Sophia's Peace Work

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Infrequent Blogger

An old friend reminded me that I hadn't posted in awhile and now that I log in I see that is since May ... how did so much time pass? All I can say is that I have been flat out busy since then ... field work, meetings, furnishing and fixing up to houses (to be used as office space here in Kurdistan) ... I even bought a car (or rather, with my a loan from my boss, I bought a car). We are in the midst of field work right now ... with fourteen guys staying in the office and heading out to the field every morning and coming back dog tired and dirty at night. The field work is amazing though. We spent several days at the two reservoirs (Darbendikhan and Dukan ... Dukan is a joy to swim in ... but Darbendikhan is ok too despite the fact that the sewage of all of Suliamani goes into it!)

We've had our share of problems ... misunderstandings between the Kurds and Arabs on the team; heat (it's often 40 degrees C here); people getting sick; problems with equipment; We bought a Zodiac to use for the field work ... but so far the staff are too afraid of it. It doesn't look solid enough for them. But it's exciting work and the places we visit are beautiful.

Yesturday a reporter friend came up from Baghdad ... he scared me with his description of the situation there. The Mehdi Army (which is a nationalist Shia military group) is running most of Baghdad, "cleansing" each neighborhood one by one of the Sunni families that live there. Adhamiya, a strong Sunni area in Baghdad, is surrounded by a wall (and cleansed of it's Shia families). Wherever one group takes over they often extract "taxes" and force people to join their ranks. The men in my old translator's family are hiding out in her parents house from the Mehdi. Where they take control, things become quiet but where there are contested areas, like Karrada, the area I lived in, the car bombs continue as the Mehdi try to infiltrate and take over. I worry about my Sunni friend there. What will he and his family do?

My reporter friend spent some time out in Anbar talking to our new allies, the tribal sheikh's and ex-Baathist who were once fighting the Americans and have now joined us in the fight against Al Qaeda. But when he was able to speak to them directly, one on one, they told him that the real fight was against the the Mehdi Army, no Al Qaeda. Of course they would say that, because they were responsible for repressing the poor Shia of Iraq for sometime under Saddam.

It's not clear how all this will boil down ... for sure the American presense has slowed some of the religious cleansing in some areas ... if they go, probably the last of the neighborhoods in Baghdad will be cleared out of their Sunnis. After the blood is spilled over that transition, Baghdad may become a quieter, Shia-dominated stronghold ... but the fighting will continue as the various Sunni factions try to retain their influence in Anmar and the Sunni Triangle. Civil War in these areas is likely to continue (with or withou America's presence). But in the end, what American's don't seem to get, is that the fight in Iraq is not with Al Qaeda and it never really was apparently. It's all we talk about in the U.S. but it is so far from the truth on the ground.

Anyway, though I might not blog frequently, I'm still here, alive and well and trying to do what I can.