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http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/ Tuesday, October 14, 2003 'Shadow Government' Why is no one covering this: Parallel Government Finds Support?! I don't read about it anywhere except on Al-Jazeera- we only hear about on our Arab media networks... It's a big deal because Moqtada Al-Sadr has A LOT of support with fundamentalist Shi'a Muslims. Moqtada Al-Sadr is one of the more powerful Shi'a clerics currently in the south. He has a huge backing and his followers are very angry that he wasn't included in the power grab. For the last few months he has been building an armed militia known as the "Imam Mahdi's Army". The majority of this militia are young, and very angry. I think they were meant to be a sort of antidote to "Badr's Brigade"- SCIRI's armed militia. We've been hearing all sorts of strange things about the happenings in Najaf. One report said that Al-Sadr's followers have been abducting some prominent Shi'a sheikhs that aren't supporting him. One thing is certain- a couple of nights ago, the Spanish troops in Najaf went to detain Al-Sadr and disarm his militia (many were guarding his house) and hundreds of supporters flocked about his house, pushing the troops back and threatening that things would get very ugly if Al-Sadr was detained... the Spanish troops had to pull out of the area. Very recently, Al-Sadr announced a 'hikoomet dhill' or 'shadow government' as a parallel government to the one selected in Baghdad by Bremer. The Shadow Government includes 13 different ministries (including an information ministry)... Al-Sadr announced the following: "...I have formed a government made up of several ministries, including ministries of justice, finance, information, interior, foreign affairs, endowments and the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice" So what if this new 'shadow government' has orders or laws that differ with the Governing Council? What happens when the hundreds of thousands (some say millions) of Sadr supporters decide that Al-Sadr's word is law? - posted by river @ 12:03 PM Monday, October 13, 2003 Baghdad Hotel... Baghdad Hotel was bombed today on Al-Sa’adun street, which is a mercantile area in Baghdad. Al-Sa’adun area is one of the oldest areas in Baghdad. The street is lined with pharmacies, optometrists, photographers, old hotels, doctors, labs, restaurants, etc. The Baghdad Hotel is known to be ‘home’ the CIA and some prominent members from the Governing Council. No one is sure about the number of casualties yet- some say its in the range of 15 dead, and 40 wounded… while other reports say 8 dead and 40 wounded. There were other bombings in Baghdad- one in Salhiya, one in Karrada (near the two-storey bridge). - posted by river @ 1:47 AM Palms and Punishment... Everyone has been wondering about the trees being cut down in Dhuluaya area. Dhuluaya is an area near Sammara, north of Baghdad. It’s an area popular for its wonderful date palms, citrus trees and grape vines. The majority of the people who live in the area are simple landowners who have been making a living off of the orchards they’ve been cultivating for decades. Orchards in many areas in Iraq- especially central Iraq- are almost like oases in the desert. From kilometers away, you can see the vivid green of proud date palms shimmering through the waves of heat and smoke, reaching for a sky rarely overcast. Just seeing the orchards brings a sort of peace. There are over 500 different kinds of palm trees in Iraq. They vary in type from short, stocky trees with a shock of haphazard, green fronds… to long, slim trees with a collection of leaves that seem almost symmetrical in their perfection. A palm tree is known as a ‘nakhla’ and never fails to bring a sense of satisfaction and admiration. They are the pride and joy of Iraqi farmers and landowners. A garden isn’t complete if there isn’t a palm tree gracing it. We locate houses by giving the area, the street and then, “Well, it’s the fourth- no, wait… the fifth house on the left… or was it the right? Oh never mind-it’s the house on the street with the tallest palm tree.” The palm trees, besides being lovely, are highly useful. In the winter months, they act as ‘resorts’ for the exotic birds that flock to Iraq. We often see various species of birds roosting between the leaves, picking on the sweet dates and taunting the small boys below who can’t reach the nests. In the summer months, the ‘female palms’ provide hundreds of dates for immediate consumption, storage, or processing. In Iraq, there are over 300 different types of dates- each with its own name, texture and flavor. Some are dark brown, and soft, while others are bright yellow, crunchy and have a certain ‘tang’ that is particular to dates. It’s very difficult to hate dates- if you don’t like one type, you are bound to like another. Dates are also used to produce ‘dibiss’, a dark, smooth, date syrup. This dibiss is eaten in some areas with rice, and in others it is used as a syrup with bread and butter. Often it is used as a main source of sugar in Iraqi sweets. Iraqi ‘khal’ or vinegar is also produced from dates… it is dark and tangy and mixed with olive oil, makes the perfect seasoning to a