Thursday, August 04, 2005

An Interview With The Fair Lady

Our lady from Basra sent me three dispatches of answers to the interview questions. As you can see below, I buried her with questions. She has a job and a family. So, I told her to take her time answering the questions.

I gave her the nickname "My Fair Lady."For some reason, I thought of the movie "My Fair Lady"while trying to decide on a nickname for her. I hope she likes it.

I'm trying to make sure not to publish anything that may reveal her identity. You understand the reason behind these precautions.


Before Removal of Saddam From Power
  1. Q: How good or bad was the life of Basrawis before April 2003?

    A: If we consider the period after the Gulf War -- 1991-2003, I can safely say that life was getting much better on more than one aspect. From 1998, few improvements were presented to the citizens. It made our lives more tolerable.

    It is tricky question, for Iraqi people in general, life means something quite different. We were concerned with day to day living, how to stay alive and not to get arrested. I was afraid even from the traffic policeman. We didn't trust anybody, our friends, neighbors and families.


  2. Q: How good or bad was the electricity in Basra before April 2003?

    A: It is a sad story especially in Basra where the temperature is almost 50C during summer. But, due to the security situation we had at the least 3 years of constant electricity at night. But during daytime, it was programmed for 3 hours on and 3 hours off. But 3 years ago, electricity didn't existence. What was funny that on Saddam's many national occasions, electricity was available, so everybody could watch TV and listen to his historical speeches.


  3. Q: How good or bad was the water supply for Basrawi homes before April 2003?

    A: There were many shortages of water supply in all over Basra. Some parts suffered more than others. 5 days or more without water was an ordinary thing. Another thing, the water wasn't drinkable. But, a lot of people drank it because they couldn't afford to purchase drinkable water, which created a number of health problems in Basra.


  4. Q: How good or bad was the health system in Basra before April 2003?

    A: Iraq was known for its excellent medical staff of physicians. But, the system was so poor that it was a miracle they were conducting anything under what was available. The hospitals were poor in hygiene , medicine supply, proper beds, medical equipments, etc. It did cost a lot of money to get medical care.


  5. Q: How secure did Basrawi women feel while traveling to work, shopping or visiting family and friends before April 2003?

    A: Security was perhaps the same for men and women. That was true most of the time. The level of security varied over the years. From 1991-1995, it was secure enough. I used to go out and be late and didn't come back home until midnight. But, things changed when there was a time men before women were at homes before 9 pm. But, as a woman I wasn't afraid to leave my home or travel to Baghdad. I used to travel at night by taking my mother or my sister with me.


  6. Q: What type of entertainment did Basrawi families have before April 2003?

    A: entertainment was limited only to going to few parks. When the weather was good between December and April, people used to go for a picnic.


After Removal of Saddam From Power
  1. Q: How good or bad has the life of Basrawis become after April 2003?

    A: Life changed dramatically. We couldn't believe there was no Saddam anymore. When the chaos started, we couldn't leave our homes. During the days of war actions, I used to go almost daily to Basra's Main Market.

    when I first left home after the war, I went to my work. I was shocked but couldn't cry. For 2 days, I became sick with high fever. It was a sad day. My beloved workplace was destroyed.

    life became better in many aspects. We had high hopes those days. Nowadays, we lack that. Life was going to be what it should we thought to become. But afterward, the political parties supported from Iran made our life hell again. Muqtada militia are worse. If you're a Sunni in Basra with Shia majority, life is difficult and dangerous.


  2. Q: How good or bad has the electricity become in Basra after April 2003?

    A: Electricity fluctuates all the time, especially during summer time. At the beginning, there was looting and wreck actions aimed to prevent the flow of electricity. You should consider that people -- most of them employees -- with new high purchasing power, acquired many electric supplements like air conditioners, washing machines and refrigerator, putting much unneeded pressure on electricity supply.


  3. Q: How good or bad has the water supply become for Basrawi homes after April 2003?

    A: Water supply is even worse. Most parts of Basra rely on Electricity to get water by using water pumps. We can't drink it. Too many people are suffering from this. Drinking water cost our family of 7 adults 1500 I.D = $1 daily. Many families have to carry water from nearby Shatt Al-Arab, wells or some nearby broken water pipe.


  4. Q: How good or bad has the health system become in Basra after April 2003?

    A: The Health System is recovering but rather slowly. They are building new care centers, clinics -- public and cooperative -- to enhance the medical care so it reaches everybody.


  5. Q: How secure do Basrawi women feel when traveling from home to work, shop or visit family and friends after April 2003?

    A: women try to limit there outings to necessary needs. They go in groups to work, schools and anywhere else. It is not safe. If a women is killed in a explosion or a car accident while going to work, it draws bad conclusions. We should die in bed.


  6. Q: What type of entertainment do Basrawi families have since April 2003?

    A: What!! Entertainment. You must be kidding. But well, we visit among us. We attend weddings, although weddings in Basra go without music. A group of women who sing in parties and weddings were killed -- shot to death. The only survivor pretended that she was dead.


The British Troops
  1. Q: Do Basrawis see the British troops as protectors of the local people?

    A: It is not easy to answer such a question. But most Basrawis see them as their protectors. British Troops did a lot of help to the local community. But, they're also occupant troops. We want them out as soon as possible.


  2. Q: Does it upset Basrawis to see the British troops giving a blind eye to the acts of the militias in Basra?

    A: Now we realized it is not right for them to put a show of power for whatever reason. We blame our own forces and our government.


