FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

What Will Baghdad Face in 2017?

cathy-breen-visiting-close-friends-in-baghdad

Cathy Breen visiting close friends in Baghdad.

Being stuck in traffic is a daily fare in Baghdad. While checkpoints have been dramatically reduced in recent times, and the number of concrete walls appear markedly decreased, traffic jams still defy description. It doesn’t help in the least that everyone is leaning on their horns. A half-a-million taxis roam around Baghdad spewing pollution as they look for potential fares. Proposals to counter this problem have been put forth to authorities, for example, the creation of taxi stands throughout the city. All attempts to remedy this problem seem futile.

In my travels this trip to Najaf, Karbala, Babylon and Baghdad, the dilemma of widespread corruption is of predominant concern. Young and old, without exception, feel caught in and strangulated by this reality. One young person related how one of the bosses in their workplace substantially increased their salary by fudging figures. If someone were to speak up they would, at best, be let go.

This past Monday a woman journalist, Afrah Shawqu al Qaisi, was kidnapped from her home in the Saidiya district of Baghdad by men claiming to be security personnel. She had written an article expressing anger that armed groups could act with impunity (BBC news Dec. 27, 2016).

“How do you get up in the morning?” I gently asked a young woman from Baghdad. “How do you manage?”

“With no hope” she replied. “Each morning I get up with no hope.” Her mother is ill and worries each day that her daughter will not get home safely from work. “All Iraqis want hope,” she added, “but they are resigned to bad conditions.”

But a gentleman who was also part of this conversation responded “There is no future if we keep silent.” Although he himself lost his position for speaking out against the corruption, he fears for the future of his children if the problem is not addressed. He believes that an answer for corruption is to educate by setting an example.

I had the great joy of visiting a family we have not seen for over three years. Kathy Kelly first introduced me to this family in 2002, and we have tried to remain in contact throughout the years. As evening descended, some of us walked the streets of the old neighborhood where this family lives and where Voices rented an apartment, in 2003-2004.

We went to the site of the horrific suicide bombing of July 3, 2016, only two blocks away from the family’s apartment as well as where the Voices apartment was. The night of the bombings was on the eve of EID, ending the fasting month of Ramadan. Many people were out doing the final shopping for this celebration. Vendors with their wares on the sidewalks, children eating ice cream in the blistering heat of summer. It was about 10:00 p.m. The blasts took the lives of over 300 people, many of them children. Over 200 more wounded. In the apartment where some of this family lives, three families lost children, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers in this explosion. I passed two of the survivors on the stairs this night.

I had my young friend take a photo across the street from one of the sites. We became silent as we looked at this blackened mass towering over us. Months later the area is still blocked off by a corrugated fence as you can see in the picture. Across the street was a second bombed building. All around us were people visiting, walking, looking at wares, etc. “It is good to see life” said my young friend as we walked arm in arm. Armed vehicles and police were very present as well in this area.

A pain for me during my stay in Baghdad was not to be able to contact another family with whom we are also very close. I’ve written extensively about this family as the father and oldest son fled to Finland over a year ago. I had hoped to be able to meet up with the mother and at least some of the children at a place that would be safe for them. Sadly, this was not possible.

Baghdad cannot be compared to the relative quiet and safety of Karbala and Najaf. As I write, we just got the distressing news of a double suicide bomb in a Baghdad market this morning. At least 28 people were killed. Many of the victims were people who had gathered near a cart selling breakfast when the explosions went off.

“Torn clothes and mangled iron were strewn across the ground in pools of blood at the site of the wreckage near Rasheed Street, one of the main thoroughfares in Baghdad,” an AFP photographer reported. “The targeted area is packed with shops, workshops and wholesale markets and usually teeming with delivery trucks and daily laborers unloading vans or wheeling carts around…Hugh crowds were expected to gather on Saturday evening in the streets of Baghdad to celebrate the New Year for only the second time since the lifting in 2015 of a year-old curfew.” (The Telegraph News, UK, Dec. 31, 2016)

I was on Rasheed Street only yesterday.

While in Baghdad I stayed with a gracious couple who made the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Haj, this past year. In one of our many conversations, my host asked somewhat mischievously, “Which of the four do you think is the greatest sin in Islam? Theft, illicit sex, drinking or lying?” I mulled this over not really knowing, but enjoying the exercise. The answer turned out to be “lying” and, curiously, I got it right.

But then the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq was based on lies and deceit. Many in the U.S. accepted, without adequate investigation or even curiosity, the notion that the U.S. would improve conditions ordinary Iraqis faced following the 2003 invasion. Tragically, almost fourteen years later, nothing could be further from the truth. Yet we should ask now, with genuine care, what Iraqis will face in 2017 and how we can make reparations for the suffering we’ve caused.

More articles by:

Cathy Breen is a member of the New York Catholic Worker community and a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
September 18, 2019
Liam Kennedy
Boris Johnson: Elitist Defender of Britain’s Big Banks
September 17, 2019
Mario Barrera
The Southern Strategy and Donald Trump
Robert Jensen
The Danger of Inspiration in a Time of Ecological Crisis
Dean Baker
Health Care: Premiums and Taxes
Dave Lindorff
Recalling the Hundreds of Thousands of Civilian Victims of America’s Endless ‘War on Terror’
Binoy Kampmark
Oiling for War: The Houthi Attack on Abqaiq
Susie Day
You Say You Want a Revolution: a Prison Letter to Yoko Ono
Rich Gibson
Seize Solidarity House
Laura Flanders
From Voice of America to NPR: New CEO Lansing’s Glass House
Don Fitz
What is Energy Denial?
Dan Bacher
Governor Newsom Says He Will Veto Bill Blocking Trump Rollback of Endangered Fish Species Protections
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: Time to Stop Pretending and Start Over
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Inside the Syrian Peace Talks
Elliot Sperber
Mickey Mouse Networks
September 16, 2019
Sam Husseini
Biden Taking Iraq Lies to the Max
Paul Street
Joe Biden’s Answer to Slavery’s Legacy: Phonographs for the Poor
Paul Atwood
Why Mattis is No Hero
Jonathan Cook
Brexit Reveals Jeremy Corbyn to be the True Moderate
Jeff Mackler
Trump, Trade and China
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Democrats and the Climate Crisis
Michael Doliner
Hot Stuff on the Afghan Peace Deal Snafu
Nyla Ali Khan
Spectacles of the Demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh and the Revocation of the Autonomous Status of Kashmir
Stansfield Smith
Celebrating 50 Years of Venceremos Brigade solidarity with the Cuban Revolution
Tim Butterworth
Socialism Made America Great
Nick Licata
Profiles in Courage: the Tories Have It, the Republicans Don’t
Abel Prieto
Cubanness and Cuban Identity: the Importance of Fernando Ortiz
Robert Koehler
Altruists of the World Unite!
Mel Gurtov
Farewell, John Bolton
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail