Below is an email I have just received from my close friend and translator Abu Talat. While he has fled Baghdad with his family and is now a refugee in Syria, he recently had to return to Baghdad in order to try to salvage what is left of his former life (his car, belongings from his house, etc.) before returning back to Syria. His note is instructive as to the current living conditions in the capital city of Iraq. Here is the full text of his message:
Baghdad is a SMASHED city…no roads to drive on…most of them are closed off by concrete obstacles with concertina wire. In addition, the presence of the Iraqi military, who cover their faces with black masks and hold their guns in such a way that when you see them you will definitely be afraid that they will shoot you.
The shops in most of the area I went to see are closed. I asked one of the shop owners I know, 55-year-old Abu Fadhil, since I heard that his shop was robbed. I found his door closed and locked and he was nowhere to be found.
Later, on my way to Sadr City, I found that two of the three roads which lead all the way from south to north Baghdad are either partially or totally closed in some places. You still remember the highways in Baghdad…well now most of them are closed, or at least fenced off with obstacles, yet they say there is some progress in the security situation inside the city! Everyday two or three cars explode across Baghdad, killing big numbers of civilians.
When I returned to my neighborhood of al-Adhamiya, I couldn’t get in unless the soldiers checked my ID and my car, even though the guards are from the same neighborhood and they know me personally. But they had to check it to ensure that no car bombs might happen. Nevertheless, daily mortars shell my neighborhood and those are out of control, despite this concrete wall placed by the Americans which now surrounds our neighborhood. Despite all that they do, they cannot bring security to our small neighborhood.
Needless to say, Baghdad has been changed into THE CITY OF GARBAGE. You can find it everywhere. You can smell the stench of dead bodies wherever you go.
Talking of electricity, there is now only one hour daily. That’s it. From where we’re staying in the city center, in Bab al-Muadham, I can see from the balcony that people sleep nearly naked on their rooftops because it is so hot and there is no electricity to run fans or air conditioners. Thank God that there are two large generators that maintain electricity in our building.
Everyday by 2-3 pm the buildings where we are staying are closed so that noone can leave or enter. That way it is kept secure, and this is how it remains until the next morning.
As far as my family life in this condition, we are as though we are in jail from 2-3 pm until the second morning where the doors are opened at 7 am.
My son goes to the hospital to work, but for the last two days he finds it without any running water. [His son works in Baghdad Medical City, the largest hospital in Iraq] For the last 2 weeks, as he told me, the hospital has been without any air conditioning and almost without patients, although it’s the biggest hospital in Iraq.
My sons wife, who is also a doctor, has to go to another hospital just to try to assist since there is a drastic lack of Gynecologists. She stays in her hospital for three days continuously before my son picks her up with his car on the fourth day to bring her home, in order to insure her safety so she doesn’t have to take a bus or taxi.
As for my daughter, she has not passed out the doorway of this apartment where we are staying for the last week except for one time for some work she had to accomplish.
My wife left here only once, when she went to her job (which she has been on leave from since we left to Syria) in order to apply for a full year vacation. Thank God she got it.
As for me, I found my car ruined, so I had to repair it. For that I called the mechanic to come to my home and repair it, since I couldn’t take the car to him since all the mechanics shops are closed and there is no place to have a car repaired. All of those shops are totally closed.
When I saw the mechanic he said, “We cannot live anymore, and there is no job we can find.”
Dahr, this short letter gives you just a glance of the current situation in Baghdad. With the next letter I will tell you some more.