1st of April 2003 in Iraqi newspapers

April 1, 2009

Al-Thawra (the revolution), Al-Jumhuriya (the republic) and Babel were the main dailies I grew up with. The first two have been around since the Baath party took power in Iraq. The third is actually Saddam’s son little project. He was the editor-in-chief and all-round overseer. But it was the only one that had very little original content. I can’t remember now what the point of Babel was. There were already two government mouthpieces. Maybe having a paper on the side which published content from wire services and articles stolen from international papers? I don’t know.

Anyway, below are scans of the above-the-fold front pages on the 1st of April 2003. These issues must be one of the last issues printed of the three major Iraqi newspapers as in 8 days chaos would reign over the city and no papers were printed for quite some time.

Al-thawra, whose masthead reads ‘the newspaper of the Arabic Socialist Baath Party’ says that “The Leader” has awarded heroes of the ‘Hawasim’ Battle medals – Al-Hawasim is Saddam’s name for Bush’s Desert Storm, in Arabic it means The Defining Battle.. was it ever!

Main headline reads “Republican Guard, Saddam Fedayeen, the armed forces and The Army of al-Quds continue their heroic Jihad’

In red: “The Leader Saddam Hussein meets a number of officials’. This refers to the photograph below the headline. In it you can see Saddam and his two suns with the minister of Defense and two more commanders. In short it’s a full house plus an 8 of hearts and a Queen on the side. You remember the deck of 52.. check them out for yourself if you’re interested.

cards

The strapline under the photo announces: “13 tanks and 19 armoured personnel carriers, 4 helicopters, one unmanned flying drone and 4 vehicles were destroyed”

…..Wow! Really?

A Central Iraqi Military Command confirms this in a communiqué that’s too long to translate published just below the fold. But by Allah, the coalition forces were infiltrated and ready to crumble! .. The communiqué also announces that the American administration is:

“a gang of monopolist oil company representatives (Hello, Mr Bush) who want to control Iraq’s oil and steal it.. they are the liars and we are the truth tellers.. they are the murdering criminals and we are the noble men fighting in the name of Allah”

… yeah.. they had a knack for meaningless rhetoric.

The editorial on the left titled ‘The Imperialist Invading Forces And Their War Crimes” is written by the editor-in-chief and lays into the British forces as Basra was just seeing the brunt of the war and he’s having a ball comparing this to their past endeavours in Iraq.

Inside, within the meagre four pages printed, the former minister of foreign affairs says “the invading forces have only two choices, surrender or withdraw”. The minister of information, “Comical Ali”, goes to town with the figures his ministry published about how many army vehicles were destroyed. And most worryingly the head of Muslim Scholars in Iraq at the time – no doubt Sunni – says that martyr operations in Iraq and Palestine are the most glorious martyr operations.

Al-Jumhuriya, has unsurprisingly the same little news content. Same photograph, same headlines. The front page editorial is a hysteric rant which I’m not even going to bother with translating as it sounds like the talk of a madman.. I wonder where Hani Wahib the editor-in-chief of this paper is now.. he should take a look at what he wrote. He sounds like a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Inside, again only four pages printed, the fatwas on martyrdom are reprinted. A presidential decree to award officers various medals for bravery is printed verbatim. On the last page a comment of Saddam’s message on the 25th of March says that the message was “a crowning to power and victory”.. yeah, whatever.. and finally there is a little column explaining the origins of a word the minister of Information has been using to describe the coalition forces since the start of the war. “Uluj”.. a term which had us all digging for those old Arabic dictionaries was used from day one of the war by Al-Sahaf.. I am until today not sure what it means. Thankfully, this six year old article enlightens. Uluj has two meanings according to this column. One, it’s a particularly insulting term for ‘infidel’ and the second is ‘a wild donkey’.. Huh! Who would have thought al-Sahaf had it in him! Comical indeed!.

