Wednesday, August 31, 2005


The March of martyrs

Yesterday, when groups of people were marching towards the holy shrine of Al kadhim, preparing for the upcoming anniversary , everyone who saw them had a secret punch in there hearts and a low voice ,which they tried too push to the back of their heads that whispered : “ something is going to happen” .
So, to say that it was a surprise will not be accurate at all . Yet, the weapon was unexpected : “ Fear” .
An estimated million visitors marched today to commemorate the Death of -Imam Al kadhim- . There was a mortar attack around 8:30 or 9:00 this morning on the holy shrine . The flow of people did not slow or lessen. It carried on as expected . But each and every one of those millions was thinking and fearing an attack of some kind . So all they needed was a shout uttered on the “ A’ima bridge” to cause a stampede. Some jumped into the river Tigris , others were crashed under terrified feet ,the rest fell off the bridge when a railing collapsed due the pressure of scrambling people . Reports are estimating 640 deaths and it is expected to rise. The images coming out are very painful . Reports of about 50 people being poisoned are confirmed now after initially being denied . My friend phoned this morning at about 11:30 she told me that casualties are being brought to the hospital in pick up trucks, she said - they have suffocated perhaps from the crowd, not the usual wounds- . The reports from the bridge had not come out yet. Later I was not able to get through to her and I understood the whole story from the news .
People are blaming the government for the lack of experience in controlling the crowds in such events , officials are accusing each other and demanding each other’s resign .
The people as usual are dealing with the crisis better than the officials, the anniversary went on and visitors kept going to their destination , after all the shrine of Imam AL Kadhim is the place where muslim go to sink their sorrows and seek justice and comfort, for he is the Imam "Guardian" of the opressed and the unfortunate.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Plenty of Blasts and street fights again …
The constitution business.. what about It? I’ve almost lost track on what is actually going on behind those doors . I waited in anticipation till 12 o'clock the other night and after not a very amusing show they delayed it again and again .
I read the draft... better than the earlier draft, but still it looks like the members are complementing each other in places and teasing each other in other places .
Islam is the main source of legislation … you are free to choose bla bla bla but not to contradict with this and that . .. Not much difference. I was naively anticipating much more.

The streets of Most Iraqi cities are controlled and ruled by the militias and even the government acknowledges that fact now . But this is not normal and it nearly led to confrontation again.
A crisis (between Muqtada Al Sadr and Badr brigade ) that had been brewing for the two last weeks came to it’s natural climax last week and resulted in :
-“Burning down the house”- a very familiar script . But as the situation swelled it eased suddenly .
Muqtada is playing things differently from last year , he spoke very calmly and wisely and asked his supporters to just let it go .
Every one including Muqtada himself and his rivals are fully aware of the support he has among “Les Miserables” .
The poor and the abandoned see him as a Robin Hood in an “Imama” (the turban clergy men ware ) . The deprived who live on the margin of society in regions infamous with crime ,crowded houses and the absence of services caused by decades of deliberate neglect during the reign of Saddam .
The people there have been struggling for survival and coping with all sorts of discrimination in the Iraqi society.
Muqtada’s most zealous supporters are from those areas in Baghdad.
Why do they love him ? Well, first of all due to the reputation of his father and uncle, who were both promenant clergymen murdered By Saddam in the most beastly way . Also because Muqtada is a genuine Arab unlike Al Hakeem (Commander of Badir Brigade ,whose rates are falling dramatically in the Iraq street ) and Al Sistani (Persian roots involved here ), who look condescendingly to the poor semi illiterate population of the gutter .
Muqtada- the Martyr’s son ,the Arab and the compassionate young leader is a guy you can talk to as an equal- that is how he is perceived by the street Kids .Lately even the Sunnis are talking in his favor .
While most intellectual Shias and Sunnis and Americans may I add see him as a fanatic and a power seeker who is using the love of the masses to his father, and who is involved in the murder of an enlightened clergy man ( Al Khouii) three years ago.
However Muqtada showed tolerance and self restrain last week . thank God for that one- a problem less-.

Wednesday three car bombs exploded in Hay Al Jameaa (a residential and commercial Area)in a street known for stores of all sorts and Doctor clinics… etc
After three explosions gun fights broke out between men in masks and police men. The police men managed to kill six of the others , yet I didn’t catch how many policemen were killed .

