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Baghdad Burning: Volatile Days...
The last few days have been unsettlingly violent in spite of the curfew. We’ve been at home simply waiting it out and hoping for the best. The phone wasn’t working and the electrical situation hasn’t improved. We are at a point, however, where things like electricity, telephones and fuel seem like minor worries. Even complaining about them is a luxury Iraqis can’t afford these days.
The sounds of shooting and explosions usually begin at dawn, at least that’s when I first sense them, and they don’t really subside until well into the night. There was a small gunfight on the main road near our area the day before yesterday, but with the exception of the local mosque being fired upon, and a corpse found at dawn three streets down, things have been relatively quiet.
Some of the neighbors have been discussing the possibility of the men setting up a neighborhood watch. We did this during the war and during the chaos immediately after the war. The problem this time is that the Iraqi security forces are as much to fear as the black-clad and hooded men attacking mosques, houses and each other.
It does not feel like civil war because Sunnis and Shia have been showing solidarity these last few days in a big way. I don’t mean the clerics or the religious zealots or the politicians- but the average person. Our neighborhood is mixed and Sunnis and Shia alike have been outraged with the attacks on mosques and shrines. The telephones have been down, but we’ve agreed upon a very primitive communication arrangement. Should any house in the area come under siege, someone would fire in the air three times. If firing in the air isn’t an option, then someone inside the house would have to try to communicate trouble from the rooftop.
The mosques also have a code when they’re in trouble, i.e. under attack, the man who does the call for prayer calls out “Allahu Akbar” three times until people from the area can come help protect the mosque or someone gets involved.
Yesterday they were showing Sunni and Shia clerics praying together in a mosque and while it looked encouraging, I couldn’t help but feel angry. Why don’t they simply tell their militias to step down- to stop attacking mosques and husseiniyas- to stop terrorizing people? It’s so deceptive and empty on television- like a peaceful vision from another land. The Iraqi government is pretending dismay, but it's doing nothing to curb the violence and the bloodshed beyond a curfew. And where are the Americans in all of this? They are sitting back and letting things happen- sometimes flying a helicopter here or there- but generally not getting involved.
I’m reading, and hearing, about the possibility of civil war. The possibility. Yet I’m sitting here wondering if this is actually what civil war is like. Has it become a reality? Will we look back at this in one year, two years… ten… and say, “It began in February 2006…”? It is like a nightmare in that you don’t realise it’s a nightmare while having it- only later, after waking up with your heart throbbing, and your eyes searching the dark for a pinpoint of light, do you realise it was a nightmare…