Wednesday, March 16, 2005


A New Mood in Baghdad

Criminals and orqanized gangs are still at large in Iraq. Kidnappings and armed robberies are still common place. Yet, for the first time in nearly two years, the number of blasts and violent incidents we hear in Baghdad is less than the number reported by the media, bad as they sound or look on the news.

Since the elections, more than six weeks ago, there has been a different mood in the city. You can see it in people’s faces, in the number of women drivers and in the number of boys playing soccer in football fields. Perhaps even more significant is the number of teenage girls walking to school, unescorted! It is also evident in people staying outside a bit later after sunset and shopkeepers staying open slightly longer in the evening.

Even the police seem to have found some useful things to do; only yesterday, I saw a detachment of policemen evicting peddlers who have trespassed onto the pavement of a busy road. A few days ago, near the Internet shop where I usually go I saw four policemen chasing a young man. One of them was firing some shots in the air (probably to frighten him into stopping). All cars naturally came to a stop. A man in his mid thirties, with his wife sitting next to him, left his car and hindered the getaway of the young man. The policemen therefore caught up with him, overpowered him and took him away. I have no idea what that young man had done, but the scene made quite a contrast from the approach of shooting first... that has become almost familiar over the past two years!

Generally, a more relaxed atmosphere. Yet, the situation seems so fluid.

Playing the democratic game of elections despite its many shortcomings, the Iraqis have made some surprising statements. I think they even managed to surprise themselves. Yet, so many people with their own agenda are hastily, and perhaps unwisely, drawing erroneous conclusions.

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