Sunday, October 24, 2004
Not the right time to post!

Dear all,
I want to thank all of those who gave ideas and suggestions about what normal citizens can do. I have made a lot of notes preparing for a post summarizing what is practical and what is not in Iraq.
Unfortunately for the past two weeks, and due to the constantly flowing stream of bad news, I have been feeling very depressed and discouraged. And since I like my blog to be filled with optimism, I will waiting for my moral to get a little better to be able to do a positive post. If I do it now, it will be very negative as for the time being I am only seeing the glass as 75% empty.
Please be patient and hope for an optimistic post later on.

I just want to tell ‘Submandave’ that I am impressed and surprised by how well he has analyzed the situation in Iraq.
And to tell Steve in Boston as lynette said “That was beautifully written. You just said it all.”Thanks again for all your contributions.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
A different approach

Dear friends, where have you been all this time :)

In most of my previous posts, and in most of the post of all other Iraqi bloggers, the general tendency have been to complain, complain, complain, then to blame the Americans then blame more and more and more.
Since that will not take us anywhere, I’ve decided to be more positive and take a different approach.

If you want to know the current situation now in Iraq, there are many very good Iraqi blogs that are continuously being updated about the situation here and I don’t see any reason why should I repeat what they are saying. Perhaps I do have a slightly different perspective, but the general picture is still the same.

Before I go on any further, I would like to say one thing. From the many letters from Americans that I have received, and from the comments from the Americans that I have read on other Iraqi blogs, I must say that regardless of what I think about the American policy and politicians, I am definitely pro-American-people. Some Americans oppose what their government have done here, others defending it, but both groups are with the Iraqi people and that’s what matters to me.

Dear American friends, given the situation that we are in now, what do you think that we Iraqi and American people can do to help in improving the situation in Iraq and to start with the reconstruction. Reconstruction may not necessarily be in buildings and materialistic things. Reconstruction may well be on the intellectual level, and that is something that we are supposed to be able to do.

The main problems here in Iraq are not bad electrical power supply, bad roads, shortage in fuel , or heavy traffic. Though in most of my posts, those were the things that I kept complaining about!! (One last complain: And now that schools and universities have started, THE ROADS GOT REALLY REALLY CROWDED WITH ALL THOSE BLOCKED ROADES). All the above problems will not get one killed anyway except for the following scenarios:
- bad electrical power supply: one gets hot to death. But on the other hand, deaths by electrical shocks must have been reduced since there is not that much of electricity to shock people!
- bad road: if on falls in a very big hole!
- shortage in fuel: one gets stuck in a fuel queue and gets board to death!
- heavy traffic: one gets frustrated to death!

Our problems are much deeper, and they are all caused by the way the Iraqi people are thinking.
- If many are still thinking of armed resistance, or are sympathizing with, or covering up for, those who kidnap or kill innocent Iraqis and foreigners,
- If many Iraqis think that beheading people is justified in war.
- If many Iraqis think that the new government should either be a 100% like what they want or they should fight it.
- If many Iraqis are not willing to compromise.
- If many Iraqis are not willing to put their hands in the Americans even with those that really want to help.
If this attitude continues, we can never start rebuilding our country.

Our real problems are those that endanger our lives. Problems that are preventing us from doing any action fearing that we might get kidnapped or killed (or beheaded!). So we have two types of problems: Killer problems, and non-killer problems. From now on, I’ll try to stop talking about the latter.

I am sick of keeping on blaming the Americans; this will not take us anywhere. In a comment from and American women, she said: Instead of blaming the Americans, ‘What have you (Iraqis) done to help your country?’, Well she is right. Although, many Iraqis are doing much to help the country, many of them are dying everyday in doing so, but what I, and other complainers, are doing to help Iraq? Blogging!!!! or in other words Complaining!!!!

How can bloggin help? Will bloggin help American voters in voting for the president that will do what’s best for Iraq after better understanding the situation here? Might be. But which president will do what’s best for Iraq? I definitely don’t know. I hope the Americans do, if so, please enlighten me.

Returning to positive thinking:
I would like to know of any practical idea on how Iraqi civilians like me and normal Americans can help?
Many have blamed Iraqis of not reporting about terrorists and criminals. Well, terrorists and criminals are not walking on the streets carrying signs that they are bad people so that we can report them (paraphrased from Salam Pax). So let’s put this option aside.

A group of IT friends are working on establishing a society of professional Iraqi ITs. I consider this to be a small step in rebuilding the country. I am partially helping them and I will keep you informed of their progress because I think that at some point I will ask for your help on this. At least they are doing something instead of complaining.

There shall be no more complains. There shall be work.

“The heights by great men reached and kept, where not obtained by sudden flight. But they, while their companions slept, where toiling upward in the night.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As foreigners usually greet Iraqis now: Stay Safe

Thursday, August 05, 2004
I wanted to write something since Sunday after the bombing of churches. I am feeling so angry and frustrated that I cannot write anything that I consider convenient.

A colleague at work missed the explosion by just few seconds, unfortunately a friend of hers did not

I want to say one comment to non-Iraqis: There is no Muslim-Iraqi who does not have some Christian close-friends. This simply cannot be done by Iraqis – at least I hope it was not.

May God have mercy upon all our souls.

I will add nothing more.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004
This is the building for the Olympic Committee (Uday's office). It was damaged during the bombing but the main damage occured during the chaos after the 9th of April, it was completely looted then burned as shown in the picture.
Now, I couldn’t find it. Its somewhere behind the fence!!

This is the Ministry of Irrigation. It is fully renewed now :)
Note that the Olympic building and the ministry of Irrigation are adjacent to each other and adjacent to the Ministry of Irrigation is the building for the Ministry of Oil. It is interesting to know that the building for the Ministry of Oil was not even slightly damaged and was immediately protected by the Americans!
So it will have the same picture before the war, right after the war, and now. Unfortunately I have not taken a picture for the building :(

Following are some pictures taken right after the fall of the ex-Iraq regime, and pictures for the same places taken now.

Saturday, July 17, 2004
This post is only for people interested in health care in Iraq. If you are not, you will find it very boring.

Hospitals – revisited

Many of my friends abroad have been very concerned about the situation in Iraqi hospitals. I have previously talked about the situation in one of the main children hospitals in Baghdad, and now I will talk about Abu-Graib hospital.

The information I am stating is taken from a close relative of mine who is a surgeon in that hospital. The name Abu-Grapib must sound very familiar to many of you because of the Abu Graib prison. This hospital carries the same name because it lies in the same city. Abu Graib is a small city about 10 kilometers to the west of Baghdad with a population of about 500,000.

Facts and figures
- The hospital receives about 750-900 out-patients a day. About 600 of those are received in the morning shift with only 7 or 8 specialized doctors. This means that a doctor examines an average of 80 patients a day!!!!
- The hospital was built in the seventies when the population of the city was only about 50,000 and as I have mentioned, the population now is about 500,000.
- The hospital receives about 5 bullet and road traffic injury cases a day.
- In general the services level has not been improved but the wages have been reduced for the patients..
- Doctors are not allowed to describe more than three drug items for the patients. Usually there is only type of anti-biotic hence doctors don’t have to think a lot of what type of anti-biotic is most suitable for the patient. The decision has already been made for them. This is helpful in making all doctors equal. Good doctors and bad doctors will always give the same medicine because that’s the only medicine at hand.
- Shortage in suture material and hence doctors are left with no options to choose what is suitable for a certain case. They have to use what is available at the moment. This is again helpful in making sure that all doctors are equal.
- Amount and types of drugs are less than before (before the war that is) and without any coordination or planning as to the types and quantities supplied.
- The hospital has not gone through any renovation of any kind. It does not even have any sewage disposal system. About 5 tanks of sewage are usually drained from the hospital. Toilets are flooded and are completely unusable.
- The hospital lies in a very polluted area very close to a dirty public market for fish, meat, vegetables, etc.
- The doctors situation in the hospital is very bad. There is only one small room for the doctors with only 8 beds for 30 doctors and hence many doctors have to sleep on the floor when they need a rest. What a rest that would be!
- The time required to drive the 10 kilometers between Baghdad and Abu-Graib may range from 15 minutes to 90 minutes depending on many factors like temporary road blocks and the presence of American troops.
- There comes cases where shootings occur inside the hospital and doctors are sometimes threatened by the patients or their families.
- If the patient dies, the doctor will have to pay a compensation for the deceased family, regardless of the reason of death. The amount of compensation is about 3,000,000 ID (about $1,500) or get killed. With the absence of law, such compensations are carried out under the tribal law. On the other hand, an operation only costs the patient about $70.

Good news
- The hospital has an air conditioning system
- The hospital has a large standby generator. That is the hospital has no problems with electricity.
- Ambulances are available.
- The hospital was donated a Sonar machine.

Good or Bad?
- In the first days after the fall of the ex-regime during the looting, the hospital was protected by the good civilians living near the hospital. They protected the hospital for several days till the Americans took over and started protecting the hospital. That means the hospital was not looted. I must say that though the Americans were late in starting to protect such vital organizations, my relative doctor was impressed by the politeness of the soldiers that were protecting the hospital and how much did they care not to scare nor annoy the patients there. And as they say: better late than never.
- The salary for the doctors increased by a factor of almost a hundred. Now my relative who is a surgeon with 17 years of experience in practicing medicine, gets paid about $350 a month. Much much better than before, but this is still considered a small salary for someone like him. A newly employed IT specialist now may get paid more than that in the private sector.

Surprisingly bad news
During the Falloojah events (Abu Graib is the nearest city to Falloojah) when the Americans surrounded Fallojah city, the Americans surrounded the hospital and there were snipers all over the place shooting ‘anyone’ coming towards the hospital and the hospital remained empty for about a week.

That’s all the information I gathered. I did my best to be as accurate as possible and I hope that this information answers as much of your questions as possible.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Handover of sovereignty - At last

On Monday, when I heard that the handover had taken place, I simply felt HAPPY. It definitely is a step forward and I will not allow anyone to convincing me otherwise.
For those who say that this handover means nothing and the Americans will still control our country, I just want to say: Get real. What have you been expecting? Let’s be reasonable for once and get the best of what we can have instead of dreaming about unreasonable things. Do you really believe that after all what the Americans have done, they will simply leave Iraq completely for the Iraqis? They must at least ensure that the future government(s) will be ‘American-friendly’ ones.

Public opinion: Though I hate classifying Iraqis in any way, but let me tell you one thing: In our small office, we have Sunni, Shia, and Christian employees, all with college degrees and have many different political opinions but nevertheless we all felt happy.

On Monday, while I was driving back home from work listening to the speech of our new prime minister (which was brief and full of useful sentences, unlike what we are used to) with a big smile on my face :D, an American tank passed on the other side of the road. I must say that this wiped out my smile and destroyed the magic of the moment. What free country in the world has foreign tanks wandering on its streets? But again I said to myself, lets be practical and make the best out of what we have. I drew a new smaller smile on my face J and kept on driving.

Iraqi Police
I just want to salute the Iraqi police. Unlike before the war, Iraqis now look at the Iraqi police men with real respect.
Since the announcement of our new government, the police started playing a more noticeable role in law enforcement. Finally they started preventing people from using the streets for selling used cars or demonstrating goods. They started giving tickets for those breaking the traffic law. I see a police car in the street and I just feel a bit safer. I cannot imagine how those claiming to be resistance kill our police men in the name of patriotism. It just doesn’t make sense. As one Iraqi said on TV “a police man is either my brother, my cousin, my neighbor, or my friend.”
Security situation (apart from bombing) is getting better. I am driving my car alone and we are staying out till as late as 10:30. Rumor has it that some restaurants remain open till after 1 AM. But who dares to check the truthfulness of this.

The new government has promised that removing the road blocks and reopening all the highways are among its priorities. Driving has become a real burden and am really looking forward for this.

Adventures on the road
On my way to the office I must drive through a main highway known as ‘the airport highway’ where many attacks against Americans take place. I drive by at least 4 marks of explosions on this highway. One of those road mines exploded after I have passed it by about 15 minutes. To get blown up, you have to be on the WRONG place at the WRONG time. Passing over a mark of an explosion means that I did pass through the WRONG place, and it’s just the timing that was RIGHT.

More than a week ago, I failed to reach my office because there were traffic jams everywhere. I returned home and tried to go back to work after about 90 minutes. A main highway was still blocked and we had to drive through a service road. The highway was blocked because the Americans were REMOVING a pedestrians crossing bridge from which the American troops were attacked. We had to drive right beside the Americans and their tanks when I heard the sound of an explosion and saw cloud of dust in my car’s mirror. Luckily it was in an empty space, but the Americans started running and the tank started to move heading toward us. I did panic then because I was afraid that they will start shooting randomly as I have learned usually happens in such cases. Fortunately this did not happen and I was near the end of the service road so I drove as fast as I can to go as far as I can from that area.
Another day on my way back, a main intersection was blocked by small tanks on both sides (the kind with a soldier on the top and a small cannon (or is it a large machine gun?)) because someone obviously more important than me, at least as far as the Americans are concerned, was to pass through that intersection. The tank was only three cars away from me. The US soldier on top of it was aiming the cannon on us moving it from car to car. I prayed that no one will do anything stupid because having a cannon aimed at you is simply ‘NOT GOOD’.
The same day and on the ‘airport highway’ there was another traffic jam and I had to pass by three large tanks standing on the side of the road aiming their large cannons on the passing cars. This was even worse than having one small cannon aiming at you. It was VERY NOT GOOD.

Obligatory subject: Electricity
Now that we are in summer where electricity consumption is at its peak, we are getting an average supply of electricity ranging from 8 to 12 hours. During the period when we are supposed to have 2 (or 3) hours of continuous electricity, but we usually have 2 or 3 power failures taking from 5 to 30 minutes each. So much for continuity. One of the reasons for those power failures is that in the regions where two adjacent districts have different power schedules, people will exchange wires from both sides so that both sides will always have electricity. This means overloading the network and that’s what causing the failures.

Finally, someone setup a big generator about 400m away from our house and we have subscribed for 10 Ampers. An Amper costs about 5000ID (that is about $3.5) a month, so we are paying about $35 a month for this extra source of electricity. This is considered quite a lot of money when the average employee gets about $150 a month. When we want to do any work requiring a reliable power source, we wait for the power from the generator and not from the national supply.

In addition to the street generator, we have a small generator that gives about 12Ampers to be used when the BIG street generator is not running, and a power inverter that gives about 2Ampers (using a car battery) to be used at night if the street generator is not running and when its not practical (or because I am too sleepy) to go out and start our generator.

Estimated electricity consumption tables (known by heart by all Iraqis)
- Air conditioning unit (most useful in summer): 15Ampers (too much so it is out of the question for most generators or subscriptions)
- Air cooler: 3-4A Much less useful than an air conditioning unit, but better than nothing
- Fan: 0.4A
- Florescent: 0.2A
- TV+Satellite: 0.4A
- Computer system: 1A
- Refrigerator: 1-1.5A

So you can see that 10Ampers are almost sufficient for all the basic needs except the air conditioner which unfortunately is the most needed.

The government plan was to return many main power generation plants that were damaged during the war back to service in June, but after the kidnappings of foreigners started, most of the foreign companies working on restoring those power plants left the country and the work on them stopped. Thank you kidnappers! We remember you with each drop of sweat.

Fuel revisited
The fuel situation is much better now. We have several gas stations dedicated for high quality fuel (the reddish type, if you still remember) and others for normal fuel. Some gas stations are open for 24 hours now. So to refill my car I need to stay in line for about 15 minutes, which is acceptable. Only this months I stopped buying fuel from the street and returned to using gas stations.

I am still trying to meet with my relative who is a surgeon at Abu Ghraib hospital to get some more facts about hospitals as I was asked by many.

I must mention one subject related to medical care and that is the kidnapping of doctors. Kidnapping of normal people decreased recently, but many well known doctors are still being kidnapped. Their ransoms are usually in the range of several hundred thousand dollars. It is said that the kidnappers ask the doctors to leave the country after their release. The fact is all of those who were released did leave the country and I cannot blame them. Many of the other well known doctors also left the country fearing that they will be next. This is leaving the country without good doctors and that is very worrying. It almost sounds as if it is planned.

