Thursday, August 11, 2005

Queen Amidela Reporting From Basra

Most of you know her as "my friend from Basra." She reported to us a few times before. She's not into blogging, but the murder of Steve Vincent changed her mind. She decided to carry his torch.

Me, her and our American friend spent a few days deciding on a nickname to shield her identity. We decided on Queen Amidela from Star Wars.

She already sent me two dispatches. Last night's dispatch brings yet another sad story. Here's her letter:

Mr. Vincent's translator is getting better. They sent her home for recovery. Some said she tried to defend him when they shot him. Others say the kidnappers made them walk in front of them and the kidnappers shot Mr. Vincent and his translator. But, nothing is certain.

The situation in Basra is getting very bad Fay. Just yesterday, another girl was shot to death. They got inside her house and killed her. My head is going to explode.

I will write more in a few hours. I need to rest now.

This morning, she sent me this letter:

Sory for bringing to you the bad news.

This woman was strangled in her own house yesterday. But, they stole only the car. They didn't even take her gold.

Nobody knows what happened yet. Everyone was surprised - even her husband. He thought she was at the neighbor's house. He asked them if they saw her. When they said no one saw her, he broke the door and entered the house to see her dead on her bed.

Queen Amidela answered some questions I sent her earlier this week. Here are the questions and answers.

  1. Q: How difficult it is for you to get to work?

    A: It is very difficult, especially if you work for a foreign company or a foreign organization. Anyway, it's more difficult for Christians than Muslims, especially with the militias everywhere and even among the people themselves. And, there is something -- among a lot of things -- no woman in Basra, whether Muslim or Christian, is spared from men's criticism when she walks in the streets. Some of the criticism comes from the teenagers, which are more dangerous.

  2. Q: How do you or your mother get around shopping?

    A: We rarely can go shopping. It's not very wise to go shopping in the markets very often. We can go to the market not wearing a scarf. But, the market itself isn't safe to be wandering around. We never know when a gunman will shoot. It happens very frequently. I don’t remember - not even once - going to the market after the war without returning to my house in a bad nervous condition. Eating my lips all the way.

  3. Q: Do you have the freedom to visit your friends whenever you want?

    A: Freedom? Of course not. Since when do we have that freedom? I’m talking about the women in Basra. Besides, each few months we seam to lose one or two of our friends either by being killed or their families had to flee Basra or Iraq. Since I graduated from college, I don’t seem to have a friend for more than a few years.

  4. Q: Do you have access to books?

    A: This question is like a stab in the heart. Here, we like to read very much, books and magazines; but not anymore. The last book I had the chance to read was in English. It was a novel by Daniel Steel -- I don’t remember its name anymore. I read it in 1995. Until a few months ago when I worked for a foreign company. They brought some books and I was able to read some of them.

    Last week, the militias in Basra forced all the magazine and book (BASTEYAH)[stands] to close or they would kill the owners.

    These days, there are no books in Basra except the religious Shia books.

  5. Q: Did the Internet help?

    A: Sure it did in every way of our lives.

    It made us reconnect with our families abroad, and they are many. We also have the chance to make new friendships with people of other nationalities. It’s a new and different world for all of us. It fulfilled almost all the gaps. It made people want to learn more.

    I wish you could see the young people using the Internet. How hungry they are to know everything, to learn, to forget time while connecting to it. Now, even the poorest families have two priorities: Internet and satellites.

That's all for this week from Queen Amidela.

One thing I don't miss about Iraq is shopping. From her answer, it seems like nothing has changed. What's called stalking here is called a way of life for many Iraqi girls. Sometimes, it was nice. However most of the time, the stalkers went too far and became annoying to a girl walking on the street.

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