I’ll write a full post about all of this tomorrow, but I wanted to throw up a quick note to tide readers over.
I will be presenting in Manchester New Hampshire tomorrow, so I may not get to writing again until Tuesday. I was in Rochester New York at the end of last week, which prevented my writing until now.
The “In Their Own Words” tour is continuing and we are in the process of arranging events in Michigan, North Carolina, and south Florida. If you are interested in having an event in your area, please send us an email, and if you are interested to receive updates in your email, you can click here: Or click here to subscribe.
You may also post a comment to this entry.
As for the matter at hand, Reidar Visser has some very interesting commentary and a detailed analysis regarding the UIA’s results in the december election. Reidar’s analysis of the political situation in Iraq can be followed regularly at his website: http://historiae.org/index.asp
Regarding Jill Carroll, and the Christian Peacemaker Teams, I have already discussed some of the interesting details here. It is interesting that both kidnappings were by an unknown group with a similar name; “Swords of Righteousness Brigade” and “Brigade of Vengeance.” Both groups also demanded the release of Iraqi prisoners in exchange for the release of hostages. These groups have not been heard of previously and are still unknown as major players in Iraq.
One thing which has not been considered is the possibility that Shiites are involved in the kidnapping. Despite the fact that Rory Carroll has reported he was abducted by Iraqi Police officers in late October, this event has received very little play in the media or consideration when constructing a more nuanced impression of the situation in Iraq.
I am not intending to suggest that the interim government or Shiites are responsible for the kidnappings of Christian Peacemaker Teams members or Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Carroll. However, I do believe it is worth at least considering. It is also worth being clear that there is little evidence of specifically Sunni involvement in the kidnappings.
Sunni organizations who have been connected to resistance groups in the past, such as the Association of Muslim Scholars, have unanimously condemned the kidnapping, and since Al Qaeda has not claimed responsibility, it is hard to believe it is a major Sunni resistance group that is involved. Furthermore, with the revelation of secret prisons being run by the interim government, the world could no longer ignore the brutal nature of Iraq’s new leaders.
Another question that is also worth asking is why the media is so quick to condemn the kidnapping of Jill Carroll, yet ignores the repeated killing, harassment, and detention of Iraqi journalists by the United States military.
This is not to suggest that one act is better or worse than the other. However, if we are trying to determine a third way in Iraq, beyond US occupation and Shiite/Iranian dominance. But in order to see Iraq achieve stability, security, and something resembling a “government of national unity,” the mainstream press must do a far better job of providing a nuanced understanding in Iraq, and providing equal defense and support to Iraqis as they provide to foreigners, specifically non-Arabs.
The dangers of kidnapping are far greater for Iraqis than foreigners. OF the five confirmed deaths of kidnap victims, four of them were Iraqi. 70% of the journalists killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003 have been Iraqis.
More soon about the situation in Iraq and the prospects facing Iraq in light of the election results.
Occupation Denies Validity of Election
Brian Conley and Isam Rashid
Inter Press Service
BAGHDAD, Dec 31 (IPS) - The Dec. 15 election may have marked a turning point for the involvement of Sunnis in the new political process. But while many Sunnis turned out to vote, resistance groups have said they will continue fighting as long as the United States maintains a presence in Iraq.
Despite these comments by the mainly Sunni resistance, this election showed a very different response by Iraqi Sunnis than was exhibited in the previous January election. The Dec. 15 election was the most well attended of the three elections that have been held since the fall of Saddam’s regime.
In all 10.8 million people are said to have voted. Sunni participation followed a desire to participate in the political process in the new Iraq. Since January Sunnis have repeatedly complained of being denied a place in deciding the direction of Iraq’s affairs of state.
Previously the Sunnis boycotted the election, hoping that this would help invalidate it. The refusal of anti-occupation Shias to follow suit detracted from the impact of the Sunni boycott.
“I did not go to the last election on 30 January, because the United States troops were bombing Fallujah,” 36 year-old civil engineer Ahmed Ali told IPS. “We hoped the Shias would do the same to send a message to the U.S. army and show them how we have strong solidarity, but they didn’t.”
This led many Sunnis to become disenchanted with refusal as a strategic response to what they see as the illegitimacy of a government established and protected by the United States.
Ahmed and other Sunnis went to the polls in force. “Suddenly we found the Sunnis pushed out of the Iraqi government,” Ahmed said. “Because all of that, we decided to go to the new election, we voted for the Sunni list.”
The Sunni parties worked hard to bring their constituents to the polls, hoping that there would not be a repeat of the January election where many Sunnis were kept out of the political process. The elections have been marred by hundreds of allegations of fraud, and currently the Electoral Commission overseeing the elections is investigating these claims.
Dr. Huda al’Nuaymi, a representative of the Sunni-dominated Iraqi National Dialogue party, told IPS that “we asked all Iraqi people to come and vote in this election. After the election happened we discovered there was a lot of fraud.”
In the face of the fraud, many of the smaller opposition parties have joined together to oppose the results. “Because of the fraud, the Iraqi National Dialogue party joined with 35 other political blocs and issued a statement asking the Iraqi government to cancel the election and to have a new vote,” Nuaymi said.
United Nations officials have said they think the election has been fair, but an international mission will travel to Iraq in order to verify the results.
The revelations of fraud and inconsistency have confirmed many Sunni Iraqis’ support for armed resistance. They say armed resistance is the only way to end the occupation.
“I did not believe the election would make the situation in Iraq better, because we are under occupation,” said Alaa Adel, a 32-year-old guard at a Sunni mosque in Baghdad. “I’m sure only real resistance will force the occupation forces to end their occupation.”
The coalition forces failed in Iraq because “there is no security, no petrol, no electricity, no water, no nothing,” a resident said, asking not to be named. “Now they want to make a fake government to serve them and a fake democracy and run away as quickly as possible.”
The resident said he did not vote. “After all that how can I go to this election. Of course I didn’t go, because if I went I would serve the occupation forces.”
Alaa Adel said that only after the occupation has ended will Iraq have a fair election. “There is no democracy in Iraq under occupation. After that, we can make real election between real Iraqi people.” (END/2005)
This past Wednesday, December 28th, Evan Greer of Riot Folk organized a benefit show for Alive in Baghdad.
The benefit was attended by over one hundred individuals and raised eight hundred dollars for the Alive in Baghdad project!
The Alive in Baghdad Project would like to use this space to thank Riot Folk, Evan Greer, and all the performers at the benefit show. Furthermore, if you are interested in helping set up a similar benefit show or screening of video from Iraq, or speaking event, please write the project at email@example.com .