Ahmed Kharrufa
Baghdad - Iraq
June 29, 2004

Sunday, June 27, 2004
Hello Again,

A very interesting program was broadcasted on Thursday June 24, 2004 on BBC Radio Channel 4 called “Letters from Iraq”. Excerpts from letters sent from Iraq by Iraqis (including me), American soldiers, and others are read ‘by actors’. It is directed in a very touching manner and it helps a lot in getting an idea about the feelings about different people in Iraq.
The program will remain on the BBC website till next Wednesday (I guess) and you can find it on this page:

If you are in a hurry and you cannot listen to the whole 30 minutes, listen only to the last 15 because that’s were excerpts from my blog are read ;-). No seriously, I don’t think its good because of that, but because it really is, and you have to listen to the whole 30 minutes.

A few days ago, I got emails from two Iraqis living abroad who have their own very interesting blogs. They have added a link to my blog and since then I’ve been getting much more comments from abroad. This only means that their blogs are quite popular and are really worth reading.
The blogs are :

Live from Dallas:
The Baghdad Dweller:

If you want another perspective of some other aspects of life in Iraq and for a city other than Baghdad, you can look at this interesting blog by a 16 years old girl from Mousil (North of Iraq). The blog is at

You know, I really should spend some time enhancing the design of my blog and to add some usefull links to it, specially that I am a computer programmer, but….
We have a saying in Arabic “The door of the carpenter is broken”, and it definitely applies to my blog L

For those living in Iraq – Stay safe,
Others – Take care

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
“All generalizations are false, including this one. “ (Blaise Pascal)

Dear friends,

My last letter was not long time ago, but I had a lot to talk about so here is another letter which again turned out to be a long one.

What to believe?

I have heard many stories about the behavior of American solders that I did not believe. I did not believe them because many people are continuously spreading all kinds of rumors just to increase hatred against the Americans. I did not believe them not because I thought that American solders are saints but because I thought that they were strongly prohibited from committing any act that may jeopardize the US army’s reputation in front of the world and Iraqis specially.

I’ve heard of American solders stealing gold and money from the houses they search,

I’ve heard of American solders mutilating bodies in Falloojah as an act of revenge,

I’ve heard of American solders killing Iraqis on the streets for the silliest reasons or because of the smallest doubt that they may cause any threat,

I’ve heard of American solders arresting Iraqis for no reason at all, and finally

I’ve heard of American solders abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Graib.

Not only did I refused to believe these stories, but I used to mock the people who told them arguing that the Americans would not do that because they don’t need to, and because they cannot risk destroying the image they are trying to build for their army. The army whose sole purpose in life is to help people in all the world to gain freedom and democracy and to help people to enjoy their HUMAN RIGHTS. I don’t see why they did not believe me then!!

But now…
The story I refused to believe about prisoners abuse was not only true, but it turned out to be a cut down version of the ugly truth. The real version was much worse.

This forced me to review all the stories I’ve heard and refused to believe. Are they all true or only some of them? Are they exaggerated, or are they only part of the truth? How am I supposed to know what to believe now? I definitely will not rely on my –proved to be illogical- logic any more.

I will gather all my courage and say with extreme frankness that for a moment I felt relieved because the news of the prisoners abuse have shown the Americans, who after the falloojah mutilation event mistakenly thought that all Iraqis are inhuman, it showed them that IT IS NOT RIGHT to judge a nation by the acts of a minority. If this generalization is applied on Iraqis, then should we apply it on the Americans?

It is strange how fate have put the American people in the same position Iraqis were put in after the Falloojah mutilation event. God does work in mysterious ways.

I wrote the first draft of this letter few days ago, and before I send it, came the horrible news of the brutal killing of Nicholas Berg in Iraq. I just want to say to those who did this “Don’t do it in my name. Not as an Iraqi, not as an Arab, and definitely not as a Muslim”.

“All generalizations are false, including this one. “ (again Blaise Pascal)

Another subject

For the past few days, each day I got used to wake up at about 7:00am due to the sound of an explosion. I look at the clock, discover that I have yet few more minutes before I have to actually wake up for work, then return to sleep instantaneously. Yesterday, It took me few minutes to return back to sleep (which is quite unusual) and it crossed my mind that just at this moment, few more HUMANS (Iraqis and/or Americans) had just died….. It may seem rude of me to say that I did return to sleep after that but that is what actually happened. Please forgive me because I cannot allow myself to keep thinking in such a dramatic way in a country were one usually hears a minimum of three to four explosions a day. It is a thought that crossed my mind for a moment and which I wanted to share.

Today I woke up on the sound of machine guns. No explosion today, just machine guns. I wonder if this is considered an improvement in the security situation or not?

Today on my way back home from work, I was forced to change my way because the road leading to where I live was blocked by Iraqi police saying that there is a land mine planted in the street at about 300meters from where I live. In the end, it turned out to be a false alarm. I told this story just to give you a glimpse of how we are living our everyday life.


Back in the old days (pay attention that I did not say ‘the good old days’) the road to where I work was about 15Km and it used to take me about 20 minutes to get there. I used to cross the river driving over the “Hanging Bridge” which passes through what is now called “The Green Zone”, then drive through “Abu No’as” street which extends along the river bank looking over the Green Zone from the other side of the river.

After the war, the Americans blocked the Hanging bridge and many other roads which caused very heavy traffic over the alternative Jadriah bridge, making the road to work about 17Km and taking about 45-90 minutes.

After the car explosion about a week ago near the Hanging bridge, the Americans blocked “Abu No’as” road too and again increasing even further the distance and time required to reach my company.

I wonder what more roads will be blocked in the future and whether I will be able to reach my working place or not. Please don’t block any more roads. I just want to reach my company. Is that too much to ask?


I’ve been asked by many people about the situations of hospitals in Iraq. We keep hearing speeches from American officials on how all hospitals are fully functional now and how they are being rehabilitated and some more wonderful talk.

I’ll mention two stories and leave the judgment to you.

The first story is about one of the main children hospitals in Baghdad where my sister works as a pharmacist. She has been working there since before the war, so my first question to her was whether we can say that the situation in the hospital now is better than it was in Saddam’s days. Her answer to my surprise was “NO, the situation is pretty much the same. The only mentionable difference is the salaries of the people working there.” I will mention few more notes about the current situation of the hospital (but excuse my translation of some medical terms. I only hope that you will understand what I mean in general)

- The amounts of the drugs are almost the same without any noticeable increase in the supply of drugs.

- The supply of other medical devices like syringes and canulas (a device inserted into the patient’s hand for injecting medicine and liquids) is also the same with periods of shortage in many items till the hospital receives some donations.

- The alleged rehabilitation is nothing more than repainting some walls specially outer ones leaving most of the elevators, the sewage system, and the leaking roofs as they are.

- Many Ambulances are not functional and those functional are not equipped with any medical equipment.

- In the ‘blood disorders’ section, there are times when two children are forced to share the same bed.

- In many cases children leave the hospitals with more illnesses than they entered because of the very weak sterilization.

- Some of the “Intensive care” units were closed after the war because of the lack of maintenance and specially to the sewage system.

- No air conditioning!

- An important observation that lacks a proof, and which my sister had heard from other hospitals too is that the rates of deaths and specially among children have increased after the war!

And the list goes on and on.

The other story is from the eyes of a patient or to be more accurate the family of a patient.

The father in-law of a friend of mine had a heart attack and was taken to one of the main public hospitals that contains some equipments not available in other hospitals. His words describing the hospital were “This is not a hospital, it is more like a trash can! Blood is on the walls and all over the place. We were unable to use the main medical instrument that we needed because at that moment there was no national supply of electrical power and the hospital was supplied from its standby power generator which cannot be used to operate that instrument”.

After less than 24 hours, the patient’s wife insisted that he should be taken to a private hospital even though such a hospital may not contain all the required equipment. “At least private hospitals are cleaner”, she said.

Despite all that, we should not forget the fact that “All generalizations are false, including this one”. Do I like this quote or what?

For those of you who want to argue, I know that many of the above problems in hospitals are caused by, and can be solved by Iraqis, and the Americans have nothing to do with them. I was asked about the current situation of the hospitals and I am replying to this question. It is up to you to decide who should get the blame. Iraqis got used to carelessness in public organizations, they were almost trained for it. I hoped that they will be taught to act more responsible. I hoped that they will be supervised more closely. I hoped for many other things none of which came true. Now I only hope that I never need to go into a hospital, a much less noble goal, yet as difficult to achieve.

