Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The good news will not be broadcast

Mohammed at Iraq the Model has a splendid post today about his recent visit from Baghdad to his hometown in southern Iraq. In a bus with some others, after skirting the embattled cities of Karbaba and Najaf, he arrived in Samawa just in time to see a rally of locals supporting the coalition troops.

It was a very encouraging thing to see that the simple people there understood the case and this is probably the first time where people go out to the streets to thank and support our allies in the coalition, but strangely it came from ordinary, simple people not from those who claim to be civilized intellectuals.

He passed the coalition military base there, and found it "striking and ugly" behind its high concrete walls.

These walls initiate a sensation of fear in the hearts and a feeling that there’s a huge block between the people and the coalition. I understand the security necessity of these walls but they still form an unpleasant sight for everyone.

But even here, he discovers, things are not what they first appear.

The coalition forces here invited all the kids -- and their parents -- in the neighborhood for a special festival. The kids were given paints and brushes and a definite area of the wall was assigned for each kid to paint on whatever he likes and to sign his painting with his/her name. I leave it for you to imagine how this hateful wall looked like after this festival. It became a fascinating huge painting that gives a feeling of brotherhood and friendship. These paintings eliminated all the psychological walls between the folks and the coalition here.

At the end of the festival, gifts were given to each kid: toys, clothes, candies. You can’t imagine how happy the kids were when they stood proudly pointing at their paintings; flowers, birds, hands shaking and the flags of Iraq and the coalition countries, and then pointing to their names; Zahra, Mohammed, Sajjad, Fatima -- together with phrases like; "yes for peace," "Saddam has fallen and many others." No one can watch this without having tears filling his eyes and I feel sorry that I couldn’t take pictures for this carnival, as I wasn’t there when it happened, but the people there told me the whole story.

At last he reaches his destination, a small town.

Last time I was surprised to see a new water treatment plant near the river distributing clean water for the whole town for free, with four brand-new automobile tanks to deliver water to the remote villages twice a day. Everyone is grateful there as our major health problems are caused by polluted water. Now, this new processing plant will help rid the city of many health problems.

In my very last trip, the special new thing was a campaign to renew the doctors’ residency that we-12 doctors-live in and a decent temporary place is provided for us until the old miserable residency is fully rehabilitated.

The other new foundation that is being constructed now is an Internet Center. Who would dream to see Internet service available in a southern village? This is more than a dream coming true, it makes me feel proud and it makes people believe more and more that the change is in their interest.

As heartening as the physical changes are, he -- and I -- take even more pleasure in the growing consciousness and awareness of the people. They begin to understand they are free, and they act like it. The people in this Shi'ite region tell him they don't want an Islamic government. "See, the SCIRI party established a library and a school to give religion classes that no one attends despite it cost the party thousands of dollars and occupied one of the towns’ buildings. Take a look at the water treatment plant that the coalition established, people gather around it every morning.” Another says, “We want those [leaders] who know what we need, not those who tell us to do what they want.”

The saddest incident for the citizens during my last visit was the death of a coalition soldier from Netherlands in a grenade attack. The small town was shocked and I could hear everyone say, “who did this crime is a stranger and he’s not of us for sure.”

Many of the town’s known figures, officials and tribal leaders headed to the coalition base to declare their support to the coalition and to condemn the crime, one of those men said, with apparent affection, during the funeral ceremonies, “our loss is big and we feel ashamed; you’re our guests but we couldn’t protect your men’s live; we’re terribly sorry.”

He paints other pictures of what he sees, such as a local women's leader standing up to the district council and demanding that the women's concerns be addressed.

The last one was on our way back to Baghdad where we were delayed for a few hours after the coalition forces blocked the road. We didn’t know why, but one of the passengers started to complain, saying, “those Americans always put obstacles in our way and make our lives difficult.”

The driver couldn’t hold himself from answering this comment in a sharp tone as he said, “NO, it’s not the Americans. It’s because of those bastards who plant bombs on the roads. You must thank the Americans for delaying you for a couple of hours to save your live.”

The point behind all these pictures and stories I mentioned is that the people started to speak out and express their feelings and here we’re in great need for support from the free world to back the progress. Moving back is absolutely unacceptable; we’ve put our feet on the right way and we need help from the others. Never let the bad pictures lay their heavy shadow on the good, bright ones.

The negative media want our eyes to pause on the bad events to win time in this worldwide battle and to make us forget the good pictures that encourage us to keep the momentum. This includes most of the major western media. They are ‘unconsciously’ supporting the terrorists and the totalitarian regimes in the region to stop this great progress. The media have managed to create some distrust and hate between some Iraqis and some of the coalition and the west in general.

Well, not in my city, it seems to be immune to their poison. The road is long and hard but together, we can do it.