by Aws Al-Sharqy / Islam Online –
BAGHDAD (October 30, 2003) — This year, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan in Iraq was marred by a series of explosions and attacks that rocked the capital Baghdad when suicide bombers targeted several police stations in the Al-Sayidia, Al-Khadra, Al-Doura and New Baghdad areas, and car-bomb explosions claimed the lives of more than 40 people and wounded 224 others.
After 10 years of economic sanctions, the beginning of the month of Ramadan saw Iraqis suffer yet another embargo under US occupation.
Although the interim Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) declared the lifting of the curfew during the month of Ramadan, many people are convinced that the atmosphere this Ramadan will be similar to that of previous years: the security situation is still chaotic, and escalating price increases bring to mind the dim images that prevailed during previous years, when economic sanctions put an end to many social events, including rites and rituals usually upheld during Ramadan.
The Taraweeh prayer (unique to the month or Ramadan) used to be held in tens of mosques in Baghdad. Now, however, many people prefer to pray at home given the continuous power outages, and few venture to pray at the mosques for fear of being targeted by robbers.
The First Ramadan Without Saddam
Iraqis are facing a sharp increase in the prices of foodstuffs at a time when unemployment is rife. Thus, preparing meals for Iftaar (breaking of the fast) has become a source of embarrassment for many housewives, whose efforts in this regard are hampered by rising costs.
For example, the price of one kilogram of meat has rocketed to 7,500 dinars (equivalent to $37.50). Iraqis expect further price increases in the coming days — an unfortunate situation which they have gotten used to. They blame traders for taking advantage of the advent of Ramadan to raise their prices to unreasonable levels.
The costs of fruits and vegetables have reached double the prices a few days prior to Ramadan. This has led to rising discontent among Iraqis despite the IGC’s attempt to alleviate their hardship through granting every government employee a 6,000-dinar Ramadan bonus (equivalent to $30).
Unfortunately, those not employed by the government, who constitute the largest segment of society, did not benefit from this gesture. Some Islamic charitable organizations have set up Iftaar feeding programs and started distributing clothing and foodstuffs to poor families, and mosques are urging affluent members of the society to support the less fortunate.
This is the first Ramadan without Saddam. For many, this means the freedom to practice their rites and beliefs without fear or surveillance. However, this freedom seems to be undermined by the concrete barriers and barbed wires that have become a common sight on the streets of Baghdad.
Iraqis also fear stray US bullets that do not differentiate between a person who wishes to perform the Taraweeh prayer and another who intends to carry out an operation against the occupying forces.