Salam Pax - News from the ground #3

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Wednesday, May 21, 2003 at 11:44AM :

In Reply to: Salam Pax - News from the ground #2 posted by Sadie from ? ( on Wednesday, May 21, 2003 at 11:43AM :

Salam Pax - News from the ground #3
Salam Pax, Electronic Iraq

20 May 2003

Next stop Samawah where we will spend the night. While checking on the team there one of the volunteers told us that they were not able to go around the city because everybody was too distressed about the mass graves found at the edge of the city. Many who were buried there were from Samawah. At least they can be thankful that the the buried had their ID cards with them and could be identified.

All over the city you could see photocopied photos of the executed.
Gruesome fact: during the uprising after the first gulf war Saddam's henchmen, in order to move quickly, would put people in trucks and move them to the edge of the city and bury them alive, these are the mass graves where you'll find people still have their ID's, fully dressed only with their hands tied.

In every shop window, on every wall the faces look back at you. This was not one of the big mass graves found, around 50 bodies.

Too tired to want to take a walk thru the city. Next day is Nasiriyah, a very big number of casualties are expected there and CIVIC still has no team there.

The official Number in Nasiriyah (i.e. coming from hospitals and medical centers in the area) is about 1000 civilian deaths and 3000 injuries. Nasiryiah is not that big, with these numbers it must have seen very bad days. We go fast to the Nasiryiah hospital and get a team together.

To our amazement we have a lot of girls wanting to volunteer although we have explained that this will involve lots of going door to door, which would usually put off female volunteers we had elsewhere. They only ask to be given districts in the inner city because of the unstable security situation.

While talking to them about what they are supposed to do the name "Jessica" is dropped. Aseel, one of the female volunteers, tells us that this is the hospital where [captured American soldier] Jessica [Lynch] was held in captivity. Both main hospitals in this city were turned into command centers.

One had fedayeen in it and was bombed to the ground by the Americans and in the other Ali Hassan Al-Majeed was holding court for a while, before he moved to another place. When the American forces came to rescue Jessica, "Chemical" Ali was already out, the manager of the hospital and a couple of doctors were asked to get dressed in civilian clothes and get out as fast as they can. The hospital was not damaged.

We are waiting to see what the survey will turn out; Raed is even thinking of increasing the number of the team to 25 because of the high number of casualties reported. Usually they would get at least 25% more than the numbers from hospitals. 1000 deaths is really a big number in a place like Nasiriyah.

We stay for too long there talking to the team and end up late for the appointment with the Basra team.

Basra is beautiful. We have a bit of a problem with hotels because it is chockfull of foreigners and news people all the places charge outrageous prices. We find a place where we pay 30,000 dinars for a night; compared to 3,000 dinars in Nasiriyah (foreigners pay double that price).

But there is great food and the excellent ice-cream place called Kima. No, this is not a paid plug. Go ask for ananas-azbari and be pleasantly surprised, it has frozen bits of pineapple in it. Block those thoughts about cholera and enjoy. Water is a bit of a problem, people in Basra have been dependant on water purified by the Petrochemicals plant or people who have set up businesses to provide clean water, they call it RO water (reverse-osmosis purification). Of course you have to buy that.

Now there are purification plants donated by Gulf countries but you still have to queue to get it or go buy RO water on the street, its price has gone down after the plants started working. All this is within Basra city. Outside of Basra? Don't ask.

The police in Basra are much luckier than the police in Baghdad, they get military protection.

But what doesn't get protection is any store selling alcohol. There have been attacks on 5 stores that sell liquor and everybody in the store was killed. There is no way any one is going to sell you a beer on the street in Basra. Some areas in Baghdad have seen similar attacks but nobody panicked yet. But we will be there soon.

Al-Fartoosi in his Friday prayer Khutba said that "loose women", the cinemas in Sadoon street showing immoral films (the films are as sinful as a Britney Spears video, bellies and fake kissing) and anyone selling alcohol will be given a week to clean up their act or "other methods" will be used to stop them spreading wickedness.

-- Sadie
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