Babel.. honestly it isn’t worth going into. Being the one with the most money it still got full 16 (small) pages printed. Mostly it’s a collection of anti-war demonstrations news from the wires. But on page two it breaks from the other two papers in not mentioning number or deaths on the coalition’s side and announces “HUNDREDS of US troops dead and THOUSANDS injured”. Source? Iraqi military spokesman. Yeah, they were always so reliable.

The Fear

March 26, 2009

I was reading my newspaper on the banks of the Tigirs, sitting by what has become my favourite dock on a beautiful Baghdadi day. The headline annoyed me so much I put the paper aside for a couple of minutes before picking in up again to read: ‘It’s Fear That Keeps Baghdad’s Peace’. Something about this article annoys me. I can’t put my finger on it. It slaps me in the face even before I start reading it.

The streets are calmer now. The fighting between Shiites and Sunnis has largely ceased. But this is not a sign of normalcy in the Iraqi capital. It’s fear that keeps the peace.

I was planning on writing about it saying it is wrong and a bit bloodthirsty but we didn’t have electricity so I had to wait. And the more I thought about it the more I saw truth in it.

Maybe it annoys me because it just puts the numbers there hanging in the air almost as if Sunnis were refusing to come back and take part in Baghdad’s political and social affairs.

I know AP has numbers to back these claims up and, hey, just look at us. My aunts and uncles, four Shia families, and us we haven’t dared go back to our homes in the west of Baghdad, now declared Sunni. The first time we went to visit since 2005 was last month and it was depressing. So few of the old neighbours are still there and it feels so much less vibrant than the inner Baghdad neighbourhoods.. But still something about that article makes me squirm.

In the capital, however, the calm has been achieved in part because the city is now ethnically divided.

No shit! You’re not telling me anything new here. This was government and US army policy. Who put up the walls cutting of Sunni districts from the rest of the city?

Two years after the first walls went up the sectarian division of Baghdad is fact. People sold their houses in areas they can’t live in anymore and tried to buy houses in areas safer for them. The important word here is tried. This shuffling of demographic cards totally distorted the prices of property. Many were forced to sell cheap, especially if they were living in Sunni areas. Those who don’t want to sell are left with nothing. If you want to rent home owners demand a year’s rent in advance. Who wants to be running after a tenant when they can pop a cap in your ass if you bug them too much. But I’m digressing..

So, yes it’s a mess. Maybe the article annoys me because it is true. This whole thing is too fragile.

The article mentions again and again that it’s Sunnis who ended up with the icky end of the stick. While Shia neighbourhoods prosper Sunni districts look like ghost towns the article says. True again.. Maybe I hate it for being this blunt.

Yes. If I count the districts which are really seeing a return to this odd thing we are calling normality – which isn’t but there is no other word to describe it - if I think about the districts were things feel OK they’re mostly Shia with the exception of al-Mansour which is slowly but surely getting it’s groove back as Baghdad’s choice location for window shopping and cool teenage posing.

But the rest is either Shia or Shia/Christian. Karada which stays open until 10pm is Shia, al-Kadhimya where you can still find fresh bread being baked at 9 in the evening is also Shia. The area around Al-Wathiq Square with it’s many new restaurants Christian/Shia.

Most startlingly, the ethnic divides remain even though the Iraqi and U.S. militaries have driven Shiite militiamen and death squads off the streets.

This also annoys me. Is the writer being wilfully naïve? I am sure he knows better. The militias might have disappeared but one of the main reasons why these Shia neighbourhoods are safer than other districts is because Shia political parties were allowed to have their own organised security and militia forces. Like the Kurdish parties no one was allowed to question the right of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq in having it’s own militarised arm, the Badr Organisation. And al-Dawa under al-Maliki started their own security brigade, in the guise of a counter terrorism brigade.

The Sunnis on the other hand were left to fend for themselves. And between the Mahdi Militias with their ominous slogan ‘Our regular programme will resume after this break’ and the other Shia security forces the ‘Awakening Groups’ were too little and too late. The harm was done.

