These are few excerpt…. from Anne Nivat. (would like to share with you all)
|Life and death in red zone|
|By Anne Nivat|
It was hard enough to organise my trip from France to Baghdad. But once there, it proved even tougher to get to get into the “green zone,” the American military and diplomatic headquarters and construction site of a new American embassy that will be the largest in the world.
I had an appointment with an aide to General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq. A press officer offered to meet me at one of the main checkpoints. I advised him by cell phone how he would recognise me: “Don’t look for a western-looking woman. I’m dressed like an Iraqi.”
He met me in full combat gear. Between the first checkpoint and the parking lot of the US embassy, still based in Saddam Hussein’s Republican Palace, a distance of about a mile, I was checked six times. I had come from the “red zone.”
The “red zone”: that is to say, all of Baghdad outside the fortified American enclave. The “no-go zone.” The sprawling capital city that is home to more than ten million people. That’s where I lived for two weeks to get “the other side” of the story. To do that, I had no choice but to blend in.
Dressed in a loose black tunic with long sleeves called an abbaya, I strapped on sandals, tucked my hair under a scarf tied at the chin and blended into the crowded streets of Baghdad. Only my contacts knew that I was a foreigner and a reporter, and I didn’t tell anyone where I was staying or for how long. I was careful never to speak in public.
My contact and I got around in a grey Peugeot. Ali, whom I knew from a previous trip, had traded in his BMW because it was too conspicuous — residents of Baghdad have to consider how every detail of life could impact on their very survival. They assume as low a profile as they can, then wait fatalistically for the day that “something happens.”
“The only sure thing here is that we have lost our trust. Can you believe that we are terrorised in our own homes?” Ali, 32, chose to remain in Baghdad while the majority of his friends and relatives joined the hordes of refugees in Syria and Jordan (for the less fortunate) or Sweden (for the others).
“I am Shia,” Ali said. “My uncles and cousins were murdered by Saddam’s regime. I wanted desperately to get rid of him. But today, if Saddam’s feet appeared in front of me, I would fall to my knees and kiss them!”
The temperature outside is nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, but the capital has no electricity most of the time. Those who own private generators have become the most powerful people in every district. They sell the precious energy eight hours a day.
On the eastern bank of the Tigris River, where I stayed, the government could provide electricity only between 6 and 7 am All the appliances would burst into action, waking up the household. For those who can afford it, a small generator fills in the gaps in power. But a generator consumes up to 20 gallons of gasoline a day, an enormous amount in a time of shortages. Under Saddam Hussein, 40 gallons of gasoline cost half a dollar. Today, you’d have to pay $75 for the same quantity on the black market — or you could stand in line for four to five days at a gas station and pay about $35.
“You spend all your time preoccupied with either getting gasoline or getting electricity — not to mention worrying about violence,” says Ali. “If they go out, my sisters could be kidnapped or killed by a bomb. I travel by car only if it is absolutely necessary.”
Day after day, morning til
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