Finally, some of you have asked me about my previous letters. They can all be found either on my blog on or on the great site then “Letters from Baghdad”.

Yours sincerely,
Ahmed Kharrufa

Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Dear friends,

Warning: Long letter ahead of you….I have been writing this long letter for some time, so it contains all kinds of news and my moral state had changed several times during writing the letter. Starting with high spirit and ending with the lowest spirit possible.

Some time ago, I was planning to write about some of the good things happening lately and are positively affecting our everyday life, but unfortunately some bad events on a larger scale keep happening and more frequently than ever, making writing about the little things, in the good things category, seems inconvenient.

Not wanting to ignore those good things. I’ll mention them anyway even if its not the right time for them, fearing that the right time will not come any time soon and these poor minor improvements will pass away unnoticed. Bad news are all over the media and no one misses them, all what you have to do is multiply the size of the problem by %50 if reported by Arabic media and %200 if reported by western media and you’ll have something close to the truth.

Few weeks ago, electricity got much better and we were getting an average of 18 hours of electricity a day instead of the long persistent 12 hours a day rate. I cannot not mention the miracle happened about two weeks ago when we got 36 consecutive hours of electricity – can you believe that? I personally didn’t! Nowadays we are getting 12 hours again, but that’s because it’s the maintenance season and many stations are getting prepared for the hot summer awaiting us (though we are definitely not awaiting it, and this is a special case where Einstein relativity theory does not apply). We were promised a 16 hours average in summer, but I will be very happy if we get 12 during July and August.

To sum up, electricity is better now. Though frankly don’t know whether electricity got better, or better had redefined itself to be used to describe the electricity we are having (Now that’s Einstein’s theory)

Fuel is no longer a big problem. Its not perfectly normal, but there has been no real crises in fuel for the past few weeks. We completely forgot about the quality of fuel, what matters now is quantity. Those seeking good fuel must buy it from the black market. I cannot stop myself from saying: I don’t know whether fuel is better, or whether “crises” had redefined…OK don’t worry I’ll stop here. Don’t laugh at that, our dictionary IS being redefined without us noticing specially such words as good, bad, safe, late, stable, crises, patriot, traitor,..

Iraq, finally had mobile service, still very lousy, but its there and its bound to get better with time.

Except for the last couple of days, shops used to stay open till about 9:30 pm instead of about 8pm. One can still notice life in the streets up to 10:00pm. An exception is the last couple of days because of the unstable situation we’re having. I’ll return to that later with the bad news section.

Now this is a matter that’s very debatable, I considered our new Basic Law as good enough and definitely better than nothing, while MANY others don’t. Some people are gathering signatures against it and I have had long debates with such people. Neither of us is the least convinced in the opinion of the other, and will never do – Typical us, Iraqis that is.

End of good news.

The main advantage we Iraqis gained after this war and that made us bear what we are going through is… freedom. Unfortunately, we are loosing that too. We returned to the state of fearing to talk against certain people because they have lots of followers and militias all over. Such people being extremists and close minded are expected to do anything against those opposing them. Such things did happen and will continue to happen for some time to come. Again we are being careful on what to say in public with the presence of strange people. The media and even people from the governing council fear to talk against such people. If we loose the freedom we gained then we’ll have nothing left.

An unavoidable subject, Falloojah events. Its very common for people to feel ashamed of actions taken by their government, but its not that common to be ashamed of actions done by the people. Unfortunately that’s what all Iraqis felt about what happened in Falloojah more than a week ago. I only wished that our rejection to this act was shown in a stronger way to make it clear to everyone that such an act was not only rejected by Iraqis but we also had a feeling of strong anger towards those who did this. It’s very unfortunate that a small ignorant group of people can destroy the image of a country and its religion.

As for the US reaction…… should the punishment be killing more than 400 Iraqis (so far) and wounding about a thousand (again, so far)? Do you imagine the hate that is growing against the CPA now. Iraqis are very emotional people; now they forgot about the cause of this reaction and all that they can think of, is that the CPA is killing innocent people in Falloojah.

Up to this minute, we keep hearing about truce, end of truce, truce, end of truce and so on. Now I don’t know in which state we are now. Truce, I hope.

A common phenomena that was reduced a little, but returned to increase lately, is kidnapping for a ransom. Sometimes gangs don’t even bother to kidnap, they’ll simply threaten someone to give them money or have him or any member of his family get killed. Sometimes people are even threatened for incidents happened years ago. The police is more occupied with national level security and not personal level crimes!

A story:

News about cars getting blown up in the streets because of mines put for the US troops are always heard in the news.

A week ago, while we were going to visit some very close relatives living on the other side of the city, and when we were almost there, and while I was feeling surprised and happy that the road took much less time than expected (a normally 20 minutes road now takes usually about 45 minutes because of the blocked roads, and other miscellaneous problems), we discovered that a main road was blocked and we noticed large amounts of US army, Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police, and Civil Defense forces. We had to drive on the wrong side of the road for a while (very common now in Iraq), then through many side roads between the houses (something I usually avoid because most of the armed car thefts occur in such places). We finally reached the destination after loosing my feeling of happiness because at that moment we spent more time on the trip than the usual extended version.

We knew then that some mines were discovered on that road and after that we heard 3 loud explosion (Controlled ones, if you are wondering). All the time we were there I was somehow worried thinking of alternative roads to go back home. Well, there aren’t many. Alternatives are either blocked, or are through some deserted areas that I strongly avoid specially at night.

Luckily at the time we left, the road was open, but all the time I was driving I was paying great attention to the sides of the road keeping away from any object fearing that it might be a bomb, what if they have overlooked one. Even a Soda can on the side of the road is dangerous. I don’t believe that any of you have drove with his eyes on the roads watching for mines, but take my word, its nothing that you want to experience. If I’ve heard a similar story from someone, I’ll say its exaggerated. Well, in normal cases it might be, but driving into a road that you know had mines in it few hour ago, you can’t stop thinking that there might be more. Trust me.

Now is a very unstable time for the country. The morals of the people are so low, and we are beginning to wonder if things will ever get better. Each day I wake up and wonder if it is wise to go to work in such circumstances. Few days ago, we woke up at about 5:30am at the sound of a small battle (heavy gun fire with some loud explosions) similar to the ones we used to hear a year ago when the Americans entered Baghdad. The sound was loud enough, it sounded like it was not more than 2 to 3 Km away (We’ve became experts on such stuff). I assumed that the situation got out of hand, and of course decided not to go to work. About an hour later the shooting stopped (my 3 years old daughter returned to sleep saying that the good guys (whoever they are) took the bad guys back to their moms!!!). It turned out that it was a trap set for an army patrol on the Highway near us. I made few phone calls later in the morning, and it seemed safe to go to work. This is an example of how we are living nowadays.

The strange thing is that we didn’t hear about this incidents in the news, while sometimes we hear about battles in the news that turn out to be few shots between police and few thieves. A one hour battle with loud explosions and all kinds of fire power gets ignored, while few gun shots may be described as a battle, like what happened in Al-Adhamya few days ago.

I personally (and many share with me this feeling) had completely lost trust in the Arabic news channels. They exaggerate bad news, and never mention the good ones. They describe those blowing up places and killing Iraqis and Iraqi police as resistance.

Killing Iraqis is resistance. Resistance against whom? Us!

I am sure that if it was without those Arabic channels, things would have been much better here in Iraq. All what they do is add wood to the fire to make interesting news.

Today, there was some kind of a strike. Almost 95% of the stores were closed. Baghdad had never looked as depressing as today. I wait for the news hoping for some good news but instead we keep hearing more bad news. The only good news I heard today was the agreement of releasing the three Japanese hostages. If taking hostages continues, then we can say good bye to rebuilding the country.

A year have passed since the falling of the ex-regime. A year ago we were drawing very bright pictures of where we will be a year later, unfortunately what we have now is far from what we had in mind. We must learn to accept less, and hope for less. I wonder where will we be a year from now; I will not learn from my lesson and will still hope for much.


Ahmed Kharrufa


10 April ‏2004‏‏
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Unlike what I expected, I made a blog but I am not adding short comments everynow and then as planned.
So I am adding this paragraph just to convince myself that It was a good idea to make a blog
A very short update about the current situation:

First of all, you all heard that the constitution was finally signed. I read it all, and it sounds good. IF IT IS FOLLOWED. Because as far as I know, the constitution that we used to have was good enough, but nobody followed it.

