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