Saturday, November 27, 2004


Injured Soldier

[A post on a lighter note to balance some of the gloom and depression of the previous ones!]

Soldiers in a small battalion of new recruits for the Iraqi National Guards were in training. One of the soldiers was careless and apparently had his finger on the trigger of his loaded and cocked machine gun. The gun went off and the man shot his own foot!

The person telling me of this incident said that he was surprised by the reaction of the two different groups of people there: Iraqi and US personnel. While the US boys rushed to inspect the wound and try and stop the bleeding and so forth, the Iraqi boys, the injured man's comrades-in-arms stood over him scolding him and saying things like "Fool… idiot… donkey!"


Mayhem in Iraq

[The following is an article written by an Iraqi living in the Britain and published in the Guardian. It gives another glimpse of present-day Iraq.]

Kidnapping and killing is a daily reality in Iraq, but in the west the atrocities go unrecorded and the dead are unnamed

Haifa Zangana
Monday October 25, 2004
The Guardian

The kidnapping of Margaret Hassan is shocking but not surprising. We have come to accept that the same thing might happen to any of our family or friends. In fact, it already has happened to my dearest friend Nada.

Last month, her nephew Baree Ibrahim, an engineer, was kidnapped. I remember Baree very well from the mid-70s. Here is his aunt's account of what happened:

"Dear Haifa,

"My nephew Baree was picked up on September 25 and no ransom was asked. Actually the kidnappers didn't contact his family, and this led us to believe that they mistook him for someone else as he looked so European. He was beheaded on Saturday October 2.

"I had a phone call from his brother to tell me to tune to al-Jazeera. I saw on TV, Baree talking with mute sound and the writing at the bottom of the screen saying that Iraqi engineer Baree Nafee Dawood Ibrahim was beheaded by 'Jamaa ansar assunna' and the detail of the beheading procedure can be seen on one of the Islamic sites. I called my sister immediately. She was unable to answer the phone. They couldn't mourn him traditionally because the body was not found. A couple of days later his brother was in Baghdad. He and his cousins went every day to the hospital's mortuary to look for Baree's body but they couldn't find him. They even went to look for his body in side streets but to no avail.

"My sister and her immediate family are all now in Amman, Jordan and my other brother and sisters and their children are preparing to leave Iraqs for Syria. At the moment there are about 2 million Iraqi in Jordan and the same in Syria and Lebanon. Some 200,000 Christian Iraqis have fled the country in the last couple of months. This is the freedom and democracy promised to the Iraqis. Nada."

This is the daily reality in the new Iraq, especially in Baghdad. An average of 100 Iraqis are killed every day. Kidnapping for profit or revenge is widespread. Young girls are sold to neighbouring countries for prostitution.

Madeline Hadi, a nine-year-old girl, was kidnapped from her father's car in the al-Doura district of Baghdad. Zinah Falih Hassan, a student in al-Warkaa secondary school, also in Baghdad, was kidnapped on her way back from school. Asma, a young engineer, was abducted in Baghdad. She was shopping with her mother, sister and male relative when six armed men kidnapped her. She was repeatedly raped.

Mahnaz Bassam and Raad Ali Abdul Aziz were kidnapped last month along with two Italian aid workers and subsequently released. Unlike the Italians, the two Iraqis did not receive media attention in the west. No one prayed for them.

And aid workers are not the only victims - 250 university professors and scientists have been killed in the past year, according to the Union of University Lecturers, and more than 1,000 academics have left the country

Iraqi journalists are also frequently harassed, threatened and attacked by occupying troops. This year, 12 of the 14 journalists killed were Iraqi, and six Iraqi media workers were also killed. Many journalists have also fled the country.

More than 100 Iraqi doctors and consultants have been killed or kidnapped in the past year. A spokesperson for the Iraqi Medical Society described the kidnappings as "intimidating and forcing them to leave the country". The latest victim was Dr Turki Jabar al Saadi, chair of the Iraqi veterinary society. He was shot in the head on October 21. None of these killings has been investigated. These atrocities go unrecorded. The dead are unnamed.

… Death is covering us like fine dust. …

Saturday, November 20, 2004


Nihad Had to Die

Nihad was a young man aged 23 who lived in a small town. He made his living by collecting fresh milk from the countryside and delivering it to a wholesaler in Baghdad.

