Friday, December 19, 2003

Our correspondent in Basra says...

Hi again, but this time from Baghdad, we returned home ending our short visit to Basra after we failed to achieve the objective of the visit due to the traditional Iraqi bureaucracy, however, I don't think you're interested about that.
Let me tell you a few things about the way to Basra, it's about (600 km) south to Baghdad,we were 4,,me,zeyad, AYS and another friend,we hired a cab, the driver charged 15,000 ID (8$)from each of us. The eastern road to Basra passes through 2 governorates (Kut and Amarah) with about 200 km between one and another, the road passes through some empty areas with no sign of life, but there are also many villages on the road, some of which are really beautiful with their numerous magnificent palm trees.
The total number of checkpoints on the road was about 10, coalition forces were found in only 1 of these, we were stopped for inspection twice by IP and each time took less than 5 minutes, the IP men were very polite and apologized many times for the disturbance, we told them that we understand that and we're happy to see them do their job.
Every 40 - 50 km you can find a gas station, garages, shops or a restaurant were people can get some rest to in their long journey.
There was a painful scene that was repeated all over the road, a lot of high-voltage towers were damaged, with their cables stolen, but the heart lifting thing was watching engineering teams working to construct new towers to replace the damaged ones.
We stopped somewhere between KUT and Amarah for about 30 minutes to have lunch then we were back to the road.
After a 6.5 hour drive we reached the city (I heard much about it from Ali who lived there for 6 years in the 90's and worked for 2 months in a hospital exactly after the war) and as we passed the streets, the city looked much better than the picture I had in mind.
Basra was probably the most city that took damage and was subjected to oppression year after year in the last 3 decades.
Although there were some very poor districts, but some parts were as good as some fancy neighborhoods in Baghdad.
Basra is the only port in Iraq, and the trade activity seems to be increasing, the city looked very busy, private business seemed promising, I even counted about 5 internet cafe's in the center of the city
The streets were less crowded (if compared with Baghdad), there were many IP checkpoints inside the city, but these were just watching the roads rather than blocking them.
The British military patrol the streets all the time, but I didn't hear any body complaining about that, the people were more cooperative and peaceful and I didn't hear any one condemning the "occupation".
It's been a very long time since any aggression was committed against the coalition in Basra, at the same time the British soldiers were very gentle with the people, always showing respect to their traditions, one of the folks there told us that the British soldiers distributed gifts(t-shirts, candies, radios..etc)to the poor families in Basra on the occasion of the last ID.

The people there are almost 100 % anti Saddam and anti Ba'athists, they're so sick of violence and do not have the least interest in (resisting the occupation)
Electric power supply is pretty good in Basra with almost no outages, as one of the citizens said (we have about 2 hours of shut down in a week) and the gasoline and kerosene are much more available than in Baghdad.
I’ll be back to Basra next week, and probably stay longer this time.
By the way, Zeyad has some pictures and maybe he'll post them.

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