Daily Life in Baghdad

On education:

Schools out as Baghdad bloodshed kills education
07 Dec 2006 12:30:32 GMT
Source: Reuters

BAGHDAD, Dec 7 (Reuters) – Ahmed waits outside his school’s gates on a chilly midweek morning, holding his textbooks by his side.

But as the majority of pupils and teachers fail to arrive, the 18-year-old, who is in his final year at high school, has to put off learning for yet another day.

“It’s cancelled again today,” he said, visibly frustrated. “Only 15 out of 200 students in my year turned up.”

Three years ago, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, teachers and students talked excitedly about excising the compulsory pages on the dictator from their textbooks and freeing academia from interference from the ruling Baath party.

Now, sectarian venom has struck deep at the heart of Iraq’s education system as militants from both Sunni and Shi’ite groups attack schools, universities and personnel.

The prevailing anarchy has also poisoned society, bringing casual violence into classrooms in a way not seen before.

Mohammed, a teenager at school in central Baghdad’s Karrada district, told this week how he leapt a wall to escape as militiamen dragged his headmaster, pleading for his life, through the school yard in revenge for an alleged insult.

Read the rest here.

On commerce:

Violence, inflation eat into Baghdad stores
07 Dec 2006 12:30:25 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Aseel Kami

BAGHDAD, Dec 7 (Reuters) – Lina is madly in love but is dreading her wedding day in two weeks — she’s afraid the bakery will be closed, the photographer won’t open his studio and the hairdresser will run out of hairspray.

Soaring inflation, bombs, kidnaps and shootings at markets and on bandit-ridden roads used by supply trucks are stifling Baghdad’s shops and businesses, wrecking the brief economic revival that the end of United Nations sanctions brought to the capital and stifling Iraqis’ once-famous joie de vivre.

Small shop-owners and businesses are struggling to keep stocks running on everything from light bulbs to toothbrushes, chocolate bars to disposable razors.

Lina, 33, is in despair.

“When my friend married in July it was bad but this is worse. I’m terrified to go shopping. I should be happy, but I don’t feel like a bride.”

Baghdad’s wholesale Shorja market, one of the city’s oldest and a key supplier for countless small shops scattered across the capital, has been bombed frequently. In a brazen daylight attack last month, gunmen kidnapped dozens of porters at the market, which has recently cut its business hours.

Read it here.

On the exciting night life:

Mistrustful Baghdadis keep one eye open at night
07 Dec 2006 12:30:23 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Mussab Al-Khairalla

BAGHDAD, Dec 7 (Reuters) – As the sun sets and residents of Baghdad’s Hurriya district hurry home, Firas Hasan and his friends grab their Kalashnikov rifles and head onto the deserted streets.

The volunteers are not insurgents but members of one of dozens of armed “neighbourhood watch” groups that have appeared across the capital as areas are increasingly carved out between rival religious communities amid mounting sectarian bloodshed.

“The terrorists target us because we’re Shi’ite Muslims,” Hasan said. “We can’t trust anyone. We’ve established our presence in the area by questioning strangers and stopping cars to deter these criminals.”

Hasan says the group began patrolling the streets three months ago when Sunni insurgents from a nearby area drove into the district and dumped a large sack on the pavement. Inside were the remains of one of their friends who was kidnapped a day earlier.

“When we opened up the sack we found Khalil’s head and chopped-up body parts inside,” he recalled as he wiped the barrel of his rifle. “From then on, we knew we needed to protect ourselves so we formed this group at his funeral.”

Across the Tigris river, in the mainly Sunni Adhamiya district, Abu Anas says his group of armed men is on alert for Shi’ite militiamen, especially after six bombs in nearby Sadr City killed over 200 people two weeks ago.

Read the rest here.

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