Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Dahr Jamail: Daily Life in Baghdad, from Afar

Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches

Daily Life in Baghdad, from Afar

20-22 May 2005
By Dahr Jamail

It’s coming apart at the seams now in Iraq. We saw on the news today that members of the Mehdi Army in the south, the militia of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, exchanged gunfire with members of the ING (Iraqi National Guard) who in the south are primarily, if not entirely composed of members of the Badr Army, also a Shia group. So now we have Shia fighting Shia.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, things are just as bad. Abu Talat, my friend and interpreter, was speaking with his family who live in the al-Adhamiya district of the capital city. Just across the Tigris River from Adhamiya, which is predominantly Sunni, is the predominantly Shia Khadamiyah neighborhood.

A car bomb detonated inside Khadamiyah which killed at least one ING, so people in that area began firing guns across the Tigris into Adhamiyah. According to two sources in Adhamiyah, they confirmed there was heavy damage to several houses-broken windows, bullet pockmarked walls, etc. When people inside Adhamiyah began returning fire, a US warplane bombed a small mosque on the Adhamiyah side of the Tigris, for yet unknown reasons.

Abu Talat was talking via IM with his wife as she nearly fainted because bombs and gunfire were so near their home.

“What can I do,” Abu Talat asked me from a nearby computer at an internet café, “My family is in great danger and what can I do to help them?”

I stared at him dumbly…there was no response.

I helped find phone numbers of friends and other family members of his around Baghdad to try to go check on his family. He called them five times, constantly monitoring their situation while he was crying. Between calls he set the phone down to hold his head in his hands.

Abu Talat later spoke with his sister, who informed him that Iraqi soldiers were raiding houses in her neighborhood and detaining men of “fighting age,” which if we go by the US military definition of such when they do home raids, means men roughly between the ages of 15-50 years.

“They almost took my nephew,” Abu Talat told me in frustration, “But thanks to his father telling them that his son is a doctor and never leaves the home nowadays, they let him be.”

Abu Talat had his two young sons go with his wife over to a relatives home so they would not be detained. Although one of his sons, Ahmed, is merely 14 years old. Ahmed is a soft-spoken, gentle boy who wouldn’t hurt a fly.

When I was in Baghdad in February, one day we were taking tea in the home of Abu Talat. Ahmed came out and began shining the shoes of his father.

“You don’t need to do this in front of Dahr,” said Abu Talat to his youngest son.

“You are my father, and I am your son,” replied Ahmed, “I wish to shine your shoes. Dahr understands that this is what a son does for his father.”

Abu Talat beamed and held up his hands with a huge smile on his face.

My friend Aisha who is here, also an Iraqi, has a friend who lives in Adhamiyah.

“He just left the day before this all happened to bring his sick son to Amman for cancer treatment,” she tells me while we sit under palm trees and a nearly full moon later that evening while having dinner with her mother.

Her friend believes his son has DU poisoning.

“He learned that one of the rooms of his home was destroyed by a missile shot from an American helicopter,” she added while shaking her head.

Things quieted down in Baghdad after the events of the 20th, as well as the next day, relatively.

However, today Abu Talat came over to me in a panic and asked for Ahmed’s mobile number.

“He’s just been shot at,” he tells me as I feel the panic with my friend and begin finding the number of his son.

Ahmed was walking down the street when two men demanded his ring and his mobile. When Ahmed started yelling “Thieves, Thieves,” they kicked him to the groun and shot their pistols over his head. At gunpoint, the two men commenced to loot him.

Abu Talat received the information from his oldest son, then called home to find that his youngest son was home crying, but alright.

“He has his exams tomorrow and now he is sleeping,” Abu Talat explains with tears in his eyes, “He is alright but terribly shaken.”

This is the life in Baghdad today. This is the life of having a dear friend whose family is living in peril and his attempts to remain in contact with them from Amman. This is one family in a city of 5.5 million Iraqis, struggling to survive the brutal, chaotic, lawlessness caused by the Anglo-American occupation that has destroyed their country.


Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist from Alaska who has spent 8 months reporting inside occupied Iraq. He writes regularly for the Sunday Herald, Inter Press Service and the Ester Republic among other outlets. He is a special correspondent for Flashpoints radio and appears on Democracy Now!, Air America, Radio South Africa, Radio Hong Kong and numerous other stations around the globe. He has recently returned to the Middle East to continue his reporting on the occupation of Iraq. Dahr Jamail's latest pieces from the region can be read at his website.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news