Electricity got much better ranging from 12-16 hours a day. Lets hope it will not get worse.

Finally we got a mobile service, but it cannot be any worse. So far the quality of service, makes it almost useless, plus very the high rates.

For those who had read my last message, Let me update your information: We now have a new type (color) of fuel, it is dark brown and its very good...very rare...and very expensive. But it is good.

Since I plan for this to be a short update, let me keep it to good news for a change.

So thats it and take care
Sunday, February 08, 2004
Finally I finished posting all my previous emails. Now the blog is ready for new material.......
Keeping you updated, 26 Jan04

Dear friends,

I've been writing this message for about two weeks. I am too lazy to finish it, and each time I leave the message for few days, some of its news become obsolete, I delete them and the message shrinks in size, so I wait few more days to add more news and so on. Another reason for not writing is thinking to myself: Ok I'll write, then what? People will read this, feel sorry about us, then continue with their lives. If it has not been for some certain people who are insisting that I write something every once and a while, I will surely have stopped. At the beginning I used to write such messages because I felt a need to do so, now I write them only because I am asked to do so. I guess this greatly affected the style, and the type of news included. This one, will very likely be the last.

About 2 weeks ago, I decided to start my own blog. I thought that in the blog I can add short comments whenever appropriate before the subjects involved get obsolete. My first problem was with choosing the name. I thought that it was very impolite of the site to ask me to choose a name at about 3:30AM. How was I supposed to choose a good name that late. The site should have at least given me a chance till the morning to choose the name. I was barely awake and the best I could think of was "thougths04". You can visit it if you want at if you visit it now, you'll find one great line there, and that is:


Since then, I haven't put anything yet. But I'll keep wishing that I will add some stuff later.

The situation now is as follows:

- Electricity wise, same same. We get electricity from 8 (the general average) to 12 (The very best) hours a day at best. Though few days ago, we experienced something we've forgotten long long ago. Guess what? It was 7 consecutive hours of electricity, but unfortunately it was from 2Am till 9AM - The least useful time in the day. In return, for the last two days, the average hours of electricity a day became 6 :( As I said before, I've written this paragraph long time ago, now we are having about 12 hours a day :)

Let me give you some facts about fuel:

- Since in our country we moved from one party, one leader, one everything to many parties, many leaders, many everything, I don't see why the case with gasoline should be any different. Now we have the following types of gasoline:

* Reddish, which is considered as the best type.

* Yellow, A moderate poor quality.

* White, Very bad fuel. Barely keeps the engine running, but this is the most available type in gas stations.

* Some times we see greenish fuel. (not categorized yet!)

- Those who sell fuel, stand in the streets with almost transparent containers in front of them so you can see the color of the fuel, and decide. If the container is not transparent, I will not advice buying from that person.

* I used to use the reddish type, but it started to disappear gradually. And now unfortunately, I cannot find any. The interesting thing, is that if you take 20 Liter of the white type (the worst), and add just one drop of red hydraulic to it, the fuel will have exactly the same reddish color for the good quality fuel. This raised another problem. If I do find some reddish fuel on the street, will I buy it, or not? Risky business.

* Fuel sellers also used to mix gasoline with kerosene to increase the quantity, but luckily (regarding this specific problem only) the kerosene prices got as high as the gasoline, so it became impractical to use it as a mix. I hope they will not use water instead!

* The authorities (I don't know which, the CPA or the GC) forbade selling fuel in the black market on the streets, and forbade the gas stations to give fuel in containers. That was about two weeks ago, It was even said that those who do that, will face a maximum of three years in prison!. So if you wanted to buy fuel for your power generator, or if you are unwilling to stand up in long lines (like me), then this caused a real problem. Haven't they thought about that: if someone has a power generator and no car (as is the case with thousands of people), how will he get the fuel? We were forced to buy the fuel in secrete from homes, or from the dark streets at night (We were forced to make such a crime). Luckily, like every other law stated in Iraq, laws only hold for about a week or so, then they don't apply anymore!!! This has always been the case with law in Iraq.

We used to have things like the "Obey the traffic signs" week. The police would make sure that no one breaks the traffic lights during that week, and when the week ends, they will stop caring. The same for many other things, make a low, apply it for few days or weeks, make a fuss about it, then forget it. And that’s exactly what happened here (Thank God).

* Anyway, the fuel problem (quantity wise) is almost solved, but quality wise, I still deeply miss the reddish fuel :(

- Security. Unfortunately, I've heard a lot of kidnapping events lately, but in almost all cases, there is always a catch. Either the father had some political problems, a long forgotten revenge case, or the family is extremely wealthy. Being very rich is a curse now. Many wealthy families left Iraq fearing from such events.

- I've heard of few cases where doctors were threatened to be killed or have one of their family get killed if they don't pay large amounts of money as a compensation for an old incidences where the patient had died or had his leg cut for example. Such a thing happened with a relative of mine who is a doctor and (only attended) an operation for cutting a patient's leg which was necessary to save his life. That was about ten years ago. Now his family came to him asking for 2,500,000ID (about $2000) or they will kill him or one of his family. Such things are more organized than you think, after paying the money, both parties sign papers to document the case. The police does not involve itself in such cases. Yes, unfortunately we are back to the dark ages.

- As for expositions. Well, we hear the sounds everyday. Some are louder than others, some are bigger than others, but we've learned to simply ignore them and go on with our lives. Otherwise, we'll end up locking ourselves in our homes. When we hear about an explosion in the news, hear about the number of casualties, we get a mixed emotion of sadness, anger, and helplessness. We curse those who do such crazy acts, but again we go on with our lives. We always had the feeling that this will always happen to someone else, someone we don't know, someone we don't relate to. We are untouchables. Well, It doesn't need a smart one to know that I am wrong, and I am just fooling myself. The last big explosion that happened near the "Jamhuriah bridge" (at about 8:00AM Sunday 11 January), killed the brother of a friend of mine. He, like many others was going to his work, but was unfortunate enough to be in the car next to the one that exploded. He is married with three children, the youngest being few months old. They spent two days without knowing anything about him, no one to ask, no one to turn to. I wonder, if they wanted to blame someone, who will that be: The man who did this, the people who tricked him in doing this, the Coalition for invading the country, or Saddam for giving the Coalition the excuse to invade our country? Good question, isn't it?

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is brought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?" - Gandhi -

- Another subject that worth mentioning, is the way the Americans (referring to the armed forces) drive in our streets. It is very common for them to drive on the wrong side and at high speeds. So at any moment, one might find himself facing a humvee or a tank, and if he is lucky enough, he'll be able to escape them. When one drives very carelessly in a street in Iraq, we say he is driving as if the street belongs to his father (il shari3 mal beet il khallifoo) Is that the case with the Americans? Do our streets belong to their ancestors? Only in the past two weeks, I've heard about three people whom I know who had car incidences with the US army's Vehicles. In one case, they stopped, gave the man a number to call, and in the other cases, they simply continued going in their (wrong) way. Three incidences with people that I KNOW, should give you an idea of how much this is happening in general. Drivers are doing their best now to avoid being anywhere near an army troop. No one knows what might happen at any moment. (There is an Arabic essay which says: Go far from danger, and sing for it - Ib3id 3an al shar wa ghanillu)

Our currency:

In the past month, the value of the Iraqi dinar varied from 2000ID for 1$ to 1000ID. This was caused partly because of the deadline for replacing the old currency which was 15 January 04. Now it is varying in the range of 1300 to 1500. Having such large changes in such a short period, caused a lot of problems and confusion to everyone. People either get paid in US dollars or in Iraqi dinar. So some had the value of their payments dropped to almost half while its doubled for others!! now it is almost settled in between.

There is one subject that I haven't talked about in this message and that's whether to have "elections or selections" as was expressed by one of the station. Well, this is a rather complicated subject and deserves an email of its own. I wonder if I will right that email?

PS: You know..After reading my message, and for a certain paragraph that was in it, I decided that I should either remove my name from the letter, or that I should delete the paragraph. Just having such thoughts got me scared, I thought to myself "Oh my God", this was the case in Saddam's days, we should be able to write freely now without being scared, Unfortunately this feeling started creeping back to us because of many different reasons.


