Thursday, March 10, 2005

Yippee, I got my first comment :D

The first person to post a comment on my blog had some questions. Which I feel obliged to try to answer.

1st. What does my dad do?

My dad owns a rice plantation in a place near Diwaniya and Hilla (2 hours south of Baghdad). The plantation grows rice and wheat. His latest project is the publishing of a book about my grandfather Rayih.

After nearly getting getting shot dead a couple of times. Once by the americans as he was entering Baghdad on the highway a humvee parked ahead of him shot at the headlights of his car, my dad slammed the breaks, and veered off. Bystanders told him he was more fortunate than the last guy who they pointed out lying dead in his car. Apparently, one of the humvees ahead had been hit by a suicide car bomber, and were fearing that another would come.

There was the other time by iraqis which I mention in a post back in December. We haven't bothered getting the bullet holes made by the iraqis repaired yet hehe, they're still there. I've grown fond of that car, and don't want to sell it or anything. Some say that it is it that attracts the bullets, but I believe that it is it that has saved our lives.

2nd. Was I in Iraq doing the war?

Yes I was, but strangely enough there's not much to remember. It didn't last very long and annoyingly so. My dad wanted me to go to the farm with him and my cousin and told me to stay in Baghdad was suicide. But in my head I'd rather die than go to that smelly plantation. Anyway, I stayed in Baghdad and stayed alive. All the shops closed up and everybody went home before nightfall. Sometimes I would sleep over at friend's place that we nickname India, because he used to live there. India lives in Khadraa near the Airport, we used to spend the nights unable to sleep due to the heat, so we'd sit outside in the garden and gaze at the sky trying to spot bombers. I try to remember how we went through some of the nasty parts of the war such as after the electricity station got hit and days later the water stopped flowing to our taps as since there was no electricity to pump the water. The war wasn't scary as much as it was exciting for me, you could say I've got a few screws loose.

3rd. Any stories?

I've only once brushed death. A couple of months after the war ended, I took the car out to go to a friend's house. I had ran out of cigarettes before leaving the house, and Nahida warned me not to buy cigarettes from a stalls by the roads out of fear of car-jackers. But as I drove onto the main street, there were a few humvees parked on the main road. After U-turning, onto the other side of the street, I see a cigarette stall on the street. I think to myself if the americans are on the other side then there's little chance of me being car-jacked. It's worth mentioning that this took place at around 2pm in the summer at which time there are few people on the streets due to the uncomfortable heat. I park my car by the stand and without switching the car off or getting out, I tell the kid what brand of cigarettes I wanted and was starting to count the cash, then I look up in front of me and there's a red brazili (volksvagen passat from the 80s produced in Brazil purchased by the government as part of an arms deal) parked sideways and a dude coming out of the back seat with AK47 in his hands. It took me a split second to realise what was happening and without thinking I put my car in drive and press the gas with caution instead of slamming it down out of fear that it would break down when most incovenient. The brazili wasn't parked so near as to block my path and I drove off as the man with the AK yelled 'STOP' in arabic repeatedly. After I had passed him he shot at my car. A guy with a white Kia mini-van caught up with me and told me to go tell the traffic cop at the end of the street to speak to the cop. The guy took the cop and we drove around the street, but the red brazili had run away by then. In hindsight, I've got no clue what the cop would've done since they hadn't even been issued guns yet. I then went over to where the americans were, I didn't want to go straight home just in case they the red brazili was following me from a distance. The americans explained to me that they thought that it was they who were under attack - the poor sods. Later on a bullet was found in the gas tank. I don't know if I was lucky the car didn't blow up or if Hollywood has been lying to me all this time.

4th. Is it as unsafe in Iraq as the american media makes it to be?

Well that's a hard question to answer. The media those give an image of how dangerous Iraq is, but I'm not really sure how that image is interpreted in the minds of the viewers. I could make a list of all the things that do make it dangerous.

  • Getting shot by Americans or Iraqis because you approached a checkpoint or a convoy at a high speed or came too close. This is pretty annoying because sometimes it's hard to notice them.
  • Getting Car-jacked, this is very rare nowadays.
  • You could get kidnapped if you have a reputation for being wealthy. The threat of which comes from someone that you casually know such as a previous driver or the guy that installed your new kitchen.
  • Targetted by insurgents if you have affiliations with the government or occupying forces.
  • You could get killed as a result of a family feud or out of vengence, this is much less random, but could've been avoided if there were rule of law.
  • A car or suicide bomber if you're standing in the wrong place such as near army recruitement center or something religious.
  • If you're an arab foreigner you could be wrongly sentenced to death. Something Nahida worries about for Attiyeh our Sudanese helper who lives with us. Sudanese people here have been here for a long time, doing the work that Iraqis don't want to do for cheap.
  • If you're a foreigner, you could be put on tv, and video clips on the net will show your head being chopped off.
  • If you sell alcohol or consume it in public.
  • If you hang out with a person of the opposite sex on a romantic spot by the river.
Those are all the ways I can think of right now. There are probably more. So is it Iraq less or more dangerous than the media makes it out to be. After thinking about it. I would say it is or even more so.

But to live in danger isn't the only thing that really sucks about living in Iraq. It's the overwhelming degrading quality of life which is for the most part because of the security problem.

Before the war, we used to stay out very late at night. There were prostitutes on the streets that could give you a blowjob for a few bucks. There was booze in the stores. There was locally made beer that everybody had a suspicion that it was spiked. When I was in school in the mid 90s we used to make house parties, boys and girls would come over and we'd go home around midnight.

Now, we're all home by 9pm and the prostitutes all left to other countries to make more money or aren't able to work on the streets anymore because of punk zealots. All the booze shops got closed down because of the same psycho zealots that threatened to blown them up and in many cases they did. I think the local beer factory got blown up by the americans because they thought it was a chemical arms plant I think. And because of the security situation parents are very fearful of letting their girls go out of the house except if it is to go to school or work (the religious-social norms-wholesome-decency thing comes into play here too strengthened by the fear created by the psycho zealots).

There, I'm done :p

1 comment:

Rosebuds said...

Thanks for responding to my questions Shaggy....stay safe and hopfully with a new elected government Iraq will begin to turn the corner.

I enjoy your blog because it is just about day to day life in Iraq for a young person...not typical not atypical...and without the political/religious commentary. Thanks.