By: E&P Staff
On Wednesday, after the latest upsurge in death and violence in Iraq, several leading newspapers quoted Iraqi officals referring to it as a simmering “civil war,” or words to that effect. Reporters described the new wave of brutal sectarian killlings, but some admitted that even more than usual the risk was so great they were not able to do much if any on-the-scene reporting.
That’s where Riverbend comes in.
In the past year, Iraqi bloggers have received a good deal of attention and respect in the American media, at least on the Web. With journalists so endangered and often stuck in compounds, the bloggers, who represent a wide range of backgrounds and views, have provided invaluable firsthand observations and commentary. The New York Times now features some of them regularly behind its TimesSelect paid wall.
One of the first and still perhaps best known (she has a book published in the U.S. and another on the way) goes by the name Riverbend. A young woman, now around 28, she hails from a middle-class family and was trained as a computer programmer. Her blog is called Baghdad Burning.
Back in January, E&P republished her moving tribute to the often overlooked figure in the tragic abduction of American reporter Jill Carroll in Baghdad — Carroll’s translator, Alan Enwiyah, 32, who was shot and killed in the incident.
Here is a large portion of Riverbend’s latest blog posting, from last night. Once again, a friend has been killed. She not only comments on the latest violence but also addresses the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl which led to charges against several U.S. soldiers. While she once expressed divided feelings about the American occupation, she now simply asks us to leave.
It promises to be a long summer. We’re almost at the mid-way point, but it feels like the days are just crawling by. It’s a combination of the heat, the flies, the hours upon hours of no electricity and the corpses which keep appearing everywhere.
The day before yesterday was catastrophic. The day began with news of the killings in Jihad Quarter. According to people who live there, black-clad militiamen drove in mid-morning and opened fire on people in the streets and even in houses. They began pulling people off the street and checking their ID cards to see if they had Sunni names or Shia names and then the Sunnis were driven away and killed. Some were executed right there in the area.
The horrific thing about the killings is that the area had been cut off for nearly two weeks by Ministry of Interior security forces and Americans. Last week, a car bomb was set off in front of a ‘Sunni’ mosque people in the area visit. The night before the massacre, a car bomb exploded in front of a Shia husseiniya in the same area. The next day was full of screaming and shooting and death for the people in the area. No one is quite sure why the Americans and the Ministry of Interior didn’t respond immediately. They just sat by, on the outskirts of the area, and let the massacre happen.
At nearly 2 pm, we received some terrible news. We lost a good friend in the killings. T. was a 26-year-old civil engineer who worked with a group of friends in a consultancy bureau in Jadriya. The last time I saw him was a week ago. He had stopped by the house to tell us his sister was engaged and he’d brought along with him pictures of latest project he was working on a half-collapsed school building outside of Baghdad.
He usually left the house at 7 am to avoid the morning traffic jams and the heat. Yesterday, he decided to stay at home because he’d promised his mother he would bring Abu Kamal by the house to fix the generator which had suddenly died on them the night before. His parents say that T. was making his way out of the area on foot when the attack occurred and he got two bullets to the head. His brother could only identify him by the blood-stained t-shirt he was wearing.
People are staying in their homes in the area and no one dares enter it so the wakes for the people who were massacred haven’t begun yet. I haven’t seen his family yet and I’m not sure I have the courage or the energy to give condolences. I feel like I’ve given the traditional words of condolences a thousand times these last few months, “Baqiya ib hayatkum? Akhir il ahzan?” or “May this be the last of your sorrows.” Except they are empty words because even as we say them, we know that in today’s Iraq any sorrow — no matter how great — will not be the last.
There was also an attack yesterday on Ghazaliya though we haven’t heard what the casualties are. People are saying it’s Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi army, behind the killings. The news the world hears about Iraq and the situation in the country itself are wholly different. People are being driven out of their homes and areas by force and killed in the streets, and the Americans, Iranians and the Puppets talk of national conferences and progress.
It’s like Baghdad is no longer one city, it’s a dozen different smaller cities each infected with its own form of violence. It’s gotten so that I dread sleeping because the morning always brings so much bad news. The television shows the images and the radio stations broadcast it. The newspapers show images of corpses and angry words jump out at you from their pages, “civil war? death? killing? bombing? rape?”
Rape. The latest of American atrocities. Though it’s not really the latest — it’s just the one that’s being publicized the most. The poor girl Abeer was neither the first to be raped by American troops, nor will she be the last. The only reason this rape was brought to light and publicized is that her whole immediate family were killed along with her. Rape is a taboo subject in Iraq. Families don’t report rapes here, they avenge them.
We’ve been hearing whisperings about rapes in American-controlled prisons and during sieges of towns like Haditha and Samarra for the last three years. The naivet? of Americans who can’t believe their ‘heroes’ are committing such atrocities is ridiculous. Who ever heard of an occupying army committing rape??? You raped the country, why not the people?
In the news they’re estimating her age to be around 24, but Iraqis from the area say she was only 14. Fourteen. Imagine your 14-year-old sister or your 14-year-old daughter. Imagine her being gang-raped by a group of psychopaths and then the girl was killed and her body burned to cover up the rape. Finally, her parents and her five-year-old sister were also killed. Hail the American heroes… Raise your heads high supporters of the ‘liberation’ — your troops have made you proud today.
I don’t believe the troops should be tried in American courts. I believe they should be handed over to the people in the area and only then will justice be properly served. And our ass of a PM, Nouri Al-Maliki, is requesting an ‘independent investigation’, ensconced safely in his American guarded compound because it wasn’t his daughter or sister who was raped, probably tortured and killed. His family is abroad safe from the hands of furious Iraqis and psychotic American troops.
It fills me with rage to hear about it and read about it. The pity I once had for foreign troops in Iraq is gone. It’s been eradicated by the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, the deaths in Haditha and the latest news of rapes and killings…. I look at them and wonder just how many innocents they killed and how many more they’ll kill before they go home. How many more young Iraqi girls will they rape?
Why don’t the Americans just go home? They’ve done enough damage and we hear talk of how things will fall apart in Iraq if they ‘cut and run’, but the fact is that they aren’t doing anything right now. How much worse can it get? People are being killed in the streets and in their own homes — what’s being done about it? Nothing. It’s convenient for them — Iraqis can kill each other and they can sit by and watch the bloodshed — unless they want to join in with murder and rape.
Buses, planes and taxis leaving the country for Syria and Jordan are booked solid until the end of the summer. People are picking up and leaving en masse and most of them are planning to remain outside of the country. Life here has become unbearable because it’s no longer a ‘life’ like people live abroad. It’s simply a matter of survival, making it from one day to the next in one piece and coping with the loss of loved ones and friends — friends like T.
It’s difficult to believe T. is really gone?. I was checking my email today and I saw three unopened emails from him in my inbox. For one wild, heart-stopping moment I thought he was alive. T. was alive and it was all some horrific mistake! I let myself ride the wave of giddy disbelief for a few precious seconds before I came crashing down as my eyes caught the date on the emails — he had sent them the night before he was killed.
One email was a collection of jokes, the other was an assortment of cat pictures, and the third was a poem in Arabic about Iraq under American occupation. He had highlighted a few lines describing the beauty of Baghdad in spite of the war?. And while I always thought Baghdad was one of the more marvelous cities in the world, I’m finding it very difficult this moment to see any beauty in a city stained with the blood of T. and so many other innocents.