Back to where we started, 23 Nov 03

Dear friends,

The last message I wrote was before the beginning of Ramadan, and I was worried that Ramadan will not be as it used to. Today I write this message with only a day or two left of Ramadan. Things were a little bit better than what I expected. Many shops remained open till about 10pm and streets remained busy till about the same time. Though the day ended much earlier than before, but still better than what I personally expected.

Evaluating the general situation here, it looks like we’ve gone back to were we used to be about four months ago. And here is why: 1. Electricity got bad again and the power cuts now range from 12-16 hours a day after it reached to about 6-8 a day. 2. Queues for fuel returned to be very very long and prices of fuel in the black market are higher than ever. I used to bye the liter for 125ID, now it reached 400ID (black market prices), while the official price is 50ID for liter. 3. After opening the “hanging bridge” at the beginning of Ramadan. The CPA closed it again few days ago. Opening that bridge was very important because it is a vital bridge and greatly affects traffic on other bridges. 4. Civilian airplanes are no longer permitted to land or take-off from Baghdad international airport. So if there was a hope that the airport will return to receiving passengers soon, this hope is now vanished. As you note, some of the factors that affects everyday life got worse, after they did get better. Who knows in what direction things will go next.

Let me tell you an ironic story about things here. A month ago there was the problem of deciding the beginning of Ramadan. For those who don’t know, Ramadan starts when the moon is born. So to decide the beginning of Ramadan, people must monitor the sky to see whether they can see the newly born moon or not. Lacking a government that people trust, each group of people relied on a different source to determine the beginning of Ramadan. Some followed the Sunis leaders, some followed the Shia leaders, and others (like me) followed the TV which represents the government. The funny thing is that neither the Sunis, nor the Shias followed the Government. So some started Ramadan on Sunday and others on Monday. Even in my own family, some started on Sunday and others on Monday. Anyway, the beginning is not as much a problem as Eid because Eid is a holiday where people visit each other and having different dates for Eid will create a problem. Unfortnately the problem did occur, some announced tomorrow as the first day of Eid while the others (including me) will have the first day of Eid either tomorrow or the day after!!. This is a very unfortunate thing. It seems Iraq is the only country with two moons. A suni moon and a shia moon!!! How to differentiate between the two is beyond my knowledge.

Another sad thing is what was written in a newspaper few days ago. The ministry of foreign affairs (whose minister is from Kurdistan) announced that it has some job opportunities but those who submit must be graduates of Kurdistan!. I’ve heard that the same thing is happening in other ministries. In the past to submit to any job in the government, one has to be from the Baath Party. Now, since each ministry represents a certain party, then to submit to any ministry, one has to be a member of the party (or religion belief) represented by that ministry!

Another thing that I heard is that in some ministries, men are forbidden to wear a tie and women are forced to wear hijab. This of course happens with ministries belonging to extreme Islamic parties. So much for the promised freedom. Maybe in some other ministries men will be forced to go to work in shorts and women in Bikini. Who knows, everything is possible in my country!

In the old days, it was a crime to be seen taking pictures near governmental and presidential places. But at the beginning of our freedom era I started taking pictures here and there to document things. Unfortunately, we lost this freedom again, and if one is caught taking pictures in public places by the US army, he will be suspected to be preparing for a bombing or any other attack, and will probably be arrested.

Day by day, the CPA is discovering that the best way to force security is Saddam’s way, but they refuse to admit this. In the old days, you can see agents from the intelligence or from special security forces standing in main highways every few hundred meters. Or you might not see them but if your car stops they will come out from everywhere. Now we are in desperate need of such system to stop people from putting mines in the highways or from attaching US troops in the middle of the city. What the US army is doing now is building high fences (about 3m high and 1m wide) along the sides of some main highways and near their high security areas. Those fences are build from concrete blocks basically imported from Turkey (as I heard). I also hear that each of those blocks costs about $2000 (including transfer and setup). The amount of such blocks in Baghdad now are by thousands. I wonder who is paying for this. We or the Americans. Hiring few security people would have been much more practical and cheaper and will at least offer some extra work opportunities.

Let me tell you some good news for a change. The security situation (in term of robberies and such stuff and not bombing) got much better, and now I am using my car normally, though I never go out alone, and never out after 9pm. But some more courageous people do. People are returning to living their normal life more and more despite of everything. We waited for things to get better to return to our normal life. But since it does not seem that a noticeable improvement will happen soon. People stopped waiting and just went on with their lifes. It is said that "Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people." And from what I have seen from Iraqis in the past few months, Iraqis did prove that they are unreasonable people. I don’t know whether now this is considered as a virtue or not.

The process of replacing the old currency with the new one has been going on for about a month now. At last we have a well-printed currency on special currency paper, instead of the old terribly printed currency on normal paper.

That’s it for now because the battery of my computer is running low and as usual we don’t have electricity right now.


A New Hope , October 03

Dear friends

It has been over six weeks since my last letter and much have happened since then. During this period and for a while I decided to write a letter entitled "A NEW HOPE", but before I write this Longley awaited letter, the NEW HOPE title seemed to be a little too early.

But anyway, lets talk about some good stuff first. First there is the new government (well its not that new now, but this is the first letter I write under this government so it can be considered new). Though the new government with its 25 ministers (exactly the same number as the governing council positions) is a mirror of the governing council. Same number of Shias, Sinis, Kurds... and For most persons in the governing council, there is a person carrying the same family name (if not a son - like the oil minister!!!!) in the government; in spite all that, the ministers seems to be highly professional people. I've read their CV's and many of them are Harvard and MIT graduates and some with multiple higher degrees. The qualifications of most of them are really impressive. So although this is the first government in the worlds where the religion or nationality of the minister is determined beforehand, I think that, overall it is a good start.


Well, since at most of the time, there is no electricity, there used to be huge traffic jams and specially at the main intersections, and since the number of policemen is not enough to solve this problem, Iraqis invented something called "Traffic police friends" and these are normal people wearing a special badge and helping in organizing the traffic.

Now one sees a large number of those people at every intersection and they are helping greatly in keeping the traffic flowing smoothly. In many cases you can see the policeman standing in the shade while his so called friend standing under the sun organizing the traffic! One can only admire those persons who are doing a great favor for all of us. We Iraqis like friendship so much. In the past there was something called "A president's friend" and those are people with special privileges. Now, that this title is gone, we invented the "Friend of traffic police" anything just to keep the friendship thing going.

So the above point was one of the factors to build the new hope. Another factor in the same category "traffic, that is" participated in canceling this positive factor. The increased number of roads getting blocked. Now with the increased number of bombing attacks all important buildings, embassies, government buildings, etc.. have blocked the roads leading to them, causing huge traffic jams in alternative roads. The bombing attacks are increasing and the blocking are increasing. Until a new kind of friendship is found, I don't see a quick end to this road blocking and traffic problems.


Now to security, and I mean personal security not National security (i.e., getting robbed, not getting exploded) At last, my car left the garage after about 5 months. The last time I put some fuel into my car, was the day when the Americans bombed the Iraq National Exhibition, during the war. I remember this date because the gas station was near that place and I had great difficulty reaching there wandering what was wrong without knowing that this place was hit before about 2 hours. Anyway, almost two weeks past without hearing of an armed car robbery, so I decided to be brave and start using my car again. I am using it now only for nearby places but have decided to go back to normal use next week.

Now it is more likely that I and the car get exploded by a mine or a missile than having the car get robbed.

This is a fact. Each day we hear the sound of several explosions (the media only shows a small portion of them). So now there is no need to worry about thieves, just bombs!!! Again the bombs factor cancelled the security factor. About 3 weeks ago we heard a very loud bang at about 11:30 pm. It turned out to be a mine put in the way of an American troop about 250m from our house. It gave us quiet a shock. The mine was about 5m from a hospital. What resistance in the world puts a mine near a hospital What makes one mad, is the Arabic satellite channels like "Al Jazeerah, and Al Arabia". They call all these crazy acts "Resistance acts" killing an American soldier and 10 Iraqis is called resistance. The media gets so busy by the one American and forgets about the 10 Iraqis. Its just frustrating. Such acts only delays the settlement of the country. Some people (and the number is increasing) are even saying that the Americans are doing this to keep thing in a mess to justify their presence and their plan to stay more. I, personally, don’t think so.