We would also like to use this place to remind readers of the site and viewers of our video clips and photos that this is only a small portion of the necessary budget to continue this project. If you value the straightforward content and analysis available here, you should donate to keep this project alive.
Keep in mind that this is second to last day of 2005, and that donations to the project are tax-deductible.
As 2006 begins, the prospects for an end to the occupation and war in Iraq seem slim. I am hoping to go back to Baghdad and continue producing content that reveals a more accurate picture of the situation in Iraq.
This can’t be done without your help. Keep in mind that nearly 50,000 people have viewed this site. If each of them gave even $1, we would be able to continue working from Iraq for the entirety of 2006. Please consider giving 5, 10 or $25, more if you can! We need to raise $6000 just to pay off debts and return to Iraq for one month, approximately $3000/month is needed to work in the country for each subsequent month.
It has been just over two months since Iraqis approved a new consitution. This constitution outlaws torture and the detention of Iraqis by foreign occupation forces.
Despite these articles in the consitution, torture continues in Iraq. It also continues after an election with 69% turnout, which many Iraqis believed would cause these kinds of actions to end, and the Bush administration has predicted will help complete Iraq’s transition to democracy.
Just 4 days before Iraq’s historic election and the next step in its transition to democracy, four more Sunnis were abducted by Iraqi police from the Abu Dasher district in Baghdad.
According to a source close to the situation, these men were found dead one day later in the condition seen here in photos from the source.
[Editor’s note: Most of these photos are gruesome and quite disturbing, if you choose to view them, please consider yourself forewarned.]
Due to the ongoing problems of torture in Iraq, the United States, despite its expressed desire to establish a democracy in Iraq, is currently in violation of Iraq’s new consitution.
According to the New York Times, the United States, “will not pass on facilities or detainees until they meet the standards we define and that we are using today.”
Amnesty International’s Jumana Musa has also indicated that prisoners should not be turned over to Iraqi authorities, again, in defiance of Iraq’s new constitution.
His words can be seen in this article from Reuters, discussing the problems facing the United States due to its ballooning prisoner population in Iraq.
These statements, as I’ve said, appear to be in violation of Iraq’s new constitution, as per articles
21, section 1: First: No Iraqi shall be surrendered to foreign entities and authorities;
and 35, part B: B. No person may be kept in custody or interrogated except in the context of a judicial decision.
However, Iraq’s government itself is also in violation of its own constitution according to the same article
35, part C: C. All forms of psychological and physical torture and inhumane treatment shall be prohibited. Any confession coerced by force, threat, or torture shall not be relied on. The victim shall have the right to compensation in accordance with the law for material and moral damages incurred.
and also 19, section 12: Twelfth:
A. [Unlawful] detention is prohibited.
B. Detention or arrest is prohibited in places not designed for it, pursuant to prison regulations covered by health and social care and subject to the scrutiny of the law.
More about the Iraqi Constitution, and links to various versions here on Wikipedia.
Both of these ironies, are typical of the nature of the situation in Iraq currently, and the daily contradictions occurring on the ground. Irony one is the refusal of the United States to cooperate fully with what the Bush administration considers Iraq’s democratically elected government and irony two is the failure of the Iraqi government to comply with what it considers its new constitution, legitimately accepted during the October 15th referendum.
The failure of the media to put a spotlight on the contradictions inherent in Iraq’s existence continues to impact the nature of the conflict. Furthermore, manye of these contradictions help to shed light on the nature of complaints the Iraqi resistance has toward the interim government and the occupation authority.
Until the United States properly accomodates international law and deals directly with the resistance in order to develop a proper truce or armistice, it is likely these contradictions will continue. Nearly all Iraqi parties involved in the conflict are opposed to the presence of Al Qaeda and foreign fighters, however the continuing presence of the United States in conflict with the resistance prevents an adequate and unifed response being directed against Al Qaeda and these foreign parties generating problems for Iraq’s unification and reconstruction.
The Asia Times unveiled last week a document they obtained from someone close to the Iraqi resistance.
You can read more about the document in the article: ASIA TIMES ARTICLE
In this document which you can see here: DOCUMENT
This document appears to verify the claims many Arab Sunnis and Turkmen have been making for months. Some have made these claims for longer. The mainstream media have been touting claims of a coming civil war in Iraq for months now.
It now appears that the United State’s failure to acknowledge the presence of Shiite death squads could be one of the main instigators of a civil war in Iraq. The prevalence of hit lists and targeted assassinations have been discussed for months.
As you can see in this article from Al Jazeera, the fear of targetted killings is just as strong today as it was in Saddam’s time. Many Iraqis told me they were more worried about being killed or kidnapped by government agents or criminal gangs today than they ever were during Saddam’s time.
Most told me that before the fall of Saddam’s regime, as long as you kept your mouth shut and did not complain about the situation in Iraq too much you would be fine. Saddam’s agents kept the security in Iraq and made the streets safe.
Today in Iraq everyone is afraid of being kidnapped or killed at any moment. During the three weeks I was in Iraq, my fixer Omar had one friend shot to death by two unidentified men in Black and another friend’s father was shot by criminals who came looking for him at his store.
We also interviewed a woman named Balkees who told us about how her husband was killed by men believed to be fundamentalist Islamists. She and her Husband are Sabeans a little known religious sect in the Middle East. Sabeans are followers of John the Baptist. You can read more about her account of the attack in the English transcript here:
Furthermore, the raids of Iraqi Police and National Guards, netting innocent victims who are later tortured have been an ongoing problem as well. A man named Omar was taken from his home by Iraqi Police in September and was identified at the morgue by his family 3 days later, where he was found with many markings indicating he had been tortured before his death.
PICTURES OF OMAR AND OTHER TORTURE IMAGES
Al Jazeera also posted a partial list in September of Iraqis who have been assassinated since the invasion in March 2003. This list seems to demonstrate the degree to which assassinations have been a grave influence on the brain-drain of Iraq. The majority of the individuals cited in this list are Professors or Professionals, members of Iraq’s dwindling intellectual class.
AL’JAZEERA LIST OF ASSASSINATED IRAQIS
These are all examples of the ongoing process of destabilizing Iraq. This process is longterm and could be reversed with a strong influence by the international community. It would mean the United States looking at stabilizing Iraq as at least equally important and interesting as “fighting terrorists” or “creating a 21st century military.” These two things very much appear to be the most important items on Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s agendas, respectively.
Iraq is not a place where civil war is a given. But neither is it a given that the recent elections will bring about a “western style democracy,” or even a recognizable democracy of any kind. As the debate over the proper handling of the elections draws to a close within the next week, it will be important to ask the world’s leaders, particuarly those in Iraq and the United States, whether a swift solution is more important than a secure solution.
