Iraq Happens… Our Would-Be Courier Killed, and Other Recent Updates - 05.15.2006

It’s ironic, and perhaps a bit too flippant, but it was the only thing I could think of when Omar told me the news today.

I’ve finally recovered a bag that was lost by Royal Jordanian that contained 110 hours of MiniDV tape for the video end of the project, after being forced to pay 39 Jordanian Dinar for customs to release it.

I don’t know what US Customs is like, being an American citizen and never forced to navigate it, but I can tell you that Jordanian and Iraqi customs can be described by one word: Kafka-esque.

When I finally obtained my bag, I found the tapes absent, and was told by Royal Jordanian that “no one had gone through my bag, not RJ or customs.” After haggling a bit, it turned up that of course they had gone through my bag and there was a ticket in the bag to bring for the box of tapes.

I was initially told I would have to pay 95 JD. But so that you can understand where haggling will get you, even though I was told “there is nothing we can do” repeatedly, the “chief of customs” eventually marked the price down to 56 JD, and then, after I explained to him I am a freelance journalist, etc. It was marked down to 39 JD.

Perhaps if I had until next Ramadan, I could have received the tapes for free. Considering that I brought 6 cameras through customs with no problems however, it seems like the joke is on them!

When I returned to the flat I called Omar, to check on our progress to find a driver to transport the camera, tapes, etc. to him in Iraq, I heard the news.

“Well you know dude, we can’t use that driver now, just because he is dead.”

I didn’t know how to respond, I believed he was a friend of Omar and his brother, Mhyar, but I guess they weren’t close. I gave him my apologies, but Omar’s sort of “it happens” reaction led me to my own blasphemous thought, “Iraq happens.”

In other news, yesterday an Iraqi friend in Amman received a call from another friend who now lives in Amman. According to this friend, who is from Fallujah, just this morning he received a call that US forces broke into his house and arrested his sons as well as the other men in the house, and smashed his home up, apparently searching for weapons or something else. I’m trying to make an interview with him and, inshallah, it will happen soon.

This friend gave me an interview his organization taped with a woman who was arrested by the US and I hope to have that translated and uploaded soon.

There have also been reports of renewed fighting in Samarra from friend here, and we’ll be trying to reach a doctor who works in the hospital there. The only news I’ve found that mentions Samarra recently, however, is in the context of the shrine bombing, and nothing recent.

See here.

The government negotiations aren’t going well, not only has the Fadhila party pulled out altogether, Bahaa al-Araji is threatening that the United Iraqi Alliance will form a government unilaterally, I’m not sure this is really possible, but I’ll be looking into it and trying to post more soon.

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