fresh cucumber and tomato salad. Iraqi ‘areg’, a drink with very high alcoholic content, is often made with dates. In the summer, families trade baskets and trays of dates- allowing neighbors and friends to sample the fruit growing on their palms with the enthusiasm of proud parents showing off a child’s latest accomplishment... Every bit of a palm is an investment. The fronds and leaves are dried and used to make beautiful, pale-yellow baskets, brooms, mats, bags, hats, wall hangings and even used for roofing. The fronds are often composed of thick, heavy wood at their ends and are used to make lovely, seemingly-delicate furniture- similar to the bamboo chairs and tables of the Far East. The low-quality dates and the date pits are used as animal feed for cows and sheep. Some of the date pits are the source of a sort of ‘date oil’ that can be used for cooking. The palm itself, should it be cut down, is used as firewood, or for building. My favorite use for date pits is… beads. Each pit is smoothed and polished by hand, pierced in its center and made into necklaces, belts and rosaries. The finished product is rough, yet graceful, and wholly unique. Palm trees are often planted alongside citrus trees in orchards for more than just decoration or economy. Palm trees tower above all other trees and provide shade for citrus trees, which whither under the Iraqi sun. Depending on the type, it takes some palm trees an average of 5 – 10 years to reach their final height (some never actually stop growing), and it takes an average of 5 -7 years for most palms to bear fruit. The death of a palm tree is taken very seriously. Farmers consider it devastating and take the loss very personally. Each tree is so unique, it feels like a member of the family... I remember watching scenes from the war a couple of days after the bombing began- one image that stuck in my mind was that of a palm tree broken in half, the majestic fronds wilting and dragging on the ground. The sight affected me almost as much as the corpses. Historically, palm trees have represented the rugged, stoic beauty of Iraq and its people. They are a reminder that no matter how difficult the circumstances, there is hope for life and productivity. The palm trees in the orchards have always stood lofty and resolute- oblivious of heat, political strife or war… until today. One of the most famous streets in Baghdad is ‘shari3 il mattar’ or ‘The Airport Street’. It is actually two streets- one leading to Baghdad Airport and the other leading from it, into Baghdad. The streets are very simple and plain. Their magnificence lay in the palm trees growing on either side, and in the isle separating them. Entering Baghdad from the airport, and seeing the palm trees enclosing you from both sides, is a reminder that you have entered the country of 30 million palms. Soon after the occupation, many of the palms on these streets were hacked down by troops for ‘security reasons’. We watched, horrified, as they were chopped down and dragged away to be laid side by side in mass graves overflowing with brown and wilting green. Although these trees were beautiful, no one considered them their livelihood. Unlike the trees Patrick Cockburn describes in Dhuluaya. Several orchards in Dhuluaya are being cut down… except it’s not only Dhuluaya… it’s also Ba’aquba, the outskirts of Baghdad and several other areas. The trees are bulldozed and trampled beneath heavy machinery. We see the residents and keepers of these orchards begging the troops to spare the trees, holding up crushed branches, leaves and fruit- not yet ripe- from the ground littered with a green massacre. The faces of the farmers are crushed and amazed at the atrocity. I remember one wrinkled face holding up 4 oranges from the ground, still green (our citrus fruit ripens in the winter) and screaming at the camera- “Is this freedom? Is this democracy?!” And his son, who was about 10, stood there with tears of rage streaming down his cheeks and quietly said, “We want 5 troops dead for each tree they cut down… five troops.” A “terrorist”, perhaps? Or a terrorized child who had to watch his family’s future hacked down in the name of democracy and freedom? Patrick Cockburn says that Dhuluaya is a Sunni area- which is true. Sunnis dominate Dhuluaya. What he doesn’t mention is that the Khazraji tribe, whose orchards were assaulted, are a prominent Shi’a tribe in Iraq. For those not interested in reading the article, the first line summarizes it perfectly, “US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops.” …which reminds me of another line from an article brought to my attention yesterday… “A dozen years after Saddam Hussein ordered the vast marshes of southeastern Iraq drained, transforming idyllic wetlands into a barren moonscape to eliminate a hiding place for Shiite Muslim political opponents…” Déjà vu, perhaps? Or maybe the orchards differ from the marshlands in that Saddam wasn’t playing jazz when he dried up the marshlands… - posted by river @ 1:40 AM __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? The New Yahoo! Shopping - with improved product search http://shopping.yahoo.com _______________________________________________ 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