(fwd from Raymond Chase) from Zehira Houfani in Baghdad (# 3)

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Wed Aug 20 07:07:31 MDT 2003

I thought this first hand account of life in occupied Iraq would be of

Raymond Chase

----- Original Message ----- 
Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2003 6:42 PM
Subject: De/from Zehira Houfani à/in Baghdad (# 3)

Bonjour / Hello

Below,<clip> the THIRD message from Zehira Houfani,
member of the Iraq Solidarity Project, recently returned from Iraq.
The article was written on August 2nd, while she was still in
Baghdad; but its content is still very current.  Our apologies to
Zehira and to you all for the delay in translating and forwarding
it to you.  The fourth and last article of this series will be sent
later this evening.

Solidairement / in solidarity

Raymond Legault
for Iraq Solidarity Project (Montreal) ISP


Without electricity and water, 52 degrees in the shade,
resist or burst! according to the American « convention »

"Under Saddam's regime, despite all the post-war constraints, it took 48
days to re-establish electricity in Baghdad after the destruction of the
first Gulf War," says Nahla, artist and owner of a Baghdad art gallery. And
she adds indignantly : "Why have the Americans, the most powerful country on
the planet, not restored it more than four months after having destroyed our
networks and infrastructure?  See how water is getting rare in these boiling
hot temperatures. I have a child of 7 years old and I suffer twice over to
see him enduring this terrible heat. Just think of the millions of deprived
Iraqis, babies, the ill, the aged, who are suffocating in the heat. How dare
people in the American administration talk about our well-being when they
are torturing us?" At that very moment the electricity was cut. "There you
are!" cried Nahla. "We are entering four hours of hell!" Actually, the
instant the ventilation stopped, a dreadful heat enveloped us. It was 52°C
in the shade today. And it is like that for months.

The whole week I stayed in Baghdad, people never stopped complaining about
the deterioration in their living conditions since the arrival of the
American forces. Even those who believed the invasion was the evil for the
good, no longer hesitate to say that the American army has colonised Iraq to
seize its oil. "They have been spending our money for four months without
concern for us, or our essential needs like electricity, water and security.
Iraq has never had abductions of children or women for ransom before. I've
been hearing about this for a few weeks and I think that it is extremely
serious for Iraqi society. It really was better in Saddam's time, believe
me. Today, I cannot stop crying about what has become of my city, Baghdad,
disfigured by bombs, looting, vandalism and all this machinery of war, the
soldiers and the barbed wire that criss-crosses our streets. It is as though
we are living in a vast prison under the yoke of the United States."

Such chaos is reigning in the country that many people are saying that they
miss the stability of Saddam's time. The absence of authority has allowed
the rapid development of all sorts of social scourges. In the hospitals,
they are saying that the victims of the violence which is destroying what
remains of Iraqi social fabric are being admitted in the hundreds. Many
Iraqis maintain that the occupation forces want this chaos; they cannot
believe that the occupiers would have difficulties in controlling the
situation. In Nahla's opinion, an army that can cross the world to invade
Iraq and possesses an arsenal (land, sea, air) sufficient to occupy the
entire planet, certainly has the capacity to satisfy the elementary rights
of Iraqis. "It is impossible for me to believe otherwise," she added,
continuing, "I will give you the example of the trouble they impose on us,
and mostly to poor people, just to buy a bottle of gas. You have to join a
500 meter line-up, under the burning sun for hours, to get gas. Many people
don't have the strength to withstand this form of collective punishment that
the occupation army is imposing on us. Is it acceptable to treat people in
this manner?  We could be served ten times as fast if they had 10 wickets
instead of one. It's the same thing for the thousands of Iraqis without
salary who begin to form endless lines at dawn in order to get a few
dollars. I find this humiliating for my people and that's why I was saying
that I cannot stop myself from crying when I go out in Baghdad."

At that point the young woman forced back the surge of tears which dimmed
her eyes. The moment was as painful to me as to the Iraqi artist. I thought
it best to change the subject and asked Nahla what she thought of the
Governance Council. She smiled slightly and then, "We have seen nothing
positive coming from the Americans. And this is also true of the Governance
Council which they have woven for us."

The artist maintained that any Iraqi speaking in good faith would say two
things about this famous Council. "First off, they in no way represent the
Iraqi people, but rather foreign interests and those who represent them; and
next, it has been structured in a way which will not advance the
reconstruction of Iraq, but will sow discord and division among Iraqis."  On
this point, Nahla's worries are shared by many Iraqis and by foreign
observers who think that the composition of the Council is not in the best
interest of the Iraqi people. To prove her point, Nahla continued, "Since
its constitution, and despite the critical problems that we are living out,
its members have done nothing besides fight among themselves under the
auspices of the American Paul Bremer. Moreover, all that the press has
reported on this subject, corruption scandals, lack of integrity, diversion
of funds, have discredited the majority of its members. My opinion is that
this Council has no authority, nor legitimacy.

Politicised or not, Iraqis, both women and men, are beginning to organise to
protest the attitude of the American authorities towards the dramatic
situation of the population. In increasing numbers, they are taking to the
streets after 35 years of dictatorship. This is a new form of struggle and
Iraqi activists say they are counting on the support of international
organisations in order to struggle effectively for their democratic rights
and the end of the occupation of their country.

Baghdad, 2 August 2003
Zehira Houfani (writer and journalist)
Montreal member of the Iraq Solidarity Project

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