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Last Updated: Monday, 13 June, 2005, 08:39 GMT 09:39 UK
My Day in Iraq: Iraqi writer
As part of the BBC News website's One Day in Iraq coverage on 7 June, we heard from people from all walks of life, all over the country.

Here, a 30-year-old Iraqi writer in Baghdad described his frustrating journey to the office.

When I left the house this morning, I made sure that there were no suspicious movements or people in my street. The plan was to go and get some fuel for my car and the generator, before going to the office.

These might sound like simple, ordinary things to do on a regular day. But, in Baghdad, even the most simple thing can be frustrating.

This morning, the traffic was really bad. I took one of the only few highways that are still open in the capital. More than a quarter of the highways and major roads have been closed since the end of the war two years ago.

The highway I use is busy because it links northern Baghdad to the centre and the south.

The volume of traffic on the roads is a particular problem. An estimated 600,000 cars have been imported into Iraq since the end of the war.

Checkpoints in downtown Baghdad and military convoys added to this morning's problem.

A convoy of police cars went by on its way to the ministry of the interior. There were several pick-up trucks with interior special forces signs on them. Each pick-up truck was carrying four handcuffed, hooded men in the back.

Long wait

There were a total of 28 men who appeared to be detainees. Perhaps they had been detained during Operation Lightning, the security operation that Iraqi forces are conducting around Baghdad.

Traffic policeman in Baghdad
The violence and a flood of new cars have caused the roads to clog
When I reached the gas station, it didn't take me long to change my mind about buying fuel. The queue of cars stretching back hundreds of metres and the prospect of waiting hours in the burning sun made me decide to turn to the black market.

Black market fuel is about four times more expensive than the gas station.

With Baghdadis getting about six to eight hours of electricity every 24 hours, people are much more reliant on generators at home. This increases the demand on fuel.

Getting to the office is also another story. The office itself is in the middle of a heavily fortified and secured compound. The compound contains a number of foreign press and media organisations.

Since there is only one main entrance to the compound, I prefer to park my car behind the compound and walk through the blast barriers through a small door.

Getting in and out of the compound can be dangerous. The area around it is being watched and there have been several incidents where cars have been followed by armed men.

Queue for a gas station in Baghdad
Waiting to buy fuel can be a hot, frustrating business
Most ordinary Iraqis are more concerned about how much electricity there will be in August when the temperature will top 50C than the state of the constitution.

Recently, one Washington Post commentator wrote: "The rebels need a new cause. That cause is likely to be electricity, or more specifically, the lack of it. With the brutal Iraqi summer approaching, the ability to provide power, notably air conditioning, may be the report card on which the people grade their fledgling [Shia]-led democracy.

"Disrupting power will likely be the new objective of the Baathist arm of the insurgency, and the way the government deals with it may be key to its survival."

When ordinary people go back to their houses after a long, hot and often terrifying working day, their ordeal is not yet over. They still do not have power or water at home. They are unable to have a shower or a good night's sleep.


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