Yes it is fear that’s keeping Baghdad calm but it’s a fear we used to know. The fear from overbearing security forces and intelligence officers. But having seen hell in the form of a men killing bus-loads of people for US$100 a head – literally, per HEAD – we might have acquiesced to heavy handed security measures we’ve learned to live with in previous times.

And while these measures might seem acceptable to the Shia population the forces who are enforcing these measures aren’t as easy on the Sunnis.

Al-Maliki’s approval rating of al-Maliki amongst the Sunni population is up to 31% from just 8% last year but four out of ten Iraqis  think that al-Maliki is concentrating too much power in his office[pdf]. And that’s across sectarian lines.

If you ask me that’s the fear that’s keeping Baghdad’s peace.

Blog Flashback | 26.03.2003

March 26, 2009

26.03.2003

Last night the bombs hit one big communication node in Baghdad, now there are areas in Baghdad which we can’t call and phones from/to abroad are pfffft, I have lost all hope that I will have internet again. We drove to have a look and it is shocking, it looks as if the building has exploded from the inside, you can look thru three floors. It is just near the Saddam Tower in al-Ma’amun area.

The Ma’amun telephone exchange was hit five times in total. The photo below was taken weeks later. There is nothing now where this used to be. And most land line telephones in that area still don’t work six years after this building was bombed.

Maamun Telephone exchanged

Ma'amun Telephone exchange

And just because it’s fun here is a little rant from the blog entry on the 26th.

One more word by Americans on TV about “humanitarian aid” will make me kill my television. They have the audacity to turn us to beggars while we will have to pay for the research and development of the weapons they are field-testing on us and they do as if they are helping us with their “humanitarian aid”. Excuse me, but it would help much more if you would stop dropping those million dollars per bomb on us, in is cheaper for us in the long run.

Blog Flashback | U.S. War Propaganda

March 24, 2009

More coalition leaflets collected from trips around Baghdad at the early days of the war. Click on the image to see larger, both sides and translation of text.

“Attention all Special Republican Guards!
The coalition forces are comiing to rid Iraq from Saddam and his regime. You should not have to suffer their fate.”

“While your families struggle to stay alive. He lives in riches.”

“The coalition forces are commited fully to the liberation and well being of the Iraqi people. Your cooperation will expedite the arrival of humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people.”

Pack your backpack.. you’re going on a package tour of Iraq

March 23, 2009

No frills tourism – in Iraq. [BBC]

Five British tourists, two Americans and a Canadian spent two nights there at the end of a tour of Iraq which has included historic sites as well as cities where extreme violence is still a possibility.

It’s a lovely little piece for Sunday. It’s upbeat, quirky and fits with the general drift of the narrative that’s coming out of Iraq.

We had country-wide elections with little violence, a recent poll says all is peachy and now western tourists are arriving. If you listen closely you’ll hear the sound of foreign desk editors picking up the phones to Baghdad to tell their reporters to head to Afghanistan, the story is so over in Baghdad.

Look, I’m all for it. Bring on the tourists, it’ll be fun. But this piece on the BBC is just a bit odd. The footage is filmed in front of Saddam’s old parade ground which is in the middle of the green zone. Normal folk, or should I just say it.. Iraqis, have no way of getting there unescorted. And they talk of visiting the ancient city of Babylon.. the last I heard is that an US army unit uses it as a base. You’d need security clearance to enter, no? I sort of suspect that waving foreign passports helps negotiate some obstacles but it’s still a bus full of people from foreign travelling through a country where kidnappings still happen – my father’s work associate still has no news from his wife and 4year old daughter who have been kidnapped late January.

