Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bombing Damage in Southern Beirut

Some photos of the bombing damage I was able to see in southern Beirut. These images were all taken by David Enders. What is hard to convey by images like these is the shear scale of the bombing damage. To walk through this neighborhood where entire buildings in some cases have collapsed, to sit in a Hezbollah media office with all the windows blown out, to watch the people pick through the rubble ... no picture can provide you with the same feeling.

The above image shows one of the mainy signs placed on the bomb sites. It reads "Extremely Accurate Targets - The Devine Victory"

This last shot was of a refreshment stand set up for clean-up workers infront of a smashed building in southern Beirut.

Another event of the summer...

In addition to a trip to Kurdistan, I was also able to go to Lebanon in late august right after the ceasefire was started. I had a couple of friends (a journalist named David Enders and his translator) there and I spend a few days with them driving to see the bombing damage and conduct interviews.

David took the above image before I arrived of the coffins of the dead being loaded into a truck in southern Lebanon. He had already traveled extensively in the south of the country reporting on whole villages completely flattened by the conflict.

When I arrived we drove to Balbek in the Bekaa valley (the site of a famous roman city). As a Hezbollah stronghold, the Israelis had attacked the town during the conflict. Driving into town all the gas stations had been hit with pin-point accuracy, but areas on the edge of town appeared to have been struck in a more random fashion. The following are a few images of billboard taken on the way to Balbek ... in fact all throughout the country, these billboards are everywhere announcing the victory of Hezbollah over the Israelis and showcasing the U.S. support for the actions of the Israelis.

In this first image, the far billboard shows a destroyed city block with the words "Made in the USA"

The next image shows that support for Hezbollah certainly hasn't decreased. The yellow lamp post sign is the Hezbollah flag (also visible in the image above of the rocket launcher). All the towns in Lebanon, and the different neighborhoods of Beirut seem to be aflutter with the flags and signs of the various factions that are supported in that area. In the areas of Balbek I visited, these yellow signs were everywhere and to even go see the bombing damage to take photographs or do interviews, permission from Hezbollah was required first.

What's been going on for the past summer

Ok, this post (and the following ones) is an attempt to catch up on all the posting I should have been doing over the summer ... so it will be kind of a catch all of all my activities over the past few months. But first I want to start with a little side note. At the beginning of the year, the Iraqi Ministry of Environment published (with I believe World Health Organization (WHO) support ... atleast their logo is on it) a 2006 Calendar. Interestingly enough, the photos are all of the marshes ... that area were my organization does most of it works. But was was most interesting was the image for February 2006 (included below).

This image is of a fisherman on his boat at dusk elector-shocking fish ... an unsustainable method of fishing that is being practiced in the marshes since their reflooding. I recently talked to an MoE staff employee about the image and she just shook her head in sadness. Apparently the calendar didn't get alot of review before it was released.

Our work continues and I've been able to travel to northern Iraq for several meetings to discuss water resource and environment agreements with several Ministries. The following two images come from a summer meeting we had in Sulimaniyah.

The above image gives you a little flavor of what Sulimaniyah looks like ... I saw the town in the summer of 2004 (when the Pesh Merga looked at the Baghdad plates on our parked car and decided that they wanted to tow it away and search it "with extreme prejudice" for explosives ... we had to raise some money to help the driver pay for some of the repair work on the car). As I might work in the future from Sulimaniyah, I was curious to see the town again, which was hot and dry (as the hills in this image show, but has a brand new airport and alot of building activity).

It is noteworthy that the Kurdish regions of Iraq are always trying to stress their differences and independence for the rest of the country. Kurdistan is trying to develop its own independent oil industry (something that has pissed off the central government and given rule to the arguement that the south might quickly follow suit ... resulting, so it is postulated by some, in the break-up of the country.) Another example, but perhaps one that is more amusing to the staff in our office, is the recent report I found in the Iraqi Press Monitor for 19 September 2006

(Awene) The Iraqi Kurdistan government has submitted a draft law to the Kurdish parliament banning polygamy. If it is ratified by parliament, men who marry more than one woman face three years in prison and a 1,400 US dollar fine. The law doesn't apply to men whose wives have a long-term illness, are infertile or whose wives left them more than two years ago. The Islamic slate in the Kurdish parliament is opposed to the law. (Awene is a Sulaimaniyah-based independent newspaper issued weekly by the Awene Company)

Why should we find this amusing? Well, one of our staff members recently (and probably secretly ... atleast to his first wife and family) married a research assistant in the office less than half his age. He might be in trouble in the Kurdish north.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Ghani's Words Not Mine

Ok, I've been remiss ... posting to my blog has been low on the priority list due to my work load. Soon I'll post up some things from my Lebanon Trip, I promise ... for now just a nice quote from Mohammed Ghani, one of Iraqis legendary artists. Many sculptures both in Iraq and in the region are his work.

Iraqi art is brilliant" Ghani said. "Many people say that Iraq is finished. But Iraq is not finished. Iraq is like… (he searched for the word running his hand in a sweeping gesture over the floor). Iraq is like grass. The more you cut it, the more it will grow. The regime is finished, Saddam Hussein is finished. But not the people … not Iraq. - Mohammed Ghani, Iraqi Artist