- We've given up on democracy, security and even electricity. Just bring back the water
. January 22, 2005Bleak Eid
It's the third day of Eid. Eid is the Islamic holiday and usually it’s a time for families to get together, eat, drink and celebrate. Not this Eid. This Eid is unbearable. We managed a feeble gathering on the first day and no one was in a celebratory mood. There have been several explosions- some far and some near but even those aren't as worrisome as the tension that seems to be growing on a daily basis.
There hasn’t been a drop of water in the faucets for six days. six days. Even at the beginning of the occupation, when the water would disappear in the summer, there was always a trickle that would come from one of the pipes in the garden. Now, even that is gone. We’ve been purchasing bottles of water (the price has gone up) to use for cooking and drinking. Forget about cleaning. It’s really frustrating because everyone cleans house during Eid. It’s like a part of the tradition. The days leading up to Eid are a frenzy of mops, brooms, dusting rags and disinfectant. The cleaning makes one feel like there's room for a fresh start. It's almost as if the house and its inhabitants are being reborn. Not this year. We’re managing just enough water to rinse dishes with. To bathe, we have to try to make-do with a few liters of water heated in pots on kerosene heaters.
Water is like peace - you never really know just how valuable it is until someone takes it away. It’s maddening to walk up to the sink, turn one of the faucets and hear the pipes groan with nothing. The toilets don’t function… the dishes sit piled up until two of us can manage to do them- one scrubbing and rinsing and the other pouring the water.
Why is this happening? Is it because of the electricity? If it is, we should at least be getting water a couple of hours a day- like before. Is it some sort of collective punishment leading up to the elections? It’s unbelievable. At first, I thought it was just our area but I’ve been asking around and apparently, almost all of the areas (if not all) are suffering this drought.
I’m sure people outside of the country are shaking their heads at the words ‘collective punishment’. “No, Riverbend,” they are saying, “That’s impossible.” But anything is possible these days. People in many areas are being told that if they don’t vote- Sunnis and Shia alike- the food and supply rations we are supposed to get monthly will be cut off. We’ve been getting these rations since the beginning of the nineties and for many families, it’s their main source of sustenance. What sort of democracy is it when you FORCE people to go vote for someone or another they don’t want?
Allawi’s people were passing out pamphlets a few days ago. I went out to the garden to check the low faucet, hoping to find a trickle of water and instead, I found some paper crushed under the garden gate. Upon studying it, it turned out to be some sort of “Elect Allawi” pamphlet promising security and prosperity, amongst other things, for occupied Iraq. I'd say it was a completely useless pamphlet but that isn't completely true. It fit nicely on the bottom of the cage of E.'s newly acquired pet parakeet.
They say the borders are closed with Jordan and possibly Syria. I also heard yesterday that people aren't being let into Baghdad. They have American check-points on the main roads leading into the city and they say that the cars are being turned back to wherever they came from. It's a bad situation and things are looking very bleak at this point.
It's amazing how as things get worse, you begin to require less and less. We have a saying for that in Iraq, "Ili yishoof il mawt, yirdha bil iskhooneh." Which means, "If you see death, you settle for a fever." We've given up on democracy, security and even electricity. Just bring back the water. "=====I have had the following story hanging before me since three days ago, but refrained from posting it because I could not (and still can not) find it on the Internet: (The first comment below found the link, thanks.)
No water in Baghdad
By Luke Baker
BAGHDAD, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Just when the people of Baghdad thought things couldn't get much worse, they did.
For the past five days, most of the city -- particularly the western districts -- has been without water.
Added to a lack of electricity -- the national grid is off more than it's on -- a crumbling mobile phone network, endless lines to get fuel and a daily dose of bombs and mortars, it has made it next to impossible to even think about coming elections.
"This is everyone's biggest problem," said Alaadin Saad, 32, a father of two who lives in the southwest district of Saidiya.
"We haven't had water for nearly a week. We used up all our reserves and now I haven't had a shower for three days."
There has been no explanation for the crisis, which has provoked such anger and frustration that one Iraqi called a news agency demanding that something be done.
Insurgents are suspected of attacking a water mains outside the city several days ago, cutting off supplies, but the U.S.military had no immediate information on such an attack.
In the absence of hard information, rumour and speculation often run riot in Iraq.
Some Baghdadis believe the Iraqi government and U.S. military have cut off the water on purpose to frustrate people and prompt them to vote in the Jan. 30 election.
Others take the water shortage as yet another sign that the U.S. occupation brought them nothing but problems.
"Nothing works -- there's no power, no water, no fuel, no phone service. It's a disaster," said Namidh, a security guard who said his family had been without water for a week.
DIGGING FOR WATER
A spokesman for the public works ministry had no explanation for the crisis and referred callers to the mayor's office. No one was reachable at Baghdad city hall as Thursday is an
important Muslim feast day.
The crisis has left many families unable to cook, wash or bathe and also caused illness, some say. A police source said around 300 people were taken to hospital in west Baghdad this week with stomach problems or similar ailments and complaining of having been "poisoned".
Officials at Yarmouk hospital, one of Baghdad's main clinics, said they had had no major increase in patients suffering from water-borne diseases like cholera, but other hospitals were not immediately reachable for comment.
A Health Ministry official also played down fears of a cholera outbreak but said disease could rise if the water crisis was not resolved soon. "There will be health problems if we don't sort this out," he said.
In some areas there is absolutely no water, in others, a trickle for a few hours a day. The shortages have become the main talking point in a city of around five million people already beset by difficulties.
The election, just 10 days away and expected to bring its own set of problems amid fears of a surge in violence, has taken a backseat to the need to find a water source in a country that is mostly desert but also has two of the world's major rivers.
Some have taken to digging wells in the back garden in the hope of striking water. Those that get lucky are now supplying the neighbourhood. "People are lined up all day to get water from our well," said Badia Yaseen, a driver.
REUTERSIt is with great sadness that I now again post in sorrow my mental image of Riverbend.