All in all it’s a nice plug for Hinterland Travel, check out their website. The itinerary is quite impressive, they probably deserve the plug just for doing something as mad and wonderful as organizing tours in Iraq. Quite honestly I would have been interested in going on that 20 day tour as well. Besides the religious places and the souks they seem to get access to places I don’t think Iraqis are too welcome to. Waving a foreign passport here still makes you more welcome than pulling out an Iraqi ID. Sadly in most cases ‘assume terrorist until proven otherwise’ still applies to Iraqis.

All in all these tourists are very brave souls and I am very curious how the people at Hinterland Travel do this. Theire clients are probably signing a million waivers and disclaimers.

And just in case you were wondering.. yes, I am a little bit jealous. Sour grapes and all that.

Blog Flashback | Hack Attack, 23.03.2003

March 23, 2009

The first ‘OMG. They can do that?!’  moment in March 2003 was when the coalition hacked into the Iraqi state ISP servers and sent everyone who had an account with Iraqi’s only ISP a number of emails.

Granted, it’s not the most demanding of hacking jobs. They were sloppy there, so lazy that when the state wanted to check an email it thought was suspicious they would open it, read it, not even bother with changing its status to ‘unread’.. we used to get open emails in our inboxes.. anyway…

We have had another email attack, this time I was lucky again and have copies of those, the sender is something called [blablabla@hotpop.com]. I have not checked on that yet. Three of them are to army personnel and two to the general public in those they gave us the radio frequencies we are supposed to listen to. They are calling it “information Radio”.

I had did have copies of the emails, I kept them on floppy disks!!! how forward looking was that!

Four of the emails came from a hotpop account, one from a Lycos and another from a yahoo accounts. Below is the translated text of one email we got.

The world has united in a common cause. These countries have formed an alliance to remove the father of Qusay and his brutal regime. Qusay’s father has tyrannized the sons of the Euphrates and exploited them for years and he has to be removed from power.

Read the rest of this entry »

Blog Flashback | 23.03.2003

March 23, 2009

Original post for this day can be found HERE.

We start counting the hours from the moment one of the news channels report that the B52s have left their airfield. It takes them around 6 hours to get to Iraq. On the first day of the bombing it worked precisely. Yesterday we were a bit surprised that after 6 hours bombs didn’t start falling.

After the initial bombing of Baghdad it seems other governorates were now getting bombed. And we started seeing the first images of casualties. I specifically remember the images aired by al-Jazeera filmed in a hospital in Basra. I couldn’t find the footage online but a Robert Fisk article from the time describes some footage he has seen from Basra by al-Jazeera at the same time, it sounds like an unedited version of what was aired.

Raw, devastating realities that expose the truth about Basra [The Independent]

A middle-aged man is carried into the hospital in pyjamas, soaked head to foot in blood. A little girl of perhaps four is brought into the operating room on a trolley, staring at a heap of her own intestines protruding from the left side of her stomach. A blue-uniformed doctor pours water over the little girl’s guts and then gently applies a bandage before beginning surgery.

I am glad they didn’t’ air what he describes in his article.

In my diary from that day I also talk about the leaflet drops being made by us planes flying over Baghdad.

Yesterday many leaflets were dropped on Baghdad, while going around in the streets I got lucky, I have two. After being so unkind to the people at [industrialdeathrock.com] I don’t know whether I should post images or not.

First an explanation. The website I mention had a free image hosting service which I was able to access, the Iraqi state’s firewall somehow missed that one. I used it to upload the occasional photo. I was hotlinking to the images from my blog and this overwhelmed his servers and cost him a lot of money. I stopped posting photos until I found somewhere else to host my photos.

Now with the magic of Flickr I can finally upload the first two leaflets dropped on the civlian and military population in Baghdad and other cities.

Coalition dropped leaflets, 2003

Coalition dropped leaflets, 2003

[click on image to see other side]

The first leaflet I’ve found is presumably intended for the Iraqi army.
Picture side: “We can see everything. Don’t use nuclear, biological or chemical weapons”

Text side: “Don’t try to use nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. The coalition has high-tech satellites that can see the preparation and transport of such weapons. Unit commanders who do not comply will be punished.”

