Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

A Diary of Life Under Fire

It's business as usual - by order - for Baghdad's bakers and garbage collectors, but the Interior Minister is showing the strain.
By an Iraqi

Thursday, March 20 - The all-clear siren has just gone. The bombing is coming and going in waves, nothing too heavy and not yet comparable to 1991. All radio and television stations are still functioning. When the air raid began, state-run television was broadcasting patriotic songs and didn't even bother to inform its viewers that Baghdad was under attack. Instead it was replaying yesterday's interview with the Minister of the Interior ...

The sound of anti-aircraft artillery is still louder than the booms and bangs, which means the bombing is still far from where we live. But on the news channel of al-Arabia television we saw a building burning near the house of one of my aunts. The phones are still OK. We called around the city a moment ago to check on friends. Information is what they need. Iraqi television says nothing, shows nothing. What good are patriotic songs when bombs are dropping?

My uncle went out to get bread around 6.30 p.m. He said that all the streets going to the main arterial roads are controlled by Ba'ath party people. There is no curfew, but you have to have a reason to leave your neighborhood, and the bakeries are, by instruction of the party, selling only a limited amount of bread to each customer.

He also says that all houses still under construction near the main roads have been taken by party or army people.

We have two safe rooms - one with international media on, and the other with Iraqi television. I watched al-Jazeera. It said the US has bombed the Iraqi satellite channel, ISC. But while it was saying that ISC was broadcasting. All television stations are still working.

Friday, March 21 - We sit in front of the television with the map of Iraq on our laps, trying to figure out what is going on in the south. On the BBC we are watching scenes of Iraqis surrendering. My youngest cousin was muttering "what shame" to himself. It is better for them to surrender, but seeing them carrying that white flag still makes something deep inside you cringe.

Last night was very quiet in Baghdad. Today in the morning I went out to get bread and groceries. There were no Ba'ath party people stopping us from leaving the area where we live, although they apparently do after evening prayers. But they are still everywhere.

The streets are empty. Only bakeries are open and some grocery shops are charging four times the normal prices. While I was buying bread, a police car stopped in front of the bakery and asked the baker if they had enough flour and at what time they opened. The baker told me they get flour delivered to them daily. They have been told they must open every day.

Groceries, meat and dairy products are a different story. A dairy company that is not state-owned seems to be operating still, and its cars were going around the city distributing butter, cheese and yogurt to any open markets. We bought fresh tomatoes and zucchini, which would normally be 250 dinars a kilo, for 1,000 dinars.

Most amazingly the garbage van came around.

ISC is not broadcasting anymore. A youth channel which shows Egyptian soaps in the morning and sports after that has also stopped transmitting. This leaves two channels: Iraq TV and Shebab ("youth") TV. They are still full of patriotic songs and useless "news". They love the French here. We saw the most distressing minister of interior affairs with his guns. Freaks. Hurling abuse at the world is the only thing left for them to do.