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