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Monday, December 22, 2003 Questions and Fears... Baghdad has been a very tense place these last few days. Yesterday alone we heard around 8 explosions though none of the news channels seem to be covering them. There have also been several demonstrations- some anti-Saddam and some pro-Saddam and several anti-America. The most prominent anti-America demonstrations took place in A'adhamiya and Amiriya, two residential areas in Baghdad. One demonstration in A'adhamiya included people from all over the city. The demonstrators were demanding the release of hundreds of people who have been detained over the last few weeks (there are thousands of detained Iraqis, overall). Most people imagine detained Iraqis as being bearded, angry men in their 30s or 40s shouting anti-imperialist slogans and whipping their heads about in a livid frenzy. They do not see the women- school teachers, professors and housewives- being herded off to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. They don't see the kids- some no more than 13 or 14 years old- who are packed away with bags over their heads, hands secured behind their backs. They don't see the anxious mothers and children, weeping with fear and consternation, begging in a language foreign to the soldiers to know where their loved ones are being taken. The Amiriya demonstrations were pro-Saddam demonstrations led by a boys' high school in the area. Jo Wilding in Baghdad (http://www.wildfirejo.org.uk/) describes the demonstrations in an internet article, and she has another article on some of the detentions: December 18th- Arresting Children (http://www.wildfirejo.org.uk/feature/display/56/index.php) December 13th- Prisoners (http://www.wildfirejo.org.uk/feature/display/53/index.php) Gasoline is a big problem. A friend of ours quit her job a couple of days ago because her husband can't afford to wait in long lines for 4 or 5 hours to fill up their battered Volvo so that he can drive her across Baghdad every morning to the clinic she works in. Everyone has been buying black-market gasoline of late, but we've been getting leaflets and warnings threatening 7 – 10 years of prison if we buy or sell black-market gasoline. Black-market gas simply means a surly, dirty guy surrounded with yellowish plastic containers selling gas for over 30 times its original price. He, inevitably, has a cigarette dangling out of the side of his mouth and a furtive, hurried look about him. We've been using candles most of the time instead of kerosene lamps because the kerosene man hasn't been coming around these last few days and we need the kerosene for the heaters. The kids really hate the candles. The other day, the electricity suddenly flashed on at 8 pm after a 6-hour blackout. We were exalted. Everyone jumped for the television at once and a chorus of voices called out, "News! The movie! A song! Cartoons!" After flipping the channels, we settled for a movie. We sat watching until one of the scenes faded into a darkened room. The camera focused on the couple sitting at a round table, gazing into each others eyes and smiling fondly across two elegant candles. It was a cozy, romantic candle-light dinner. I think the whole family was lost in the scene when suddenly, my cousin's youngest daughter spoke up, impatiently, "They have no electricity! They're using the candles…" It took me about 15 minutes to try to explain to her that they had electricity but actually *chose* to sit in the dark because it was more 'romantic'. The difficulty of explaining romance to a 7-year-old is nothing compared to the difficulty of explaining the 'romance' of a darkened room and candles- especially if the 7-year-old has associated candles to explosions and blackouts her whole life. These last few days have been truly frightening. The air in Baghdad feels charged in a way that scares me. Everyone can feel the tension and it has been a strain on the nerves. It's not so much what's been going on in the streets- riots, shootings, bombings and raids- but it's the possibility of what may lie ahead. We've been keeping the kids home from school, and my cousin's wife learned that many parents were doing the same- especially the parents who need to drive their kids to school. We've been avoiding discussing the possibilities of this last week's developments… the rioting and violence. We don't often talk about the possibility of civil war because conferring about it somehow makes it more of a reality. When we do talk about it, it's usually done in hushed tones with an overhanging air of consternation. Is it possible? Will it happen? Sunnis and Shi'a have always lived in harmony in Iraq and we still do, so far. I'm from a family that is about half Shi'a and half Sunni. We have never had problems as the majority of civilized people don't discriminate between the two. The thing that seems to be triggering a lot of antagonism on all sides is the counterinsurgency militia being cultivated by the CPA and GC which will include Chalabi's thugs, SCIRI extremists and some Kurdish Bayshmarga. The popular and incorrect belief seems to be that if you are a Kurd or Shi'a, this step is a positive one. Actually, the majority of moderate Kurds and Shi'a are just as exasperated as Sunnis about this new group of soldiers/spies that is going to be let loose on the population. It's just going to mean more hostility and suspicion in all directions, and if the new Iraqi force intends to be as indiscriminate with the detentions and raids as the troops, there's going to be a lot of bloodshed too. I once said that I hoped, and believed, Iraqis were above the horrors of civil war and the slaughter of innocents, and I'm clinging to that belief with the sheer strength of desperation these days. I remember hearing the stories about Lebanon from people who were actually living there during the fighting and a constant question arose when they talked about the grief and horrors- what led up to it? What were the signs? How did it happen? And most importantly… did anyone see it coming? - posted by river @ 6:19 AM __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Protect your identity with Yahoo! Mail AddressGuard http://antispam.yahoo.com/whatsnewfree _______________________________________________ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk