Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy Eid

I wanted to wish everyone a joyful Eid Al Adha and a happy holiday season.

I'm happy to be celebrating here with my family, the first time in four years. But my heart feels for my family in Iraq, which has been reduced to three families living in three different, dangerous parts of Baghdad. There will be no family gathering this Eid.

On the subject of Saddam Hussein, I still can't believe that they hung him on the first day of Eid. Quite distasteful, quite blood-thirsty, very wrong. Like they're handing him over on a gold plate to one group of Iraqis, and completely throwing the plate in the faces of the others. Making Eid a double Eid for some, and a bloody Eid for the others. So wrong.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Signs of a Dying City III

Doctor Shortage
So, I'm finally settled down here in my parents' house, have been for almost a week now. Why did I suddenly leave Baghdad? It's actually because I'm expecting my second child in a couple more months, and I'm a bit too spoiled to deliver a child in Baghdad's hospital system. Here's just some info on what the health system is like there now:

When I went back to Baghdad in October, I looked up my old doctor to go see her. She had received a threat from some unknown groups, stopped practicing, and was looking to leave the country. I looked up a few other doctors I knew, and the same story was repeated each time, "Misafra"- 'she's travelling.' I knew of four different young women, all well into their pregnancies, who were receiving no prenatal care, because their doctors had stopped practicing or left the country. One of those women has since given birth to a healthy girl, the other one is expecting any day now. Again, all without any prenatal care.

This seems to be the new trend in Baghdad. So many middle-class citizens are leaving the country because of the situation. And so many of these are doctors. Not only are they leaving because of the bombs and kidnappings around them, but because alot of these assassinations and kidnappings are targetting Iraq's educated men and women, especially doctors. It's a sad situation which is leaving people with few choices. Iraq's hospitals, which were in a sad position during the embargo years, seem to have slipped even further into third-world status, with few good doctors sticking around.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wada'an Baghdad

My daughter and I have said our good-byes to Baghdad. We're in Amman for a few short days, and then heading home to my family in the States. I'll post again when I'm settled.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Signs of a Dying City II

Deteriorating Education System, (to say the least):

This whole school year has been a joke so far, with students attending less than half of the normal school days (curfews, security situation, etc). But I think the greatest bomb of all was dropped this past week on college students who still held out hope of finishing the school year.
I saw my neighbor 'U', a senior at Baghdad University, outside our house today. Neither her nor her brother had attended university today. Apparently, a 'warning' has been given to college students not to attend university for the rest of the school year, as certain students would be targetted for their affiliation with 'death squads' and different militias. Following is a rough translation of the letter, which has been circulating by email and left at different locations. I also heard that large signs around town are announcing this 'news'.
The problem here is not whether or not this letter is authentic, but that it is able to hold power over students and professors alike. 'U' was telling me that she attended university the first couple of days of this week (with knowledge of the threat), but few other students or professors (!) attended. People are scared, and they are taking heed of this lawless group's ridiculous demands. Chaos at its best.

To our dear teachers and students at all Baghdad universities and colleges
Final Warning:
In order to protect your blood from the crimes committed by the Maliki government and its death squads... these death squads which have killed, murdered and targeted especially the Sunni students and professors... It is at these universities that the death squads have found a safe haven from which to carry out their attacks against ahlul Sunnah. From these universities scholars and warriors graduated, and at these same places they are being killed.
For this reason, we have decided ... to cancel the rest of the 2006-2007 school year for undergraduate and graduate students at all Baghdad universities and colleges (!!!)... to (1.) protect the blood of our scholars and students and (2.) to purify these institutions from all death squads. We will not be satisfied until we have brought security to them. Elementary, middle and high school students, as well as college students outside of Baghdad are not included in this decision (
For this reason, we ask our Sunni and Shiite (those who do not belong to any party) professors and students to avoid attending university completely for the rest of this school year for their protection. We give them three days to finish any business they have at their universities... We know that not attending institutions of knowledge is a painful ordeal, but the killing and murder of scholars is more painful. We also know that Sunni students and professors, as well as the Shiite 'commoners' will heed this warning... .
Today we will avenge our scholars. ... We will choose the time and place to attack you, in your homes, and on your beds and in your schools... You will continue to live in fear until your time comes... We hope that this school year does not end until we have destroyed each one of you (death squad/militia members).
We repeat our words to all Sunnis and to whoever desires to save himself; stay away from the death squads and militias, which have taken universities as their safe haven. Leave the battle to wage between us.
Ansar al Sunnah Group

Again, I don't know how authentic this letter is, I don't know if someone is playing a sad joke on Baghdad or not, I don't know if someone is trying to 'frame' this group or not, but I do know that this letter has had its effect on Baghdad university students. Even if they decide to ignore it and go to class, they find that no one else is attending, neither student nor teacher. Measures need to be taken to bring security to these institutions, or Baghdad will slowly die through the destruction of its coming generation of scholars.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Signs of a Dying City I

I hate describing Baghdad as a dying city, but that's truly the feeling that passes through me as I drive down the streets of this once busy city. I took these pictures on different Saturday afternoons, all during the past month or so. This was once (not very long ago), one of the busiest streets in Baghdad, the 14th of Ramadan Street in the Mansour area. Now, as you drive down this street in the middle of the day, at least three fourths of the shops are closed down! Only a random store here and there opens, and some of them open for just a few hours, closing down by 1 or 2 pm. It was really sad for me especially during Eid season to drive down this street (and others in Baghdad) and to find it looking like a ghost town.
Shop owners have either been threatened to shut down, killed for opening, or felt the danger of opening shop with an army search point parked in front of their stores (attracts car bombs/ etc). Business has come to a halt and many of these merchants have left town.