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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, March 27, 2004

"It's all bad news"

It's all bad news

Freelance Journalist Nir Rosen's adventures in Baghdad reflect a city in turmoil and extremely dangerous.

Rubaei street in Baghdad's Zayuna district is one of the city's unknown oases of normality, far away from the more famous Kindi street of Harthiya or 14 Ramadan street of Mansour in the center of the city. On either side of the wide and brightly lit boulevard good restaurants are open well into the night, the sidewalks are crowded with families and even young couples; expensive cars slowly cruise the street, young men gazing at the crowds of girls in tight clothes. I was sitting outside at dusk (staring at them too) with my Iraqi friend Rana in a fresh fruit juice and ice cream restaurant called Sandra. Rana ate imported ice cream, explaining that she did not eat the local ice cream for fear of nuclear contamination in the milk. She noted that the scene before us reminded her of the days before the war, when she would go out at night with her sisters, unafraid of the dangers that keep women sequestered in their homes today.

As she was waxing nostalgic about the good old days under Saddam, a refrain I am by now accustomed to hearing, and I was trying not to roll my eyes, two sharp gunshots cut her words short and returned her to reality. By now the sound of gun shots rarely distracts me, but this time it was too close, and too incongruent with the bustling nightlife. I saw two men walking hurriedly across the street in between the traffic, arms raised and pistols in the air. "They killed a man!" someone shouted. I got up and saw a man in a suit collapsed on the curb, blood spreading from beneath his head. The two men had walked up to him, shot him in the head, taken his pistol, then walked away laughing into a dark street.

The crowd grew and cars slowed down as their drivers gazed at the corpse. Soon about fifty men stood around silently, looking at the body then looking away guiltily. Someone tried calling the police but the call did not go through. Two men ran a few hundred meters away to the nearest police checkpoint, but were told by the policemen there that it was somebody else's jurisdiction. Two armed security guards from a building across the street returned panting, having failed to find the killers. They said they provided security for "an official" nearby. People told me the official was a judge. Someone from a nearby shop covered the body with a rug that failed to conceal the growing pool of blood. Half an hour after the shooting, Iraqi police began arriving, just as the several men in the crowd had turned over the body and were looking through his pockets for identification or a phone. When I returned to my hotel I told a photographer about what I had seen. He asked me if I had heard about the explosion in Fallujah. I asked him if he had heard about the deputy chief of police in Mosul getting assassinated.

"It's all small news, so you never hear of it," he said. "It's all small news but its all bad news."

And elections are supposed to be held in this environment?

posted by Steve @ 8:58:00 AM

8:58:00 AM

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