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January 16, 2006

Fear Overshadows Eid Festival

by Dahr Jamail

With Arkan Hamed

BAGHDAD - What should have been a joyous four-day Islamic holiday for Eid al-Adha, which Iraqis began to celebrate Jan. 10, has only highlighted the suffering under U.S. occupation.

The feast of sacrifice, which begins on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijja, is celebrated as a commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son for God.

Eid festivities in Baghdad used to be an occasion for family reunions, where everyone turned up in their best. But skyrocketing fuel costs have driven up the price of food, clothing, and everything else, and Eid could no longer be the same. The frightening lack of security did much to dampen the holiday mood.

"I hope that everybody finds happiness in these days, even our enemies," Salma, a 15-year-old student told IPS, "because these are days we wish good to everybody, even though we are not free to go where we like due to the security situation or the obstacles that are put up to secure our city, as they say."

Salma, who did not want to give her last name added, "I wish for God to forgive their sins against these peaceful people. Eid is the day we meet our relatives, yet on this one we are missing so many of our friends and relatives."

U.S. Brig. Gen. Donald Alston estimates that at least 500 Iraqis have been killed since the Dec. 15 elections. Over this period, at least 54 U.S. soldiers have also been killed.

"Nobody will allow us to leave our homes now," 17-year-old student Salam told IPS after a roadside bomb exploded just blocks away from his home in central Baghdad. "Everybody is afraid they might be kidnapped just like our relative who had been kidnapped for two weeks."

Salam said his relative was released after $4,000 ransom was paid. Now, he said, no one will allow children to leave the house.

Salam's uncle who had traveled from Amman to join them in their Eid celebration had his car robbed at gunpoint.

"They held guns to me and my mother's heads," the 50-year-old man told IPS. "They then pushed both of us out of the car along with my daughter, and took our car. We tried to catch them, but they went away very fast."

He added: "How can we love the country if we can't enjoy the pleasure of celebrating Eid with our family?"

Those meant to provide security are themselves not safe. Two policemen died and five were wounded when a car bomb struck their patrol in Baquba on Friday. In Iskandariya, Iraqi police found the body of a blindfolded policeman with his hands tied behind his back. He had been shot in the head. "There is a big difference between here and Amman," his 14-year-old daughter Maessa told IPS. "We are free to go wherever we want there, but here we should stay in our homes. Everybody here is afraid we will be lost, even during Eid. What kind of freedom have the Americans brought us? The freedom to steal, kill, and humiliate everybody, and deny their rights to live as humans?"

(Inter Press Service)

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    Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Dahr Jamail writes about the effects of the US occupation on the people of Iraq, since the mainstream media in the US has in large part, he believes, failed to do so.

    Dahr has spent a total of 5 months in occupied Iraq, and plans on returning in October to continue reporting on the occupation. One of only a few independent reporters in Iraq, Dahr will be using the DahrJamailIraq.com website and mailing list to disseminate his dispatches and will continue as special correspondent for Flashpoints Radio.

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