Baghdad: City of walls + Death, destruction & fear + Shabby, tired & scared

Dandelion Salad

Updated: Aug 4, 2008 added videos

by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad
Monday March 17 2008

In the first of Ghaith Abdul-Ahad’s extraordinary series of films to mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, he investigates the claims that the US military surge is bringing stability to Iraq. By travelling through the heart of Baghdad he exposes how, by enclosing the Sunni and Shia populations behind 12ft walls, the surge has left the city more divided and desperate than ever.

Video link



City of walls

March 18, 2008
US claims that the military surge is bringing stability to Iraq. By travelling through the heart of Baghdad its easy to see by enclosing the Sunni and Shia populations behind 12ft walls, the surge has left the city more divided and desperate than ever.

Killing fields

One Baghdad’s killings fields on the edge of Sadr City. The scene of thousands of sectarian murders over the last three years, it is a desolate and evil place: ‘Only the killers and the killed ever come here’ says Abdul-Ahad. Here in the thousands of unmarked graves lie the victims of militia gangs. Video by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad.

Iraq’s lost generation

An orphanage in Sadr city, where children speak of their hatred of America. A generation of Iraqi children have been radicalised and anti-westernised by the war. Video by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad.


Death, destruction and fear on the streets of cafes, poets and booksellers

by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad
Monday March 17 2008

To mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, the award-winning journalist returns to the city where he was born and lived for 30 years

Baghdad was never a beautiful city. A sprawling sea of low rise, dusty concrete cubes with few green spaces, it is a typical Middle Eastern architectural disaster, expanding without any real urban planning from the 1950s. But if you knew the city you could find your corners: a narrow, zigzagging alleyway, an Ottoman courtyard, the shade of a lemon tree in spring.

One of my favourites was the Mutanabi book market. The cafes and teahouses lining the old street had became a hangout for journalists, poets and artists, and with them had come the book market. It was here that I used to buy my illegal photocopies of Marx’s Communist Manifesto – in Arabic – and Orwell’s 1984.

Last week, I went back to Mutanabi. To reach it I travelled through bullet-pocked Bab al-Mu’adham, past countless checkpoints: Shia police commandos, some carrying newly US-supplied M-16 guns, hunkering behind sandbags, Sunni militiamen in khaki trousers, T-shirts and trainers.


h/t: After Downing Street


Shabby, tired and scared – the pupils who know all about the word ‘enemy’

by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad
Monday March 18 2008

Ali stands in the middle of the ninth-grade class, holding an English textbook in one hand and resting the other on a battered wooden desk. To his left is a blackboard on which he has conjugated the verb “to play”, and on the other side is a broken cupboard on which someone has scribbled: “Long live Sayed Moqtada. Long live Moqtada … Moqtada … Moqtada.”

In heavily accented English, rounded by Hollywood-flavoured vowels, Ali reads from the textbook: “The great Arab warrior Khaled bin Waleed went to fight the enemies of Islam.” He pauses, looking at the bewildered faces of his young students. “Do you know the meaning of the word ‘enemy’,” he asks.

Two students raise their hands. “It is adou,” says one, giving the Arab translation of the word.

“That’s right,” says Ali. He lowers his eyes to continue reading.

“Just like Amreeka!” another student shouts from the back, referring to the United States.


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