** http://dahrjamailiraq.com **
January 28, 2005
Despite a continuing increase in the already draconian security measures
imposed across Iraq, the bombs keep coming.
Today in the al-Dora district of Baghdad a primary school which had been
a designated polling station was struck by a car bomb. Four Iraqi Police
(IP) were killed.
A GMC packed with explosives rammed a checkpoint at the al-Dora power
plant, killing several people, and as far south as Basra a policeman
died when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.
With Baquba experiencing its daily car bombing, at least 18 Iraqis have
been killed in attacks on polling stations in the last 24 hours alone.
While IP’s have been given pay raises for this weekend, they remain
extremely tense and edgy, and not without due cause.
We are driving around Baghdad today attempting to take photos and
conduct interviews, and the streets are nearly completely empty
An oddity in Baghdad, where traffic jams often find people waiting for
hours in places to creep their way through clogged streets. Over 90
streets in the capital city are barricaded ,
further increasing the horrendous congestion on “normal” days.
I take a photo as we drive past an IP praying behind a barricade
which blocks an empty street. Almost immediately afterwards we hear
yelling and I look back to see an IP aim his Kalshinkov over our car and
hear the pop as he squeezes off a shot.
“They weren’t even guarding anything. What was that all about,” I ask
Abu Talat who takes us down some side roads in case they decided to
“They are in terror of what is to come,” replies Abu Talat, “So many of
us are afraid of what is to come now.”
We drive past the recently bombed SCIRI headquarters
across the street from Baghdad University, then our circuitous route
takes us past an area where men are lining the streets handing out
bundles of posters and other election propaganda for the Royal
Constitution Party, in hopes of luring some votes.
I’m on a mission to photograph the barricades that are springing up
across the capital city, and one of Abu Talat’s sons, Ahmed, is along
with us doing some filming as well. Just after filming more of the
abundance of concrete blocks and razor wire we are pulled over by an
unmarked car of three IP’s.
They take Abu Talat and Ahmed’s ID’s, the registration papers for the
car and tell us to follow them.
I’d been detained by mujahideen in Fallujah last May while conducting
interviews inside the city, and Abu Talat and I were piled into a GMC
with armed Iraqi National Guard (in Fallujah they were all muj), and
taken in for questioning.
So this didn’t feel like a kidnapping, since we had our car sans
personal armed escorts. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say I was a bit
“Should I escape? I could try to get a taxi,” I say to Abu Talat. “No.
We’re fine. They will just verify we are press. Besides, you are
American. You are the only thing keeping them from throwing me in jail.”
From the back seat Ahmed says, “Me too!”
They pull over at a marked police vehicle and everything is sorted out.
“I apologize, we just have to make sure you are press,” says one of the
Before leaving them Abu Talat felt like having some fun and asked the
policeman, “Why didn’t you take the American’s papers?”
“The Americans will fuck my mother if I do,” he replied. They both burst
Later in another area of the city we are on a sidewalk and see a large
cargo truck with a tattered Iraqi flag on one of the antennae. A crowd
of weary travelers are milling around the back of it holding large
“They have just returned from their haj,” comments Abu Talat as he looks
at the weary travelers from Mecca. “Welcome to Iraq,” he says while
From the backseat Ahmed says, “Welcome to hell.”
We’d already pushed our luck, so after talking to a few folks we grab
lunch and head back towards home. “Let’s play a game and see how many
photos we can take before we get pulled over or shot at again,” I joke
to them both.
They laugh, appreciating my acquired Iraqi humor-if you don’t laugh at
this situation, you lose your mind promptly. “Yeah, why not,” replies
Abu Talat as we speed down another mostly empty street.
Ahmed, 15 years old, tells me one of his friends was shot in the back by
an Iraqi soldier because he drove by an unmarked checkpoint. “He’s in
the hospital now, but he’s in too much pain to talk to me,” he says.
These stories are everyday.
Going through the IP checkpoint at the hotel, one of the guards says, “I
don’t think much will happen this weekend. I think it’s just a bunch of
lies. Nothing will happen.”
After watching his colleague speak, the other guard who is looking under
our hood replies, “We’re closing this checkpoint at 5pm today, so no
more cars in or out of here. The coming days will be the worst we’ve
ever seen. Attacks will spread across all of Baghdad.”
Like the election and the aftermath, nobody knows for sure what will
happen here. Baghdad is on pins and needles. Gunfire cracks in the
distance as I finish this. Two distant explosions (the car bombs)
rattled the hotel earlier this evening.
The curfews have been extended and all the security measures are now in
And, as usual, nobody knows what will happen next in occupied Iraq.