[Editor’s note: Omar worked with Alive in Baghdad last fall, as our translator, fixer, and all around good guy. Now he’s shooting video for us in Baghdad, we’re looking forward to the first delivery of tapes later this week. He’s going to begin doing regular dispatches as well about his experiences on the beat.]
Today I was in Adhameya for a gallery opening, to interview artists and show some of the different things happening here. Even in Baghdad, in the midst of the war, we have an art gallery opening!
There were 2 blasts today in Adhamiya, while I was covering the gallery. The attacks targeted a police station and an Iraqi National Guard base near Delal square. They blocked the street for more than two hours and I was trapped there. then they started making raids on homes and searching inside homes nearby the blasts.
I took a few shots of the soldiers when they entered the gallery we were in. they were standing in the front door and i took a shot of them from the window. The shot wasn’t too clear, but it’s clear enough to see ther were soldiers in the gallery doorway.
Today I interviewed a member of UNESCO who runs an organisation that work on planting flowers around Baghdad, but the new government prevented them from doing that. They prevented this because the organization existed before the war. The blasts and gunfire occured while I was shooting this interview.
I was trying to film the blasts, but the National Guard prevented me from doing that. they just took the tape. They said go back inside, and took the tape. I had just filmed the first blast and there was a lot of smoke and fire at the end of the street i was standing in and there were Iraqi soldiers running toward the bomb site. They were shooting in the air and running. The video i shot was very close to them and very clear. But they didn’t know for what channel I worked, and they didn’t ask me for my badge. There were Americans at the bomb site, maybe 10 humvees, and a lot of infantry in the street as well.
While I was shooting, one of the Iraqi National Guard soldiers tapped me on the shoulder and told me “Turn the camera off, and take the tape out of the camera.”
I showed him my press badge, but he said he didn’t care, he just wanted the tape and that’s it. Then he told me to go back in the gallery. Then they began arresting people in the gallery. There were some people walking on the street when the blast took place.
The guard of the gallery offered to let them come into the gallery, and there was a big crowd in there. Then the Iraqi National Guard came in and arrested 4 of the people who were staying in the gallery. These weren’t people involved with the art show, but just people who were on the street.
One of the detainees was armed. I think he was just carrying a weapon for self-defense. I dont think he was an insurgent and he didn’t look anything like a mujahideen, just like a regular citizen. I even think he had permission to carry his gun for self-defense.
We were trapped in the gallery for more than 2 hours, but after that they let us go.