"We Would have Liked To Explain": From Occupation to Liberation in Kurdistan

Andrea Schmidt

May 4, 2004

Suleymania, Liberated Kurdistan

Visiting Kurdistan as an anti-occupation, anti-imperialist is, admittedly, a head wreck.

It isn’t just the fact that Suleymania, a university town in the eastern part of the region governed by the PUK, is surrounded by green mountains and lakes and coniferous trees, and looks like a different country than the one I’ve lived in for the past two months. Or the fact that the amount of Kurdish spoken makes it sound like a different country. Or even the fact that the distinctly Kurdish culture, evident to a first-time visitor in dress and in a propensity for lavish Friday picnics, makes it feel like a different country.

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Our Borders are Blast Walls

Andrea Schmidt

April 19, 2004

As the US pursues its War of Terror in Iraq, the kidnappings of foreigners by the muqawama (resistance fighters) has grabbed the media spotlight. In response to the kidnappings, many international NGOs and humanitarian aid organizations have moved their foreign staff to Amman. Foreign journalists who haven’t already left the country are nearly paralyzed, reporting from their seats in front of TV sets in hotel compounds ‘secured’ by blast walls, armed guards and the right connections. This isn’t a huge change for the staffs of some news channels – for security reasons, CNN hasn’t let its foreign journalists out on the streets of Baghdad after 4 PM for the past year of occupation. But for many reporters, both independent and mainstream, the current immobility is insanely frustrating.

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War Without End

Andrea Schmidt

April 10, 2004

Iraq is a country at war.

Exactly a year after we were told that the war had ended and that freedom had been brought to the people of Iraq, the square in which Saddam’s statue was toppled was put under curfew again. The curfew didn't prevent a mortar attack on the Alwiyah Club that stands beside the square hidden behind blast walls.

Yesterday, reports from Falluja indicated that the city was still being held under siege by US Occupation Forces, as it had been since Tuesday. In the morning, word came that a cease-fire had been negotiated between US soldiers and resistance fighters, but by afternoon, the cease-fire was off. US Occupation Forces had continued to bomb the city with mortars, Apache helicopters, fighter planes, RPG7s and cluster bombs.

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Everything Changes so quickly

Thawra under attack

Andrea Schmidt

April 6, 2004

At 8 PM on Sunday night, Thawra looks like it is under curfew. At a time when they are normally thronging with people and filled with noise, the streets are dark, and all the shops are closed and locked for the night. Every few blocks we see groups of twenty or so young men in black moving restively and carrying guns – members of Moqtada Al-Sadr's Mehdi Army, patrolling their neighborhood. Other than that, the only people we see out are lined up in front of the Sadr hospital gates, waiting for news of the injured and the dead.

We hear tank fire in the distance, and drive past a burning US humvee. A few streets later, we pass a group of five US tanks; tense looking soldiers surround cuffed detainees.

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There’s no explosions: it’s not an important area

Traffic, security, freedom and justice in Thawra

Andrea Schmidt

March 29, 2004

Sadr City is a massive subdivision tacked on to the North end of Baghdad. It is home to 2 million of Baghdad’s 5 million residents. It is a Shia area, and mostly very poor.

During the regime era, the area was known as Saddam City and was strictly off limits to foreigners. Shia were kept out of universities and government jobs throughout the 80s and 90s – a silent freeze-out of the majority of Iraqis through which Saddam sought to divide Sunni and Shia and shore up his control. Many were isolated in Saddam City by poverty, and by the Mukhabarat.

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Occupied Iraq Report

One Year After the Invasion, Iraqi and International Human Rights
Organizations Plan Three Days of Solidarity with Iraqi People Suffering
Under Occupation

Andrea Schmidt

March 14, 2004

In the week leading up to the anniversary of the last year’s US-led invasion of Iraq, communities around the world are mobilizing to march again to say no to war and to occupation.

Here in Iraq, over the past week, the occupation has wormed its way ever deeper into Iraq’s soil and into its future. The interim constitution, known as the Transitional Administrative Law, which will govern the transition of power to an appointed government in June was signed by the Interim Governing Council on Monday, after a number of false starts. And in spite of the transition to a nominally ‘sovereign’ -- if unelected -- Iraqi government in June, the US has announced that it will maintain military control of Iraq’s security forces for two years. A US general will be at the helm of a multinational security force which will include the Iraqi army, and a second US general will head up the Operations unit.

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Report from Occupied Iraq

Andrea Schmidt

February 29 - March 4 2004

I have been in occupied Iraq for just over a week. Long enough to know understand that the political situation in Iraq is profoundly complicated in a way that would have been impossible to understand had I not come here.

Thus, you should receive this first report, members of the anti-occupation and anti-’war on terror’ movements in Montreal, Quebec and Canada, with healthy skepticism, because it doesn’t begin to do justice to that complexity... What can I possibly say after being here, in this profoundly complicated place, after only a week and a half?

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