IRAQ UPDATE: November 28 - Dec 4, 2004

in:

CPTnet
December 6, 2004

IRAQ UPDATE: November 28 - Dec 4, 2004

Sunday, November 28
Mortar rounds falling into the Green Zone woke some team members at 6:45
am. The view from the rooftop indicated that the mortars did little damage.

Team members Tom Fox, Cliff Kindy, and Maxine Nash met with the Iraq's
Communist Party's head of public relations. Founded in 1934, and often
suppressed, the Communist Party (CP) is the oldest political party in
Iraq. Members of the CP oppose the U.S. invasion and occupation because
they feel that Saddam's regime could have been overcome with nonviolent
opposition. They recognize the concerns but oppose the violence of the
insurgency because they believe the killing of innocent civilians cannot
be justified. (See forthcoming CPTnet release, "Party Politics.")

Monday, November 29
An Iraqi human rights organization asked the team for contacts to whom
they can refer medical cases of children injured by the U.S. occupation.
The team agreed to facilitate such contacts.

Fr. Yousif, an Iraqi Catholic priest of the Dominican order, came for
dinner. He discussed his analysis of the struggles in Iraq, and his hopes
for improving the situation through education. He is founding a popular
university for those who can only attend school part-time. "I will not
give diplomas," he said. "I want students who are hungry for knowledge,
not for a piece of paper." He also mentioned cultural differences between
East and West. "The West is always looking at the future, and we are
always looking at the past. The best way would be a balance between the
two."

 Tuesday, November 30 The team observed the second weekly Day of Prayer,
Fasting, and Action for Iraq (see http://prayerandactionforiraq.blogspot.com
for more details.) Team members fasted on bread and water for twenty-four
hours and devoted an extra hour to group prayer. The week's theme was the
Advent/Christmas message "Peace on Earth." A neighborhood friend who owns a
restaurant nearby sent a surprise lunch of Iraqi specialties, which the team
reluctantly saved for another day.

The brother of Adnan Talib Hassan al Obaidi, a detainee who is part of
CPT's Adopt-a-Detainee Letter-Writing Campaign, visited the team. The
brother has written repeatedly to various U.S. military authorities
responsible for maintaining the detainee database, but he has never
received a reply. Al Obaidi has been in Abu Ghraib prison for seven
months, and the family still has not learned when his case will be
reviewed or how long they can expect him to stay imprisoned.

Sheila Provencher recorded his story about a team friend's conscientious
objection to army service, and his subsequent torture under Saddam
Hussein's regime. He said that he is glad Saddam is gone, but he is
opposed to the U.S. occupation because he is against any form of violence.

Wednesday, December 1
Stephen Farrell, a Middle East correspondent for the London Times,
interviewed the team about their work in Iraq
(http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7374-1385203,00.html).

Fox and Nash visited a Shi'a leader and team advisor. He said the team
was taking risks by staying in Baghdad, but expressed approval for their
current projects. He introduced Nash and Fox to a young woman whose baby
has a life-threatening congenital disease that is only treatable outside
Iraq. The team agreed to accompany the woman to the Iraqi Assistance
Center in the Green Zone.

A neighbor stopped by and discussed recent kidnappings of Iraqis. Another
neighbor's relative was kidnapped and subsequently returned after the
family paid a $20,000 ransom. Up to seven Iraqis are kidnapped in Baghdad
every day. The team's neighbor pointed out that the result is a "brain
drain," as Iraq's academics and professionals leave the country. He did not
understand why the U.S. authorities do not stop the kidnappers. "They can
tap phone lines, they can track down the kidnappers," he said. "If the U.S.
wanted to stop this, they could. Why don't they?"

 Thursday, December 2 At 11:00 am, three large explosions shook the
building. The mortar or rocket landed less than two blocks away. Another
explosion echoed across the city. The team found out later that the last
explosion had occurred southwest of their neighborhood, and that it
shattered the windows of a primary school.
 Team friends had children in the school, and described the resulting
chaos and fear of the students.

Kindy and Provencher attended a neighborhood art exhibit where a team
friend had some paintings displayed. A young artist talked with the
CPTers and explained that it is very difficult to be an artist now in Iraq,
because of the bad economy and bad security situation. "But this is why we
must continue," he said. The CPTers admired one of his paintings -- it
seemed to symbolize both suffering and hope - and he insisted on giving it
to them as a gift.

 Friday, December 3 Kindy, Nash and Provencher interviewed a young Iraqi who
works for an American company in the Green Zone. They discussed several
topics, from security to the media to the future. "Do not believe the
media," he said.
"Whenever I go to chatrooms online and say I am Iraqi, I get a very
negative response. People think I am a terrorist. Where do they get this
idea?"

An independent journalist and aid worker from Australia visited the team.
She founded centers to help Iraqi children heal from trauma suffered
during years of war and instability. Post-traumatic stress disorder among
children is "endemic" in Iraq, she said. "A whole generation is scarred."

 Saturday, December 4 An enormous explosion shook the building at 9:35 am.
Black smoke rose across the river, more than a mile away. The team later
found out that an Iraqi Police station had been hit, and at least three
officers killed.

Some neighborhood children who live in an abandoned store visited the
team. They often knock on the window, looking for a few minutes of smiles
and attention.

While out food shopping, Fox and Kindy noticed two other foreigners,
currently an unusual sight in Baghdad.

The team had expected a human rights worker from Kerbala to visit for the
weekend, to discuss developmen