Monday, October 22, 2007

It's All Quiet In Basra, Right?

A few hours after the attack on Al-Faraheedi Private High School in Basra last week, Queen Amidala sent me the following e-mail form Basra:

Today, an explosion targeted the students of Al-Faraheedi private high school in Basra.

Scores of students were injured or killed in this attack. Nobody knows what the attacker's target was: the students or the concept of a private school.

So, I looked around for more details. Unfortunately, I couldn't find more details other than what the Queen sent me. Then, I saw this photo on the BBC's pictures of the day and couldn't help but think of the movie, "All Quiet on the Western Front."

Nabil al-Jurani / AP Photo

A police officer secures the area outside a private school compound in Kut al-Hajaj after a hand grenade attack in central Basra on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007.

I had to laugh realizing that the cops couldn't protect the students when they needed them the most: BEFORE the hand grenade attack. But when it comes to media coverage in the aftermath of the attack, the cops are always there. Yes, it's all quiet and peaceful in Basra.

So, how are the Iraqi journalists doing in Basra these days? The Institute of War and Peace reports:

Last year, a website of an unknown militant group posted a hit-list of 17 Basra journalists. Some of the journalists including Adil Hamid, a local media adviser, fled to neighbouring Kuwait.

Local journalists who remain describe a climate of fear. They work quietly, not wanting to incite the wrath of the local militias.
Journalists say that openly criticising political parties or militias is a “red line” not to be crossed.

"The red lines that no media outlet in Basra dares to cross include writing stories about militias, administrative and financial corruption by officials and the interference of some parties in government affairs," said a local reporter who preferred no to be named.

"Iran is also another red line. No one dares to write directly about what Iran does in Basra."

It's all quiet in Basra, isn't it? Queen Amidala has more stories to tell us:

During the last week or two, many people were kidnapped primarily for ransom. The manager of Basrah's International Airport was kidnapped from his home while his family witnessed the kidnapping. Luckily, he was safely released hours before the Eid.

The airport manager is affiliated with Al-Sadr Party and yet was kidnapped. Some people accused Al-Fadhila Party because they appointed a new manager affiliated with their party. But, the Sadrists rejected the appointment.

This is the Iraqi mafia at work in the peaceful city of Basra.

And how are women doing in the land of gangs and extremists? The Kansas City Star reports:

BASRA, Iraq - Women in Basra have become the targets of a violent campaign by religious extremists, who leave more than 15 female bodies scattered around the city each month, police officers say.

Maj. Gen. Abdel Jalil Khalaf, commander of Basra’s police, said Thursday that self-styled enforcers of religious law threatened, beat and shot women who they thought weren’t sufficiently Muslim.

“This is a new type of terror that Basra is not familiar with,” he said. “These gangs represent only themselves, and they are far outside religious, forgiving instructions of Islam.”

Often, he said, the “crime” is no more than wearing Western clothes or not wearing a head scarf.

God helps the Basrawi women who must endure this harsh life every day. After you read this post, please light a candle or say prayers for the Basrawi people who continue to suffer since 1980. They definitely need it.

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