Wednesday, September 12, 2007


The security situation in Iraq through Iraqi eyes

(RFE/RL) -- What does the security situation in Iraq look like through Iraqi eyes? We posed the question to RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq correspondents in several cities, as top U.S. officials brief Congress this week on how well the troop surge strategy is working in Baghdad and central Iraq. Follow link for full article
Hassan Nassir in Al-Khadimiyah, Baghdad
The security situation in my neighborhood in northwest Baghdad is more or less stable, but there are situations when we have gunfire, mortar fire, and confrontations. It is a working-class neighborhood; the standard of living here is average. There used to be a mixture in this neighborhood of Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, and even Christians, but many people have left. Now it is basically Shi'ite.
About four months ago, U.S. forces began to build a small, simple base in the area. They are active during the night. After midnight, they begin patrols, or walk along the street, or they may target particular houses or individuals. The militias are also present; they call themselves "popular committees" but we can call them militias. They don't appear constantly; they are in contact with each another and withdraw when the Americans move in, but they are here.
Zainab Hasan in Al-Jamil, Baghdad
My neighborhood, Al-Jamil, close to Al-Sadr City, is primarily Shi'ite, but there are a number of Sunni and Christian homes, because the neighborhood residents have prevented their expulsion. It's a neighborhood with an above-average standard of living. U.S. forces have taken over a site to use as a camp or a base about 200-300 meters from where I live. The truth is that since the Americans have been stationed here, we have been aware of a number of operations, but I don't think that there is any link between the Americans and this neighborhood. We see them three or four times a day in their vehicles and Hummers, but they have never stopped to talk with the neighbors or other people.
here are no militia checkpoints in my neighborhood, and frankly I don't see the presence of such forces. Our neighborhood is maybe quieter than other neighborhoods. We can move freely around our neighborhood. I see girls and women who go out shopping normally. As for going to other neighborhoods, I only go to particular neighborhoods. For example, there are areas I cannot reach; I used to buy my clothes in Al-Adhamiyah or in the "Camp" neighborhood, but I am now forced to keep out of these areas. However, I can do my shopping on Palestine Street, which is crowded with shoppers, both male and female, even girls wearing trousers and without hijabs.
Samir Abd al-Rahman in Babylon
The neighborhood where I live is not really mixed in terms of Shi'a and Sunnis. There are very few Sunnis. We find that some of those with a limited education are anxious to carry guns at night, and sometimes hand grenades. We sometimes hear gunfire for a particular reason or for no reason at all. At the same time, we see that culture survives -- artists and writers are also living here.
We have not seen any U.S. forces. I haven't seen any Americans in the neighborhood, but some time ago there was an attack on the house of someone who was working as a contractor for the Americans. His house was attacked, and we then saw an American presence, but only for a very brief period.
There are no militia checkpoints in this area, because our neighborhood is within the city, and because the security agencies are somewhat alert and they spread out after 11 at night. But how do we know if there are any armed elements around? Any minor incident is accompanied by concentrated gunfire; this shows that people have weapons.
Sa'id Mustafa in Tikrit
With regard to the security situation, we cannot call it good or bad. There is a police presence, and there is control over security, and there have not been any incidents in our actual neighborhood. But we hear that incidents do occur in the market and in the crowded areas, incidents involving explosions, assassinations at night.
My neighborhood's standard of living is low to medium. Most people are government employees. It does include the various sects: there are Shi'a, Sunnis, etc., but there is no differentiation here. The U.S. forces are not present in our neighborhood, but they do pass by on the main street. They have fixed bases where they are centered. Nobody is involved with them, nor does anybody go near them, except for those who work at their bases -- they are distant from us and people do not mix with them.
There are no checkpoints here manned by militias, and the control of the streets is in the hands of the police and army. We sometimes hear about armed elements, but not in our neighborhood. The armed elements are at the governorate level, and on the main roads and highways.
Jabbar Musa in Al-Najaf
In general, the situation where I live is quiet up to a point, but we often hear about "the calm" before the storm. My neighborhood has as an above-average or good standard of living. The people there are mostly educated employees with government offices. There is no presence at all of U.S. forces, but there are two checkpoints manned by the local police in our area.
Sometimes when there are political activities, the militias appear and take control of the street, exhibiting all of their capabilities, to an amazing level. They have wireless communications devices, and they keep in contact. But they do not have a daily presence.
In our area, freedom of movement is practically total; there are no inconveniences or security pestering, except occasionally. But there are rumors that there are in fact assassinations, and they are aimed at political people, or those who had relations with the previous regime. In reality, there is fear, because the assassinations that are taking place are random. This may be on purpose, in order to "mix the cards." Actually this is the only issue people talk about in our neighborhood.

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