Vermont Guardian & Agence France-Presse – 2005-08-22 00:39:45
Psychological Trauma Widespread in Iraq
BAGHDAD (August 16, 2005) — One of Iraq’s top psychiatrists says that more than two years of war, occupation and insurgency have turned the country into possibly the most psychologically damaged place in the world.
“Psychologically, it may be the worst affected country in the world,” Dr. Harith Hassan, the former head of Baghdad’s Psychological Research Center, told Reuters news agency last week. “What’s going on is really a catastrophe from a psychological and a societal point of view.”
More than 70 percent of the private clients Hassan sees each week are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a severe anxiety condition, he said. Since the “shock and awe” of the 2003 US bombing, Iraqis have had to deal with occupation by foreign forces, random and widespread death brought about by insurgents, and the growing effects of sectarian tensions.
Sectarian division is one of Hassan’s biggest concerns. Iraqis increasingly define themselves by classifications that were not common before, he explained. “You may have a Shiite father and a Sunni mother, and the children don’t really know how they are defined, but they are being forced to define themselves as one or the other,” he said. “Iraq hasn’t experienced these sorts of divisions before and it is creating terrible psychological trauma.”
With the help of a research center in the United Arab Emirates, Hassan has begun a preliminary study into the extent of PTSD. He is particularly concerned about its prevalence among women and children. If he can secure assistance from the World Health Organization, the US National Institute of Mental Health and other groups, he hopes to conduct a nationwide study of the problem over the next 18 months.
“Things are getting worse and worse,” he said. “We need to understand what is happening to our national psyche and try to resolve it.”
Constitution? What about Our Basic Needs, Demands Iraq Press
(August 16, 2005) — Iraq’s newspapers warned of the risk of the total collapse of basic services like electricity and water, saying upgrading them was more important than drafting the constitution.
“The petrol crisis stole the spotlight from the constitution crisis,” said the editorial in the leading independent daily Azaman.
Iraq missed the midnight Monday deadline for presenting a draft constitution to parliament despite marathon talks, but MPs have granted a one-week extension to draw up the charter by August 22.
Although the missed deadline was on the front pages of most newspapers, editorials hammered the fledgling administration for ignoring basic amenities in the war-torn country, where power cuts and water shortages are recurring problems.
“Why talk about progress in the political process when the quality of life is deteriorating at all levels,” said Al-Mashriq, a daily close to the Kurdish community. “Politics was invented to improve life, not to make it worse, but in Iraq this truth has been altered.”
But Al-Fourat backed the constitution process, saying Iraq’s unity was crucial. “The biggest fear of Iraq nowdays is to lose its unity. Even the degradation of services or their total failure has become secondary when it comes to unity.”
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26 Iraqi Workers Wounded as
US Troops Mistake them for Rebels
(August 16, 2005) — A group of Iraqi workers in Baghdad came under fire from US troops who mistook them for insurgents.
An interior ministry source said US troops fired on a crowd of workers in the central Baghdad neighbourhood of Alawi, while a defence ministry source reported an exchange of fire between suspected rebels and US forces in the area. But a number of casualties lying in Al-Yarmouk hospital told AFP that a US helicopter fired at them as they were gathered outside a hotel.
“The electricity went out at around 0500 (0100 GMT), so we exited the hotel to the street to have breakfast in the fresh air. A helicopter then opened fire into the street,” said Ali Mohammad, who sustained neck and leg injuries.
Makki Hassan, a 50-year-old resident of the neighbourhood, said that a number of people sleeping on the roofs of their houses were also struck by gunfire. The US military, contacted by AFP, had no immediate information on the incident.
Also in Baghdad, two Iraqi policemen were killed and four others injured when gunmen fired on a civil defence centre in the eastern Canal district, the interior ministry source said.
In other violence Tuesday, an Iraqi working for a local news organisation was killed and his three colleagues wounded when their car hit a roadside bomb south of Baquba, 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the office of former prime minister Iyad Allawi accused members of the Iraqi National Guard of assaulting his private guards late Monday, wounding two of them.
“Such attacks backed by the current Iraqi government … increase (the Iraqi people’s) lack of confidence in the leadership of the current government,” said a statement issued by Allawi’s office. Allawi’s office told AFP the attack took place in Al-Zaytoon Street, where the office of the ex-premier is located, but declined to give further details.
Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse
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