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Last Updated: Friday, 5 December, 2003, 16:40 GMT
Baghdad diary: Week one

Omar Razek
BBCArabic.com correspondent in Baghdad

Omar Razek, a correspondent for the BBC's Arabic Service, is writing an online diary of his experiences in the heart of Baghdad.

Follow his diary here in English every Friday, and in Arabic at www.bbcarabic.com


Wednesday 3 December

Doubt and suspicion are hanging over Iraq after rumours spread about the capture or death of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri , the former vice-president.

Most Iraqis are doubtful about everything. They are suspicious about the American intentions, and about the fate of Saddam Hussein and his top aides, and about the intentions of the members of the Iraqi Governing Council.

In short, they doubt everything they hear or see.

An Iraqi guard stopped me in the street near the office and asked me about al-Douri. I couldn't give him an answer, but I asked him: "Do you want him captured or killed?"

He replied: "I don't want the Americans to get any of them. Saddam is good. It's true the former government violated the rights of the people, but there was no terrorism, no looting, and no crime."

The guard's colleague quickly added: "The whole world will not rest unless Saddam is captured, but the Americans know everything."

Even Iraqi journalists in the democratic era don't trust the Americans.

They turned a press conference held by two American congressmen into a grilling session about US policy: Where is the money? Where are the elections? Where is the electricity?

And so on and so forth.


Thursday 4 December

I have decided today to counter the noise coming from American helicopters as they hover over the Green Area with the captivating voice of [famous Lebanese singer] Fayrouz.

I am puzzled. Why is it that every capital city that is under occupation or going through a civil war produces its own vocabulary?

When we were young, we used to hear on Lebanese radio stations phrases such as "the green line" and "western or eastern Beirut." But the only redeeming feature of those stations was the voice of Fayrouz which was only interrupted by military statements.

The state of liquidity that Iraq is in at the moment has engendered a satirical spirit and a new wave of jokes which the previous regime - perhaps with all its tragedies - did not provide .

Most of the jokes are about Iraq's 24-member Governing Council, nine of whom take turn to head the Council on a monthly basis.


Friday 5 December

Many Iraqis agree that the withdrawal of American and Western forces from their country at this critical juncture is not the ideal solution.

But I ask myself: who actually wants the Americans to stay?

Many Shias who are represented by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution and whose allegiance is to Ayatollah Sistani disagree with the Americans and are calling for elections.

Another Shia faction, represented by the young cleric Mugtdaa Asader, is more hardline. Most of the Sunnis are nursing a grievance.

In Hewaja, in north-west Iraq, a tribal leader was lunching with American commanders, one of whom remarked that they were here as friends and to provide protection against terrorism.

The chief of Aboujaber tribe said to me: "They have arrested seven people in my tribe whose households are now without men." The answers were not enough for them.


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