Sunday, February 08, 2004
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.