Maha Visits Baghdad

Return to Baghdad, August 2012

Our friend Maha Abdallah recently went to Baghdad to visit her family there. Here is what she told us about her visit:

“Once you enter the borders of Iraq, you feel yourself immediately trapped in the middle of a war zone. You pass one checkpoint to face the another. I entered from the Jordanian border, and suddenly everything changed, no signs of modernity or civilization.
When we reached Baghdad, we immediately prepared ourselves for answering questions in case one of the check points decided to stop us and question us. This is very common.  We reached my parents house, the heat was unbearable, almost 120 f, with no electricity.  People there are used to that, every neighborhood has 2 to 3 big generators, and each house must pay a lot of money for 4 or 5 amps to save themselves from the killing heat. My parent’s house is 600 sq mt, and it is too expensive to have electricity for the whole house. They can generate only a cooler, a fridge, TV, some fans and lights. There are many rooms in the house, but they use nothing but a sitting room.  This room is a multipurpose room! They use it for sitting, watching TV, eating, reading and sleeping! The rest of the rooms are deserted.
We would go to my in-laws house after sunset when it was bearable to go outside, but then all the people do the same, so the traffic jam that we faced is unbearable. Almost every 200 to 300 meters, there is a check point, if the street is 3 to 4 lanes, it will end up to be one lane only for the purpose of checking! Usually what used to take me 10-15 minutes to reach, can take now not less than an hour and a half!
People there are trying to adjust with this way of life, for one reason only. They have no other choice! Nobody is happy; many people are complaining and cursing the government. They consider the people in charge as nothing but a bunch or thieves and criminals! You can see clearly that since 2003 nothing new was added to the city; in fact what I saw this time was nothing but ruins to what was once one the most developed cities in the Middle East!  Garbage is everywhere, random construction, flooding sewages, dirty water, no electricity, no proper education, retired heath system, poverty, kids and women living in the streets…..etc..etc..
Iraq now has the largest number of check points, and at the same time it’s the poorest in safety and security…
While I was staying in my parents’ house, my cousin came to visit us.  He started telling me about what happened to his son 5 months ago.
His son is newly married and has one child, he is a taxi driver, and some passenger stopped him and asked him to take him to a city to the north of Baghdad. My cousin’s son agreed and once they reached the destination, the passenger pulled a gun and threatened my cousin’s son to kill him, after that he sold him and his car for $ 1500 to a gang that usually uses the stolen cars in car bombs. Since then my cousin’s son disappeared. His father had to go many times to the north to search for his son’s body which was never found.
The police arrested the passenger; He confessed that he handed 30 other people with their cars to these gangs for the same amount of money. None of those drivers went back home, many were found dead with chopped heads.
These kinds of stories are still happening everyday there.  People are so cautious about each other, there is always mistrust, with sectarian arguments and discussions still happening in the offices, colleges and even in the streets.
I felt like my city will never be the same . This corrupt government is so busy in stealing the resources of our country. None of them really care about the people, those who are paying a very high price everyday just because they were born Iraqis.”

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