Iraqis have repeatedly told me that they need security more than democracy. Which is not to say that they don’t want to have a free and open society. It is to say that the United States, as the occupying force, should pay more attention to its responsibilities to everyone in Iraq.
Certainly it is not too much to ask us to pay at least as much attention to protecting Iraqis from street criminals and their own government as we do searching for the elusive Zarqawi.
This past Tuesday I was interviewed by Tom Jackson of Joe Public Media.
Tom Jackson has been involved with Voices in the Wilderness in the past and is now working as a media activist in New Hampshire. He has asked me to speak in Portsmouth New Hampshire on the 23rd of January.
We spoke a great deal about the situation facing Iraqis on the ground and I tried to keep the perspective on the important and absent element of the Iraq war. The Iraqi people themselves.
I am in the process of setting up speaking events around the country, and currently have several scheduled for the Northeast. If you are in the area, and would like to hear more about the situation in Iraq, see more videos, etc. Please contact me about attending one of these events. The current schedule looks like this:
December 28th, Benefit show and small screening at 45 Mt. Auburn St. Cambridge MA
January 19th, Speaking event in Rochester NY, sponsored by Rochester Against the War
January 23rd, Speaking event in Portsmouth NH, sponsored by Joe Public Media and Seacoast Peace Response
January 24th, Speaking event in Manchester NH
Speaking event in Great Barrington MA, sponsored by the local Unitarian Church
Speaking event in Marblehead MA, sponsored by the local Unitarian Church
Please consider attending one of these events if they are in your area, or sponsoring an event where you’re located! Keep in mind that, in order to return to Baghdad and continue this work, the project must raise several thousand dollars. The only way we are raising this money right now is from these speaking events and from donations by people like you! Please consider donating even five or ten dollars.
Amman’s Optimism Demonstrates Potential of a New Iraq
By Brian Conley and Shadi Al’Kasim
Thursday, 22 December 2005
In Amman, Jordan the Iraqi election went off with little noticeable trouble. Currently there are approximately one million Iraqis seeking refuge in Jordan from the turmoil in Iraq. These same Iraqis went to the polls all over Amman in order to help peace return to their home country.
Ten schools in Amman were closed to facilitate the election process. Unlike the constitution referendum, Iraqis outside Iraq were permitted to participate in the process, just as they did in the January elections. 320,000 Iraqis participated in the election abroad in the recent election.
Jordan’s share of ballots from abroad was 31,000, the largest share of the vote. They were enthusiastic about their chance to elect Iraq’s first long-term governing body since the collapse of Saddam’s regime in 2003. Many said they voted to elect Iyad Allawi’s list. Others said they hoped the election would benefit their ethnic group.
It’s December 21st, 4 days until Christmas and nearly 2 weeks since any word appeared about the Christian Peacemakers. Kidnapping of foreigners continues throughout the Middle East. The latest kidnapping happened in Gaza, not in Iraq, and involved two Australian nationals.
However, in Iraq, it is important to remember that kidnapping is a much larger problem for Iraqis than for Foreigners. I am not versed in the impact of kidnapping in Palestine so I can’t speak to the issue there. A report by my friend Greg Rollins(also a Peacemaker) quoted an Iraqi Policeman in Baghdad suggesting that as many as 300 kidnappings of Iraqis had occurred in 2005 in his district alone!
This 300 kidnappings in one police district accounts only for those kidnappings that were reported. Consider the hesitance of the CPT to speak to the media in the days immediately following their colleagues’ kidnapping.
If Westerners, with access to skilled security experts and the US, UK, and Canadian embassies to back up police report were unwilling to report the kidnappings, how can one expect Iraqis, who are just trying to avoid death or injury on a daily basis, be expected to react differently?
Although the Christian Peacemaker Team members are still missing, there are some good signs ahead. I recently received a document anonymously from someone purporting to be a representative of Wahj al Iraq. This document is also from the spokesman for the Patriotic National and Islamic Front. The document reads as follows:
The general secretary of Wahj Al Iraq and the official spokesman of the Patriotic National & Islamic Front pleaded the kidnappers to release the hostages.
The general secretary of Wahj Al Iraq and the official spokesman of the Patriotic National & Islamic Front, Sheikh Majeed Al G’ood pleaded he kidnappers of the European and Moroccan hostages.
He said in the letter he wrote addressing them: ” I want to remind you, as you are the guard for our homes and women and families, and he crown on our heads, and the protectors that protect us, that dark will fade away, when the sun of freedom lights our homeland by the efforts of your hands ”
And he added: ” Those who are strong are the ones that forgive while they are in the position of strength, and I plead you, personally and on behalf of all the good people that oppose the occupation, and by the names of our mighty martyrs, and by the name of all those who supported our resistance and still do, from all around the world, to answer my request and release all the hostages; our Moroccans brothers, the peace activists and the German archeologist who had unforgettable humanitarian deeds towards Iraq ”
And he said: “I ask you as a brother, as a request from one that you can’t let down, to answer my request and plead and set all the kidnapped ones free “.
I will attempt to upload the original as an image, in order to include the group’s seal, and further assure I received it. If this document is authentic, it is a very good sign for the safety of my friend and his colleagues. This is of course assuming that they have been kidnapped by Resistance or insurgent fighters. If you look here, you can see another letter from Sheikh Majeed Al G’ood. Clearly the Patriotic National Front is not a collaborator with the Occupation, and there are reasons for fighters to heed their requests. Unfortunately, in the murky world of Iraq’s competing Resistance and insurgent movements, things aren’t as cut and dry as President Bush and his team would describe it.
I hope however, that this group which has taken the Christian Peacemaker Team members will release them soon.
Here is the CPT’s most recent release about their colleagues:
Iraq Team Message to the Missing CPTers
Dear Harmeet, Jim, Norman and Tom,
We still are longing to see your faces. So many people continue to let us know that they are thinking of you and praying for you. As Christmas approaches, we continue to hope that you will be able to join us and your families for the celebrations. Anita has written her aunt for the best turkey dressing recipe known to the world. We continue to stay in touch with your families. Your friends in Iraq ask about you all the time. We don’t know how much you get outside, but the weather is nice here in Baghdad. We hope to see you soon.
With much love,
Your Team Mates in Baghdad
As you enjoy your Holiday season(or don’t, depending on yoru religion and world outlook!), please keep these Christian Peacemakers in your thoughts, but please also, balance it with hope for all the people of Iraq, who are having a difficult time too, and as individuals are too often overlooked in our thoughts.
Please consider these words from Greg Rollins of CPT:
If we in CPT have received a lot of press over our kidnapped colleagues, it is only because we are foreigners. It is disturbing that CPT’s personal tragedy outshines the more frequent abductions of Iraqi civilians but in the end, it doesn’t matter if you are Iraqi or a foreigner, the waiting is still the hardest part.
As Bush Claims “Victory,” Iraq’s Military Stumbles On
Thursday, 15 December 2005
More than two years have passed since Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority dissolved Iraq’s military. Today the United States and the interim government are desperate to reconstruct this broken army. Sectarianism and basic mistrust have been two of the largest hurdles. Furthermore, many Iraqis are wary of becoming involved in the country’s defense if it means being subservient to the interim government, an administration which they see as illegitimate.
On November 30, in Annapolis, Maryland, George W. Bush delivered the most recent of a long line of Iraq victory speeches. In this speech he detailed the conditions that will be necessary, and the markers that must be passed, to ensure the United States can withdraw from Iraq. He assured the nation, “As the Iraqi security forces stand up, coalition forces can stand down — and when our mission of defeating the terrorists in Iraq is complete, our troops will return home to a proud nation.”
To read the rest of the article, please visit Toward Freedom here.
Torture Hovers Over Poll
Brian Conley and Omar Abdullah
This time it is not allegations against U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib or other prisons, but against Iraqi police and militia seen as backed by the Shia-dominated interim government.
“People are doing the same as Saddam’s time and worse,” former prime minister Iyad Allawi recently told The Observer newspaper. “These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same thing.”
Allawi made these accusations against the backdrop of a recent U.S. raid that uncovered a torture centre in Western Iraq.
Torture and abuse were well known under Saddam, as Allawi reminded the international community, but they continue in the new Iraq as well. The Baghdad morgue has reported many cases of bodies being brought with wounds indicative of abuse.
Many dead are found abandoned in ditches, with their wrists in handcuffs.. Morgues have received bodies bearing wounds apparently from electric drills. Bodies are also found with cigarette burns, and several bear multiple abrasions from blows, or evidence of being hung by their hands or feet.
Few in Iraq doubt that the interim government detains and tortures people. Influential Sunnis and people on the street alike have complained to the central government about secret prisons all over Iraq — particularly in Baghdad.
Ali Shalal Abbas from the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons told IPS there are “over 200 secret prisons in Iraq, which operate under the control of various parties and ministries.”
Most of the prisons are believed to be under the command of the ministry of the interior. The Association members visited the UN office in Amman Nov. 20, and provided them with details of seven secret prisons, all supervised by the ministry of the interior.
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari ordered an investigation into the prison discovered by U.S. forces early November. But it is unclear whether other secret facilities located in places such as the ministry of interior headquarters in Baghdad and at the prison in al-Kot and the al-Zober prison in Basra are being investigated.
It also appears unlikely the Iraqi government will expand its investigations to include other complaints of abuse and illegal detention by the Iraqi police.
Allawi’s accusations appear to be bearing out, but the former interim prime minister may have more than just the Sunni community’s interest at heart.
Allawi made the allegations only about the misdeeds of the interim Shia dominated government; he was silent on the misdeeds of his own earlier government.
Allawi was handpicked by the United States for the post of prime minister for the government formed after the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). He helped continue many CPA practices — including criminal abuse of human rights.
In July 2004 the Sydney Morning Herald alleged that during his time as prime minister Allawi “pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government.”
Iraqis are aware of Allawi’s murderous past. Many Sunnis oppose Allawi for his role in the raids on Fallujah. Shias hold Allawi responsible for the assault on Najaf. But although a Shia, he is seen as standing against sectarianism.
People also think now of the more murderous record of the last Shia-led government. “The United States, they brought many criminals to Iraq to run the government,” Ali Shalal Abbas told IPS. “These people don’t really care about Iraq, each one wants the best for his own party, his own group, not for Iraq.” Many Iraqis commonly say that the interim government arrived on American tanks.
Some Iraqis say these acts of torture only began with the American presence in Iraq. Many others see it as a continuation from the days of the Saddam regime. (END/2005)
Four Members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams were kidnapped almost two weeks ago. They are still missing, and apparently are still alive, despite an initial claim that they would be killed on December 8th.
There has been no sign of movement by the US, UK, and Iraqi governments to cooperate with the kidnappers’ demands.
The CPT however, have been hard at work to get the word out about the plight of their comrades. CPT, an NGO dedicated to non-violence has issued several press releases and statements since the kidnapping. Also, since the families revealed the identities of the hostages, there has been a flurry of activity by family members.
At this time the Christian Peacemakers are one of the only international organizations operating in Iraq. If there colleagues are not released, it may well be important for those opposed to the war to reconsider their view of the Iraqi Resistance.
While I was in Iraq, every Iraqi told me that they support the resistance and believe it is their right and duty, as Iraqis, to resist the Occupation. Many of these Iraqis also told me that while there is a legitimate, supported Resistance or “Maqowamah” as they say in Iraq, there were also terrorists.
The distinction has been drawn very carefully, that the Maqowamah target only the US patrols and tanks and bases, and unfortunately sometimes civilians are killed.
The terrorists, or “Irhabis” are just working to cause instability and destruction in Iraq. They target civilians without concern, they also are those involved in attacking the Mosques and other important places.
There are also criminals who are concerned only with money and their own gains. The criminals have engaged in kidnapping for profit, and this is one of the largest concerns about security in Iraq. Many more Iraqis appear to be worried about criminals than terrorism, especially in relatively stable areas such as Baghdad.
There have been thousands of cases of kidnappings since the war began in 2003, and particularly since the occupation began in the summer of 2003. Kidnappings are so common that it would be difficult to meet Iraqis who don’t have friends or relatives who have been kidnapped.
When I first arrived in Amman, I was staying at a popular cheap hotel, the Al Munzor. I had only been at the hotel a few days before the concierge, Jamal, introduced me to an Iraqi who had just arrived from Baghdad. Some men has kidnapped his uncle the week before, and were asking for one hundred thousand dollars in ransom.
This is an amount of money that is almost inconceivable to Iraqis. So much so, that Muhammad almost laughed at himself and the idea when he told us about his uncle.
It is very difficult to know who is holding the members of CPT, we can certainly be glad, however, that they are still be kept alive for now.
[Editor’s note: There will be an update to this post, once the videos and other text from CPT have been uploaded to Alive in Baghdad]
[Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of an article I wrote for TowardFreedom. I have also recently been taken on as a writer for Inter Press Service. Expect to see more articles in the near future re-posted here. Where possible I will post the entire piece, I will likely only be able to post a brief excerpt here however, with a direct link to the full article.]
