Monday, September 25, 2006

The Civil War

I was one of few Iraqi journalists who had the chance to cover the war of 2003, with tens of foreign journalists who came from all over the world to do the same thing and report about “ The Shock And Awe” as it was used to be called,then turned to be “ The Liberation War.”

part of the conversations, I used to have with some of the foreign journalists about the future of Iraq after the war, they used to tell me that soon the US forces would sweep to Baghdad and occupy it, for me, my mind had always denied the idea of Iraq would be defeated though the showdown was very tough, I love Iraq, it is my country, I have always wanted it to be the best in the world, so, I was always in quarrel with one of the foreign journalists who used to listen to BBC Radio and come to me, “ The US forces are 500 Km far of Baghdad and they are progressing.” I answered him, “ These are your dreams so that you can write more stories, we will keep fighting till the last drop of blood we have for the sake of our dear Baghdad.”

The journalist told me, “ look, I will tell you what will happen and it is up to you to believe or not, the US forces will occupy Iraq soon, than you will have a governmental council, followed by elections, constitution in which Iraq will be divided to federalisms, death squads will be formed by Iraqi opponents militias who were outside of Iraq and trained by special US teams to kill Iraqis who resist the occupation, doctors, professors, senior officers, the elite of the Iraqis, then the country will slip to a civil a war between Sunni and Shiite which will last for years.”

“ This is the scenario that is drawn to Iraq, if you do not know.” I asked him how did he know that, he said “ Some CIA leaked reports .”

With all the horrible scenes of the war, the so many innocent Iraqis who were killed by the daily US bombing to Baghdad, with all the wounded who were dying slowly on the ground of the hospitals, I had always even refused to discuss the conception of civil war in Iraq because of the intimate relation that used to link Sunni and Shiite in this country, in our neighbourhood, with my own friends and even relatives.

I told all the journalists who were talking about civil war in Iraq that they were dreaming, “ This would never happen here, it might happen any where in the world but not in Iraq.”

Even the common Iraqis whom we used to ask when we meet them in the streets or in their houses about the possibility of civil war, they would be upset immediately and refused to talk about the subject.

But day by day, with my continuous coverage, I was surprised that all the stages that journalist told me about were coming true, though I always hear,that the Americans had a plan to invade Iraq but did not have any to handle Iraq post war, but it seemed to be a systematic plan to destroy Iraq under the slogan of “ Reconstruction.”

I still remember that when the foreign journalist wanted me to ask an Iraqi person, we were interviewing, whether he is Sunni or Shiite, I was not able to ask him that directly because I knew it was an odd question, so I used to put it at the end or get an answer by asking the man some indirect questions by which I can figure whether he is Sunni or Shiite, just because I knew that such question was very sensitive and I should be very careful in approaching it.

But, soon, I found myself dare to ask this question when Shiite processions to Imam Ali and Hussein shrines started to be targeted, followed by Kadhimiyia shrine, hundreds of Shiite people killed and wounded in these series of bombardment.

Then, the trial of Saddam began, rift between Sunni and Shiite built up from the way both sects viewing the trial, Shiite believe, it is fair, while Sunni believe, it is a trial for them personally and won’t accept to be humiliated like that.

Scandals of ministry of Interior private prisons for torturing and killing Sunnis showed on surface soon after that, stories of death squads wearing uniforms of the ministry of Interior, snatching, kidnapping and killing Sunnis became common among people and journalists, I visited one of the Human Rights organization in Baghdad, more than 1000 family were recorded who had one or two and even three persons who had been kidnapped and killed by death squads, and more than 750 person were missing.

It was a latent fire, till the 22nd of Feb, when I got a phone call from Samara at 8,30 in th morning, it was Wednesday, the man who contacted me said” Something terrible happened today, the Askariyia Shrine is bombed and Samara is in great shock.”

I thought the man must get mad, why the shrine would be targeted? The telephone rang again, it was the same man, it seemed he understood my surprise in a way that I did not ask him for details as I usually do, he said” What, you do not believe me, I swear the shrine is levelled and I’m standing beside it and only God knows, what will happen today?”

Few hours later, events started to escalate in Baghdad, news of Sunni mosques attacked by Shiite militias, burned and their Imams killed began to flood from all over Baghdad, in a way, I decided to go home early, at least, die with the family.

When I went out, in the centre of Baghdad to have a taxi to drop me home, I looked around, people faces were strange to me, I could feel the expectation of something wrong would happen soon on the faces of the few people who were in the street, they were in a hurry to find a transport to go home, I could hear gunfire, here and there.

After losing hope in finding a taxi, I found one who was heading close to my neighbourhood and that is why he accepted to take me with him, he said “ It is better to stay home today, news are not promising, we might be stopped and killed at any moment.”

Just close to our neighbourhood, the main road was blocked by a demonstration for Shiite people who were denouncing the bombing, a man was carrying a gun on his shoulder came running towards us, shouting “ Go away, Go away, or I will shoot you.” The driver told him, he just wanted to pass, he told him, “ You will be shot because they will think that you are a suicide bomber.”

We turned to another street, trying to reach home by any means as the driver insisted to drop me in front of my house because it was fearfully unsafe.

I turned my face to direct the driver how to take another route to my house, but I was stunned by the scene of so many men who were wearing black suits, some of them even were bare foot , carrying guns and deployed everywhere, signs of anger were on their faces.

They were in a state of war, few of them came running toward the car and ordered the driver to leave immediately, he pointed to me, they shouted even louder, “ Get out of here, or you will be killed,” I told him, “It is ok with me I will go on foot.”

With every street, I passed by, two or three men in black suit with their guns in state of alert, and ready to fight, but fight whom, I did not know, that was one of the most unforgettable scene I have saved in my memory about Baghdad, I have not seen such thing along the three years after the war.

Soon, dense smoke began to mount in our neighbourhood and news broke out, Mahdi army supported by the Iraqi police and army burned all the Sunni mosques and detained their Imams in our neighbourhood, Sunni families gathered to see what they would do if the situation got more worse and began to think of carrying arms with them all the time, “ I must kill one or two of them before they would come to kill me.”one of the men said while he was holding his arm tightly.

5 Comments:

Blogger Mike E said...

Thanks for this Ishtar. Compelling -- gave me bone-chills.

Good Luck.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Fade said...

I don't know what the answer is. I had fought tooth and nail to prevent the American Invasion of Iraq - Too many Americans are clueless pawns of our current government. They could care less who their government kills. They wave American flags and say "Support the Troops" - but they don't give a damn how many US Soldiers die in Iraq, really- They just want Americans to kill people and show what a badass we are because it makes them feel powerful.

I don't know how to help - I don't know what can be done to prevent worse suffering. America has destroyed Iraq.

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