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[casi] From Riverbend

Friday, December 12, 2003


We heard the latest statement from Washington about
Germany, France, Russia and Canada not being allowed
to have anything to do with the reconstruction. Iraq
no longer feels like a country- it feels like war
spoils: the winning team gets the pickings. So how is
the world supposed to be involved in the
reconstruction of Iraq when they are being
deliberately excluded?

It's a decision like this one that brings to light the
complete uselessness of the Governing Council. Why is
Washington calling the shots on the reconstruction
issues? This means that even after a military
occupation, we'll be under an economic occupation for
years to come. Why aren't any of the new ministers or
GC members saying anything about this? Somehow, I have
a feeling that if they have anything to say, it'll be
in accordance with this latest decision.

There was a demonstration in Baghdad yesterday of
about 4,000 people. The parties who are a part of the
GC took part in an 'anti-terror' protest. The roads
were closed for security reasons and helicopters were
hovering over head. There were a couple of women's
groups… I recognized some women from Al-Da'awa
Al-Islamiya- Al-Jaffari's party. The Iraqi communist
party and SCIRI were also involved. The irony is
seeing SCIRI members hold up the "NO TERROR" banners
(they could start by not terrorizing the Al-Iraqiya
station because the anchorwomen don't wear hijabs…).

There were other demonstrations in some provinces, and
they've all been lobbed together with the one in
Baghdad. The truth is that some of them were actually
anti-occupation demonstrations, like the one in
Khaldiya. There were large crowds demonstrating in
Khaldiya, demanding the release of boys and men who
have been detained for over 3 months in American
prison camps.

Today (well, technically, yesterday) there was another
large demonstration in Baghdad which was a peaceful
anti-occupation demonstration. The demonstrators were
mainly university students and teachers who were
opposing the raids occurring in some colleges and
universities. They were demanding the release of three
women who were detained when the Technology University
in Baghdad was raided. Their spokesperson, a
professor, I think, said that this was going to be the
first demonstration in a long series of
anti-occupation activism being organized by teachers
and students.

There were some loud explosions a while ago... I just
read it might have been inside of the 'Green Zone'.

- posted by river @ 2:22 AM

Kerosene and Gasoline...

The electricity has been terrible lately- it comes in
fits and starts. The moment it goes off, we start
running around the house unplugging things and
flicking off the power switches- you don’t want
anything to be turned on when the power comes back
either too high or too low. That's why I've been
blogging less often. Every time there's electricity,
we remember a long list of things that can only be
done in an electrical world… like vacuum. Some say
it's not only Baghdad- the north also seem to be
having continuous electricity problems.

The most popular guy in the neighborhood these days
Abu Hassen. He lives on our street and he's going to
purchase one of those large generators that will,
supposedly, provide electricity to around 20 houses.
The problem is that it can't accommodate any more than
20 houses (probably fewer) and anyone who wants to has
to 'sign up' for the electricity. When E. went to get
us registered for a few amperes, Abu Hassen told him
that he already had 30 families who wanted to sign on
but he would put us on a waiting list (!).

Since the generators are expensive, Abu Hassen has
been hesitant to buy one. E. says he has a nephew who
works at one of the electric power stations in Baghdad
who convinced him it would be a *great* investment
because the power situation promises to be very
erratic for a while yet.

The big problem now is that gasoline is hard to come
by. This is a very frustrating issue for Iraqis.
Gasoline was like water here. In fact, bottled water
used to be far more expensive than gasoline and
admittedly still is. The lines at the gas stations are
long and tedious. E. and my cousin sometimes go to
fill up the car and disappear for hours at a time. The
gasoline is necessary for running the generators and
now they're going to start rationing it. This will
mean that within days, the price of gas is going to go
up because people will start selling black market

Kerosene is also hard to come by these days. Every
time the kerosene man comes banging down our street,
representatives from each household instantly run
outside and stand impatiently at their gates, some
greeting him with an energetic "Hello, habibi!" We
need the kerosene for the 'sopas' or the kerosene
heaters, and the kerosene lamps. The weather is nice
during the day, but it gets somewhat chilly during the
evening. We light the kerosene heaters in the rooms
and watch them carefully so that they don't start
giving out poisonous fumes from burning kerosene.
There have been entire families that died in their
sleep from CO poisoning from kerosene heaters.

The nicest thing about the heaters is the fact that
there's always a kettle of water on top of them. This
accomplishes two things it once: it keeps the air in
the room from getting very dry, and it provides a
ready kettle of hot water for the tea ritual during
the evening. The sopa is also fantastic for heating
bread. At night, when there is no hope of electricity,
we sit around on the rug, a little distance away from
the sopa, and drink sweet tea, with warm bread and
some famous Iraqi salted white cheese, while listening
to the radio or just talking about family matters, or
political matters.

The sun sets quite early these days and, if there's no
electricity, it gets a little bit depressing. E. and I
often go out to the roof to enjoy the last few minutes
of sun every evening. Sometimes, the electricity will
return at night and the lights will flicker on
suddenly, leaving us too dazzled for the first few
moments to do anything but sit there, allowing our
eyes to adjust to the abrupt change.

- posted by river @ 2:21 AM

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