[click on image to see larger version]

The second is an announcement about a radio station the coalition has set up.

Both sides: “Infromation Radio. Daily from 6pm to 11pm.” Followed by the frequencies they were supposedly broadcasting on. It took a couple of days before we could get that station. The frequencies were later handed over to the Iraqi Media Net.

Blog Flashback | 22.03.2003

March 23, 2009

The first entry in my notebook is from the 22nd of March. We still had electiricity intermitently and I was able to post these two entries online before we totally lost all electircity and internet access.

The original post can be found HERE. I won’t be re-posting, I’ll only refer to the old posts if I had something to add.

Half an hour ago the oil filled trenches were put on fire. First watching Al-jazeera they said that these were the places that got hit by bombs from an air raid a few miniutes earlier bit when I went up to the roof to take a look I saw that there were too many of them, we heard only three explosions. I took pictures of the nearest.

I can’t find those photos, but the video below shows how it would have looked liked when these black oil filled trenches were set on fire. We thought this was going to last much longer and were worried the heavy black smoke would stay in the air for days. If I remember correctly they were only lit for a couple of days then they ran out of oil and no one came to fill the trenches again. The Iraqi army in Baghdad would have dissolved into thin air by then

guerregrab[wordpress wouldn’t let me embed the video, click on image to go to Dailymotion for full vid]

Looking back, one last time.

March 22, 2009

In three weeks time it’s the 6th anniversary for the fall/liberation of Baghdad.

Baghdad Falls / Baghdad is liberated.. all semantics. What is fact is our life in Iraq as we knew it ended at that day.

Since the start of the war in 2003 we had to move house three times for various reasons. A lot was given away or lost in those moves including a notebook I used as a diary during the days when we had no electricity or internet access, it also contained flyers and other things from those days.

When the bombing stopped a couple of weeks later and the first place with internet access opened I sent all the notes to my blog friend Diana Moon and she posted them for me on my blog. The blog posts from that time are still online, you can go check them out.

While looking through the boxes of our belongings I found the notebook, with newspapers, photos and the flyers I had kept. As five years have passed and we’re entering the our seventh year of our post-war/post-Saddam lives I thought it would be good to look over these notes and share what I have from that time with you.

Until the 9th I hope I’ll be posting things from the notebook and the papers I have, there are new links I can add and photos which have not been put on the blog at the time. I will upload it all online and throw the pieces of paper I have away. Hanging on to all of this for six years is enough.

notebook

For just US$170 you can have Saddam’s room at the Babel resort!

March 10, 2009

Radio Sawa – غرفة منام صدام حسين للاستئجار في منتجع بابل السياحي .

The report is in Arabic but it has some fantastic photos, click on the link above to see them.. I think he liked gold and frilly thing just a tiny little bit too much.

But I like the balls on the person responsible for this PR stunt.. using saddam now as a marketing pull!

Today’s 2in1: Freedom of expression and Paranoia!

March 9, 2009

Around two weeks ago I heard in passing a news item on TV saying that an Iranian Arts and Culture festival is going to be held at the National Theatre and The Arts Palace (formerly Saddam Modern Arts Centre).

This happened around the time our officials and Iranian officials were working hard to get into the Guinness Book of Records for the most flights clocked between Iraq and Iran in a fifteen-day period. This unprecedented public display of affection between the leaders of the two countries was making a lot of Sunnis here very nervous.

Now add the announcement of the festival to the Baghdad-Tehran presidential shuttle and you get this:

09032009001

The text across in white says: “Iranian (art) exhibitions are aimed to distort Iraq’s identity”. and below it in yellow: “Iranian (culture) is an axe poised to crush Iraq’s cultural identity”. And the images are of the national theatre and the arts palace.