Baghdad: Life During Wartime
By: Brian Conley
Thursday, 01 December 2005
Two and a half years into the occupation, war still rages on in Baghdad, Iraq. Two of the deadliest attacks in the last month occurred at the Palestine Hotel and the Hamra Hotel. Although Westerners frequent these hotels, the casualties were almost exclusively Iraqis living and working in the area. Yet just a few hours after the attacks, citizens were back on the streets, as if nothing had happened.
On Baghdad’s streets there is an almost a constant stream of traffic, interrupted regularly by military checkpoints. The traffic jams are due to a three-fold increase in the number of vehicles on Baghdad’s streets since the occupation began. The checkpoints and barricades are minimal attempts to create security out of the chaos of the Iraq War. Because of the constant fear of suicide attacks, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and car bombs, Baghdad is inundated with concrete barriers similar to those seen during highway construction in the US. In areas of high security or importance, there are larger versions which are ten feet tall and two feet thick.
Many Iraqis I spoke with stressed the lack of security as the biggest impact of the occupation. Ghazi Farhan, an Iraqi from Ramadi echoed this common sentiment, “On a typical Iraqi day, before the war, there was stability, and security. A person could go out of his home any time. But now, the Iraqi people can’t leave their homes. They are afraid of Americans, kidnappers, murderers, attacks. So it is a very bad situation, it is an unstable, insecure situation.”
To read the rest of the article, please visit Toward Freedom here.
[Editor’s Note: This is my first article from Inter Press Service, expect to see many more pieces reprinted here. Inter Press Service is a great outlet for alternative news on the issues of our day, please check them out, particularly for more coverage of Iraq from Dahr Jamail and others.
So Much Oil, And So Little
Inter Press Service
BAGHDAD, Nov 30 (IPS) - Before the recent war in Iraq, the sanctions decreased access to many resources, but gas was still plentiful and affordable. Since the invasion in 2003 gas and kerosene have been in short supply.
Iraq has the second largest oil deposits in the world, but Iraqis are forced to sit in excruciatingly long lines, waiting for a meagre amount of petrol.
Under Saddam Hussein’s regime the Oil for Food programme provided quotas for Iraq’s oil production. Iraq was able to meet, and illegally exceed, those limits.
Saddam’s regime was able to maintain tight security at oil drilling sites and pipelines, so supply was uninterrupted. Fuel cost approximately three cents a litre (about 10 cents a gallon).. Kerosene was even cheaper: a reliable electricity grid decreased the need for home generators, so the demand for kerosene was low.
“We used to get gas very easily, and we used to get kerosene very easily during the winter time,” says Hussein Rudha, a taxi driver in Baghdad. “We didn’t even have a problem with the rations. Even the prices for those materials were pretty cheap.”
After the fall of Saddam’s regime in April 2003, the security situation in Iraq swiftly deteriorated. In addition to the looting of the Iraqi National Museum and ministry buildings, the pipelines carrying Iraq’s oil were sabotaged more than 200 times.
The recurring acts of sabotage have greatly depleted Iraq’s local supplies of oil. Much of the oil that is produced is controlled by foreign companies, who were contracted to manage the oil early in the war.
Iraqis believe that the fuel produced in Iraq is exported, and the fuel available for use by Iraqis is imported from Kuwait or other oil-producing nations in the region.
The shortage has dramatically changed daily life in Iraq.. Baghdad residents may only drive on certain days: those whose licence plates end in even numbers may drive on even numbered dates and those ending in odd numbers may drive on days with odd numbers..
Some of the wealthier families own two cars with different plate numbers, enabling them to drive any day.
Drivers can only buy fuel on the days they can drive. This restriction, combined with the long gas queues, means that some people can only drive every third or fifth day. “I have spent 13 hours in a gas queue once, waiting from the morning, and when it was getting late, an American patrol came and told me it was time for me to go home because the curfew would be starting soon. So I wasted the whole day,” said Iraqi journalist Isham Rashid.
Waiting in the queue not only wastes time, it can be dangerous. One day I was videotaping the gas queue and Omar, my assistant, was taking photos. Our driver, Hussein, suddenly told me to put the camera down. I finished recording and placed it beneath the dashboard in time to see an American tank rumble by, almost close enough to touch.
Frequent American army patrols outside the city and along the highways are a source of tension and anxiety for Iraqis. “In the long gas lines we are afraid we will be injured by a car bomb attacking us, or maybe killed by an exchange of gunfire. Or the driver will have to stay in line for one day without being able to work,” says Khulood who lives in Baghdad as a refugee.
The even and odd restriction, and the long gas queues, have a particularly huge impact on the employment situation. Drivers are some of the only Iraqis still able to find work in Baghdad.
Having lost their previous professional positions or the ability to pursue their education, many members of Iraq’s middle class have pressed their mid-range to luxury vehicles into transporting those lucky enough to have found gainful employment. “I work as a taxi driver, I couldn’t continue my education because the conditions are so hard and because of the financial situation,” said the taxi driver Hussein, who is in his twenties.
Now Kerosene has also become scarce and expensive. The failing electricity grid has created a large market for kerosene-powered generators. The gas shortages and the long lines mean some families cannot obtain gas to keep their lights on or their houses warm in the winter.
“When we came here my child was nine days old and we didn’t have anything to keep her warm, so we used to cover her with a lot of blankets to keep her warm,” said Khulood..
The need for fuel for transportation and generators has fostered a large black market. These black market sources of gasoline are readily apparent in Baghdad.
There are places in the shadows of buildings where men in their twenties and thirties recline in the shade, seating themselves on makeshift chairs and propping their feet up on gasoline containers.
On the highways and the outer neighbourhoods of Baghdad it is easy to find young boys sitting on similar canisters in the sun or in the shade of a date tree. The more ambitious of these boys take pains to flag down passing vehicles, waving at them with makeshift funnels constructed from two-litre soda bottles.
Once, while out on the road, our driver ran low on fuel. We stopped for one of these boys selling fuel. After filling the tank, we tried to pay with a large bill. The boy did not have change, so he ran to the nearby gas station to get smaller bills. As we drove away I saw him return to the petrol station with his empty canister, doubtless to refill for the next needy customer.
The gas shortages are just one of many problems in the new Iraq, but they have become a symbol of the failure of the occupation. The Iraqi economy cannot be stabilised until the oil problem is addressed, and the country will not prosper if oil revenues continue to leave the country.
The new Iraqi constitution, passed recently in a historic referendum, only exacerbates the current problem. It has paved the way for increased privatisation of Iraq’s oil fields and outsourcing their vast wealth to foreign multinational corporations. As a result, Iraqis will continue to wait in long lines for small amounts of expensive fuel.
