Daily Life in Baghdad,
May 20-22, 2005
It’s coming apart at the seams now in Iraq. We
saw on the news today that members of the Mehdi Army in the south, the militia
of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, exchanged gunfire with members of the ING (Iraqi
National Guard) who in the south are primarily, if not entirely composed of
members of the Badr Army, also a Shia group. So now we have Shia fighting
Meanwhile in Baghdad, things are just as bad.
Abu Talat, my friend and interpreter, was speaking with his family who live in
the al-Adhamiya district of the capital city. Just across the Tigris River from
Adhamiya, which is predominantly Sunni, is the predominantly Shia Khadamiyah
A car bomb detonated inside Khadamiyah which
killed at least one ING, so people in that area began firing guns across the
Tigris into Adhamiyah. According to two sources in Adhamiyah, they confirmed
there was heavy damage to several houses-broken windows, bullet pockmarked
walls, etc. When people inside Adhamiyah began returning fire, a US warplane
bombed a small mosque on the Adhamiyah side of the Tigris, for yet unknown
Abu Talat was talking via IM with his wife as
she nearly fainted because bombs and gunfire were so near their home.
“What can I do,” Abu Talat asked me from a
nearby computer at an internet café, “My family is in great danger and what can
I do to help them?”
I stared at him dumbly…there was no response.
I helped find phone numbers of friends and other
family members of his around Baghdad to try to go check on his family. He called
them five times, constantly monitoring their situation while he was crying.
Between calls he set the phone down to hold his head in his hands.
Abu Talat later spoke with his sister, who
informed him that Iraqi soldiers were raiding houses in her neighborhood and
detaining men of “fighting age,” which if we go by the US military definition of
such when they do home raids, means men roughly between the ages of 15-50 years.
“They almost took my nephew,” Abu Talat told me
in frustration, “But thanks to his father telling them that his son is a doctor
and never leaves the home nowadays, they let him be.”
Abu Talat had his two young sons go with his
wife over to a relatives home so they would not be detained. Although one of his
sons, Ahmed, is merely 14 years old. Ahmed is a soft-spoken, gentle boy who
wouldn’t hurt a fly.
When I was in Baghdad in February, one day we
were taking tea in the home of Abu Talat. Ahmed came out and began shining the
shoes of his father.
“You don’t need to do this in front of Dahr,”
said Abu Talat to his youngest son.
“You are my father, and I am your son,” replied
Ahmed, “I wish to shine your shoes. Dahr understands that this is what a son
does for his father.”
Abu Talat beamed and held up his hands with a
huge smile on his face.
My friend Aisha who is here, also an Iraqi, has
a friend who lives in Adhamiyah.
“He just left the day before this all happened
to bring his sick son to Amman for cancer treatment,” she tells me while we sit
under palm trees and a nearly full moon later that evening while having dinner
with her mother.
Her friend believes his son has DU
“He learned that one of the rooms of his home
was destroyed by a missile shot from an American helicopter,” she added while
shaking her head.
Things quieted down in Baghdad after the events
of the 20th, as well as the next day, relatively.
However, today Abu Talat came over to me in a
panic and asked for Ahmed’s mobile number.
“He’s just been shot at,” he tells me as I feel
the panic with my friend and begin finding the number of his son.
Ahmed was walking down the street when two men
demanded his ring and his mobile. When Ahmed started yelling “Thieves, Thieves,”
they kicked him to the groun and shot their pistols over his head. At gunpoint,
the two men commenced to loot him.
Abu Talat received the information from his
oldest son, then called home to find that his youngest son was home crying, but
“He has his exams tomorrow and now he is
sleeping,” Abu Talat explains with tears in his eyes, “He is alright but
This is the life in Baghdad today. This is the
life of having a dear friend whose family is living in peril and his attempts to
remain in contact with them from Amman. This is one family in a city of 5.5
million Iraqis, struggling to survive the brutal, chaotic, lawlessness caused by
the Anglo-American occupation that has destroyed their country.