some raids are, quite simply, raids. The door is broken down in the middle
of the night, troops swarm in by the dozens. Families are marched outside,
hands behind their backs and bags upon their heads. Fathers and sons are
pushed down on to the ground, a booted foot on their head or back.

Other raids go horribly wrong. We constantly hear about families who are
raided in the small hours of the morning. The father, or son, picks up a
weapon- thinking they are being attacked by looters- and all hell breaks
loose. Family members are shot, others are detained and often women and
children are left behind wailing.

I first witnessed a raid back in May. The heat was just starting to become
unbearable and we were spending the whole night without electricity. I
remember lying in my bed, falling in and out of a light sleep. We still
weren't sleeping on the roof because the whole night you could hear gunshots
and machinegun fire not very far away- the looters still hadn't organized
themselves into gangs and mafias.

At around 3 am, I distinctly heard the sound of helicopters hovering not far
above the area. I ran out of the room and into the kitchen and found E.
pressing his face to the kitchen window, trying to get a glimpse of the
black sky.

"What's going on?!" I asked, running to stand next to him.

"I don't knowŠ a raid? But it's not an ordinary raidŠ there are helicopters
and cars, I thinkŠ"

I stopped focusing on the helicopters long enough to listen to the cars. No,
not cars- big, heavy vehicles that made a humming, whining sound. E. and I
looked at one another, speechless- tanks?! E. turned on his heel and ran
upstairs, taking the steps two at a time. I followed him clumsily, feeling
for the banister all the way up, my mind a jumble of thoughts and

Out on the roof, the sky was black streaked with light. Helicopters were
hovering above, circling the area. E. was leaning over the railing, trying
to see into the street below. I approached tentatively and he turned back to
me, "It's a raidŠ on Abu A.'s house!" He pointed three houses down the road.

Abu A. was an old, respected army general who had retired in the mid '80s.
He lived a quiet life in his two-storey house on our street. All I knew
about him was that he had four kids- two daughters and two sons. The
daughters were both married. One of them was living in London with her
husband and the other one was somewhere in Baghdad. The one in Baghdad had a
3-year-old son we'll call L. I know this because, without fail, ever since
L. was six months old, Abu A. would proudly parade him up and down our
street in a blue and white striped stroller.

It was a scene I came to expect every Friday evening: the tall, worn, old
man pushing the small blue stroller holding the round, pink, drooling L.

I had never talked to Abu A. until last year. I was watering the little
patch of grass in front of the wall around our garden and trying not to
stare at the tall old man walking alongside the tottering toddler.
Everything my mother had taught me about how impolite it was to ogle people
ran around in my brain. I turned my back to the twosome as they came down
the street and casually drowned the flowers growing on the edge of the plot
of grass.

Suddenly, a voice asked, "Can we wash ourselves?" I turned around,
stupefied. Abu A. and L. stood there, smeared with enough chocolate to
qualify for a detergent commercial. I handed over the hose, almost drenching
them in the process, and watched as the old man washed L.'s sticky, little
fingers and wiped clean the pursed lips while saying, "His mother can't see
him like this!"

And after handing back the hose, they were off on their way, once againŠ I
watched them go down the remainder of the street to Abu A.'s home- stopping
every few steps so L. could look down at some insect that had caught his

That was last yearŠ or maybe 9 months agoŠ or maybe a 100 years ago.
Tonight, the armored cars were pulling up to Abu A.'s house, the helicopters
were circling above, and the whole area was suddenly a mess of noise and

E. and I went back downstairs. My mother stood anxiously by the open kitchen
door, looking out at my father who was standing at the gate. E. and I ran
outside to join him and watch the scene unfolding only 3 houses away. There
was shouting and screaming- the deep, angry tones of the troops mixed with
the shriller voices of the family and neighbors- the whole symphony boding
of calamity and fear.

"What are they doing? Who are they taking?!" I asked no one in particular,
gripping the warm, iron gate and searching the street for some clue. The
area was awash with the glaring white of headlights and spotlights and
dozens of troops stood in front of the house, weapons pointed- tense and
ready. It wasn't long before they started coming out: first it was his son,
the 20-year-old translation student. His hands were behind his back and he
was gripped by two troops, one on either side. His head kept twisting back
anxiously as they marched him out of the house, barefoot. Next, Umm A., Abu
A.'s wife, was brought out, sobbing, begging them not to hurt anyone,
pleading for an answerŠ I couldn't hear what she was saying, but I saw her
looking left and right in confusion and I said the words instead of her,
"What's going on? Why are they doing this?! Who are they here for?"

Abu A. was out next. He stood tall and erect, looking around him in anger.
His voice resonated in the street, above all the other sounds. He was
barking out questions- demanding answers from the troops, and the
bystanders. His oldest son A. followed behind with some more escorts. The
last family member out of the house was Reem, A.'s wife of only 4 months.
She was being led firmly out into the street by two troops, one gripping
each thin arm.

I'll never forget that scene. She stood, 22 years old, shivering in the
warm, black night. The sleeveless nightgown that hung just below her knees
exposed trembling limbs- you got the sense that the troops were holding her
by the arms because if they let go for just a moment, she would fall
senseless to the ground. I couldn't see her face because her head was bent
and her hair fell down around it. It was the first time I had seen her hairŠ
under normal circumstances, she wore a hijab.

That moment I wanted to cryŠ to screamŠ to throw something at the chaos down
the street. I could feel Reem's humiliation as she stood there, head hanging
with shame- exposed to the world, in the middle of the night.

One of the neighbors, closer to the scene, moved forward timidly and tried
to communicate with one of the soldiers. The soldier immediately pointed his
gun at the man and yelled at him to keep back. The man held up an 'abaya', a
black cloak-like garment some females choose to wear, and pointed at the
shivering girl. The soldier nodded curtly and told him to, "Move back!".
"Please," came the tentative reply, "Cover herŠ" He gently put the abaya on
the ground and went back to stand at his gate. The soldier looking unsure,
walked over, picked it up and awkwardly put it on the girl's shoulders.

I gripped at the gate as my knees weakened, cryingŠ trying to make sense of
the mess. I could see many of the neighbors, standing around, looking on in
dismay. Abu A.'s neighbor, Abu Ali, was trying to communicate with one of
the troops. He was waving his arm at Umm A. and Reem, and pointing to his
own house, obviously trying to allow them to take the women inside his home.
The troop waved over another soldier who, apparently, was a translator.
During raids, a translator hovers in the background inconspicuously- they
don't bring him forward right away to communicate with terrified people
because they are hoping someone will accidentally say something vital, in
Arabic, thinking the troops won't understand, like, "Honey, did you bury the
nuclear bomb in the garden like I told you?!"

Finally, Umm A. and Reem were allowed inside of Abu Ali's house, escorted by
troops. Reem walked automatically, as if dazed, while Umm A. was hectic. She
stood her ground, begging to know what was going to happenŠ wondering where
they were taking her husband and boysŠ Abu Ali urged her inside.

The house was ransackedŠ searched thoroughly for no one knows what- vases
were broken, tables overturned, clothes emptied from closetsŠ

By 6 am the last cars had pulled out. The area was once more calm and quiet.
I didn't sleep that night, that day or the night after. Every time I closed
my eyes, I saw Abu A. and his grandson L. and ReemŠ I saw Umm A., crying
with terror, begging for an explanation.

Abu A. hasn't come back yet. The Red Cross facilitates communication between
him and his familyŠ L. no longer walks down our street on Fridays, covered
in chocolate, and I'm wondering how old he will be before he ever sees his
grandfather againŠ

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