Police Force

You can see a lot of Iraqi Police now and they are much more respected by people now, they are well paid and decently dressed unlike the old days (In the past one always suspects a policeman for an intelligence agent or something like that). But still we need many more of them to feel more secure, or at least they should make more friends.

Electricity (my favorite)

Two weeks ago, we had about 48 hours of full electricity. Something we have not experienced for 6 months. Imagine that... 48 hours of electricity. What a blessing.

I did my calculations: All of our house consumes about 10 amperes. A single air-conditioning unit consumes about 15 amperes and with an average of 3 air-conditioning units in a house, it will sum up to about 55 amperes. Now that the weather got better and we stopped using air-conditioning, then we are consuming about 1/4 of our consumption in summer. With this I concluded that electricity will continue to be good. Add to that the lie that we've been told in newspapers that Iraq's power generation is almost back to its rate before the war. With all this, a big “new hope” factor is added. Nor more than a week later, electricity got so bad and it reached 8 hours a day. And since then it varies from 8-16 hours a day. So I say to myself, if at this time where people are neither using cooling devices nor heating devices and the electricity is that bad, what will happen in winter with all the heaters, and what about next summer? So much for the 'big new hope”.

Iraq changed its time to be +3 GMT (winter time). So now the sun sets at about 5:30 and it gets dark very early. No electricity means that shops start to close at about 7 or 8, but when there is electricity they stay till about 9 or 10. So electricity it is very important because electricity gives light, and light gives a feeling of security. I wonder how things will be in Ramadan. Baghdad used to stay awake till after midnight. Now 10 O'clock seems to be a record.


Schools have started -this is barely a positive factor ;-) I feel lucky not to have children at school, because every now and then, a school gets a threat (like bombing the school) in order to stop students from going to schools. This happened in a number of schools. I think most of the threats are just bluffing, but who wants to take such a risk. This is a big problem now. There are some people who just don't want life to be normal again.

There is another thing that is occurring more frequently now and that is kidnapping for a ransom. I have heard of quiet a few and I, at least, am sure of about 5 incidences.

Two days ago, the cousin of a college of mine in was kidnapped. Though many kidnapping gangs are getting caught by Iraqi police but still kidnapping news have become something normal to hear every now and then. Almost all of the kidnapped persons are from very wealthy families and from all ages, children to grown ups. The ransoms are usually in the range of few tens of thousands to few hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We are hearing a lot of news saying that people from Al Qaida and from everywhere had come to Iraq and they are behind some of the bombings. They Qaida even said that it was responsible for the bombing in Baghdad Hotel and they referred to it as a blessed act. I cannot image how they consider killing Iraqis a blessed act. So the US decided to fight terrorism and to push it away from its land. Now our country became the center of terrorism. Was that what they wanted?


I was supposed to go to Dubai-UAE to attend GITEX exhibition as I did every year for the past 4 years. To my surprise, UAE did not agree to give Visas to any Iraqi. And thus neither me nor anyone from my company attend the exhibition. So much for lifting the sanction. The UAE people said that they were instructed bye the CPA not to give visas to Iraqis because there are a lot of faked passports!

I was largely criticizes by some on showing only the dark side and being very pessimistic. Well, I tried not to do that, but then I felt like I was lying to myself. After all, my wife read this letter and her opinion was that I am making things look much better than what they really are!!! After all that, I cannot determine whether a "new hope" subject was adequate or not. You decide,

I’ll be interested in knowing your opinion.


Broken Promises, 24th of August

Hello friends,

Each day I write you a letter in my mind but I simply lost the will to put those letters into the computer. This time I fortunately did.
I just wanted to update you with what is happening here.

In my last letter, about a month ago, I told you that we used to have electricity for about 8-12 hours a day. We were promised (you know by whom) that electricity will get MUCH better after the 25th of July. Now its the 24th of August and we still have electricity for no more than 8-12 hours a day. The funny thing is that today in a press conference Mr. Brimer said that electricity DID GET MUCH BETTER. !!!!!! Well not in my country, perhaps he was referring to NY because it did get better there

As for fuel. Well the fuel queue shrieked from about a kilometer to about a 100 meters, plus minus 200 meters depending on I don't know what. Because one day you see tens of cars in queues the other day you see five or six. How come one day nobody has fuel and the other day everybody has, is out of my knowledge!!!

Going out with a new car (specially Peugeot or BMW) is still a great risk. There is a probability that you'll get shot (not necessarily murdered - thank God) and have your car taken. Unfortunately mine is a Peugeot, so my car has not left the garage for the past 4 months. Many many people still go out in new cars, but personally I am not willing to take that risk. To be honest, we used to hear about a car being stolen every day but now we hear that about once or twice a week. Now thats an improvement! This is the number I hear about and not the actual number of cars being stolen in all Baghdad.
I tried to get an old car but since there is no government, you cannot trust anyone to sell you a car. It might turn out to be stolen. So getting a car is not as simple as it may seem.
There are tens of thousands of used cars being imported (I am not exaggerating the number) from everywhere. But no one knows what will be the rules for their registration and whether one will have to pay any taxes or registration fees. They are all in the street and without plate numbers!!!

Many roads are stilled blocked by the US army. In facts the roads being blocked are increasing. The hanging bridge is still closed. This in addition to the increased number of cars (because of those being imported - and not taking my car out is not making the traffic any better ) is making a lot of traffic jams. We go out to work in the morning and we reach the office either in 20 minutes or in an hour.
We thought that those blockings were temporary. Specially the hanging bridge and some main highways leading to it. But it has been four months now and all what they did is blocked the "Abu Noas street - a very vital street" also. So it looks like they are not going to be opened soon.

Water is almost always there, but it is very week. No complains on this, though.

In my last message I also said that MCI announced that it will make its mobile service public in mid-july (at least I saw a formal paper from them saying so) but this turned out to be just another broken promise.
Many areas are still without any kind of telephone service because the phone exchangers in their plases was hit.

So in short, no noticeable improvement were seen in the past two months. This is only making people more desperate and those who were optimistic have now lost their optimism. I am one of those people.

When in a very short period you hear that a vital oil pipe was destroyed over an over again, and the Jordanian embassy (which is less than 2 Km from our house) gets attacked by a very large amount of explosives, same day an attack about 1 Km from where I work; and then what happened in the UN HQ, (you fill in the gabs with small explosions here and there). With all that, imagine the way we feel.
For the first time in my life, I started to think if I should consider leaving my country. I am simply loosing hope.
Each day we hear some bad news of all kinds. ranging from people being robbed, to killed, to explosions, ... etc. You always start your day with something to destroy the rest of the day for you. Consider that for a life.

From the experience we had in the past few months. Almost all the promises we were given, were broken. Even when they said they'll make passports in mid october (though not important) it also turned out to be another broken promise.

A week a go I went to get my fathers retirement payment. it was 60$ and they give the payment for all the retired people in Baghdad in one month and in one place and my dads turn was at 12Aug. It was 52 degrees that day. (A fact: More than 3000 people died in France because the temperature reached 42).
All the people there are over 60, and they have to stand in queues outdoors. Is this how the Americans look at human rights. During the period I was in the queue two persons fainted. Was it difficult to do it like they old days. Each from the bank closest to his residence?
Bye the way, the 60$ were for three months!!

A friend of mine asked me if we get to see the American soldiers often. Well you can hardly go out for more than 15 minutes without seeing a patrol or two. Helicopters are almost always there. Yesterday when I was sleeping at the roof (where most Iraqis sleep nowadays because of the absence of electricity) A helicopter came so low that I were almost able to reach out and touch it. Picture this. you sleeping safe and sound, and suddenly you wake up on the sound of a helicopter no more than 10 meters above of you. If you don't believe it was that close, well here is the proof: I saw it in the dark WITHOUT WEARING MY GLASSES. Do you believe me now?
We are closer to nature than any time before. We spend a lot of time in the garden and we sleep at the roof in the night just counting the bright start in the very dark surroundings.

I know I might sound too pesimistic in this letter but this is only because I feel that way. Things might be better than how I see them or will be soon, but unfortunately I see things this way.


