Sophia's Peace Work

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

First off, no one was hurt.

We got a call late monday night from a translator who often goes down to the Al Fanar Hotel that the U.S. Military raided the hotel on Monday night at 9:15 pm (approx.). My friend Michael and I had been down there earlier in the day and after I heard about the raid, I went down again today. The Fanar is a small hotel on Abu Nuwas Street (which borders the Tigris River) right across the street from the big Palestine and Sheraton Hotels that are filled with journalists and Coalition contractors. The Fanar is close to the hearts of many because this was the hotel where many peace groups stayed before and during the war.

This is, apparently, what happened. French T.V. reporters, who live on the 4th floor of the Fanar, were playing back some footage of a Pro-Sadr demonstration. Apparently it was loud enough to be heard from the American checkpoint on the street below. The desk manager told me that the soldiers thought there was some Pro-Sadr demo happening inside the Fanar and so they raided it. There are only western journalists and reporters staying at the Fanar now(though I don't believe there are any or very many American journalists there) and many of them were gathered in the lobby and had to wait at gun point while the soldiers searched the hotel. I guess they figured out pretty quickly that there wasn't really a demo going on in the Fanar but they decided to search the place anyway. And apparently they were unwilling to wait for someone with a master key to open all of the doors. Something like 35 to 40 doors were busted open by the soldiers, though they appear to have done no further damage.

Such is the heavy hand of the Americans these days. Security has tightened even more around the Palestine and Sheraton Hotels. There is more barbed wire, more roads around them are closed (half of Firdos square is cut off to traffic ... it should be called the Firdos Semi-Circle at this point - you can't even begin to imagine the traffic!, and they are now asking for ID's to even go into the area where before it was just a bag search and a pat down.

People are starting to worry about the transition and everyone is expecting it to be bad.


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