That was one incident the other one was mysterious a bit . My friend lives in Al Khadraa Area, she phoned me Thursday morning and told me that a horrific blast tore the quite afternoon in her neighborhood the day before: windows broke and the neighbors all ran out like mad each one of them thinking that it was his house that was hit . She told me the bang was so loud that all of them were finding difficulty hearing for the first 15 minutes . When they came out they saw that a house, a big house was flattened to the ground, the family inside could not be found they were all burned to ashes .There was eight of them in there: two brothers , their wives and children . Neighbors were trying to figure out what had actually happened , the adjacent houses were left partially damaged too . after an hour or two my friend said they understood that dynamite sticks were planted all around the house and Bang !!! gone with the wind .. Why them? Nobody knows. What could it be? … they were a normal Family, not officials, not merchants, not activists of some sort , neither do they work with the Americans, which is the first thing to take into consideration when any body is killed . The only things that the neighbors came up with was that they were Shia , but that is not the case of course since other Shia families live there too . It could be some religious based assassination it is a common thing lately, but the method is new and terrifying .

Yes, Minister.

In the previous blog I wrote about the petrol Saga .Well Bahr Al Ulum Junior the wonder kid went back to the old method . What did we say at the first place ??
And what is so funny or sad rather is that they announced it on one of the many TV channels as an achievement .
He caused it and now he is solving it , well done in both cases . That reminds me of Saddam’s decisions , let me remember how did they use to call them- wise inspired genius decisions- ….. Lets invade this country Hurrrray ( the crowds jump up and down ,up and down .. ) …. Naaaaaaa lets liberate this country from ourselves, lets withdraw heroically ( the crowds jump up and down ,up and down .. )

The drunk dust man

I really like observing people more than politicians and political analysts that have suddenly sprung out of the blue . Where do they all come from ?, or a better form of the same question what did they use to do in the era of Saddam when there was no need for analyzing anything .
Also how can you tell some one what is the problem with the constitution for instance ,how can you analyze that ???. You get a flower and pluck it’s petals saying : approved it , approved it not .
Ah… to hell with this whole situation . What about people who don’t make the news…
One character really popping out of one of Nikolai Gogol’s stories is a garbage collector ,whose line of duty is near our office. He is always drunk. He goes about his business scattering the garbage as he pleases rather than collecting it quietly and rarely talks to anyone at all .
A neighbor in the building where I work is a very merry soul , that always tries to convert anything possible into a joke . When he pops around to say hello there is always something to laugh about . He came in last week and asked us if we are going to vote against or in favor of the constitution .
- I am going to vote against of course, and I demand that all of you do the same. I am even campaigning for that , he said.
– Oh really, Ok, we love you so we’ll do as you say , but we are not that much , sorry your case is lost .
After chatting for a while he went with one of my colleagues to grab something to eat when they returned they were giggling like school girls . Whats up? I asked
- He got hold of …. you know him the drunk garbage collector , and he told him to go and vote against the constitution, the garbage collector was silent like the sphinx as usual , he kept persuading the poor drunk and following him around and then he said to him: do you know that there is a special item in the constitution regarding alcohol , the garbage collector stopped and threw the empty cans he was collecting : what did you say ? he squealed
-Yes it is exactly as I tell you they are going to ban alcohol and prosecute any one who drinks and if they catch you drinking they’ll hang you where you stand right on top of your garbage heap .
- What! that’s not fair -the garbage collector screamed - the sons of the ….. the bastards the pimps the sods and he fell in a outrageous tantrum .
- Yeh you go and vote against them.
- I will, Oh I will, and I’ll tell my friends to do so too . Fancy them bastards sitting in their 1000 dollars suits , but do they do something for poor hard working men like me? NO , why should they .
I felt sorry for him- … you know that was cruel ,what kind of sadistic game is that .I said.
- No that is how you campaign you find the key for a person and then you use it against him, or as a motivation . Do you know how many garbage collectors he known/ .
- Do you ?
- No , many I suspect.

Young Jesus.

Thursday I was left home alone , all my folks went out for tea at a relative’s house . I stayed watching TV . I don’t know what goes on while I am out kneeling on the grinding stone . Who comes visiting, where do they keep the flour or rise cans , where do they get this or that commodity from, .. non of my business .
A kid rang the bell and told me that he brought the gas tube we requested . Ok fine, if you say so , I gave him the money, and pulled the heavy tube . He was about 10 or 12 years old and was pushing a primitive iron cart with about 6 tubes . He looked so familiar I’ve seen him somewhere . Skinny , very dark complexion burnt by the sun , huge black eyes … a yes, I remember seeing him as a tiny tiny child about 5 years ago playing around and helping his mum when she delivered bread to houses .
– Hey haven’t seen you around for a while , in what grade are you now? . Your name is Issa ( Jesus) isn’t it .
- Yes that’s me , I dropped out of school 3 years ago, I was in the third grade .
- Why Issa ? didn’t you do well , didn’t you like it ? .
- No , I was alright ,but Life demands .
- Are you still living in your old place ( a square empty piece of land between houses, where they built a few bricks to form a hut).
- No, the owner came so we moved to another place in the same area though, not far from hear, you used to walk to work pass us but not any more .
- Yes I work in a different place now.
Life demands , wise words from a ten year old . I watched him in his rugs and torn sandals drag his Cross .. I mean his gas tube cart, hitting it’s handle with a metal stick making a jingle as he walked through the streets of Jerusalem .