I found this yesterday stuck to a lamp pole on the main street. Clearly someone had too much coffee sprinkled generously with ‘crazy’ that morning to come up with slogans like these. But it does touch on a raw nerve with some sectors of society here. The constant schmoozing and visiting isn’t helping either. And I guess it’s a free country now.. so as long as they won’t be doing anything nasty they can put up all the posters they want.

There is another version of the poster, you can see it here.. (that website isn’t what I’d call an unbiased news source by the way. Very pro the ‘old days’). This poster says: “Iran is spreading ideas to stop the unity of Iraq’s people and land”. The photos show the National Theatre and Arts Palace so they’re referring to the Iranian arts festival as well.

The opening of the Iraqi Museum

February 23, 2009

The opening of the Iraqi Museum – check out the set on Flickr.

The Iraqi Museum was opened today. I wasn’t invited :( so I stood at the fence and took pix.

My ISP…. LOLz

February 20, 2009

This made me laugh today.. Iraqi tel-com company Kalimat has a poll on it’s front page asking us how we rate interent service in Iraq.

kalimatthe only options I can chose from are Excellent, Very Good, Good and Fair… ! Only options I would consider are Poor, Abysmal, Over-priced and Drives-me-insane.

Percentage of young Iraqis without a job: 57% of all unemployed!!

February 20, 2009

Musings On Iraq have put together a very informative piece on the United Nations report on unemployment in Iraq. The number isn’t as high as I thought it would be from all the unofficial numbers that have been floated before. The UN report says that 18% or Iraqis are unemployed. The Iraqi government is the biggest employer:

43% of all jobs in Iraq and 60% of full time work was provided by the public sector. The number of people working for the government doubled from 2005 to 2008.

With the Iraqi fiscal budgets shrinking again and again while oil prices keep dropping Iraq’s largest employer is putting a hold on all future hiring.

The first who’ve heard the bad news were graduates and new students of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy universities. The ministry of health announced that this year they will only hire 300 (really?!!! is that all we need? I thought we had a shortage of personnel) graduate doctors and all new students were told there are no places for them in hospitals.

You’d think all is peachy in the Iraqi health sector. More probably the truth is that the government over-hired and now has to pay way to many salaries than it can afford.

After the medical profession was given the happy news the rest of Iraq was informed via TV. Gov is not hiring anymore. Unless you’re just coming back with an MA or PhD from foreign, then they might make an exception. And with no private sector this leave too many graduates with no jobs.

And as Musing On Iraq note, the young are very very unemployed. It’s become a worry. What you sense on the street is that you can find employment very easily if you can work with your hands. Labourers, bricklayers, just anyone who’s prepared to roll up his/her sleeves and do manual labour will find a well paid job.

Recently an acquaintance who works in contracting found it very difficult to hire someone to move cement bags in a cart for less than US$40 a day.. a fortune. No white-collar with the government pays that much.. well, unless you’re in the Green Zone.

With all this the Iraqi government’s decision to cut back on new investments and projects – the only source of new employment – is baffling. We need to build build build, there isn’t enough housing, the roads are terrible and it would create a lot of employment. Instead they cut money ear tagged for investment.

The mysterious ‘Future Iraq Assembly’ strikes again.

February 13, 2009

watan-wahid

for a better and clearer image click here

The Iraqi version of Victor/Victoria? ad for a sex change clinic?

nope, it’s another campaign calling us to unite.. it’s just striking an odd note with that image.. don’t you think?

I have no idea who they are but this ‘Future Iraq Assembly‘ always fills the airwaves and billboards with patriotic ads. Very shiny ones with very unlocal production values…. Very US-ian.

Anyway, their latest effort is just a bit weird. The TV ad is fine, it shows a series of ‘Iraqis’ telling the camera what defines us as Iraqis.. the tag line being ” whatever our differences, Iraq unites us”. All good.

The print ads though are a different story. Someone with a great sense of humour must have worked on them. It’s too good, do you think they put the guy on the left in drag to make it match so well? Love it for all the wrong reasons.


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