Baghdad: Life and Love Shattered in Car-bombed City

August 13th, 2013 - by admin

Imran Khan / Al Jazeera – 2013-08-13 01:34:10

BAGHDAD (August 11, 2013) — It began just after sunset. The news broke, as these things often do, with a call from Al Jazeera’s Baghdad producer Osama.

This is a man who lived through the worst of Iraq’s violence, yet still manages to smile and laugh. This time, however, he was serious and to the point.

“Imran, I’m hearing that seven car bombs have gone off in Baghdad. Give me five minutes and I’ll get you more information.”

My mood sank. I’d spent the afternoon with an Iraqi artist called Qasim Sabti at his gallery. He’s a gregarious man with a wicked tongue, which he has used to tell tales of writers and poets under Saddam and now under democracy. He was infectious and his tales gave me a sense of optimism for the country. As we drank ice-cold colas he said, “We love life in Iraq, and life loves us.”

I thought back to those words as the flurry of information came through. In the end, the death tolls and the scale of the attacks across the country shocked me. Seventeen car bombs — 12 in Baghdad — 91 killed, 245 injured.

“We Iraqi’s love life, and life loves us,” I thought.

Surviving Brutality
After a night of on-air reporting, the morning gave me the chance to visit a bombing site. We decided on the Shia neighbourhood of Shaab in the northeast of the city.

It’s typical of the style of Baghdad: tiny apartments crowded above shops, with cafes and restaurants dotted around the streets where young men normally sit to play chess and sip tea.

But in the aftermath of two car bombs, the chess pieces had been put down and ‎brooms had been picked up. The sound of broken glass being swept from coarse concrete grated my nerves, a reminder of the brutality that these people had suffered.

We were surrounded as soon as we began to film. Words, angry and full of hurt, began to tumble from people’s mouths. And for good reason.

The damage from the bombs was immense – the street full of blackened metal, doors hanging from hinges. Even though the cars had been removed I could still see blast marks on the floor.

No one had been killed here, but plenty were injured.

I visited one of the damaged apartments. Blast-seared walls seemed to close in, and debris was scattered across the floor. A young girl, six years old at most, sat crying on her mother’s lap. ‎Her family had very little to begin with, and now they have nothing. Thier lifetime’s possessions were consumed in seconds by the explosion.

No Life to Love
This was supposed to be a holiday, a happy Eid. A chance, as Qasim Sabti put it, to enjoy life. There’s no enjoyment here, no life to be loved. Only severe pain and fear for the future.

‎They say Baghdad is used to this violent life. I disagree. No one will ever get used to car bombs ripping through their streets, or gun battles raging outside their homes.

Neighbourhoods are becoming no-go areas and once again in Baghdad’s history, this city dividing itself along ethnic lines.

The attack on Shia neighbourhoods is likely to be the work of a group calling itself Al-Qeada in Iraq. It’s stated aim is simple: to transform the country into a Sunni Islamic state.

It has been able to resurface because the Iraqi army doesn’t have the US support it once had. And Sunni tribal militias, formed to combat foreign fighters of the original Al-Qaeda, have been disbanded.

I asked Osama what he thought of the militias coming back. “They have been given state jobs, or gone back to their villages. Others frustrated by the way they were treated have gone back to groups like Al-Qaeda in Iraq. I don’t know how this all ends, or even when it will end.”

What is clear, is that an Iraqi solution is required to this Iraqi problem. But on the streets of Shaab, there’s little confidence in anyone bringing peace. As one ma‎n said to me, “Our politicians enjoy their money and sit and eat. We just die.”

Grim and angry words from car-bomb city.

You say this has happened because America was not there to help — surely the presence of Al Qaeda in Iraq was only thanks to the illegal US invasion of the country — a country which previously had no links with Al-Qaeda — falsely accused of having nuclear weapons and links to terrorism… and surely there is anti-Shia sentiment in Iraq thanks to the puppet majority shia regime and their widespread marginalisation and torture of sunnis….

That and the fact that the Shia sect ideology cloaks itself under the guise of Islam yet disobeys the very fundamentals of the teachings of the religion. This is a 1400-yr-old story and the Shia of today are repeating the same behaviour they have done throughout history — and that is a legacy of conspiracy and deception against the main body of the Muslim community…

That does not justify the crimes we have seen, but we have to understand the real situation. The killing of civillians has no place in Islam, it is forbidden, even in warfare, as is the uprooting of trees and killing of women and children… But this is the situation that America has left us with after decades of sanctions and war… it is not the situation because America has left.

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