Saturday, August 20, 2005


At last Salary !!! Halleluiah.
Ohhhh.. I love money I really really love money .
The Boss of All Bosses shamelessly delayed paying us for two weeks.
- No cash people you will just have to wait . Well, it was Ok with us, kept us from spending it after a few days anyway , actually it is quite a good idea to save our salary for us.
He handed us our ludicrous salaries and was all smiles we thanked him too.

I wanted so badly to go to Al Mutanabi Street. Haven’t been there for 2 years now. Kept on delaying it . When ever I decide to go something happens and stops me. Besides you can only find good bargains on Fridays. Yet, on a Friday there are always postponed duties .
Also I only enjoy going there with someone else .
The family ?.. out of question everyone wants to lay about . So it has to be friends. Twice I arranged to go with a friend and each time something came up. And also coincidently explosions took place somewhere near so everyone declared that we were so lucky we did not go after all.
It got absurd : me begging every Thursday for someone to go with me.
We have an adorable old man where I work . He heard me once thinking loudly about my inaccessible dream , so he offered to take a list of the books I want and fetch them , “I haven’t’ been there for ages too” he said.
He went one Friday and came back empty handed the next day. He said there were very few people in spite of being a Friday and the books are not what they used to be, mostly religious books and not very serious types he remarked.
When I was there last time I couldn’t make up my mind between (Mind Parasites) by Colin Wilson and (Sttepenwolf) By Herman Hesse. I took Colin Wilson, and as it often happens with addicts like me, after reading Colin Wilson I started craving for Hesse.
- No Hesse My old colleague said .
- Didn’t they offer to get it for you sometime later they usually do that, I asked hopefully .
- No, it has changed over there you know.
That is really hard for me . That street is the place I will always carry with me where ever I go . Thousands of book set on pavements it is the book junkie’s paradise . Sacks torn open and books tumbling down like an avalanche in the middle of the alley : “Please help yourself 250 Dinars per book , don’t waste the chance ” .
- Do you have any thing by Hemingway ?
- Er…..hmmmm , no but may be Abbas over there has … Hey Abbas Hemingway ( the last syllable pronounced as “why” not “way”) for the dears over here ….
- What? Kafka sure; Franz Kafka how could we live without him , pessimistic stuff real pessimistic stuff.
The great thing is that the sellers actually read everything they sell, so sometimes they actually advise you on what to take or what may be of use to you . Some of them are ex professors selling there libraries or seekers of profit that acquired education from selling all those books and listening to all the literature discussions held under their noses .
Months and Months of good Fridays spend in that street.
Another thing is that it is so quite there; like an out doors library, all those people and making no noise in comparison with other places involving trade.
And now it has changed they tell me . I don’t think so, I don’t want to believe so . I will not go there until everything is back to normal and if things don’t go back to Normal …. Al Mutanabi Street will be preserved inside me as it was .

Clashed near Baghdad International Fair today . Rumors of a car comb in the area of the Jordanian embassy.

The Birth of the Constitution is difficult, convulsions but no sign of the Baby yet. The Americans are present to assist with a cesarean if labor doesn’t result in anything of use.


Er….. sorry I guess !!!

25 workers were killed on a roof of some building in AL Alawi area .
There is a vital garage in that area , and lots of very cheap lodging places, when I say cheap I mean really cheap. Poor workers usually spend nights there for as little money as possible and they go about the capitol during the day looking for jobs (builders mainly) . Their wages are small so these places are suitable .
People from there said, that the workers were sleeping on the roof because ; Yeh , no electricity and they were about to fold their mattresses when they were spotted by an air craft that opened fire on them.. . Suspicious movements they thought ….
The other version was that these 25 workers were walking around the streets of the area in the wee hours of the hellish hot morning in spite of the curfew so .. so the rest as they say is history…. . the mistake was admitted by the Americans .

