Saturday, September 16, 2006

Fragments & Bullets

There is some kind of, what I may call, tradition in our family to collect bullets that fall on our house. It goes back to some twenty years ago or more. In fact, it is nothing more than a small plastic box in which one finds bomb fragments and bullets of different kinds & shapes. The other day I decided to weight this collection. Its weight was more than half a kilogram (I think it is something around one pound).

It is quite normal for the Iraqis to fire their arms into air in most of their occasions. It is a tribal heritage especially in the rural & desert areas. Since 1968 Iraq cities retrograded in their values toward tribal traditions.

I can recall a Ukrainian soldier, in the early days of invasion, who was speaking on the radio about what he had been doing in Hilla (a city about 100 Km south to Baghdad) and his impression about the community in that city. He spoke about different issues but he replied sarcastically to a question 'What makes the locals fire at you?':
"Well, I noticed that the Iraqis shoot their arms when they have a funeral, wedding, demonstration, dispute, football game…etc and they find coming across us as another occasion to be added to their list."

At midnight of 8/9 August 1988 a ceasefire was declared as an end of an eight years war between Iraq & Iran. People kept on firing their guns for three days as a sign of celebration. It caused casualties of more than 300 people killed and more than 3000 injured in Baghdad only.

Nowadays the Iraqi security forces convoys use the same way I referred to in a previous post (Novel Horn)
. It is shooting guns in the air. This does not mean that one might hear shooting once or twice a day; it means to hear shooting once or twice per hour. Each consists of chains of shots causing lot of nervous tension. Another factor may be added to increase the tension which is the US military helicopters. The pilots fly them very low (about 100 foot) causing lot of noise and terror especially when they pass directly over one's head. One could see more than 50 helicopters per day from one fixed location.
The other day I was watching through a window my nephew (less than 3) playing in the garden when two US helicopters flew over our house. The little boy put his hands on his ears and started to run aimlessly crying & shouting for his mother. The same happens to him whenever he hears gunfire.

Till now it is so hot in Iraq and with no sufficient electricity power, Iraqis resort to sleep at night over their housetop. I do the same; still, it is uncomfortable. Even at night it is hot. One can hear gunfire every now and then, and he/she might take the risk (if he/she is sleepy & lazy) by remaining on mattress, or jump to take shelter to avoid some straying bullets. Many times when I decide to remain in bed because I'm so lazy and considering the fire shots are far away; within seconds I hear buzzing objects flying over my head which makes me jump immediately to take shelter in the stairs entrance. Moreover, military helicopters don't stop their tours even at night. Sometimes mortar shells might be added as a 'flavor' to make the condition much worse. So, one could imagine what kind of conditions we are surrounded with.

Our house is in a backstreet in the neighborhood, but the main streets are not far. The distant between our house and one of these main streets (as a direct line) is about 100 meter. It is a street of less than 400 meter long. In a time interval of about three months five side-road-bombs exploded in it. The strange thing is that four of the SRB were placed in the very same hole. One of them went off at 7 am and after few seconds something hit the roof of our house. It sounded like some heavy piece of metal. Thanks god, nobody was sleeping there, and we went upstairs to discover a very hot piece of metal of about 15 cm length with very sharp edges.

Some stories are funny. I can recall one happened during the desert storm operation 1991 to liberate Kuwait. It was the fifth or sixth day since the military operations began, and there were continual air raids and lot of news about using chemical weapons. It was one hour after sunset and electricity power was cut off, so the house was in total darkness except for few oil lamps. Suddenly we heard a glass smash noise with some other unrecognizable sounds. At once I ran toward the source of the noise carrying torch in my hand followed by my two brothers. It was from the kitchen. We rushed in quickly to see what caused that smash; shockingly we smelled a smell of apple. Startlingly, one of us shouted 'CHEMICAL GAS'; it caused us to retreat in stampede to flee from the kitchen. Again we stopped in the corridor and one of us said 'No it is not; otherwise we should be asphyxiating'. On returning back we discovered one of the window glasses in the kitchen had a big hole, but we could not find what caused the hole or that apple smell since it was dark.

The other day we realized that an antiaircraft bullet hit the window punching a spray detergent container used for cleaning dishes. The bullet was added to the collection in the plastic box and so is the bomb fragment.


Anonymous Nick said...

Ibn, I am very sorry to hear the conditions you have to live in, past and present. Hopefily one day the whole of Iraq will be free from this perpetual state of war, then it can be prosperous and you can be truly free. Belive it or not that is what the goal of the US is in Iraq, we need to work together to defeat the enemies of Iraq and the enemies of Freedom.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IAR: Another thoughtful article. Thanks. In an earlier post you quoted Taheri who mentioned "talk radio" as one means of communication. Do you have access to it and do you call with your ideas? Radio in the states is a strong medium for the exchange of ideas. With a good moderator, I would think Iraqis could discuss democratic ideas and both learn and encourage others without compromising your name and other information. They could have guest lecturers, interview cabinet members, etc. I think it would be helpful for education.


8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, I hope the time comes when the collection in your little plastic box will no longer grow any larger.


8:38 AM  
Blogger Ibn_Alrafidain said...

Nick, thanks a lot for showing concern. The conditions of fear and uncertainty are the same as far as I can recall. "defeat the enemies of Iraq" is the same phrase the Iraqis have been hearing since a very long time, but it seems that Iraq has endless enemies.
Jan, thanks for commenting. To call a radio station in the US? It is so expensive for me; I'm living on the edge of poverty my friend, just like the majority of Iraqis.
As for the plastic box, I'm not so optimistic about it.

12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, no, I didn't mean calling the States. The article that you referred to by Amir Taheri says of Iraq: "Today, again by way of dramatic contrast, Iraqis are voluble to a fault. Talk radio, television talk-shows, and Internet blogs are all the rage, while heated debate is the order of the day in shops, tea-houses, bazaars, mosques, offices, and private homes." I thought this was an indication that Iraqis had talk radio and TV talk shows which would allow you to hear others ideas. I was wondering if you had heard any of these shows.


8:38 PM  

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