Communique from Iraq
A friend of a friend is a French aid worker, living in Iraq. Below is an email received from him. His name and aid organization have been removed because he fears retaliation for revealing his opinions from those in charge...
...On my side, no sport possible. Quite frustrating actually, eventhough I'm not
that much of a sport person... but I miss my daily swim I had in baghdad before
the war (about 3/4 of a mile every day, felt good).
Here in Basrah, no water in swimming pools... not a big surprise, considering
that there are shortages.
Shortages... that's the word of the week. Situation is extremely tensed these
days because of several factors.
1/ Weather started to be extremely humid on Sunday, and this will last for at
least a month. This makes the 140F absolutely unbearable. Everybody is dripping.
2/ At the same time, gas station ran out of fuel and gas. How ironic knowing
that we are standing on the second largest oil reserves in the world... prices
for a gallon have been multiplied by 30 in the last month. You can see over 300
cars staying in line for hours under the burning sun to get few litres for an
incredible price (not that incredible for european standards, but way over the
price that people can offer here). People get super upset in the line, and
british forces have to stay there, watching the line, pointing their machine
guns at these poor drivers in djellabiah, in order to avoid fights and
demonstrations. The only way to get some gas is now the black market, and prices
This shortage of gas is a disaster. It has an extraordinary symbolic and
physical impact on population.
For Iraqis, gas was the cheapest thing they could get before the war. The price
was about $1 for 20 gallons. This is their wealth and their pride, it belongs to
them, and oil is in their blood. These shortages make them super angry, because
this is just not normal. How is it possible that there is no gas in Iraq? This
is so paradoxal, that they couldn't even imagine that it could happen! Even
after the First Gulf War, reffineries were resuming production after less than a
month for local needs. This time, reffineries didn't even get bombed, and there
is no oil? Where is it? Of course, they all point at the US... I don't know if
it's true, because I read it in a local newspaper, but an article was saying
that US were shipping Iraqi oil back to the homeland... if that's the case,
that's revolting... and even if it's not the case, it's revolting anyway that
Iraq doesn't have gas...
3/ Without oil, there is no electricity. And I don't know if you imagine, but
not having electricity means no fridge, no light, no fan... How do you want to
sleep when it's over 110F in your room? How do you want to stay calm when you
can't have no sleep for days?
4/ Without electricity, no water. Some water treatment plants usually have
priority to get power, so some of them are still working... but many local water
pumping stations are out of power, and entire districts of Basrah ran out of
water few days ago. So people either rely on our water tankering operation, or
on buying water in shops, which costs a lot...
In my "luxury" hotel, we still have water almost all the time, pretty filthy
one, but at least we can take showers (and we put chlorine in the tank on the
roof, that way it doesn't smell...). And until two days ago, we had electricity
24/7 thanks to generators... but not anymore, because no more fuel for the
This deteriorating situation is revolting. People are suffering more and more,
anger is growing. This is not good for security issues. It's getting dangerous,
because we are still circulating by car to do our work (as we can afford the
expensive gas)... but we are the only cars in the streets, so we become easy
targets, because we are now the bastards who can offer to drive eventhough there
Sometimes I wonder... should we continue? Can we continue to work if we can't go
to the field? Should we take the risk to be shot at? So far I take the risk...
but for how long?
Got to go. I have to be in 1/2 an hour at the iranian border, to receive 7 of
our trucks full of humanitarian aid from our Iran office...
Take good care,
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