  3. Q: Do you think Basrawis were going to be better off with American troops guarding the city ?

    A: No. Americans will draw more violence, not only from the local people. Even though Basrawis are considered peaceful people. But, the one causing problems in Basra are not real Basrawis. Over the years Basra was a commercial city and an important port, which made people from Misan and Nasseriya reside in Basra.

    A lot of people respect the British Troops and sympathize with the soldiers.


  4. Q: Do you think pulling out the British troops from Basra will make any difference to the city's way of life? Do you feel more secure with those troops around?

    A: Yes, I feel more secure with the troops in Basra. Before the completion of the constitution and law and order are established, there isn't anybody safe.


  5. Q: What could the British troops do to minimize militia control in the city?

    A: There are always negotiations. I know they try to influence people in control -- the governorate council -- to deal with these issues.


Iraqi Police and Army
  1. Q: How much control do the Iraqi police and army forces have in the city compared to the militias?

    A: It appears that these forces are in control. But should any thing happen -- it did happened last year, no one can tell where these forces will stand.


  2. Q: Do you think Iraqi policemen and army forces are ready to take control of the city?

    A: I think so. They are ready.


  3. Q: Do you think there are many or few corrupt Iraqi policemen?
    A: Corruption is everywhere in Iraq.


  4. Q: Do Basrawis trust those two groups?
    A: Iraqis don't trust police forces from the last experience when Saddam was in power. What they are doing so far doesn't say much in their favor. But we need to build a culture of trust and openness between the people and the police.


Al-Sadr and Other Militias
  1. Q: How much support does Al-Sadr militia have among Basrawis?

    A: There is a considerable support for Al-Sadr in Basra. Many Shia here did follow (under the guidance of) his father before his death. Recently, he had a great influence in the South of Iraq and Baghdad. Especially, in al-Thowra -- Sadr city. But now, a lot of people are questioning his ideas and actions --mostly the cultured [educated] people. The majority of his followers, the less educated people and university students, identify with him and see him as their leader.


  2. Q: How much control does Al-Sadr and other militias have over the daily lives of ordinary Basrawis?

    A: Nowadays, you can speak freely about Saddam, calling him names. But, not Al-Sadr. He has become another Saddam.


  3. Q: How much control does Al-Sadr and other militias have over the local government in Basra?

    A: The local government are largely controlled by Al-Fadila Party, which is in alliance with Al-Sadr.


  4. Q: Do you think those militias will ever leave the city?

    A:They are all over Iraq, if they left the city, where would they go? Most of them are unemployed, ex- criminals, and known trouble makers. They now have a job paying them good salaries.


  5. Q: Do you think we'll see less Basrawis voting for List 169 during the next election ?

    A: Why did people did vote for 169 list in the first place? Democracy is new to us. We try to take decisions and think according to all the new changes, which took place. It is not easy, and it's confusing. So we end up doing things as best as we could. We do it the old way. We stick with the people who are related to us Shia vote for Shia and Kurds for Kurds.

    What will happen? Who knows. I don't know if there is such a list in the next election. In my opinion, people in Basra will vote the same. Many Sunnis didn't vote in the first elections. Sure they will make a difference [I believe she means in the next election].


  6. Q: Do you think Basrawis will most likely vote for more secular parties during the next elections?

    A: No, not many if Shia parties -- The Islamic ones -- use the same methods. It works effectively with most Basrawis. They are ignorant people who suffered years of oppression. They believe it is their duty before Allah to vote to 169. That what happened during the last elections.


The Constitution, The Future and Readers Questions
  1. Q: What do you think of the Iraqi constitution draft regarding women rights?

    A: If what I heard is true, they are giving us more rights than any Arabic country. But I wish they keep the quota for women representation. In time, say 20 years from now, women would have proved themselves and won't be afraid of being neglected politically.


  2. Q: How do you see Iraq in 10 years?

    A: I hope to see a better Iraq, a rebuilt Iraq and old problems solved. I hope to see a new world. I hope we look behind and be proud of what we have achieved.


  3. Q: Do you think there was a better way to remove Saddam than war?

    A: Yes, because you don't know what war means for civilians. The bombing, the terror, not being safe day and night. As a matter of fact, We deal with wars as our destiny and inheritance. War took our men, and most women born between 1960-1975 are unmarried. We want peace.


  4. Q: Do you think there is a possibility of the Iraqi south turning into an Iranian-style theocracy?

    A: Maybe. Some people think that there should be an Islamic state; but not like Iran. I fear little by little we are driven that way.


  5. Q: Do you think tribal loyalties will hinder a democratic government at the local and national level?

    A: Maybe not at the national level. But certainly at the local government level.


  6. Q: It was reported that the US had to force the temporary Governing Council into accepting female members. The new Iraqi government will certainly put women rights into the constitution, but do you think the Iraqi culture is ready for it?

    A: The Iraqi culture is diverse. That what make us special. So there are places where people accept women more than other places.


  7. Q: Where in Iraq do women currently have the most freedom?

    A: What do you mean by freedom? We all have freedom. But in northern Iraq --Kurdistan -- they're practicing their freedom more.


  8. Q: How accurate are the rumors of poisoned melons coming from Mosul? If the rumor is correct, where there any poisoned melons sold in Basra's markets?

    A: Only rumors for commercial purposes. Some traders who import Iranian melons started it. Mosul melon is known of its good quality.


  9. Q: Are there any other things you want the outside world to know about life in Basra?

    A: I love my city. We all love it. Wherever I go, I take it with me. It doesn't matter with the high temperature, the lack of electricity, or that the city of rivers turns into a desert. I love it and feel obliged to restore it. We the good ones must have our say soon.




My Fair Lady

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