Al Nahdha garage suicide attacks , a horrible massacre . One explosion: people were killed , other people gathered : another explosion to catch the rest ,then a car followed the injured to the hospital and exploded near the gate to finish the job .
I think this is the first one of it’s kind . Carried out with such hate .Three bombings to kill , “exactly” to kill and make sure no one of the victims got away .
Rumors suggest that the government had information about this attack in particular . A very high ranking officer is threatening to disclose evidence according to which the government had information beforehand but for some mysterious reason did not take action.

AL Sader - Remember Saed Muqtada - is threatening to carry out a general strike in the cities of Iraq protesting the deterioration or rather the absence of services .
A smart Arabic journalist asked an Iraqi writer in an interview I watched -Why are people leaving the important event of the constitution and discussing services .In other words why are your people so shallow, your people are soooo third world , they should be celebrating freedom and instead they are moaning about services .
I do not think any one, including the Iraqi government itself realizes the state of services , the states that our streets have reached too. Maybe they think we have always lived like this .
This reminds me of a situation my Friend told me about just after the war ended .They held their first meeting with an official that came from abroad . My friend is a doctor and she said that the official was babbling about freedom and democracy , so after exchanging usual pleasantries the doctors demanded a raise, cause their salaries were pathetic. The look of culture was wiped off the official’s face and he roared - well what did Saddam use to give you 5000 Iraqi Dinars and you use to jump up and down for him when ever he snapped his fingers, now you are receiving much more and complaining about it too .
I think the explanation is that these nouveau politicians think that we should be grateful no matter what .


One step forward two steps backwards

Gun shots over petrol again .A brilliant decision by the Minister of Oil, you know him Bahr al Ulum Junior the wonder kid .The petrol problem sort of normalized recently. But the decree came : All vehicles with new numbers (so called manifest numbers locally) may get petrol according to the -even numbers and odd numbers system like before- , Next all old cars may get their need of petrol . So now there are long long queues and gun shots on the day of old cars .He did not think there were so much old cars around , well of course how would he know that stupid me .

The Mobalization of the Whole Country!

A fellow that works with us came the other day with such a tragic expression of loss on his face that I decided someone has died from his close ones . I t turned out that his cell phone better known to the masses as the mobile had been stolen.
He loves his mobile, he even borrowed money to buy it . We all reproached him when he got it at the first place, it cost him about 400 $ , he certainly did not need such a posh one, any one would do. He used to just sit for hours fiddling with it’s buttons , playing appalling tunes, showing us dim-witted jokes he usually received from his mates, interrupting any conversation to show us a new feature he discovered .
He used to evaluate people according to their mobiles . - He is cool he has a “Dub” …. she is cheap she has a “Tabooga Nokia” …. he is a big bird he has a Hammer with a camera too .
It is not a rare view to see policemen, salesmen, employees in offices and Ministries holding their phones showing each other what they posses , and the ritual of hanging a phone on one’s belt - I don’t think any other nation shares us with this one-. Even the word mobile has become and Arabic word and is subjects to laws of Arabic grammar ( mobailak for the male singular , mobailich for the female singular , mobailkum plural etc). . I really don’t get this obsession , what does a cell phone tell about you anyway , why should a person feel so proud of his phone . True it was forbidden in Saddam era . People joke that Saddam disserves death penalty for preventing Iraqis from satellite TV , Cell phones and free e mail accounts .
I agree that this disease is a ‘psychological form of compensation' . But it is time to move on mobiles are old news now. . .
- May God grant you comfort we said laughing as we shook his hands compassionately … may God compensate you with another good mobile … it is always sad to loose someone or thing dear but life goes on, buy a cheap one next time OK.
- I will and I’ll hang it around my neck they’ll have to cut my throat to get it this time.
- Wise decision, good idea, wise decision, we all said in one agreeing voice .

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The high light of this week was the wrath of nature .The orange dust that engulfed the surroundings , well there weren’t much to see in the surroundings at the first place anyway. Outside it looked like a negative picture being developed or like a scene from the Bible. One good thing although: no car bombs in Baghdad that day .In other words everything natural is good and everything good is natural ! One episode really brought tears to my inflamed eyes . We were sitting in a car waiting for the traffic to move , police men wore surgical masks , only God knows where they came from all at once, these masks were meant to be filters, some people were wetting pieces of clothe and putting them on their noses for a better effect ,and from the car window I saw a very weak and apparently suffering stray dog, it was zigzagging as if it were drunk or playing a role of a dog that has been shot, then he fond a filthy puddle of water and he started to rinse his snout in the puddle and then elevated his head and inhaled , and again till he got his breath back . do I hear the audience say aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!.