As we sit again in the line waiting for petrol, another American tank passes, and Hussein makes a statement that seems increasingly true in the new Iraq. “This is the new constitution.”
(Omar Abdullah contributed to this report) (END/2005)
As many are by now aware, a previously unknown group has been involved in the kidnapping of four peace activists. They wree kidnapped Saturday evening and thus far there has been no ransom or other statement besides a recent video released to Al Jazeera. In the video a group calling itself “The Swords of Righteousness Brigade” or “Swords of Truth Brigade” labels the kidnapped members of Christian Peacemaker Teams spies for the occupation. There have been no demands made by the group however. Because of this some security experts have suggested that they will only be looking for a ransom. Also the previously unknown stature of the group lends to the possibility that they are a group of petty criminals and not resistance fighters.
Tom Fox is a friend of mine whom I met during my time in Iraq. He has two children one in college and one in his late teens. I don’t know the other men but I can only assume they are just as strong in character and integrity as Tom.
I will continue to update here about their situation and try to write something more in depth about the events later this evening.
The Press Release:
November 30, 2005; 1:00 A.M. (Baghdad)
Update on Missing Persons in Iraq
We were very saddened to see the images of our loved ones on Al Jazeera television recently. We were disturbed by seeing the video and believe that repeated showing of it will endanger the lives of our friends. We are deeply disturbed by their abduction. We pray that those who hold them will be merciful and that they will be released soon. We want so much to see their faces in our home again, and we want them to know how much we love them, how much we miss them, and how anxious and concerned we are by what is happening to them.
We are angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. government due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people. Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has worked for the rights of Iraqi prisoners who have been illegally detained and abused by the U.S. government. We were the first people to publicly denounce the torture of Iraqi people at the hands of U.S. forces, long before the western media admitted what was happening at Abu Ghraib. We are some of the few internationals left in Iraq who are telling the truth about what is happening to the Iraqi people We hope that we can continue to do this work and we pray for the speedy release of our beloved teammates.
We can confirm the identities of those who are being held as follows:
Tom Fox, age 54, is from Clearbrook, Virginia and is a dedicated father of two children. For the past two years, Mr. Fox has worked with CPT in partnership with Iraqi human rights organizations to promote peace. Mr. Fox has been faithful in the observance of Quaker practice for 22 years. While in Iraq, he sought a more complete understanding of Islamic cultural richness. He is committed to telling the truth to U.S. citizens about the horrors of war and its effects on ordinary Iraqi civilians and families as a result of U.S. policies and practices. Mr. Fox is an accomplished musician. He plays the bass clarinet and the recorder and he loves to cook. He has also worked as a professional grocer. Mr. Fox devotes much of his time to working with children. He has served as an adult leader of youth programs and worked at a Quaker camp for youth. He has facilitated young people’s participation in opposing war and violence. Mr. Fox is a quiet and peaceful man, respectful of everyone, who believes that “there is that of God in every person” which is why work for peace is so important to him.
Norman Kember, age 74, is from London, England. He and his wife of 45 years have two married daughters and a 3-year old grandson. He has been a pacifist all his life beginning with his work in a hospital instead of National Service at age 18. Before his retirement he was a professor teaching medical students at St Bartholemew’s Hospital in London. He is well-known as a peace activist, and has been involved in
several peace groups. For the past 10 years he has volunteered with a local program providing free food to the homeless. He likes walking, birdwatching, and writing humorous songs and sketches. In his younger days he enjoyed mountaineering.
James Loney, 41, is a community worker from Toronto, Canada. He has been a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams since August 2000, and is currently the Program Coordinator for CPT Canada. On previous visits to Iraq, his work focused on taking testimonies from families of detainees for CPT’s report on detainee abuse, and making recommendations for securing basic legal rights. James was leading the November 2005 delegation in Iraq when he went missing. James is a peace activist, writer, trained mediator, and works actively with two Toronto community conflict resolution services. He has spent many years working to provide housing and support for homeless people. In a personal statement from James to CPT, he writes: “I believe that our actions as a people of peace must be an expression of hope for everyone. My hope in practising non-violence is that I can be a conduit for the transformative power of God’s love acting upon me as much as I hope it will act upon others around me.”
Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32 is a Canadian electrical engineer. He is studying for a masters degree in English literature in Auckland University in New Zealand to prepare for a teaching career. He enjoys art, is active in squash and worked part time as a local squash coach. His family describes him as peaceful and fun-loving and he is known to be passionate about the plight of the underprivileged around the globe. He works tirelessly in his spare time to educate and help others.
Christian Peacemaker Teams has been present in Iraq since October 2002, providing first-hand, independent reports from the region, working with detainees of both United States and Iraqi forces, and training others in non-violent intervention and human rights documentation. Christian Peacemaker Teams is a violence reduction program. Teams of trained peacemakers work in areas of lethal conflict around the world.
Photos on www.cpt.org
It was recently revealed, in a US-backed raid, that torture is going on under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior. Despite the apparent media blackout on the topic, torture has been an ongoing tactic of the counter-insurgency work in Iraq. At first it was employed at Abu Ghraib and possibly other US military establishments in Iraq, and it quickly became a prime tactic of the newly formed Iraqi Police and Iraqi National Guard.
The tactic became a regular tool in the Iraqi counter-insurgency toolbox and has since been used widely throughout Iraq. Ali Shalal Abbas and a number of former prisoners from Abu Ghraib formed the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons, or AVAOP to combat the issue of torture in Iraq. Ali’s organization alleges that there are at least 200 secret prisons similar to the one uncovered last week. They have many photos of Iraqis who have been tortured and are working on a full report about torture in Iraq.
On Sunday Mr. Abbas visited the office of the United Nations in Amman Jordan and presented them with a list of sites where AVAOP reports torture to be occurring. The Ministry of the Interior directs the seven locations released by the AVAOP to the UN Sunday. This is the same branch of the government overseeing the prison recently raided by the United States.
Khalid Jarrar, a Palestinian Iraqi who lives in Jordan, was also detained by the Ministry of the Interior. He was held in the Ministry of Interior building, which is also the location of one of the torture facilities identified in the AVAOP’s report. He claims to have been saved from torture only by the intervention of his family, “What happened is that my family could find the interrogators and then by knowing the right people and giving the right gifts, I wasn’t tortured unlike all the people that were there.” Those who helped his family ensure Khalid’s safety prefer to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution by the interim government.
During the two weeks that Khalid was imprisoned he witnessed numerous acts of torture. He confirmed the allegation of the AVAOP that the Ministry of the Interior runs a detention facility in their Baghdad headquarters. “Everyone that went through the Iraqi police or Iraqi National Guard was tortured brutally in a way that you can’t imagine. They were hardly alive. Kids 16 years old and old old men whoever was there was tortured and beaten for hours and hung upside down while being beaten.”
