Monday, August 16, 2004


Englishman in Baghdad

Justin Alexander is an Englishman who works with Jubilee Iraq, a volunteer organization committed to the cancellation of odious Iraqi debt and putting an end to reparations payments.

Against all advice, he decided to come to Baghdad during these turbulent times in his effort to help the Iraqi people through means other than bombing them. Below is an excerpt from his blog post describing his visit. He left Baghdad last Wednesday.


The last 5 days in Iraq have been tough and on the few occasions where I've had 15mins to blog I've felt overwhelmed and therefore wimped out. Apologies to friends who've been worried by the silence...

Would you believe I only managed to write that first paragraph when there were five heavy explosions so I quickly quit the hotel internet cafe (to avoid flying glass if a mortar rounds lands outside, and more importantly to avoid all the excited journalists scurrying around with a hungry look on their faces) and headed up to my room. It's quieted down now, so I'm going to have another go!

Iraq, as you may guess, is hot and chaotic. Until last night I was staying in a cheap hotel without air-conditioning (and often without any electricity most of the night) which meant I got no sleep but did get a little understanding of how exhausting and frustrating it is just trying to live a few nights in Baghdad at the moment - quite a few people have suggested that I'm brave coming here but I reply that what takes real courage is to live out here permanently and remain as friendly and self-giving as so many Iraqis are.

However the situation has changed considerably from my last trip in October 2003 when I used to travel alone around the city by foot and taxi, chatting with so many people along the way. Baghdadis whose opinions I respect have insisted that I can no longer do this. It is heartbreaking not to be able to interact so freely now, and my schedule is difficult to juggle as I am dependent on friends to pick me up and drive me around Baghdad's gridlocked streets. One change for the better is a reasonably functioning mobile network, although that results in another variable to juggle - keeping one's phone charged is not easy when the electricity supply is so hit and miss, and the stakes are much higher if the battery suddenly dies (as mine did yesterday evening when I was trying to arrange a pick up at night in a dodgy area).

But anyway, life here still goes on of course. And not just the daily chores and tasks. Love is in the air. I kid you not. …


No, Justin! Those people have to live here. It is their home. Most have no choice. You are the brave one, willingly choosing to come and help, taking so much risk in doing so. I am happy that you are back safely. Hamdilla ala assalama.

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