Friday, December 26, 2003

Our correspondent in Samoa sent us this report.

They call their city the city of peace and it sure deserves this name. Samoa hasn't seen a single terrorist attack since the 9th of April. Its people have secured their institutions from looting, they protected the hospitals and important government buildings. The only exception was the military camps, some government buildings and the regional ba'ath headquarters, which were, stripped even of their bricks to remain as ruins reminding them of the miserable past.
Samoa is about 300 km to the south west of Baghdad; it's a large governerate that shares wide borders with Saudi Arabia. Its people mainly are farmers, it's well known by it's palm dates which an Iraqi poet wrote a beautiful poem about it that became a popular song, very simple people in general and very optimistic.
I've been working there for more than a month, which was enough to make some conclusions about the city in particular, and the south of Iraq in general.
Samoa as many other cities in the south of Iraq had it's deal of sufferings, pain and intended neglect, hence its people were very happy with the change I felt that through my daily contact and conversations with the people of the city. Till now I haven't found a single person who is against the change, something very different from Baghdad were you still find some people rise their voices in complain, and missing the (good old days).
One of the locals told me that he can't believe till now that Saddam is gone and that he is living a beautiful dream that he fears he would be awaken from.
Samoa right now is under the control of the Dutch soldiers whom people like and dealing with very gently. You can see the signs of good will and gratitude in the streets of the city as people still wave to these troops as they pass through the streets of the city, and they tell me about the generosity and kindness of these soldiers and the necessity of their staying.
When I asked the director of the health center where I work " what did these people offer to earn the love of the locals? " his answer was" in fact nothing significant in re-building the city, but they were an essential element in keeping the peace and order and they gave the people the most important thing; the hope for a better future"
I asked "how is that?" and he said "they didn't leave a corner without taking pictures and estimating the needs to make it better, even the place were you are sitting right now was photographed and had its share of evaluation. People here see that this evaluation must certainly be followed by action in the near future and that's what everyone hopes" then I asked "then who was in charge of re-building some of the buildings that I have seen?" He answered "it's the GOAL organization, but we are expecting more from the Dutch".
The city has now its own local TV channel, something the people of the city never dreamed about in the past. It shows you the situation in the city and the cooperation between the locals and the coalition forces to maintain the regular daily life. I was watching this channel once and I saw something worth mentioning here:
The TV was covering the city council elections with the supervision of the Dutch soldiers and officers, the procedure went smoothly and successfully, then one of the newly elected members stood and made a simple speech in a southern slang accent about how much they were grateful for the contribution of the Dutch forces to make this new process of practicing democracy a real success and he added, in an apparently touched tone, how one of officers in the Dutch forces (Mr. Michelle) was caring the chairs by himself and how it made every body feel that this man was like one of the citizens of their city.
One of the locals told me that the Dutch patrols distributed candies in the city on the occasion of the (ID) and on capturing Saddam he said "they are sharing our joy with us, how could we not love them? While you-Baghdadies-do not welcome your guests and you through bombs and rockets on them. If you really miss Saddam's days you can have him, but please don't count us in" I answered him laughing "you are affected by the media too, not all the people of Baghdad want Saddam back only an insignificant minority, but the media shows couple of hundreds of former ba'athists as representing 5 million people".
There is no obvious shortage of fuel here, gasoline is available so is kerosene which is sold by the price of 500 Iraqi Dinars for each 30 liters in comparison with 5000 Iraqi Dinars for the same amount in Baghdad, but the power supply is still not regular, and all the major institutions have huge generators to continue their work without being affected by this irregularity.
People here are looking forward to meet the Japanese forces that chose Samoa of all Iraqi governerates to make their headquarter in. one of the citizens told me so simply "it's JAPAN! We will be like Japan; the most developed country in the world, they say they will donate a lot of money to rebuild Iraq and our city, is it possible, our small city which no one probably heard about! Yes, we must be dreaming" I didn't know how to answer him, I didn't want to spoil his joy as I know that catching with Japan within a small period is really a dream. Still I share with him the hope of continuous progress with no turning back.
The only fear among the people here, as I heard it from a lot of people, is that some outsiders might sneak into the town and try to attack the coalition forces. One of them said to me "I'm afraid if that happens and some terrorist attack them, they might run away and leave us alone" I reassured him that no one will abandon them from now on as they have really proved that their city is the city of peace.

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