Letters from Baghdad: #3
By Yanar Mohammed
[forwarded from SOWFI (Supporters of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq)]
A Democracy of Killings and Bombings
Life in Baghdad in these days is nerve wracking. It is so hard to keep your sanity through one more night of bombing. The explosions, the machine guns all around your house at night, the many times you jump up and down because it feels as if the last gun shot came from your own bedroom.
Nobody deserves to live like this.
Al Jazeera tv bombards us with the numbers and scenes of those of us who are killed each day…the children who don’t have the slightest idea why they are dying … the women holding their heads unable to understand how their babies meant nothing to those
who bombed them in the last air raid.
Hundreds of families in Al Thawra city are unable to buy meat for their meals because they haven’t worked for many days now. All the shops are closed in their area because it happens that the “holy” Al-Mahdi Army chose their streets and their neighborhoods as a battlefield against the American occupiers. People have no income and definitely no prospects; the young men are recruited (by al-Sadr’s army) for a monthly salary of 200$. They have only one way of getting by; take a few magic capsules from this sheet…and the world will turn rosy as you are fighting to realize the will of God. “Capsuling”(or cabsala as they call it in Arabic) is a drug habit that has spread in Iraq over the last few years, only now it has become an epidemic addiction that the Al Mahdi Army thrives on. It turns thousands of young men into addicts of drugs, violence and fanaticism.
Military helicopters took to the skies around our buildings at dawn this morning after the machine guns went quiet. The beautiful skyline over the river was filled with black Apachee helicopters, flying so low you could see the drivers … and of course you could feel your heart beat in a way you are not familiar with. Fear takes so many forms in this city that a heart attack awaits you around the corner at any time during the day or night.
Ah well, we will not stop our work for any reason … While the Americans are facing their failures one after the other, we are still organizing people around our bright vision of freedom and equality until our day arrives. We were very determined in today’s discussions held in our Baghdad headquarters, the one on Al Rasheed street. Kassim Hadi, president of the Union of Unemployed, was confidently demonstrating his ambitious plan for the unemployed by starting up projects of job training for them. I tried to stay composed while the ground was shaking from some of the strongest explosions we’ve heard in quite some time. Kasim did not even blink and just went on speaking.
Through the window, a beautiful rivershore could be seen, beyond which the green zone, where the American headquarters and Interim government, is located. … This is where most of the mortar gunfire is aimed. On this ‘glorious’ day, American “democracy” was underway in Baghdad. All the groups that have made sure that American interests are being met, were included in the formation of the “National Assembly.” This was the assembly in which Americans intended to choose our representatives for us. It was said that half of the delegates did not even attend because they were too ashamed to be related to Americans in the same days that American troops were committing mass killings in many cities. And for those who didn’t care about this, the massive explosions scared them off… or it was impossible to reach to the location as half the streets of Baghdad were closed.
Some small parts of the day still felt good though: Lina has developed a passion for activism of young women’s rights. She insisted that she must talk and plan with me before she joins her first youth conference. Zainab and Fulla have both thrown the veil off and are working with us. It feels as if they have thrown away their frowns along with the veil. Zainab’s beautiful green eyes glowed with joy while she admitted people into the building to come to our meeting. I had no idea that her hair was this shiny and that her quiet beauty … this radiant. Fula our youngest and most athletic girl in OWFI was laughing outloud in the kitchen while she helped one of our young security guards who also works as a cook to prepare our lunch. The first moment I got a glimpse of her after a few months of being away, I was amazed at how much she’d changed. Ammar, one of our toughest guards was feeding his cat. I was surprised to see how spoiled that cat was in a situation where our guards barely have enough to eat and sleep on very thin mattresses if any. He got this cat when we first moved to this street 15 months ago. Initially, he named his cat Jheel (an Arab tribal name). After gaining some political awareness in a couple of months, he changed the name to Bremer because Bremer has become known as the fat cat.
After a whole day of bombs pounding the entire area, and us running around in the deserted streets and reaching home to lock the doors behind us; it was time to watch some tv. The person in charge of the national assembly came on tv to give us his speech. If there is one thing these American puppets have learned well from their masters: it is the art of LYING. #8220;…We achieved a great success today. The democratic process in on the way. Although some of our friends were unable to attend for their own personal reasons, still, it all went well and eventually everyone will be represented in Iraq.” We all just stared at each other in disgust and wondered what he meant by this word ‘everyone’. As far as we knew, none of the serious activists or politicians who work towards ending deprivation and discrimination were even invited to this assembly in the first place.
Baghdad August 15, 2004