Second letter dated at 1 July 03

Dear friends,

If you wonder why I haven't sent you anything lately; well, I started writing a long letter a week ago but while describing the extremely bad situation we were in last week (All Baghdad stayed without electricity for more than 3 days with very weak water or none in some places, plus a big fuel shortage for generators and cars), I was listening to the coalition broadcasting for the Iraqi people. They ware talking about all low priority stuff like printing "New passports" for Iraqis, Mr. Primer attending a Symphony for the Iraqi Symphony group, and such stuff, without any mentioning of the fact that about 5 million people were living under a temperature of 47 degrees and without electricity and water for three days :-/ You know, I reviewed my "dream list" back then; there was no "New passports" in it. It just contained three simple wishes: Electricity, Water, and Security.

(This will make a nice motto instead of the old famous "Unity, Freedom, and Socialism", I might as well start a party of my own with this motto. It will sure make me very popular).

Are such wishes to much to ask in the new millennium, and when you are under the occupation of the greatest power in the world?

If you say be patient. Well, apart from the last 23 years, remember the ex-regime has fallen for about three months now.

Back to the letter I intended to write. So while listening to these great news, I felt so desperate and frustrated (Not from the Americans actually, but from the situation we are in), that I simply tore the message.

The situation here is getting more complicated. You are hearing about the killing of the US soldiers every day. Neither me, nor anyone I know agrees to this.

This should not be the way to solve thing. It is only making things worse. US soldiers are getting so tense in dealing with people. If such acts are not stopped, we will never have peace.

There are also the destructive acts being done by unknown groups. They are destroying vital resources like electricity, water, and oil pipes.

Some say they are people loyal to the ex-regime, trying to make things so bad to make people hope for its return.

Others, say they are from Iran, just damaging the country.

Some even say that they are done by the Americans to keep people busy with such stuff (A policy that the ex-regime used to follow).

I, personally, am getting more convinced by the first opinion.

What depresses people here is that there seems to be no short-term solution to all this. Electricity, water, and oil pipes are an easy target and hence we will always feel threatened, specially when we think of July and August ahead. "The true heat is yet to come".

Nevertheless, we have no choice but to wait and see if the promises being given to us will be fulfilled, and lets only hope for the best.

As for other aspects of our life here:

- Do you know that the number of newspapers reached 73 and the count is increasing. The same for Parties. We have two persons claiming the throne (if there will ever be one). People here have no respect for almost all of these parties. Most of them just took the buildings they like illegally and make them their centers. Imagine a party steals a building when it starts and expects to be respected.

- The best job for anyone now is selling cold Pepsi on the road. The customers are often US soldiers trying to survive the heat. The amount of Pepsi trucks you see being unloaded everyday is incredible.

- Finally, the mobile network, which is being installed by MCI, has started working. It is still limited now but it is supposed to extend to public use mid-July. Thy funny thing is that our code is the same as New York. So we are considered as if we are in New York!!!!!!! I will try to get a mobile soon. Then you can call me with very cheap prices because international calls to the US is always the cheapest and as you know - We are in NY :-)


Well, Before I start adding new stuff, I will add the letters that I've previously sent to my friends. Those letters were widely spread, and thats why I decided to make this blog.
I will start with my first letter, then the others according to date.

My first letter dated at 14 June 03

Dear friends,

Being rather sick for more than a week, and being board also, I will tell you about the dark side of things for the situation we are living now a days.


I hope you will not block me after this long boring message, but I want to put those not living here in the picture.

Each letter I write about a certain thing that comes to my mind. We have lived very very strange days, that I cannot just let them go by without sharing them with someone.

In the days right after the fall of Saddam (because I don't like saying the fall of Baghdad), the situation here was like you see in movies like Madmax and other science fiction movies of cities after hundreds of years where there is no law and only gangs. We are more back to reality now. And if any of you worry about their parents here. I assure you that there has been not a single case were personal homes were robbed or attacked. The only robbery occurring is for public places and unfortunately for personal cars and only of certain type.

First, I will start with electricity. For the last two days, the electricity was 3x3 and for those of you not familiar with such an expression (unlike us), this means that we have electricity for 3 hours, then we spend the other three waiting for the next three hours. It is a beautiful way for letting days go by. Taking into consideration that today's Max temperature was 47 degrees, then you'll know one of the reasons behind my feeling of :( and :-/

Another annoying thing about this 3x3 schema is that you have your on and off period repeat everyday, that is we always spend the hours 3-6, 9-12 without electricity. In the old days they used a little more intelligent approach where the off periods used to shift daily. Maybe these days and due to the absence of the inspiring leader we used to have, the electricity people are unable to figure out a way to shift the on/off periods.

Second, the traffic. In the old days, one gets very unfortunate if his care stops (lets say because of a puncture) in the highway leading to the presidential palace. If so, security people will suddenly come out from everywhere asking you all kind of weird questions like why did your tire decide to puncture in this street!; then they take your papers and ask you to collect them later.

The Americans, and since they made the main presidential palace their main headquarters, took a much simpler approach to solving the security issue. They simply blocked the highway leading to the palace and of course with it, the very vital, “hanging bridge”. And as for the Adhamiay presidential palace, they narrowed the road in front of the palace (which is very important) to one lane. So, some of you remember the traffic jams we used to have back in 1991 after the war (specially on our way to college back then) and imagine a checkpoint on the Jaderiah bridge that checks every car for weapons (not of mass destruction, I think). So one can easily be caught in a 1-2 hours traffic jam. And when I remind you of the weather's temperature, you can image the amount of roses we will be willing to through at the Americans when we see them.

People found a solution to this problem. Since there is no law. Why not go wrong side. So in any raod (including highways) now you should not get surprised if you see a car coming directly towards you.

One good thing to mention, is that the fuel problem is now solved by importing fuel from nearby countries. Imagine Iraq importing fuel!!. Before that the cars queue for fuel used to reach about 4Km (yes 4Km without exaggeration), which in itself caused a lot of traffic jams.

Yesterday, I took (or tried to take) a decision to return to using my car (note that the Peugeot is the car robbers favorite). My family, being a against the idea, spread the word, and I received few phone calls with all kind of armed car robbery stories that I courage sly backed up. In fact I might consider removing the tires… I might take a step backward

During the war where we used to hear the sound of tens of explosions all over Baghdad, I never got afraid. I used the probability theory to figure out that the chance that a missile will give up its target in and head for me was extremely small. But the same theory did not work with me as far as my car is concerned. Maybe bacuese I (sadly) trust the Americans technology more than the randomness of our robbers.

Now, if you are wondering about where do I stand in all this situation we are living in? The answer is, I don't know.

During Saddam's days, things were getting worse every day and I could not see any hope of things getting better. He was destroying very basic things like the education system, and the police system.

But now, though I hate having my country being occupied, I have a little hope that things might get better. They will steal our money, which was already being stolen, but they will probably leave us to manage other things for better. And in modern occupation, they always give you something in return for what they take, even though you might not need it.

If one calculates the amount of money the Americans saved for Iraq by reducing the percentage we used to pay Kuwait, and if the Americans succeeded in removing some of Iraq's depts., it will make up for some of the oil money they will steal. It is an ugly equation but I believe it is true.

When we go out in the streets we do see American solders everywhere. But luckily I was not put in a situation where I had to talk to one, because till this moment I do not know how I will react. Will I be friendly, or aggressive. You may get surprised in my undetermined state (logic theory has great effect on me). I myself am surprised. But this is the way things are. We (or at least me) are so fed up with all this talk about Jihad, fighting, wars, fake patriotism, and worthless mottos that I don't want to hear anything of this anymore. I just want to live without a war for several years! Is that much to ask?


- Did you know that on FM, we now have BBC Arabic/English plus a channel called Sawa (an American channel in Arabic, they have one for the Arab region, and one specially for Iraq).

- Did you know that we have an uncountable number of newspapers now. Some say 36. Some of them daily, and the others weekly. Most of them are full of crap and you get surprised to how low people can get. People are so busy finding the pitfalls of the past regime, that they leave no time to think of the future. I don't know why don't they just leave the bad days behind, and work for better days to come.

PS: I wrote this message two days ago and was unable to send it till now. So here is an update.

They solved the problem of the electricity table being repeated every day by giving us only 6 hours of electricty a day and these hours come randomly distributed in random priods ranging from 50-120 minutes. It is said that some destructive acts were taken in the south at the power distrubition lines

The communication between the main phone exchangers which was restored a week a go is now gone

The only good new is that my health is getting a little better.


Ahmed Kharrufa
Saturday, January 10, 2004
My first blog ever