More evidence that people are being tortured by the Iraqi police has surfaced with the case of Omar Ahmed. He was arrested in the Adhamiya neighborhood of Baghdad on September 1st, 2005 with two friends. Eyewitnesses who wish to remain anonymous said there were no weapons or anything in their car, and it was impossible to determine why they were arrested.
Six days later Omar’s family was looking for him in he morgue. It is common practice now in Iraq when a family member or friend goes missing to look for him or her in the morgue if a few days go by with no word. On September 7th they found Omar’s dead body in the morgue, covered with wounds that indicated torture. His head appeared to have multiple puncture wounds or cigarette burns, and his body was covered with abrasions of various kinds.
Photos have also recently surfaced about another man, about whom little is known. His name is believed to be Dhiaa, and photos clearly show his skull was punctured with what is believed to have been an electric drill. Dhiaa is one of the latest victims in what is an expanding scandal of abuse at the hands of Iraqi officials.
These cases of torture as well as many cases of abuse under the Coalition Forces have been well documented. The AVAOP, the Christian Peacemaker Teams, Amnesty International and even Iraqi journalists have made various reports about the torture occurring in Iraq over the past two and a half years since the invasion. Mr. Abbas made it clear to me that the torture creates many problems for Iraq’s future. “When these people are inside the prison, many bad things happen to them, and when they are freed from the prison, they have become criminals. I hope the American people will help the Iraqi victims and stop these prisons. Because when someone comes through this, when he leaves, he becomes a criminal.
[Editor’s note: This article was written with local support in Amman from Shadi Al-Kasim and Jamil Najjar]
The Alive in Baghdad Project first presented the idea that torture is still ongoing in Iraq over a month ago. Now, after a raid in an outlying area of Baghdad, the mainstream media is again discussing the ugly face of torture in Iraq.
Although I posted a photo of a man tortured with an electric drill before his death last month, and another a few days ago, the mainstream media is finally willing to admit this practice is occurring.
I will be travelling tomorrow, but I will attempt to put together something more in-depth on the ongoing situation of torture currently facing Iraqis by the evening. During my recent trip to the Middle East I also had the opportunity to interview Khalid Jarrar, who can be seen in these segments: 1, 2, and 3. Khalid was held in one of the secret Interior Ministry detention facilities, and claims there is or was a facility on the seventh floor of the main Interior Ministry Building in Baghdad, where he was held. U.S. Brig. Gen. Karl Horst now claims American and Iraqi forces will search each Interior Ministry facility. Gen. Karl Horst claimed to the Los Angeles Times, “We’re going to hit every single one of them, every single one of them,” if so it should be only a matter of time before they discover this facility as well.
Until the mainstream media presents more revelations about the ongoing torture situation facing Iraqis please check out these photos, and these. I obtained them on my last visit to Iraq, which detail the torture and abuse that aren’t happening in Iraq.
Although it will be difficult for the Alive In Baghdad Project to continue doing in-depth firsthand reporting on the situation in Iraq, we will continue to post analysis about the events unfolding in Iraq. We will also continue to provide stories and images of the ongoing difficulties facing Iraqis under occupation.
The latest photos are from Fallujah. They were taken two weeks ago on November 1st, just before the one year anniversary of the last siege of the city. Sami and I hope these pictures will help to convey some sense of what Fallujah is like to those living in the United States and other countries outside Iraq. We also obtained a few photos from another interviewee, by the name of Hudaa. These photos were posted to the Flickr gallery yesterday.
Another feature of the site you can expect to see continue will be the photos of torture victims in Iraq. Unfortunately these gruesome element of the situation in IRaq doesn’t appear to be decreasing anytime soon. Unless something drastic changes will we continue to bring you these photos, in an effort to shed light on one of the most disturbing elements of the new Iraqi government, the appearance of state-sanctioned death squads and torture.
Expect more in-depth analysis of the situation in Iraq in the days to come.
Qaim, Haditha, Rawa. What do you think when you hear these words? Americans, the British, and other Westerners may associate them with names like Operation “Rivergate,” “Iron Fist,” “Steel Curtain,” and other recent Multi National Forces – Iraq (MNF-I) operations. For Iraqis and many Arabs they signify the Iraqis’ ongoing suffering as a result of the Occupation. For the children and families who lived in these areas, these names simply meant home. Inside Iraq today there are thousands of internally displaced refugees from cities that have faced assault by the MNF-I and Iraqi forces, including Qaim and Rawa in the Anbar province.
The Anbar province of Iraq has long been considered the major base of military opposition to the interim government and MNF-I forces. Whether from foreign insurgents or Iraqi resistance fighters, conflict in this area of Iraq has been fairly continuous since the occupation of Iraq began in May of 2003. After the second major assault on Fallujah in November 2004, similar assaults began around the rest of Al Anbar province. Al Anbar, is a huge province, mostly desert, and has a frontier nature. The areas of western Iraq where opposition has appeared are also areas with little communication and control from the central government in Baghdad. It was after these areas found support and security from opposition forces that MNF-I operations began there. Ramadi was one of the next major assaults after Fallujah, and larger strikes continued this summer and fall in Tal Afar and Qaim.
Qaim was a thriving town of 150,000 before the recent American operations there. Now these thousands of people are refugees, surviving wherever the can. Many Qaim residents have found shelter in an abandoned phosphate factory about one hour east of Qaim, in a place known as Akashaat. Under the previous regime Akashaat was a small community constructed around the phosphate factory, with houses and a small market built specifically for the workers. Until recently the factory and houses were completely abandoned, after the factory was shutdown.
When International Peace Angels, a humanitarian aid agency, traveled to Akashaat three weeks ago, they found between three hundred fifty and five hundred families living in the abandoned buildings. These buildings have no doors, and the glass in the windows was long since removed, either by the previous owners or Bedouin scavengers. There is no running water and no electricity. Rana Alaiouby, the director of International Peace Angels explains, “They have to travel to Rutbah to bring water back in tankers.” Rutbah is close to seventy-five kilometers from Akashaat. “We brought them medicine, food, and blankets, because this is what they asked us for,” states Alaiouby.
Many of Iraq’s internal refugees depend on local Iraqi NGOs for assistance. The United Nations has many other responsibilities in Iraq, and so has not provided adequate aid to refugees. The Iraqi government and the international reconstruction efforts have overlooked the desperate need for housing and basic infrastructure in these areas.
