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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Sunday, June 4, 2006

Freedom continues to march on in Iraq.

Just before the Iraq war and during the early days of the US-led occupation, one of the best sources for what was really going on in Iraq was a blog by Salam Pax. These days, Pax is a Baghdad-based news producer, and he posts from time to time at a new blog.

Right now, Pax is trying to put together a couple of stories, but he's having trouble getting anyone to talk to him. It seems that people are afraid that if they speak on camera, they'll wind up being the next target of one of the country's many death squads.

A friend of mine, after seeing how desperate and frustrated I was getting trying to get someone to talk on camera, said that I should go to the Kadhimiya district. People will talk there he said. Right. I haven?t been there for ages and I had no reason to believe that it will be different there, but I was getting desperate. I decided to go there the day after a bomb exploded by a bus in that neighbourhood and killed 13 people.

In case you didn?t know Kadhimiya is a Shia district, I have a Sunni family name. The knot in my stomach was getting tighter the closer we got to the check point through which we get into the market area near the Kadhimiya Shrine. What if they ask me for my Iraqi ID? They had an explosion here yesterday and I have a Sunni family name? No this is not paranoia. I have the wrong name and I need to get myself a new forged ID with a Shia name. Anyway, I was lucky they were happy with my NUJ card (the first time I was really happy I had it on me, I usually fear that if people see it they think I?m a foreign journalist).

Once inside I had the biggest eye opener. I saw the future of Iraq, or at least Baghdad. Inside the barricade and past the checkpoint was a piece of the old Baghdad. Shops full of people, all relaxed and smiling. Everybody wants to talk and tell me how their lives are and I even got invited to have tea and accepted the invitation without thinking that this man saw my camera and he is just delaying me until the kidnappers arrive.

You know what was different? Kadhimiya is set up these days like a fortress. Entrances are tightly controlled, no unknown cars get in and they basically had their own secret police there; when I lingered too long with my camera in front of the shrine I was quickly called inside and a security guard demanded IDs and wanted to look through the film, I thanked heavens again for the NUJ card.

So people I give you the future of Baghdad. Districts will become tightly controlled fortresses that are ethnically/religiously homogeneous. Outsiders are only let in after being inspected and checked. I really want to go back to Kadhimiya but only after I get my fake Shia ID.

Having trouble getting into a Shia district doesn?t mean that I am OK in Sunni areas. Sunni areas are even tougher. To start with they have their own set of fashion rules. There is a whole What Not To Wear spin-off for the west of Baghdad and the prize isn?t just a special wardrobe but you get to stay alive.

Let me give you a quick run down. Let?s look at men?s fashions first. Things that can get you killed include:

Shorts
A goatee beard
Jeans that are a bit tight or are too fashionably ?distressed?
Colourful shirts
Hair Gel!!!
A necklace
A Shia name (anything that has anything to do with Imam Hussein or a member of his family)

Before I started shooting for this video blog I was talking to one of my uncles about this whole death and value of life thing. He told me that today our lives are as valuable as an empty bullet casing left on the road after a shooting. Absolutely worthless.

I found a couple of empty rounds on the street the other day, I keep them in my backpack with my camera as a reminder.

Any further comments from me would be redundant.

Via War and Piece.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:03 PM | Get permalink




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