The palms of Samawa say…..
“ an Iraqi old song ”

Demonstrations in Samawa had an impact on the whole society because of opening fire on demonstrators who came with very reasonable and totally comprehensible demands . It was a disappointment. It shows how far we still are from democracy. But in my case and in the case of my friends there is an appendix to it . Samawa was believed to be the thing that the rest of the country should look up too ( according to rumors of course).
Since there were no riots and it has been relatively quite there -till now- people were circling rumors according to which, everything is perfect there in comparison with the rest . No one could penetrate that ideal town everything is impeccable. And all that is because … why do you think ?? well yes elementary dear Watson, because the Japs are in control. They are so cute and polite, they are even cleaning the town for the natives , providing them with electricity, water, services, even work!!! They are going to turn the place in to a second Tokyo in no time because they know what war is, they suffered from the Americans too, they are oriental, they respect other nation's culture, not like these hapless Americans and Brits. Well every one knows that we are a nation with a very fertile imagination. Any how, when the demonstration and the regrettable incidents erupted dreams were shattered and hopes were assassinated…. what no Tokyo ? no shieks going to Japan? no Japanese cars distributed by ration cards? no Sushi served at every street bend ? …. Who was spreading these rumors any way ? don’t they know that to break a heart is a cruel thing to do .

A disastrous car bombing took place this afternoon at about 1:40 in Al Ghazaliya area near a market leaving 8 people dead and many others injured . A whole sector of houses were damaged in different ways . A young man who used to sell newspapers and cokes was killed.His face was familiar in the area.His name was Raed . He was not standing in the scolding sun selling newspapers out of a good life. He was obviously struggling to earn a crust of bread honestly and he was struggling to the last moment thats for sure . A newspaper boy … no day of national morn, no book to commemorate him , no Obituaries in the newspapers he used to sell , no mosques praying for his soul in loud speakers , no church bells tolling, just his poor family mourning him…..

Saturday, August 06, 2005

It was a cruel cruel summer .......


Last week was completely disastrous speaking service and security wise , the electricity is deteriorating with every hour , and it is even resulting in putting people out of business . Our local shop owner was getting bags of rotten hamburgers and chicken drumsticks out of his freezer since the generator could not catch up with the pressure. He was telling me that carpenters and welders are suffering just the same .
I popped by an internet café “closed for maintenance” they said and so on .
in AL Iskan Area sewerages wastes are flowing freely on the streets no one even can dare to pop his noses out of a car window .
And people are going on an on about it every where from TV screens to radio stations, a frustrated woman said with fury on one radio program the other day : I live behind al Jafari’s house and the power does not go out for a second there .
Al Jafari on the other hand was full of confidence two days ago announcing that Iran , Syria, Turkey are going to provide us with extra Mega watts of power he said and I qoute : the electricity has always been one of my priorities !!!!
I think this last summer has vanquished the last shred of optimism people had left.


King Fahad is dead , long live the King

Now lets see: Yser Arafat, Shiekh Zaid, Rfeeq Al Harirri , King Fahad, before them Hafez al Asad , king Hussein
Hossni Mubarak still on the Run , Saddam Hussein Hanging on a thread and Muamer Qadafi obove all odds still there … when you got to go you just got to go .

An Oasis in the desert

When you listen and some times even look at some of the fanatic clergy men they show these day you really can easily fall into a well of despair .
Stating the obvious , repeating platitudes and insinuating that they and whom they represent are actually -although you may not notice it- the chosen ones .

But suddenly amidst the bazaar of shouting traders comes the moderate voice of Ayad Jamal Al Deen .
I really could not believe my ears when I watched his interview on Al Hura the other day, here is a clergy man and yes a Shii calling for freedom and a secular government to safeguard religion from the harm resulting from dragging it through the dark and ambiguous allays of politics . Also he demonstrated sound understanding of the role Iran is trying to play in Iraq .
Sitting comfortably smiling in his chair looking pleasant and agreeable, he opposes so sharply other roaring clergy men who are surrounding themselves with a halo of divinity.
He does not have to yell but his words are so loud and clear, he is a man of peace and love who has no problemn in visiting churches to celebrate Christmas , admits that Europe is a haven which Muslims aim to in order to escape their tyrannical rulers and that true Islam can only be practiced under governments who respect human rights .
He also expressed an opinion stating that Al Sistani is actually harming the political process by supporting this or that list and that the Sunnis should take an active part in politics for the sake of the rest. In other words he is not taking any side but the side of freedom , he said “ they who manage to recognize truth in spite of beliefs imposed by tradition and society are usually the ones who manage eventually to change the world to the better “

Ameen !!!
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