The formation of a new Iraqi government is not expected to change the situation for these refugees. During the recent Constitutional Referendum refugees could not vote because they had no access to polling places. Most of Iraq’s internal refugees are Sunna, and they are now desperately poor, although many were financially stable before the military actions in their communities. Their lack of representation in the current Iraqi Interim Government, and lack of political influence as the new government forms, makes it unlikely they will receive aid or redress from the government.
The refugee situation has far-reaching consequences for the Iraqi government and the Multinational forces. Many of the refugees originally lived in Al Anbar province, and many have settled close-by. This part of Iraq, also known as the “Sunni Triangle,” has become a stronghold for the Iraqi resistance. As residents of Al Anbar see little support from the official reconstruction effort, elements of the Resistance arrive to provide support and resources, converting the towns into basecamps for the Resistance. As the MNF-I takes notice, seeing these town as a threat to the stability of the Iraqi interim government, towns are cordoned off from outside interference in preparation for assault.
Ghazi Farhan, manager of the Amman office of Ezz El Iraq, described the process before the assault on Rawa, “When the American troops want to enter a city, the first step is they close the city. They don’t let people get outside or inside the city. They bomb it with the helicopters. They enter the city and search inside the houses for weapons and men.. After they surround the city, some organizations try to help those people by medical supplies and food, but the American forces don’t allow them. They cut the electricity, the water also. If there is a patient there they don’t allow him to go to the hospital. That is exactly what happened in Rawa, they didn’t allow the medical supplies or food into the city.” After the assault, many of these cities have been functionally destroyed, leaving tens of thousands of refugees and strengthening the support for the Resistance, beginning the cycle once again.
There is a way out of this vicious cycle. Hanna Ibrahim, the director of Women’s Will Body, another NGO that provides aid to internal refugees and detainees, presents her analysis of the situation in Al Anbar. “If the government deals with the water and electricity problems, if they solve the unemployment problem, then the people in Al Anbar will not be involved in the Resistance anymore.”
The refugee families living in Akashaat are living without these basic necessities, and almost all aid comes from small organizations, most of them local. They have little hope for government assistance.. The new Iraqi Constitution, and the new government to be elected in December, provide the people of Akashaat with one hope: an MNF-I withdrawal. If they survive long enough, these families then hope to return to their homes and try to reconstruct their lives.
I’ve returned to the States at this point, but the Alive in Baghdad project will continue. I will be posting some articles soon about several ongoing issues of concern in Baghdad and Iraq.
Although two and a half years have passed since President Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” and officially ended major operations in Iraq, the living situation is still incredibly unstable. During my recent time in Iraq, I experienced the daily power cuts and was forced to spend many nights working in the dark. After only three weeks in Baghdad the daily experiences of Iraqis under Occupation began to feel familiar.
I have spent time in the long gas lines in Baghdad, and watched American tanks roll by the queue. Each time a tank passed, I worried that this would be the time an IED (improvised explosive device) would destroy us, the patrol, and surrounding traffic. Each night I listened to the Blackhawk helicopters fly overhead and watched the empty streets, disturbed only by the flashers of Iraqi Police vehicles and occasional American tank patrols.
Now that I’m back in the United States, I will be posting stories about the situation in Baghdad and throughout Iraq. You can look forward to videos and articles dealing with the daily life experiences of Iraqis under the Occupation via our contacts in the region. Upcoming articles will focus on the gas, power, and security instabilities, ongoing torture and detention and the prospects of the Iraqi constitution.
Until I return to Iraq, I will be touring the U.S. to speak about the situation in Baghdad, my experiences there, and what I’ve learned from Iraqis. I will present the feelings and concerns of Iraqis in their own words, and their messages to the American people.
Assuming that all goes according to plan, I expect to be back on the ground in Iraq within two or three months. It is essential we continue to provide reports about the situation on the ground from the people living each day in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq.
Editor’s Note: please see the flickr gallery, for our latest photos from an attack on an American Humvee. Expect to see more photos in the days to come.
I arrived back in Amman yesterday and tonight I was seeing friends at Al Saraya hotel when we heard the news about the bombing at the Radisson Hotel. By the time I arrived there with Ra’fat, my friend and fixer when I was in Amman before travelling to Baghdad, and Francis, a fellow filmmaker, the security was already tight.
At the time we arrived, the word was that five people had been killed in the bombing at the Radisson. Soon after we arrived, we got word that the Hyatt had also been bombed. Some time later we were informed that the Days Inn on the outskirts of Amman was also struck by a bomb.
It now appears that a suicide bomber entered the Radisson Hotel, where a wedding party was taking place. Another journalist in Amman has just been informed that the bombing at the Radisson killed at least two family members of a friend. His friend was informed by Jordanian authorities to go to the morgue and look for his mother, who is missing. His 15-year-old sister and 30-year-old aunt have both been confirmed killed at the Radisson.
The situation outside the Radisson was tense, with heavily armed Jordanian Police everywhere, as well as plainclothes Jordanian Intelligence officers covering the area. In Jordan, there is no freedom of the press, and when we arrived at the scene, there were more than a couple scuffles with Jordanian Police shouting “Mamnou mamnou!” at us, which means “Forbidden, forbidden.” A short while later, we learned that a Jordanian freelance journalist was arrested by Jordanian Intelligence for filming before we were able to catch up with him.
He was filming the arrest of Iraqis in a GMC who had been speeding by the Radisson before being surrounded by Jordanian Police and detained. While in Jordanian Intelligence custody, this journalist saw the Iraqis abused by the officers and was himself struck hard in the shoulder. Because he has a contact in the Intelligence, he was able to safely leave their custody, only slightly more worse the for wear. Unfortunately, a reporter from Al Jazeera wasn’t so lucky. “The police beat him with a thick army belt while he was filming,” claimed the journalist.
I was nearly arrested three times for filming and also simply for being in the area with a camera.
I am leaving Amman in a few hours to return to the States due to a lack of funds currently, as well as family affairs. I am looking forward to a short respite in the States, and am hoping to make several speaking events to raise funds and awareness to continue the project.
I also leave the Middle East with a heavy heart. After today’s events in Amman, which has not seen any similar type of attack since the ’70s, it seems there may be no place in the Middle East that is safe. On the day I left Baghdad, Omar’s girlfriend’s college, the Technical University, had a suicide bomber blow himself up inside the school. The day before this the father of another friend of Omar’s was shot by criminals, but luckily survived.
I am left to wonder how long until one of the many friends I have made here finds him- or herself killed or injured in a similar attack. The situation all over the Middle East appears to continue on a path toward instability, and nothing the US or others are doing appears to be helping. Hopefully, by continuing to work toward raising awareness of the true situation in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, and to encourage tolerance, I can help in some small way to improve the situation.