While going through one such round, he was about 300 yards from an American army convoy when the convoy was hit by some explosive device. The soldiers started shooting at anything in sight. Nihads car was targeted (I saw the car and counted 19 bullet holes in it, eight in the windscreen). He received a bullet in the thigh. A second bullet brushed against his head.

Nihad threw himself from the car, crawled into a drainage canal and made his way to a near-by village where the people took him home.

During that time, someone passing by, who knew Nihad's car, went into town (about 15 miles away) and told his father. The father rushed to the scene with two of his other sons and was desperate when he saw his son's blood on the cushion but no sign of the boy.

He approached the American soldiers and tried to gain any information from them. It was difficult through the language barrier. One of the US boys slipped him a small piece of paper. A few days later he showed me that slip. It was 3x1" scrap with something like (x Inf Div 186 PC) -) hurriedly scribbled on it. I can't remember the numbers exactly, but the father still has that piece of paper

I know Nihad's father well. I saw the young man a few days later and was amazed at the incredible sight of the bald patch on the crown of his head, left by the near-fatal bullet. I urged the father to take the matter up with the US army authorities (US soldiers are not subject to Iraqi legal jurisdiction), but he wasn't interested; he had no faith in the Americans!

Nihad pulled through.

On the 40th day of the first incident, Nihad was driving through his own town at 9:30 pm. He was several hundred meters from his home. There was what they call a foot-patrol of some 10 infantry men going through the same road. Apparently, Nihad failed to see them or failed to stop. They shot at him. Again, he was injured and, again, he threw himself out of the car. One of the soldiers came close to him and, standing over him, fired five bullets into his chest and head. His brain was splashed onto the pavement.

There were quite a number of people out in the street at the time. More than a dozen people had a clear view of the proceedings. They were quick to point out to others the almost-vertical bullets in the road surface.

Nihad's body was taken away by the soldiers and returned to his family the following morning by the Iraqi National Guard.

When I saw his father again about a week after the incident, he showed me another piece of paper. It was a typed, A5 size page expressing the regret of the US army at the incident caused by Nihad's failure to stop at a check point. The father, again, refused to take the matter up legally with the US army authorities.

About two weeks later, the Army sent Nihad's father an envelope with $2,500 in cash in it. The father took the money and gave it to someone in town whom he knew to be with the resistance.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Inshallah & Mashallah

Inshallah and Mashallah are commonly used expressions in Iraq. However, unlike shaku maku, they are not unique to this country and are used extensively all over the Muslim world. They are in fact also normally used also by Iraqi Christians.


Inshallah [Literally: If God Wills] Equivalent to: "God Willing"

An average Iraqi uses the expression Inshallah at least a dozen times in an average day! It is frequently used with the future tense of speech: "I'll see you tomorrow, Inshallah!", "I'll come to the meeting, Inshallah!", "I'll do it as soon as I finish this, Inshallah" and so on and so forth! In a way, it also offers some room for escaping firm commitments sometimes!

Iraqi Airways, when we had airways, had the initials "IA". Due to its frequent delays, some people referred to it as Inshallah Airways!


Mashallah [Literally: Whatever God Wills] Equivalent to: "Praise the Lord".

This is most frequently used to express exclamation at something good or pretty; a cause for happiness, a success, a fortune, a beautiful child…

The dear father of a dear, life-long Kurdish friend was terminally ill with cancer a few years ago. He had a wife, three sons and one daughter who were all abroad. Actually, they had taken the old man abroad but he insisted on coming back to Iraq. [Kurds are notorious for being rather stubborn - that's the general stereotype anyway!] There was no one to look after him but a niece.

She unfortunately had a husband who was paralyzed from the neck down whom she had to look after. Her home was several miles away from her uncle's. She solved the problem by moving her husband to her uncle's home. The two men didn't get along when they well both well. But under those conditions that didn't matter much!

So, she kept each in a separate bedroom and dedicated herself totally to looking after them. I and three other friends frequently visited them.

It so happened that both men died in the same morning. A mosque's Imam was duly informed and he came with some entourage. They brought one coffin with them. Someone told him that the deceased were two. Instead of the usual mumbles of resignation usually uttered in such occasions, the man raised his hands and reflexively exclaimed: "Mashallah!"

I and my friends were so surprised by his reaction! We kept referring to that incident for years. But some very devout Muslims look at death this way [The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away?]. They not only believe it but genuinely feel it!
Little did we know then that we are in for a lot more of this.

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